Amazed - A Journey through Galatians - Free Sample
No higher stakes
Read: Galatians 1:1-10
You have really set the cat among the pigeons with your letter to the Galatian churches. I rocked up to church this morning, not thinking anything different would be planned, to find our pastor saying he was going to read your letter to the whole church.
Well, it wasn’t really the kind of letter that we are used to receiving. Sure, you did your nice opening greeting, like all good letters should have. We knew the letter was from you and it was to us. But then you dispensed with the other usual niceties at the start of a letter and launched into an impassioned criticism of what’s going on in our church. Boy, you didn’t hold back on your words! The pastor had only read the first few paragraphs of your letter and you could have heard a pin drop. Of course, I don’t need to remind you of what you wrote – you were pretty steamed up about it.
I guess I had missed the seriousness of what had been happening at church. When that group of Jewish Christians from Jerusalem joined our ranks we were thrilled at first to have extra members. Some of us were a bit over-awed that this group had come from the “mother Church” of Jerusalem. Even when they began to say that we Gentile believers had to become Jewish before we could become Christians, we didn’t make a fuss because they sounded so genuine and they spoke in a very authoritative way.
But when the first part of your letter was read out, I began to see that I had missed something very fundamental in what had been happening. You had realised something huge was at stake. This wasn’t a minor theological scuffle; the very heart of the gospel was being challenged. In your view we were walking away from Jesus Himself and from the message passed on to us by those privileged to have walked with Him personally and known Him face to face (verse 6). These were the people who had seen Jesus offer His life on the cross for our redemption (verse 4) and be raised from the dead (verse 1). And you, of course, had seen Jesus yourself when He appeared to you on the road to Damascus. For you, the doctrine passed to us by the apostles was the measure of the true gospel. I see now how the Jerusalem group have also been emphasising “traditions” – of Jewish heritage and Law – but we’ve been blind to the way in which these “traditions” have actually led us away from truth.
You could see it for what it was – a perversion of the truth. How dumb we have been! No wonder you said you were astonished at us. We have been embracing a different gospel, although you are right in saying that a teaching that perverts the truth can hardly be called a gospel, good news. This issue is, as you know, still a live issue for us and I can see that you have written because you believe there is still time for something to be done about it. The thing that really got me was when you wrote that anyone who was propagating this false teaching should be under God’s curse. And, not content to let that stand, you wrote it a second time!
It got me thinking that there are times when some issues we encounter really should create a strong reaction in us. Those false teachers – they really got to you, didn’t they? Because for you, there are no higher stakes when it comes to the truth of the one gospel. You had to take a stand on this issue.
I’m going to do some thinking about the kind of issues that stir my heart with a strong passion. I guess sometimes that can mean we hear of something that disturbs us so much we have to argue for it to be stopped. Other times, we encounter an issue and we know we must do something to alleviate the problem.
I realise, Paul, that there have been times when I have been a tame and insipid Christian, unmoved by issues when I should have been stirred. Comfortable and content, I stayed inert when I should have been deeply affected. To my shame I know I have sometimes held back because I have feared what other people might think if I made a stand on some issue or other. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be identified in what way, so I stayed silent. I should have been inspired by your example. You’re not a people-pleaser (verse 10). You’ve realised that serving Jesus means that He is the only one we need to please.
Well Paul, you really hit us between the eyes with the opening section of your letter. We knew you had plenty more important things to say to us. I’ll write some more tomorrow about the next section of your letter.
Lord Jesus, there are no higher stakes than your good news. There’s only one gospel. May the truths of your gospel reside deep inside me so that my heart may be stirred when those values are threatened. At such times, guide me to action by your Holy Spirit that I may act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you. Amen.