Man’s Opinion vs God’s Truth

The second message in the Galatians series.
(Find the other messages from this series here)

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Man’s Opinion vs God’s Truth

Here in the opening of Galatians, Paul jumps straight into the issue at hand. There are no pleasantries. There is no small talk. He gets straight to the point. In other letters, Paul’s standard outline is begin with greeting and move into thanksgiving and a prayer. Not in Galatians. He immediately jumps into

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel”

What Paul says here is literally, “I’m astonished that you are deserting the gospel” I used the word “deserting” because the original for being removed means “switching allegiance.” This is a passive use here in the English because the idea is that “You are so easily persuaded” that  you turn your back on the gospel which set you free.

Paul makes this very personal- “removed from HIM” he says in verse 6. Paul is saying, “You have turned from the gospel of grace AND the God of grace!” We should be clear,
When you reject the gospel, you reject God.

Then Paul gives an important aside in verse 7- “There is no other Gospel!” He says, “btw, this other Gospel is no gospel.”

Paul would go on to make his case for the gospel in just a second, but before he does, he uses some really strong language first. Paul says, “anyone who preaches another gospel unto you isn’t preaching another gospel, they are perverting the gospel, troubling you, and may they be accursed.

I played basketball in high school. I had played Junior Varsity for several years, but then I made varsity. I remember the first game we went into halftime with a very small lead over a team we should have been easily beating. Our coach went off in the locker room.  When we walked back out onto the court I looked at another guy and said, “wow he is really upset.” He had been on the team the previous year and he looked at me and said, “that’s a pretty normal half time speech.” Sure enough, he was right. A few games into the year I figured out that it was standard to hear that kind of speech at half time, so they lost some of their intensity.

Paul has a lot of writing here in the New Testament. This kind of speech is not typical. This isn’t Paul being melodramatic. This isn’t Paul just being Paul. This is serious. Paul says, if ANYONE- even if they’re an angel from heaven, let them be accursed if they preach another gospel unto you. Accursed means, may they go to hell. Even if it’s me or Barnabas, may we be damned if we preach another gospel unto you.

Paul get’s really serious really quick because this is really important: There is no other gospel.

Paul immediately and emphatically goes into his defense of the gospel. Paul then makes his case for the gospel- as he does, he often defends his apostleship only because it builds his case for the gospel he has preached.

Paul builds his case upon 2 pillars of truth- I want to show you those two pillars and then give us an application to rest on top of them, like a study platform resting across two sturdy block walls.

Transformation is a product of grace, not zeal (13-17)

I’ll be honest, sometimes I’m tempted to just yell at you and say things like, “Stop being bad, you guys! Stop spending your money on dumb stuff! Stop taking your marriage for granted! Stop making the stuff of this world the focus of your life if you want your kids to grow up and think something other than this world is important!”

There are times that I want to passive aggressively force you to make better decision- times that I want to lay out a list of laws that you have to keep because I’m confident that they are wise and Godly… Those are things I want to yell- but I know that

Beholding is better than behaving.  

Behaving lasts for a little while. Guilt motivates for a few days.  But beholding grace changes everything.

The Galatians were being convinced that the way to get their act together was to work hard at getting their act together, but the only way that any of us are truly changed is if we see God’s glory and grace- and I don’t just mean we see it like we see words on a page, I mean we get it- we see it as more than the equation- we see it as the solution.

Paul says you guys know that I was

14 more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

15 But when it pleased God, who called me by his grace,

16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen;

What made the difference for Paul was that he saw Jesus.

Paul knew the ends of the law. He knew the difference that dedication could make, but he had stumbled into something greater. He had experienced something or someone so much more vast than that narrow life of rules and effort.

Paul was heartbroken because the Galatians were leaving the gospel to wander back into the life that the gospel had saved him from. It would be like a drunk who had sobered up watching his son walk into the liquor store- only it was a former pharisee watching his converts put their trust into good deeds instead of Christ.

Paul says in verse 7 “There are some who trouble you” or “they agitate by moving to and fro.” The people that Paul is referring to had told the Galatians that to really be saved, they needed to adopt the laws of the Jewish Torah- they needed to be circumcised, they needed to start celebrating the Jewish holidays, and they needed to stop eating Bacon.

Some of you just figured out why Paul is so upset. Paul’s life was transformed, not by the understanding of the law, not by the teaching of men, but by the work of the spirit.

Jared Wilson points out that there are 60 working parts on a sailboat. Sailing can be really difficult work.  However, it doesn’t matter how hard you work at hoisting the sail, trimming, steering, and tying down- none of those control the wind or the tide.

There’s a lot of work to do in the Christian life, but without grace there’s nothing really happening. You could run around working hard, looking busy, looking dedicated, looking determined and skilled in the waters of the Christian life- but you’re not going anywhere because the wind isn’t blowing and the Spirit isn’t working.

What if God lets us sit a second so we are clear on the fact that it’s the tide and winds that carries us, it’s his grace and his spirit.  You don’t need more rules, you need a new ruler.

When Paul says there are some teachers that are troubling you, he’s saying “They’re rocking your boat, they’re telling you need to do this and do that- telling you that you’re not further along because you haven’t trimmed the sail enough, you haven’t tied the knots tight enough.”

The law was good, but grace is glorious.

Jonathon Edwards said the glory and grace of Christ is like the dawning of the sun which eclipses the stars. When the sun comes up, you no longer have to do the arithmetic of finding your way by the stars- instead you can sail toward the Son with the wind of the Spirit in your sails.

A God honoring life of good behavior is not the result of good behavior but of good beholding. 

The second Pillar is this

-Truth is presented by the Savior, not man. (11-13, 17-22, 2:1-9)

Paul is arguing with the Galatians and he reminding them of the gospel that he preached unto them, but they have been confused and troubled by teachers who have come in behind him.

This takes place in Acts 13 & 14 – In Acts 15 we read that Paul goes to Jerusalem and debates this topic with the church leaders and other apostles. But that happened yet.

In the next chapter we’ll see that even Peter has tripped over this issue- So Paul needs to show that this is not merely his idea- but rather this is the revelation and truth of Christ.

Paul is preaching to the Galatians without the benefit of the New Testament, which I have. He’s mainly preaching to them using the Old Testament scriptures and law.

Paul’s authority as an apostle is crucial here- if he’s not an emissary of the risen Christ, an ambassador of heaven then he’s just another guy with an opinion.

The teachers that came in after Paul knew this so they had attacked Paul’s credibility, asking Who is this Paul fellow?

Paul is defending his authority, not because he’s concerned about his reputation or his title, but because they’re trying to undermine his credibility to cast doubt upon the gospel.

Paul immediately refers to himself as an apostle in the opening lines of the letter. An apostle was one that had been sent by Christ to preach the gospel who had seen the resurrected Christ and had been instructed by him.

Paul had been visited by Christ himself who appeared unto him on the Damascus road and then proclaimed the truth to him.

So he says in verses 11 & 12
11But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

12For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

He would go on to say in verse 17

17Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

Typically you build your credibility by pointing at who you’ve studied with or been around, but not Paul. He does the opposite, he doesn’t point to time with the church fathers, he points to time with THE Father.

Paul wasn’t just another guy with an opinion, he was an apostle.

This is important. Today we do not have apostles, we do not have people who saw the resurrection of Christ and were personally instructed by him- but we have a source authority- God’s Word.

We live in an age where everyone has an opinion and everyone has a channel to broadcast their opinion.

It used to be that if you wanted to know what people thought, you had to attend a lecture or a meeting, then you could read what they had to say in the paper, then you could listen to the radio, then you could watch it on TV. Now you can tune in from any where at any time.

When the greeks developed philosophy, they felt that they had uncovered the truths and secrets of life. When Paul preached to them, he had to overcome their trust in their own thinking.

When Paul preached to the Jews he had to overcome their trust in their own tradition and heritage.

These were two different sides of the same coin- they trusted more in the ideas and interpretations of men than in the truth of God.

Whenever we put our weight upon the opinions of man, we fall. Only in God’s truth do we find a firm foundation.

So Paul would write to greek churches about Gnosticism- the idea that all that is tangible is bad because all the good was in the ethereal- the spiritual and intellectual.

Paul would write to the Jews about Judaism- the idea that Jesus was a good addition to their law and celebrations.

Today we don’t have Gnosticism or Judaism- today we have individualism- which is the result of moral relativism.

Moral relativism told us that morality was something that each person decided for themselves. Individualism tells us that everything is something that we decide for ourselves.

NT Wright wrote a perceptive letter to the New York Times just this week stating that our current debates sexual identity are merely a new form of Gnosticism that is fueled by the internet giving us ubiquitous choices on finding voices that support our own individual perspective.

Sir, The articles by Clare Foges (“Gender-fluid world is muddling young minds”, July 27) and Hugo Rifkind (“Social media is making gender meaningless”, Aug 1), and the letters about children wanting to be pandas (July 29), dogs or mermaids (Aug 1), show that the confusion about gender identity is a modern and now internet-fuelled, form of the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism. 

“The Gnostic, one who “knows”, has discovered the secret of “who I really am”, behind the deceptive outward appearance .This involves denying the goodness, or even the ultimate reality, of the natural world. 

He’s saying the internet has given us plenty of sources to find people who think like we do, so that we can ignore the thoughts of others and zero in on the voices that we like or that we agree with.

Social Media has been hugely successful because they’ve worked into their algorithms ways of perceiving what you like or favorite and then serving up content that is similar to what you’ve already like, or content that’s been like by people who like a lot of what you also liked…

When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts in the late 1950’s, he was running hard for a second term in office. 

One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished.

As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.

“Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”

“Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.”

“But I’m starved,” the governor said.

“Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.”

Governor Herter was a knows as a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around.

“Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor of this state.”

“Do you know who I am?” the woman said. “I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.”
– from Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, pp. 5-6.

We often tell the world, you don’t know who I am! I know who I am. I know what I need. I know what is best for me!We don’t. We really don’t.

The most dangerous opinion is your own. 

The most important opinion is God’s.

-Transformation is a product of grace, not zeal (13-17)

-Truth is presented by the Savior, not man. (11-13, 17-22, 2:1-9)

In verse 18 Paul tell us that he was Damascus and after 3 years he came and spent a couple of weeks with Peter. Then he returned to Syria. In verse 1 of chapter 2 he tells us that it was 14 years later that he came back to Jerusalem with Barnabas.
He and Barnabas had been working together in Antioch strengthening that church before he shows up in Jerusalem 14 year later- so it looks like Paul had been growing, serving, and ministering in obscurity for about 12 years.

I’m afraid we thank that Paul got saved and immediately became this preacher and missionary that turned the world upside down.

Paul experienced the work of the grace and the Spirit in his life, and over the course of many years the Lord prepared him for the work ahead.

Paul’s story was changed in an instant by grace and shaped over time by truth.