Teaching without compromise.

Loving without exception.


When Different is Dangerous (Galatians 1:6-9)

March 25, 2012 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: When Jesus Isn't Enough (Galatians)

Topic: Galatians Passage: Galatians 1:6–1:9

When Jesus Isn’t Enough (Galatians)

When Different is Dangerous

Galatians 1:6-9

(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)

March 25th, 2012

I. Where Drifting Can Lead

On August 25th, 2008, two men who were fishing off the coast of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts were thrown out of their boat because of choppy seas. As they swam for the shore they watched their boat, The Queen Bee, drift off into the distance. Scott Douglas, the owner of the boat, was convinced that the boat was lost forever and would probably end up at the bottom of the Atlantic.

Amazingly, the boat was spotted twenty miles from the shore on January 17th. But that's January 17th, 2012 and that's twenty miles of the coast of Spain. Over three and half years The Queen Bee drifted over 3500 nauticles miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

You see, “drifting” sounds like such a harmless word, but we have to be realistic about where drifting can lead. Drifting can take us so far from where we started.

This morning we resume the new study we began last week, a study of the letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia somtime between 48-50 AD. These were most likely the churches that Paul and Barnabas established (or planted) on their first missionary journey in the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia. This includes towns like Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.

Last week we talked about the fact that these young churches were facing a direct assault on their faith. Sadly, many were being led astray by false teachers who had come into the church. And the destructive message these teachers were spreading really boils down to this: Jesus is not enough...Jesus isn't enough. Their formula of salvation was “Jesus + Something Else = Everything”.

II. The Passage: “I Am Astonished” (1:6-9)

So this morning let's build on what we learned last time by looking together at verses 6-9 of chapter one. Let's look at what Paul tells us about why he wrote this letter to these churches. Look with me at verse 6...

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—[7] not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Now notice the word “quickly” in verse 6. This is confirmation of the fact that these are young churches. Paul and Barnabas hadn't even put their suitcases away from their first missionary trip, and already there is news that something has gone horribly wrong in the Galatian churches.

And as we see from the end of verse 6, at the center of the storm that was pounding these churches was the destructive influence of “a different gospel”. Do you see that? This morning I'd like to talk about three ideas connected to this idea of “a different gospel”. I'd like to look first at the reality of different gospels, then the danger of different gospels, and finally, the defense against different gospels.

A. The Reality of Different Gospels (1:6b, 7)

Let's first think about the reality of different gospels. As Paul makes clear in verse 7, in truth there is only one gospel. There is only one message of life. The “good news” about Jesus is singular and unique. You might remember that last week, when we looked at the first five verses of chapter one, we discovered that Paul touched on the two historical realities that represent the heart of the gospel: the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

But there are in fact different gospels because like almost everything good in this world, the gospel can be distorted. This is what was happening in Galatia. In a few minutes we'll talk about the critical importance of the gospel for true faith, but do you recognize that this is still happening today? Do you recognize the reality of different gospels being taught today?

We need to be vigilant, don't we? If you found that someone had flooded the retail sector of Buckeye with counterfeit $20 bills, you would be vigilant about the change you received at the grocery store or the bills that came out of the ATM or the payment you received at your garage sale. You would stop and carefully consider the cash in your hand. We need to be ever more vigilant about the gospel.

This morning, I’d like to give you four different gospels that are prevalent today. Now these gospels, in one form or another, have been a threat to the church from the earliest days of the church. But today, expressions of these different gospels can even be found on the shelves of the local Christian book store. So let's talk about these different gospels, in order that we might be better prepared to spot the counterfeits.

1. The Picture Gospel

The first gospel that comes to mind is what we might call the picture gospel.

Now, as with all of these different gospels, there are many variations of this 'picture gospel'. But in essence, 'the picture gospel' teaches that Jesus death on the cross was simply a statement, a moral illustration meant to motivate us and stir us.

Those who preach this kind of gospel want to minimize the idea that anything supernatural was taking place on the cross.

They say, 'Jesus didn't die to accept God's punishment for our sins. No, he was showing us how much God loves us, or He was showing how corrupt the world is, or he was showing us how God wants to identify with your suffering.’

The resurrection of Jesus gets the same treatment: it doesn't matter whether Jesus really rose from the dead. Why? Because the resurrection is simply a symbol of the newness and hope that Jesus was bringing into the world. Through the enlightenment that Jesus has brought, humanity can rise from the spiritual death of ignorance and injustice.

Like looking at the most amazing painting every created, this 'picture gospel' assumes that we can be stirred from our selfishness, injustice, and indifference. But that isn't the gospel.

2. The Prosperity Gospel

The second of these different gospels is what many have labeled the prosperity gospel.

Today, there are many who define the benefits of the gospel according to earthly measurements, or earthly definitions of 'the good life'. They believe that a victorious Christian life is about financial abundance, business success, and good health. Here are just two quotes from very well known teachers who have sold millions of books and are watched by million of television viewers:

"Some people come to me and say, well I came here to get some peace, not money, and I tell them, you need money otherwise you ain't gunna get no peace.". Another teaches, "If you are struggling financially, then you have not got the victory."

You see, this prosperity gospel utilizes biblical terms like victory and triumph and blessing and overcoming and freedom and abundance and conquer, and then twists these words in order to make them fit into a message of worldly success.

And the flip side of this is just as troubling. If you are struggling financially, if you are sick, if you are not successful at work, then you must not have enough faith.

But Jesus didn't die to give us every earthly blessing. In Christ, we have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing”, according to Ephesians 1:3.

The 'prosperity gospel' fails to deal with the reality of how, throughout the Bible, God’s people were declared righteous and faithful, even though they regularly struggled through grief, and defeat, and lack. Jesus doesn't invite us to come and enjoy health and wealth. He invites us to come and die. He promises us suffering. He does promise to give us what we need. And He does give us wisdom for our finances. He does bless us with the riches of joy, peace, and hope in God, but He also calls us to persevere and hold on and stand firm because the road is hard and long. The prosperity gospel is clearly not THE gospel.

3. The Partial Gospel

Number three on my list of different gospels is what I would call the partial gospel.

The 'partial gospel' is a gospel of easy-believe-ism. It's a gospel that separates saving faith in Jesus from a call to follow Jesus. It’s a gospel that turns repentance into a mere mental shift over certain historical facts rather than a sorrow over and a rejection of sin.

Those who teach 'the partial gospel' will agree that we can stand before God's throne forever because of Jesus, but they will not agree that the gospel is about the restoration of God's rule over our lives right now.

Those who proclaim this 'partial gospel' believe that because salvation is described in the Bible as a “free gift”, there is no cost involved in receiving it. They say it's like someone walking up to you and offering you the free gift of $1000, but then demanding you give them everything you own in order to receive this gift. That sounds like it makes sense, doesn't it?

But the problem with that analogy is that it assumes the recipient’s hand is empty. But according to God's word, our hand is not empty. We are clutching the steering wheel of our own life. That is sin. Me playing God, instead of me serving and loving God.

The analogy also assumes that $1000 is a suitable representation of the gospel. But I think a better representation for this “free gift” would be the key to a house. You see, the gospel offers us access to God's house, to God's family, to God as Father. It is about peace with God. It is about reconciliation and adoption. God forgiving our sins is not an end in itself. It is a means of removing the barrier that separates us from Him.

And so if sin is about me rejecting God's rule, and living my own life on my own terms, then anyone who receives this key has to give up or let go or surrender that rebellious desire. That is the price we gladly pay. But that doesn't mean we earn salvation, just like giving up a crack pipe doesn't earn a junkee an all-expense paid trip to the best rehab facility in the world.

Sadly, millions of people believe they will be in heaven because they have responded to this 'partial gospel'. Our churches are filled with people who wanted fire insurance or freedom from their guilt, but not necessarily freedom from sin and fellowship with God the King. But that isn't the gospel.

4. The Performance Gospel

Finally, number four on my list of different gospels is what we might call the performance gospel.

The 'performance gospel' declares that Jesus got the ball rolling, but you need to keep it going. It teaches that Jesus can bring you into God's family, but that it's up to you not to screw it up, that is, you better behave yourself. Upfront, the 'performance gospel' is all about what Jesus has done. But after that, it's all about what you should do.

It's interesting that Paul speaks in verse 8 of an “angel from heaven” preaching a different gospel. But this is precisely what some have claimed as the authority for their different gospel. In 610 AD Muhammed claimed to receive the beginning of the Quran from the angel Gabriel.

In the same way, in 1823, Joseph Smith claimed to receive direction from an angel named Moroni about restoring the true gospel to the world. But both Islam and Mormonism are simply expressions of this 'performance gospel'. They both deny the teaching that we are saved by faith alone.

Like those examples, this 'performance gospel' is sometimes very obvious. But at other times, it comes in a much more subtle package. We might be disturbed when certain rituals are presented as requirements. But we think it less strange when we think God is angry with us because we didn't read our Bible for the last two days.

The 'performance gospel' is, in fact, the different gospel that was being accepted by the churches in Galatia. And what made the teaching so persuasive was the fact that the 'performance' aspect of this message was based on the Law of God, the Law of Moses. It was wonderfully biblical ideas like circumcision that were being used in connection with our acceptance by God. We’ll learn more about this error in the weeks to come.

B. The Danger of Different Gospels (1:6a)

Listen, the reality of different gospels is undeniable. The counterfeits are out there. Therefore, we have to be vigilant, especially in light of the danger of these different gospels. Do you remember the TV commercials for the fast food chain Arby's that said “different is good”? Well when it comes to the gospel, different is NOT good. Different is dangerous.

This is exactly why the letter to the Galatians, unlike all of Paul's other letters has no introduction in which Paul commends his readers, or prays for them, or shares some encouraging report or encouraging reminders. No, Paul goes straight for the jugular! He jumps right into the battle, guns blazing!

Why? Because they Galatians are in a very dangerous place. They are in peril. Remember what Paul told the Christians in Rome about the critical importance of the gospel. He wrote: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. [17] For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1)

The importance of the gospel is also clear from how Paul describes what it really means to turn to a different gospel. Look again at verse 6: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.

To turn to a different gospel is to turn away from God. It means deserting God.

Are you in danger this morning? Do you believe the cross is simply a picture of love that encourages you to be more loving? That affirms you rather than convicts you? Do you believe the gospel is simply a means to prestige, power, and possessions? A means to you getting what you want rather than a way to become someone who wants what God wants?

Do you believe the gospel only calls you to a confession of faith and not to a denial of self? Are you more focused on what you're DOING, instead of what Jesus DID for you?

When it comes to living the Christian life, it's very easy to drift. But like that boat, The Queen Bee, over time, drifting can take us so far from where we started.

C. The Defense against Different Gospels (1:8, 9)

But remember how Paul describes our defense against these different gospels. In verses 8 and 9 he talks about the danger of a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you...and a gospel contrary to the one you received.

What's implied in those statements is how the Galatians should have held on tightly to the original teaching of Paul and Barnabas. The original gospel, the gospel of the Apostles, the gospel of grace, should have been their anchor. But somehow, their eyes began to drift. They were not focused on the true gospel. If they had been, they would have recognized the danger of this different gospel.

It's said that “the best defense is a good offense”. Brothers and sisters, we need to be on the offensive every day, don't we? Our only defense against these different gospels is to cling to the true gospel. Every day, we need to remind ourselves of the gospel. We need to explore the depths of the gospel. We need to let the good news of Jesus influence our attitudes and actions. We need to encourage one another in the wonder of amazing grace.

The writer of the book of Hebrews remind us, Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1)

III. Who or What is Troubling You?

In verse 7 of Galatians 1, Paul speaks to his readers about “some who trouble you”. Now, I highly doubt that any of us are being troubled by false teachers emphasizing the Law of Moses. But all of can, and have, and will be ‘troubled” in this same way by someone or something.

Maybe you’re troubled by those affirmations that you’re quite capable of taking care of yourself and nothing is impossible for you if you set your mind to it. Won’t that affect one’s view of the gospel? Maybe you’re troubled by a parent whose love was ultimately conditional, whose affection was based on your performance. Won’t that affect one’s view of the gospel?

Maybe you’re troubled by the brutal reality of growing up poor, or by this or that chronic fear.

Maybe you’re troubled by the pleasures of this world, pleasures that tempt you to minimize the idea of repentance. Maybe you’re troubled by a rationalistic mindset that tempts you to doubt what you cannot see and cannot touch. Maybe you’re troubled by past suffering, or by an unhealthy desire to be liked, or by the religion of your childhood, a religion of rules and rituals. Maybe you’re troubled by an obsessive desire for control, a desire to order and organize everything in your life so you can feel ‘safe’.

You see, when God grants us the grace to recognize the reality of such influences in our life, we can then consider how such influences can distort our perception of the gospel, just as these false teachers were distorting the gospel in Galatia.

Brothers and sisters, friends, Jesus is enough. The call of the gospel is a call to faith and faith alone; faith (or trust) in the fact that Jesus did it all.

On that cross He carried our sins, all of our sins, and took the judgment we deserved. But then He rose again. He beat back death. And so He lives right now, and He calls us right now to turn from trying to play God, and instead, to live, through the gift of a new heart, in that reality of peace with God. His promises are sure. His love is incomparable. His acceptance is forever. All we can do is believe.

Is that the gospel you believe? Is that the gospel you live in light of every day? May God grant each of us the eyes to see how we are drifting, even now, and the feet to run back to the sufficiency of Jesus, day by day by day. Let’s pray.

More in When Jesus Isn't Enough (Galatians)

January 27, 2013

Got Galatians? (Galatians 1:1-6:18)

January 20, 2013

Two Ways to Boast (Galatians 6:11-18)

January 13, 2013

Being a True Do-Gooder (Galatians 6:6-10)