LifeWay Explore the Bible Series for June 1
The gospel never should be compromised
By Jim Perkins
Madison Hills Baptist Church, San Antonio
We live in an era when our actions and responses are directed quite often by a type of political correctness and cultural sensitivity that results in a canvas painted with a colorless gospel. Not so with the Apostle Paul–his is an uncompromising stance concerning the gospel message that leaves no doubt as to his confidence in salvation through faith in Christ.
Understand the basics
The foundation for the letter to the Galatians is firmly planted on the bedrock of two vital truths. First, the apostleship of Paul arose through a direct commission and assignment from God. His was a calling that came not from man, but literally “by Jesus Christ and God the Father” (1:1). This conviction expressed in verse 1 allowed Paul both to affirm the essential unity between the Father and the Son and to point back to the source of authority for stating his position that salvation is through Christ alone.
Second, Paul left no doubt as to the purpose and effect of Christ's coming. In 1:4, Paul stated Jesus Christ "gave himself for our sins" in order to "rescue us from the present evil age." Our salvation, t
hen, is dependent on what God has done for us in Jesus Christ–the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross that brought forgiveness for sins. That we are dependent on Christ and not our own abilities becomes evident in Paul's choice of the word "rescue." One who must be rescued has no innate ability and harbors no hope that he or she might be able to save themselves.
Most would say the letter to the Galatians is a type of “pastoral letter” sent from a concerned spiritual mentor (the Apostle Paul) to churches in that region facing crises or needs–and especially here the danger of a compromised gospel. In addition, it becomes obvious that this letter and other Pauline writings also served the wider purpose to ground and instruct the churches in appropriate doctrine and Christian ethics.
The immediate crisis facing the Galatians was the “confusion” produced by those who sought to “pervert the gospel of Christ” by introducing a different gospel that was “no gospel at all” (1:7). Paul considered this insidious perversion of the gospel to be capable of causing the Galatian believers to desert “the one who called you by the grace of Christ” (1:6).
The source of this false and perverted gospel was a specific group, the “some people” of verse 7. Most interpreters posit these people were Judaizers, or people who believed and taught that Gentiles had to have faith in Christ and obey certain tenets of the Jewish law–especially circumcision–to be saved. One might call this perversion of the gospel a “Jesus plus” mentality: Faith in Jesus is good, but there is still more needed to complete or perfect your salvation.
Paul, on the other hand, knew this change in the gospel was not just a compromise capable of promoting inclusiveness. No, this was a perversion of the gospel message that substituted a “different gospel.” Here the word Paul used for “different” in verse 6 probably meant much more than “different so as to be only a subtle variation”; instead, it signified “different so as to be of a whole different kind or category.” Without any reservations, then, Paul insisted this non-gospel must be rejected because it is simply not genuine.
Affirm the source
Paul was extremely careful to explain the source of his preaching concerning the good news of Jesus Christ. This “gospel I preached” was most definitely not a gospel of man's invention, nor was it even the result of the teaching of another apostle (1:11-12). No, what Paul taught was nothing less than the truth revealed to him by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This begs the question, however, as to exactly when Jesus Christ revealed this gospel message to Paul. Most interpreters agree in pointing back to the Damascus road experience as the life-changing, formative occasion in Paul's Christian experience (read Acts 9). It was during Paul's trip to that city–a trip undertaken to expand the persecution of Christians–that Jesus revealed himself and the basic content of the gospel message.
This is not to say that Paul abstained totally from any conversation with the other apostles, or believers such as Ananias or Barnabas. It does mean, though, that the interpretation or significance of the facts related to the gospel came from Jesus Christ alone.
Questions for discussion
Do you believe the temptation or pressure to compromise the gospel message still exists today? In what form is pressure most likely to be experienced?
Draw up a “general guiding principle” you could apply to your experiences of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others. Look to Galatians 1:8-10 and 1 Peter 3:15 for guidance.