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  • Writer's pictureJames McMaster

Are you so foolish?!

With such a title this is not exactly the ideal way of starting a blog post....If that is how you feel then you will readily appreciate just how the Galatian believers felt when the apostle wrote to them.

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” Yet it is important to note that the great apostle isn’t ridiculing the Galatian believers, but rather expressing the deep concern of a parent who is watching a child totter towards a cliff edge. He had poured his life and teaching into these dear people, only to watch them make spiritual shipwreck once he had left them. The problem that is breaking Paul’s heart is that the Galatian Church had been infiltrated by a group of false teachers who were preaching a false Gospel.

It is significant that Paul sums up the heart and soul of his preaching ministry as focusing the Galatians’ vision on Jesus Christ and, moreover, the crucifixion of Christ. How utterly amazing! It is like the apostle is saying ‘I did nothing other than teach, preach, testify of what Jesus did on the cross when I was with you!’

At this point it is important to grasp exactly what was the dangerous false message that the false teachers were peddling. Quite simply these men were arguing that faith in Jesus was all very well.....but it needed to be supplemented by good works if God’s salvation was ever to be experienced. The shift was subtle but deadly dangerous. One can well imagine these men sweetly suggesting that ‘yes, little Paul with his little message might have told you that all that one needs to do to be saved is to repent and believe in Christ, but there is more to it than that. One needs to keep the Jewish law and get circumcised and then, after you have pulled the right levers and pushed the right buttons, you might be in with a chance of seeing the pearly gates’.

But to the ears of Paul this wasn’t ‘Gospel addition’ but ‘Gospel annihilation’, as to supplement the Gospel was to destroy the Gospel. To remedy this dire situation he brings the Galatian believers back to Calvary. Perhaps we can best grasp Paul’s meaning with a question; when Jesus was dying on the Cross what were men doing to help out? Were Peter and John rushing up to say ‘Jesus let us take some of the nails for you’? Did Thomas and Matthew volunteer to give Jesus a break by changing places with him? Was Andrew and Bartholomew asking to bear a bit of the weight of the sins of the world so that Jesus’ heavy load would be a bit more bearable?

The answer is ‘no’. Jesus died alone, taking the full weight of the sins of the world upon himself with even his closest men running in fear of their lives. This tells us, loud and clear, that salvation is a work of God alone- Father, Son and Holy Spirit- and consequently this is why it can only be received by the empty hand of faith alone. Faith is an acknowledgment that we have nothing to trade with. Think of it like this; if man assisted God in achieving salvation then it follows that man would also need to assist (through means of good works) when it comes to receiving salvation. However, if man did nothing to assist in the work of salvation then he can do nothing to merit salvation.

God achieved salvation through his Son and joyfully applies that work to all who will simply repent of their sins and place their trust in Jesus alone. To Paul, and all the apostles, to think that we can mix in our works, as if the death of Jesus wasn’t sufficient and needed OUR addition, is the ultimate insult to God.

To put it in Paul’s words- ‘This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit (a short hand way of describing salvation) by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?’ How would you respond my dear reader?

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