It’s very interesting how Paul opens his letter to the Galatians. “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)” He identifies himself as an apostle of Christ and the Father. He is preaching the Gospel of Christ who died and was raised from the dead. This is the authentic Gospel–the one he was give to preach not by men but by the Lord Himself and to the Gentiles.
The Gospel Paul was preaching was one of grace. And he was quick to point out that unlike the perverted gospel that had permeated the church, the one he was preaching, was “preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
There were people in the church who were teaching the congregation that grace was not enough. It had to be accompanied by works. It had to be Faith and works not faith alone. They had the Gentile Christians believing that they were justified by the works of the law. Paul elaborates more on this in the second chapter where he talks about Peter’s hypocrisy. The Jewish Christians were trying to force the Gentile Christians to be circumcised. We read about this earlier in the book of Acts. Acts 15:1 states: And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Even though Paul and Barnabas testified of how they had converted the Gentiles and how God had done through them, a sect of the Pharisees who believed insisted, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
This led to the Jerusalem Council discussing the matter and it was decided that that “we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood” (verses 19, 20). And now here was Paul dealing with the same issue again.
He had to rebuke Peter, the same Peter who stood up and defended God’s grace when he declared, “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (verses 10, 11) Paul rebuked Peter because he saw that before certain men came from James who was one of the pillars of the church, Peter had no problem eating with the Gentiles but the moment these men visited, he distanced himself from the Gentiles. Paul had every right to be angry with Peter. Peter should have known better. He should have defended God’s grace this time just as he had those other times.
Paul referred to those who were perverting the Gospel of Christ as “false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4). These people were compelling Titus who was a Gentile to be circumcised and this is why Paul had to set this troubling matter straight.
He stated the following message twice so that they would get it loud and clear, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8, 9). In other words, there is only one Gospel. And that Gospel is the Gospel of Christ which teaches that we are saved by God’s grace not by works lest we should boast. We cannot earn salvation. It is God’s gift to us. All we have to do is accept it in faith. It costs us nothing but God His beloved Son.
It must have been very upsetting for Paul to see how these people were perverting the Gospel and making it seem that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough. This is why he had to make it crystal clear that “a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
If anyone you know is teaching that salvation is by works and not by faith alone, use the Word of God to rebuke and correct them. Encourage them not to set aside the grace of God and enslave themselves to the works of the law which cannot justify anyone–neither Jew nor Gentile. If it did, then as Paul said, Christ died in vain.
There is only one Gospel. And it’s the good news of a loving God who gave His only Son that we who believe in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life. Only Jesus can save us. The law points us to Him but it in of itself cannot save us. Salvation comes by grace through faith not by the works of the law. No matter of lawkeeping could save anyone. In Christ we have freedom through the amazing grace of God.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace