The apostle Paul speaks to us of abandoning the Gospel for “another gospel”, which is not a gospel at all. To they who have preached this, he pronounces a curse upon. For the explanation of what he means, he refers to his own salvation, and how he did not receive the message of grace via the preaching of the apostles, nor did he come to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ through being taught by these apostles. It was purely by grace, and grace alone, that he had received his understanding and his apostolic call in the Lord.
Such an explanation is not to say that the apostles in Jerusalem are teaching “another Gospel”, but to make the point he started with quite abundant. God has saved us by grace, and grace only, otherwise we could hold God accountable. Seeing that no man is righteous, no not even one, we have no place to hold God accountable to anything. He isn’t our genie that we are granted to call upon, “naming and claiming”, according to the Scriptures, so that we might have benefit in this life. What benefit do luxuries hold if we do not also comprehend the lifestyle of heaven?
Rather, the gospel of works, that which claims reward in Jesus Christ, and which says that we can achieve by doing, is in utter opposition to the heart of the Father. Yet, this is what we have been told from our first inception. Everything points us toward a gospel that demands works. Truly, James even tells us that faith without works is dead. Yet we forget that it is works without faith, just as much as faith without works, that condemns the man.
How shall we define a “work” in this sense? To cease from our works, which is the ultimate goal of the Sabbath, is to relentlessly object to any and every thing that claims to make you closer to God, or more righteous. Are you called spiritual because of the amount that you pray daily? Do you regard the proximity of your relationship with Christ by how well you hear His voice? What if God isn’t talking? Do you suddenly begin to question whether you are truly in the faith? The Gospel of Truth tells us that we are justified solely on the basis of Christ Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. It lays claim that all of the nonsense we put upon our lives is entirely out of bondage.
It is my own belief that even within our theology we have promoted a gospel of works. How many times have you heard something similar to, “We put to death the sinful nature”? A gospel that commands God’s people to always put to death, and always suppress the sinful nature, or to always deny our depravity, is not a gospel at all. It continues to wave the law in the face of those who have passed from death to life. It continues to oppress the people of God, even while claiming to offer freedom.
This “death language” is nothing more than death. It doesn’t bring life. Ever. The Gospel, however, claims that in Christ Jesus we have passed from death to life. They who are in Christ are new creations. What does this mean for we who are still engulfed in sin? How do we approach the times when I get irritated and obviously begin to act outside of the character of God?
When you are born into this world, you must learn to move your body. Infants often flail their arms, as if attempting to reach in a certain direction, but haven’t yet learned how. As the child grows, their neck muscles begin to be able to hold their head up, their arms and legs begin to move more purposefully, and eventually the child attempts crawling, and eventually walking. There is a process of learning how to move, how to live. The same is true in spirituality. We have been birthed anew, and in such we must learn to live anew.
Our old mindsets must be put off, and we must now learn to comprehend the mind of Christ (for we have been given the mind of Christ). We must put off old habits, and learn to live in freedom. It is a process, and we do grow in our spiritual walk. This, however, does not then mean that we’re ‘trapped’ by the sinful nature. God has set us free for freedom’s sake, and if for freedom’s sake, then where is bondage?
No, the whole point of Galatians is that we are not under law. We are not judged on the basis of whether we follow utterly the pattern set up by Christ. We are judged on the basis of God’s grace, and whether we have willingly submitting ourselves to that grace in faith, or whether we have rejected it because we would rather live in bondage.
During the life of Jesus, unless you were homeless, only the rich lived in Jerusalem. It was where the most elite were permitted to live. Herod lived there, and he payed the religious leaders who lived there to teach according to what he approved. Most of these teachers were Sadducees. For this reason, when Messiah came, Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him (Matt 2:2).
Maybe if you’re troubled by the simple message of grace, it is because you are one living in Jerusalem, who is taxing people 80-90% of their income, getting wealthy off of oppression and cruelty. Maybe for you the system works, and therefore you don’t need a savior. For this reason, your gospel can never give freedom. It can never give life. Until you have tasted of life itself, and not “death” in order to gain life, but simply life, then you have no idea what I’m talking about.
Paul was not taught by the apostles. He didn’t need to go to Jerusalem to learn from the best. God met him where he was. In fact, it wasn’t until after he left Jerusalem that Paul was met by Jesus on the road to Damascus. This is incredibly important to understand, because within this is the whole of the Gospel. It isn’t in our systems, in our services, in our programs, in our traditions, in our rituals, in our prayer time, study time, set aside time, devotional time, fellowship time, or any other place/thing that we would expect to find God that we find God. It is simply in the moment of mere faith that God is present. All that is required is to believe in the God who raises the dead, as Abraham believed.