Galatians 1:11 – The Gospel Authorized

Some years ago after I did a teaching series at church a young man approached me troubled by my teachings.  He did not dispute my content, my delivery or the biblical basis of my sermons.  His problem was that I did not quote other commentaries or Christian leaders.  He wanted me to base my teachings on the words of other men not on what the Lord had spoken to me.  Don’t misunderstand me, I read books by smarter-than-me and godly people; I listen to various teachers online; I pay attention to my pastor’s teachings on Sundays, but at the end of the day I need to base my faith, my teachings and my life on what Jesus shows me about Himself not on what others say about Him.

In these next two verses that we are examining today, Paul wants his Galatian disciples to know that the gospel he preached to them was not based on human revelation or transmission.  The gospel was given to him by Jesus Himself; the gospel he preached came out of his relationship with Christ.   This is what Paul says in verses 11 and 12 of chapter 1.

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.  For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (ESV)

Paul makes the bold assertion that he was not authenticated, accredited, validated or authorized by any group of men or by an organizational structure, but by Jesus Himself.  Paul, later in this letter, takes great pains to explain the timeline of his interactions with the other apostles to make clear that he did not go to them first to learn the gospel.  He is making the claim that his authority as an apostle was just as valid as that of Peter, John or James and that the gospel he preached was just as true and faithful to Jesus as theirs.  Paul wanted the Galatians to have confidence in the Gospel they had heard and he wanted to make sure that the Galatian’s faith be firmly grounded in the Truth of God and not on mere human credentials.

Here’s my challenge to you.  When we share “our” gospel, what authority do we appeal to?  To our church denomination or tradition?  To the person we heard it from?  To some currently famous teacher? Or are we confident in the revelation of Jesus in our lives and can speak out of our own interaction with the Truth?  The people we are sharing with will know the difference.  Are we simply parroting the words of others or speaking out of the Word implanted in us.


Galatians 1:10 – People Pleasing

We like being liked, don’t we?  We feel validated and important and worthwhile when we feel that we are liked by others.  We are searching for significance in a world that seems to beat us down.  So if I can have a following or have a lot of Facebook friends doesn’t that mean I am doing or saying something right?  Doesn’t it mean that I am alright?  Not at all, we know people are fickle. Having a following is no indication of the validity of your message.

The Apostle Paul wanted nothing to do with trying to please people.  After a rather strongly worded rant against those who would distort the Gospel (read previous post here), he makes this statement:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal 1:10  ESV)

The gospel as Paul presented it was crazy to anyone who heard it: “But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles”  (1 Cor. 1:23).  It was unpalatable to everyone.  It would have been much easier for Paul to preach a gospel that “made sense.”  A gospel that was watered down and not so demanding of faith in the work of Christ.  Perhaps a gospel that included some performance of religious devotion from his hearers.  Or some feel-good gospel that made us the center of the universe, that catered to our needs.  At least people could understand that.  But that is not the Gospel and that is not what Paul preached.  His goal was not to be popular or liked but to preach Christ – alone.

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.  (1 Cor. 2:2,5  ESV)

Paul is saying that you cannot have two masters; you cannot have split allegiances,  either you are working to please men or to please God.  If you are going to serve Christ then you are going to have to follow His lead.  Trying to please people means you are putting them first and giving Jesus a backseat in your life.    Jesus said, preach the gospel.  He did not give us the option to NOT preach the gospel and He did NOT give us the option to change it, nor was people pleasing one of the options he gave us.  If the gospel is as central and critical as Paul claims then catering to people’s feelings or sensibilities in order not to offend them is not an option.

I read an article recently by Dr. Alex McFarland titled, “Ten reasons millennials are backing away from God and Christianity.”  In it he says this, “Finally, is it really any wonder that kids raised in the churches of 21st century America aren’t often stirred to lifelong commitment? Most churches are so occupied with “marketing” themselves to prospective attendees that they wouldn’t dream of risking their “brand” by speaking tough-as-nails truth.  For evangelical youth mentored by many a hip and zany “Minister to Students,” commitment to Jesus lasts about as long as the time it takes to wash the stains out of T-shirts worn at the senior-year paintball retreat.”

That is what Paul is talking about here.  We completely lose our authority and the power of the gospel when we try to please people by distorting the gospel.

There’s a difference between people pleasing and caring for people.  Just because we won’t cater or water down the gospel doesn’t mean we have to be deliberately rude, arrogant, difficult, confrontational or antagonistic.  We can still be loving and kind, in fact, we must, without compromising the gospel.  Isn’t that what Jesus did?  Isn’t it more loving to present the true gospel that leads to salvation than a watered-down version that leaves people on the road to hell?

Let us not offend people by presenting our own ideas of the gospel or with a wishy-washy gospel, but if we must offend let us offend people with the Gospel of Jesus.

Galatians 1:6-9 – The Gospel Twisted

Have you ever been to an amusement park or carnival and seen those funhouse mirrors?  You look at yourself and see an image of yourself stretched and thin or squished down.  It’s funny.   But imagine now that someone tried to convince you that the distorted image you are looking at is the real you.  The person telling you this would be lying and would being doing you a great disservice.  How could you know what is real anymore?  This is what Paul is dealing with in his letter to the Galatians.  Some false teachers were preaching a different, distorted gospel than the one, true Paul had proclaimed and the Galatians had believed.  These false teachers taught that Jesus’ death and resurrection were not enough to fully save them, the Galatians also had to follow all the Law of Moses.  Paul minces no words in his denunciation of this false gospel and those teachers.  He gets right to the point in verses 6-9.

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— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  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. 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. (ESV)

Paul uses three strong words here that are at the heart of his message: desert, distort and accursed.  Let’s look at each one.

Desert.  The Galatians transferred their allegiance from grace to law, from Christ to Moses.  You can say they are traitors to the truth and running to the “other side.”   They are abandoning the side of truth.  Synonyms for deserting are: forsaking, dumping, ditching, walking out on, going AWOL, jumping ship, relinquishing.  Why would anyone do that? Paul wants to know.  He is incredulous!  It’s like giving up a real diamond ring for costume jewelry.  It reminds me of the story of the Israelites at Mount Sinai.  God had miraculously taken them out of Egypt and now they were waiting for Moses who had gone up into the mountain to talk to God.  The Israelites grew tired of waiting and created a golden calf statue to worship instead of God (Exodus 32:8).  The Israelites had seen God’s power, His miracles, His presence and yet they turned to a golden calf.  Likewise, the Galatians had seen God’s power, experienced His presence, believed in Jesus and yet turned to this false gospel.

Distort. It means to “turn around.”  So the false teachers took the truth of the gospel – salvation in Christ alone through grace – and twisted it around to mean salvation in Christ PLUS working to earn your righteousness – Christ PLUS self-effort.  They were distorting the image and word of Christ – like a funhouse mirror that distorts our reflection.  To do so is an affront and offense to God.  I think that is why Paul is so incensed and calls down curses on those who would preach “another” gospel (vs 8-9).  It is robbing God of his glory and giving it to man.  The true gospel of Jesus Christ has to be the standard against which we calibrate all other teachings and teachers.  Since the gospel is not man-made, man cannot change it.  How someone handles the gospel is the only way we can determine if they are a false teacher.  Do they preach Christ alone or Christ plus?

I don’t think I had seen before just how critical this is.  If Paul was so incensed at the twisting of the gospel and at the desertion of the believers, imagine how God feels when His gospel is twisted and His people abandon him.

Accursed.  This is strongest possible word Paul could use to express his disdain for these false teachers.  It is a word used in the Old Testament for cursing false prophets.  Paul is essentially saying these people should go to hell!

The Gospel is the means by which God calls us to salvation; it is not through logic, philosophy, wealth or prosperity, miracles, great men or through fear, guilt or shame.  There is only one way.  There is only one Gospel.  If we reject or twist that Gospel, then there is no other way for someone to be saved.  No wonder Paul uses such strong language in cursing the false teachers or anyone else, including angels, who would preach another Gospel!

In our day, I don’t think many Christians would be tempted to believe that we had to follow all the Laws of Moses as a means to be saved.  And yet we are not immune from turning to “another gospel”.  We have to ask ourselves if there are ways in which we have turned from the purity of Christ and His Gospel to our own man-made ideas of how we are saved or should live as Christians. It’s easier, isn’t it, to make up our own rules or find our own comfort.  We have a penchant for trying to fend for ourselves independent of God.  It is our fierce rebellion.  We don’t want to be beholden to God so we turn to those things that we can understand or control.  But in the end we know it is neither real nor satisfying.

Let me be bold in proposing some modern, “different” gospels.  How about the Jesus-will-make-you-rich gospel; the Jesus-is-just-a-good-teacher gospel; the God-accepts-you-without-you-having-to-give-up-your-sin gospel; the Jesus-plus-“be a good Christian”-and-follow-the-rules-to-look-and-act-right gospel; and finally, the Jesus-only-died-for-your-past-sins-so-it’s-up-to-you-to-live-a-good-life-now gospel.

How has the Gospel been twisted in our life?  In what areas have we turned to man-made ideas rather than God-given revelation?

I have been taken by the centrality of the Gospel in Paul’s thinking.  He is fiercely protective of it and I think I finally understand that attitude.  The “gospel is the power of God for salvation.”   So it must be preached.  The TRUE gospel must be preached.  It cannot be adulterated, distorted, twisted, added to, or subtracted from.  Any attempt to turn the God-given gospel into some man-made formulation must be vigorously resisted.  For if the true gospel is not presented then the hearers cannot be saved and they are doomed.  Not only that, but, a false gospel robs God of the glory that He is due for his marvelous grace and gives it to man.  Paul would have none of that.

Galatians 1:3-5 – The Gospel Introduced

(Read introduction to this series here)

Years ago at a church I was serving, one of the teen girls came up to me and asked me, “What is the Gospel?”  I was a little surprised because this young woman had grown up going to church and yet did not know this most fundamental truth.  Clearly, the churches she had been a part of, ours included, did not do a good job instructing her and perhaps that is more wide-spread than I would care to think.  But if we don’t have a clear, rock-solid understanding of what the “gospel” is, then our faith rests on shaky ground.

Paul, in writing to the Galatians understood this and so at the start of his letter he gives a brief summary of the gospel he has been preaching and which he spends the rest of the letter explaining and defending.  Now, many people would simply skip over these verses thinking this is just a greeting and not really significant, but Paul uses this presentation of the gospel as his jumping-off point for his main argument to follow, that the Galatians have abandoned this gospel.  But more on that later.

So here it is in verses 3 through 5.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)

Paul starts by saying that we are currently under the “present evil age” because of our sin.  He says something similar in Ephesians 2:1, 2.  Paul says that Jesus came to deliver us, in other words, we are not able by ourselves to escape our sin or this “age.”  We need to be rescued.  Remember in Romans 7:24, Paul wails “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  Paul understands that he, and we, need rescuing.  He spends all of Romans chapter 7 bemoaning his inability to free himself from his sinful passions, but needs an external deliverer.  And he follows up his wail with, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  That is what he is saying here in Galatians, Jesus gave himself up to death to free us, deliver us, from the sin which keeps us bound to this evil present age.  Deliver implies being moved from one location to another.  Jesus has literally and spiritually picked us up and out of “this present evil age” and moved us into the heavenly kingdom.  This is good news people!

It’s really good news!  You see, that little word “sin” encompasses all of satan’s work in the world and our lives and so is not able to be overcome or purged simply by self-effort.  It is too big.  It takes Christ to free us.  Jesus gave himself for “our” sin, all of it, mountains of it.  There is no such thing as insignificant sins that can be cleared away by a few of our good works.  In commenting on this verse, Martin Luther said, “For if our sins could be removed by our own efforts, what need was there for the Son of God to be given for them? Since Christ was given for our sins it stands to reason that they cannot be put away by our own efforts.”

And finally, Paul says that this was done according to God’s will.  It was not a surprise, or a man’s idea, but a deliberate action taken by Jesus with full consent of the Father.  It was God’s action from beginning to end.  It’s a plan no human would ever have thought of.  And as a result, through Jesus we receive Grace – which is God’s sovereign act in rescuing us, and Peace – which is the result of our deliverance and now describes our status in relationship to God.

So there it is, the Gospel in two verses:  We are stuck in this evil age because of our sin, we can’t get ourselves out of it and Jesus came to deliver us through His death and resurrection resulting in peace with God.  You can use this brief outline start your conversations with friends, family, coworkers or perfect strangers.

But let me makes two more points before we wrap up.  God had a grand purpose in sending Jesus to deliver us.  In this Gospel, He demonstrates to the universe, both here on earth and in the heavens (Ephesians 1:10 and 3:10) His great mercy, love and wisdom in putting this plan into action and ultimately ensures that he receives the praise and glory he deserves.  He gets all the credit and humans get none.  That is how it should be.

Let Mr. Luther make my last point.  “In this whole epistle Paul treats of the resurrection of Christ. By His resurrection Christ won the victory over law, sin, flesh, world, devil, death, hell, and every evil. And this His victory He donated unto us. These many tyrants and enemies of ours may accuse and frighten us, but they dare not condemn us, for Christ, whom God the Father has raised from the dead is our righteousness and our victory.”  Did you catch that?  Nothing and no one dare condemn us!  Jesus won.  That also means we dare not condemn ourselves when we fall into some sin.  No, we stand up and say, “Though I fail a thousand times, still Jesus has paid ten thousand times more.”  That my friends is great news.

Introduction to Galatians

I have to admit that Paul’s letter to the Galatians had never appealed to me before.  I would read it and it just didn’t connect for some reason.  That changed for me this summer as I took some concentrated time with the letter and found there deep and life-changing insight.  It felt as if Jesus Himself had taken me aside and opened my eyes to truths that I knew before but that he now implanted in my soul.  I would like to share with you this journey.

But to make sense of this letter let me give you a little context.  Paul had finished his first trip preaching the Gospel throughout Asia Minor and he had planted several churches in the province of Galatia (in what is now Turkey).  After returning to his home base of Antioch, he heard that a small group of Jewish Christians had followed behind him to these very same churches making the following claims:  First, they argued that Paul was not a true apostle because he wasn’t part of the original Twelve, so the Galatians should not believe what he was preaching.  Second, they claimed that Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians still had to follow all the Jewish practices in order to be “really” saved.  In other words, Paul’s gospel was incomplete and inaccurate.  When Paul hears of this he fires off this intense and strongly worded letter to the Galatian churches to set the record straight.  The result is pure gold for us today.

In the letter, Paul lays out his authority as a true apostle, equal to the others, and the truth of the gospel he preached.  He argues against the idea that anyone – Jew or Gentile – has to follow the Jewish Law in order to be saved.  And he explains the freedom that comes from being released from the requirements of the Law because of Christ’s death and resurrection.  Now, while this may not sound terribly relevant to us today, it actually addresses something many Christians still struggle with: Do we still have to earn or maintain our salvation through our self-effort?  Many of us still wonder if Jesus’ sacrifice was enough.  Don’t I have to prove myself worthy to receive His love?  Don’t I have to add to what He did to show how much I “appreciate” Him?  Don’t I have to work harder now to show that I am a good Christian?

The simple answer to all of these questions is NO!  Paul’s letter shows us that our salvation is based on The Father’s promise and Jesus’s sacrifice, all of which we simply received by faith.  When we do that we experience great freedom in pursuing our relationship with Him free of the burden and baggage of trying to earn His love.  With each chapter of this wonderful letter Paul builds, layer-by-layer, a whole and comprehensive look at the wonder of the work of Christ and how we can live in it.

In the following posts I am not trying to provide a verse by verse commentary or a scholarly work.  For that, I would direct you to David Guzik’s commentary found at  or Martin Luther’s commentary (which is brilliant, by the way) at  Instead, I want to give you some of the insights, the highlights, I got as I studied this wonderful book to encourage, help and comfort you and to deepen your journey with Christ.  My prayer and my hope is that as you see Him presented, your life would be transformed.

Grief Experienced

I had never experienced grief like that before.  Sure, I’ve been sad, but this was different.  This was a heart-wrenching grief that shook my core.  It was a wail in the spirit at a great loss.  It came in waves unexpected.  You see, last December my father passed away, and while it was not totally unexpected – he was 91 – it was still a shock.  I wept.  And now, so many months later, the grief now turned to sadness still overtakes me when I am least expecting it.

The day of the memorial service was a cloudy day with a light sprinkling rain.  As we left the church service and were heading to the graveside, some of the clouds parted slightly and the sun shone through for a few moments.  Perhaps a heavenly salute, perhaps just a coincidence, but in either case I thought about the grief our Heavenly Father experienced when He saw His Son dead.  It darkened the sky.  It shook the earth.  It convulsed the universe.  I can understand a little of that now.  And yes, even though He knew that Jesus would rise again, it doesn’t take away from the grief of the moment.  I knew that even as I wept for my father, Dad was experiencing joy unspeakable.  It didn’t help me at that moment.  The grief is still real and very present.

Wouldn’t it be interesting on this Good Friday to pause for a moment and simply acknowledge the Father’s experience on this day, His grief?  Perhaps we can just sit with Him and say, “I understand… a little,” and grieve together even while we look forward to resurrection.  He did that for me.

Out-Of-The-Box Praying

I started reading through the book of Acts again.  I wanted to get a glimpse again of dynamic faith in action.  It seems the disciples, apostles, deacons and all the believers had such a simple faith that God would just show up in mighty ways – and He DID!  But even with all the miracles they saw, sometimes they just could not see beyond what was “reasonable” to them.  Their prayers were limited by their expectations of what God could do.  Here is a great example from chapter 12.

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.  Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands…  When he realized this [that the angel had freed him from prison], he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer.  Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. (Acts 12:1-7,12-16)

So Peter is in prison waiting to be executed and the church is praying fervently for his release.  Then God answers their prayers – but not in the way they expected.  You see, I don’t think any one of those Christians was asking that God would send an angel to open the prison doors.  That wasn’t really reasonable.  Much more likely is that they were praying that God would “move on Herod’s heart to release Peter.” Now that would be a much more likely and expected way for God to answer their prayers.  So out-of-box was the angel scenario that when Peter did show up at the prayer meeting they dismissed the news as simply “Peter’s angel.”  These folks could more easily believe in an apparition than in an angelic visitation!  Sure they prayed and they prayed earnestly, but it seems they were praying within their experience of what God could or would do.

So I started thinking, are my prayers limited by my expectations of what God would do?  When I pray, am I also telling God HOW to answer my prayers?  Sure, He’s all powerful, but He also needs to be practical and sensible, doesn’t He?  I am very much afraid that my prayer life is “In-The-Box” praying.  I want to change that.  I want to start praying that God would do wonderful, unexpected, outside-the-box things.  I want think big and prayer bigger and see Him do bigger still.  If nothing is impossible with God, then I want to pray for the impossible.  How about you?  Will you join me in Out-Of-The-Box praying and then we’ll be able tell our own versions of the angel scenario story?