Trusting the Source of the Gospel

Posted on February 23, 2017
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | Leave a Comment

In our last article, we examined Paul’s warning to the Galatian brethren that they not follow after a “different gospel,” which he declared to be a perversion or distortion of the one true gospel message.

After issuing this warning, Paul gave several reasons why the Galatian brethren could trust that the message he delivered to them was in fact the one true gospel message, and not a perversion or distortion.

It was not man’s gospel.  The first test of the true gospel was its source. Paul declared that he had not received the message of the gospel he taught from other men (Galatians 1:12), but that he had instead received it directly from the Lord.

After his conversion, Paul did not go directly to the other apostles or anyone else to learn the whole of the message that was to be declared throughout the  world. Instead, he went to Arabia      (Galatians 1:17). Where had the message of the Judaizing teachers originated? It was clear that it had not come from Jerusalem (see Acts 15), which means it was not from the apostles. They had not received a new revelation that confirmed their proclamations (that was the point of Paul’s initial warning in Galatians 1:6-10). Therefore, the source of their message was not divine in nature, but, rather, was from man.

There are really only two possibilities when it comes to the source of information. Jesus faced the same issue and confronted those who sought to challenge Him:

But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”  (Matthew 21:24–25)

Every teaching is either from man, or from God. That which comes from God is what He expects His people to follow and obey. That which comes from man is at best a perversion of His message! Why would anyone want to follow that which is a perversion of God’s will?  

Paul had been a part of the failed system.  Paul had been a part of the Jewish system before obeying the gospel message. In fact, he had been “advancing in Judaism beyond many of [his] own age among [his] people.” If there had been anyone who should have wanted to rely upon that system, it would have been Paul: he would have had much to gain from it!

The Jewish system, however, was flawed, and intentionally so. God never intended the Old Testament covenant to remain in effect forever. From the time of Adam and Eve, God had prophesied of the One who was to come (Genesis 3:15). By the time of Abraham, the promise was much more clear. Eventually, through Abraham’s descendants, all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). God fulfilled His promise to Abraham and blessed him with a land (Canaan was delivered to his descendants and became the nation of Israel). God also blessed Abraham with many descendants, the Jewish people. That special people, set apart as a holy nation to the Lord, was given the law of Moses. That law, however, was not intended to be a law for all people and for all times. It was not until the coming of Christ, the Messiah, that the perfect law was delivered for all mankind!

In Galatians chapter 3, Paul emphasized the point that the law of Moses was not God’s law of salvation for all time. He showed the Galatian brethren that they had been obedient to the truth of the gospel, and they had no reason to turn back to the Old Testament covenant for that salvation. That Old Testament covenant was a “tutor” (Galatians 3:24-25) that was intended to serve the purpose of leading everyone to the Messiah. Once the Messiah had come, that law had served its purpose, and was not to be followed any longer!

If the law that had previously been delivered from God no longer provided a covenant relationship with him, how can a law, or a gospel, that has its source somewhere other than the revelation of God provide a covenant relationship with Him?  Paul had to deal with “a different gospel” that had its roots in the Old Testament covenant, a law that God had at one time given to the Jewish people. The “different gospels” that we see today are not rooted in that at all, but most are a corruption of the gospel message delivered by Paul and the other inspired men of the first century. These corruptions are usually based on the selfish desires of mankind!

Paul had been accepted by the rest of the apostles.  In chapter 2 of Galatians, Paul made the argument that he was teaching the truth because the other apostles had accepted him. When Paul had gone to Jerusalem (see Acts 15) to defend the truth of the gospel, he had presented his teachings to the apostles and elders there. When he was done, they “gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and [Paul]…” If he was teaching a message that was contrary to the will of God, these men who were spokesmen for God would never have accepted him!

As if to emphasize the point that he was making, Paul wrote of an incident in which Peter was not following the will of God. He refused to eat with Gentiles when certain Jews had come to him, because he was fearful of the “circumcision party” (ESV, Galatians 2:12).  Paul said that he “withstood him to his face because he was to be blamed…” (Galatians 2:11).  Consider what Paul wrote concerning this situation:

But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” (Galatians 2:14)

Here Peter, one of the apostles, was not being “straightforward about the truth of the gospel…” Paul did not, in this instance, extend the right hand of fellowship. Instead, he “withstood him to his face…” This clearly shows the difference in how even inspired men would be dealt with based on whether they were teaching the truth or not! Paul had proven the truth of his message by that message being confirmed by other inspired men!

While these points do not express the totality of Paul’s argument to convince the Galatian brethren that he held the truth, and not a distortion of truth, they do summarize some of the important ideas he used to prove that truth. Truth does not come from man, it comes from God. Truth was delivered by God through His inspired writers (See Ephesians 3). Truth is always consistent with what God has revealed in His word. It will agree with all other inspired men and their writings!

The Galatian brethren could have confidence in their salvation. They could rest assured that they had done all that God required of them, as Paul was teaching them the truth. Today, we can have the same confidence, but only by comparing what we are being taught to God’s revealed word. When there are conflicts between what is taught and what we can read in scripture, we know that what we are being taught is untrue. It can only be a perversion of the true gospel of Jesus Christ!