As I began to write today’s devotional, I realized that while I had prepared to write yesterday’s I got distracted and never did. Today is a two for one.
Galatians 1; Jeremiah 47-48; Psalm 142; Galatians 2; Jeremiah 49-50; Psalm 143
The gospel. It means so many different things, apparently. Literally it means a good message. As Christians we believe that the gospel is the good message that Jesus Christ died on the cross to bring forgiveness for our sins and that He rose again to prove His power over death. Because of that resurrection, Christ lives in us and gives us the strength for daily living. Paul shared that message with the Galatian church and then he had to come back and deal with those who would pervert the gospel. “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-7) In Galatia some were coming in and troubling the Church. They began teaching that as good as the cross was, they needed to do a few other things. They needed to be circumcised. They needed to follow the dietary laws. They needed to follow the old Jewish Law: the Law that Jesus Christ had fulfilled at the cross. Paul noted that this was not another “gospel” that was the same as the gospel that he had preached. This was not a welcome addition to the gospel. This was a perversion of the gospel that destroyed the meaning and the message of the cross.
We still see that today in the Christian Church. There are always those who will seek to pervert the gospel and let people know that a relationship with God comes from following Jesus Christ and ____________ . (You fill in the blank.) Anyone who would pervert the gospel would tell you that God demands baptism, or sending money into the right person (usually themselves), circumcision, following the Law, following the dietary laws, wearing the right clothes, or anything like that. Anyone who would teach that a relationship with God comes from following Jesus Christ AND anything else is preaching a completely different gospel – a perversion of the gospel of Christ. A relationship with God based on the gospel message that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead to prove His power over death and live in us will change a person’s life. Paul talked about caring for the poor in the two passages that are part of today’s readings. But even caring for the poor will not establish a relationship with God. A relationship with God will make us want to care for the poor.
There are those who are “Torah-observant” Christians. Does this mean they don’t have a relationship with God based on what has been said? No. If their relationship with God means that they feel led to observe the Torah, may God grant them the grace to do that. If their attempts to observe the Torah, knowing that the reason Christ came is because no one could follow God’s Laws well enough to establish that relationship because of their own righteousness, cause them to compel others to follow the Torah in order to establish a relationship with God, it is a perversion of the gospel. On a personal note, I am a Baptist. We believe that the first step of obedience in the Christian life is baptism by immersion. If we were to teach that baptism is necessary to establish a relationship with God, we would be perverting the gospel. In short, any attempts we make to establish a relationship with God will fall short. Our relationship with God depends on nothing less than Jesus Christ and the Cross. Our relationship with God depends on nothing more than Jesus Christ and the Cross. Finishing with Paul’s words as a remind of what that means: “For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19-20)
Lord God, how easy it is to make my understanding of how to live the Christian life a prerequisite to following You. Remind me that Your death on the Cross is enough. Remind me that when people turn to You based on the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is enough. May I continue to grow in my relationship with You in ways that bring honor to You. Let me be accepting of those who have turned to You who still need to grow.