Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 4
By: John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|What we’re going to talk about today is the tragedy of deception. Isn’t it interesting in our lives how many times we deal with the symptom and we never deal with the problem. We’re always dealing with the symptoms, felt needs, instead of real needs in our life.|
The Tragedy of Deception
Galatians 1:6-8. What we’re going to talk about today is the tragedy of deception. Isn’t it interesting in our lives how many times we deal with the symptom and we never deal with the problem. We’re always dealing with the symptoms, felt needs, instead of real needs in our life. Well, if you’re not real careful, when you read through the book of Galatians you might get the feeling that the false teachers that had duped these people there, these believers, that they are the problem. The false doctrine’s the problem; the false teachers are the problem. But no, that’s the symptom.
And it’s just interesting for us to understand today. We have been warned from day 1 that we’ll have false teachers. Jesus said that; Paul said that; Peter told us that. False teachers will be here until Jesus comes back, always trying to pervert and distort the gospel of grace. But, you see, the fact that they’re around, the fact that they continue to survive, that’s just a symptom. You know what the problem is? The problem is too many believers are listening to them. The best way to stop false doctrine is to stop listening to it. The Galatians were taught by Paul. They understood the message of grace, and yet they didn’t pay attention. They listened to the deceivers and bought their message. The way to stop false teaching again, is to quit listening to it.
Paul had begun the letter with a stern reminder about what the gospel of grace really is. I wonder if I went up and down the rows this morning if any one of us could really verbalize what the gospel of grace really is. It’s not just a simple greeting in the first part of this book when he starts off in verse 3. That’s not a simple greeting. That’s under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God and he has a message. He’s building a foundation.
The first thing he does, he shows us the peace that grace provides in verse 3. He says “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s always found in that sequence: grace first, then peace. You see, grace always precedes peace, but grace always produces peace. God’s grace is what gave them the peace that they had with God. You see, the Galatians had experienced peace with God. Now, that’s what I call saving grace; you can call it whatever, but saving grace is what I call it. That’s when the peace with God is absolutely affirmed and insured.
But they were in no way experiencing the peace of God. Do we know the difference to that? Peace with God is unconditional. It comes when you experience saving grace. Grace always produces peace. Living grace, however, is something that happens only when we yield to Him. The fruit of God’s Spirit is “love, joy, peace,…” and that’s something God has to produce. If I’m not walking in the peace of God this morning it simply means I’m not walking yielded and surrendered to Him.
You see, the religious mindset that they had bought into in the Galatian churches had robbed them of their peace. You say, how do you know that? Because, he says where is that sense of blessing that you once had? And so Paul, in a simple greeting—that some people say is a simple greeting—what he’s doing is he’s building a foundation. And he’s saying this peace that you’re looking for and that you have now lost, the peace of God—and you can’t lose the peace with God—he said that peace that you’ve lost, that came as a result of your turning back to works rather than to grace.
Then Paul reminded them of the price that grace paid. For us to have peace with God and for us to have peace with one another, for us to have peace within ourselves, it would cost a great price. It says in verse 4, speaking of Jesus, “who gave Himself for our sins.” It costs Christ His death on the cross for us to have the peace with Him and peace with one another. And yet these Galatians had walked right away, slapped Him in the face by going back to a works doctrine that robbed them of their peace.
Then he shows the purpose that grace portrays. In other words, there’s a huge purpose that He died for our sins. “So that He might rescue us.” Now this is a narrow context to fitted right to the Galatians. He’s not trying to cover every base of what Christ did for us when He died on the cross. “That He might rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father.” God’s great purpose in our life was to set us free. And it says “from this present evil age.” Now, what’s he talking about? Well, the last time we studied, this is just review, the age that he refers to is the religious mindset, the religious way of doing things. He set us free from that kind of bondage. This religious mindset is what we can do for God, always having to perform so that we can attain something with God. And God set us free from that. Isn’t it awesome to be set free! I mean, now, freedom is not the right to do as you please; freedom is the power to do as you should. And yet they walked way. They took the ball and chain and put it right back on their ankles. They said, “We don’t want that kind of grace. We don’t want that. This is what our flesh wants.” They’d bought back into a religious mindset.
And then finally Paul shows the praise that grace always produces in verse 5. He says “to whom be the glory forevermore,” and then he says, “Amen.” And that word amen means “let it always be so, and don’t you dare think about ever changing this.” The glory goes to Him. It’s totally God’s desire for us to have a relationship with Him. That’s all Christianity is. It’s not some religion; it’s not a denomination; Christianity is a relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. And when Paul got to thinking about what it cost God to do that for us and how we’ve been rescued, Paul himself, the greatest religionist that ever lived, has come out from under that old bondage and he just can’t help but start praising God. He said, “all praise goes to Him forevermore, amen.”
Well, we start now with verse 6. You see, that sort of brings us up to where we are. That’s the current that we’re in. That’s the flow of the river. Religious deception robs us of the joy of a relationship. I always know when I’ve turned back to my flesh is when my joy goes, when suddenly there’s no love that I’m experiencing for other people, when suddenly I have no patience anymore and I just can’t stand it. When I’m up to the end of myself I know immediately what I’ve done. I have stepped out of the realm of walking surrendered to Him and I’ve taken matters into my own hands and now I’m doing it my way, which is the performance mental attitude that religion always propagates. And so, we are robbed of our joy. These Galatian believers were robbed of the joy, the peace, all that they could have had if they’d just simply continued to walk as they’d been taught.
Paul does not thank God one time for these Galatians. That still gets to me and I smile every time. He thanked God for the Corinthians. I wouldn’t have thanked God for the Corinthians, but Paul did. But he didn’t thank God for these Galatians, buddy. If you have ever seen righteous indignation, you see it in the book of Galatians. He comes out with both guns blazing and he doesn’t bat an eye. He gets right to the root of the problem. What in the world are we doing, he’s telling these Galatians, going back up under that old religious mindset, that old works performance mentality? Verse 6, he says “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing 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 what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Pretty tough words.
Let’s look at three things today in the passage, verses 6-8, and see if we can gain from it. See if God will just speak to our hearts. One thing I want you to know is that anytime we open the Word of God that’s an invitation from God to come into that word and hear a message that He has already spoken. We need to hear it. We need to hear it big time in the 21st century. First of all, let’s look at their spiritual desertion. He says in verse 6, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ.” That little word, “I am amazed” is the Greek word thaumazo. The word means to marvel or to wonder. It’s in the present tense, and Paul says “I’m just walking around stunned; I’m stunned. I can’t understand what you’ve done.” I mean, he has found out what they have done. They have listened to the false teachers. They’ve gone back up under law, that old performance mentality; and he said, “I am stunned.”
It is used in Luke 9:43 when Jesus delivered the boy who was plagued by demonic spirits. Listen to the words. It says, “And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.” That’s what the word is. It’s like they couldn’t figure it out. How could God do this? And then in Luke 24:12 it was used when Peter witnessed the empty tomb. “But Peter arose and ran to the tomb, stooping and looking in he saw the linen wrappings only and he went away from, to his home marveling [that’s the word] at what had happened.” He said, “Man, I’m stunned. I can’t figure this out.”
In Luke 24:41 two disciples were walking down the road earlier in that chapter, and the Lord Jesus came along side. This is after His resurrection. And they didn’t know who He was because He blinded their eyes. And He began to reveal Himself to them slowly and slowly, and finally He taught them about Himself from the Scriptures and they were so excited. They couldn’t hardly stand it; their heart burned within them and they ran seven miles back to tell their friends what had happened. They’d seen Jesus and Jesus had ministered to them.
And this verse comes right as they got back and right as they’re telling their story. Luke 24:36 says, “And while they were telling these things He stood in their midst. But they were startled and frightened and thought they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?’” Wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on the wall just to watch this whole scene? And then it says in verse 39, “See My hands and My feet, that is, it is I Myself. Touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when He had said this He showed them His hands and His feet.” And then comes our verse, verse 41, “And while they still could not believe it, for joy, and they were marveling,” and that’s the word. They couldn’t grasp it. They were stunned.
And that’s the word that Paul uses in such a powerful way in Galatians 1:6. He said “I’m amazed. I’m bewildered. I’m stunned that you could do this. How you could be so gullible to buy back into that which will only put you into bondage.” He was amazed, first of all, that they had so quickly deserted their calling. “I am amazed,” he said, “that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ.” It had happened so quickly. He said, “So quickly you’re deserting.” The words “so quickly” are, in fact, two Greek words; the word “so,” and the word “quickly.” The word “quickly” is tacheos. Tacheos involves a little bit of time, but not much. It’s difficult for me sometimes to get up and go to work. But if I’m going hunting, I get up quickly, there’s not much time involved between the time I get out of bed and the time I’m out the door. There’s something about that; I have never figured that out.
But now with the word “so” written in there, it’s a little houto, it’s a word in the Greek that pushes it even further. Even though it’s quickly and only involves a short time, no, it’s quicker than that. “So quickly you’re deserting.” That little word “so” is found in John 3:16 when it says, “For God so loved the world,” so loved the world, so loved the world. He didn’t just love the world, He so loved the world. It pushes it even further. That’s the word he uses here.
We must ask the question, so quickly after what did they desert? What’s he talking about? Is it their conversion? So quickly after they had gotten saved by the gospel that was preached by Paul to them? So quickly after they had understood, is this what he’s talking about? I don’t think so. Now you have room for disagreement here because this is not inerrant, my opinion, but I don’t think so. I think it’s so quickly after they heard what was false they deserted here.
Now, let me explain that to you. It’s almost as if they heard it and didn’t even check it out. They didn’t check it out. You know my role here is to preach the word of God, and I’m going to do that, bless God, till He comes back again. However, that’s not only my role. My role also is to try, whatever way we can, to get people to start learning to study for themselves. I’m so grateful for Bible Study Fellowship and Precept and all the different studies that are around here, because that teaches a person how to study for themselves.
Why is that important? Well, let me just give you an example of that. In Acts 17:10 it talks about the Bereans. This is what we have got to become as a congregation. Many of you pretty much take me on every time I preach, iron sharpens iron. But, I mean, we’ll always have that. We’re accountable to each other. Acts 17:10, “And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. And when they arrived they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those of Thessalonica.” And that word “noble-minded” means they had a lot more class. When I was teaching and preaching in conference work I’d go to some churches and I’d go to other churches, and some of them had more class than the other ones had. Some of them didn’t care. Hurry up, finish up; I’m going to the restaurant. Some of them, buddy, they dug in with me and they’d say let me just see if what he’s saying is so. That’s the Bereans. They had more class. He says, “For they received the word with great eagerness.” You know, that’s my desire here, that God creates such a hunger in our church from the children all the way up that when we come together under the word of God this is the most important thing we do and we come with an eagerness to hear.
And then it says, “Examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” You see, they didn’t do that. They heard a false message, bought it that quickly. No time, no grass grew. You say, well, Wayne, people don’t do that today, do they? Wake up and smell the roses. I have a story that I know of a prominent pastor in our country. If I gave you his name you would know exactly who he is. He wasn’t prepared to preach one Sunday night. He picked up a tract and on that tract he saw a good outline and it looked like it was worthy to preach and he took that tract and made it his message that night and preached it. And this was 35 years ago and he still suffers today for what happened, because he was on television, he was on radio, and he did a foolish thing. He did not check it out to see if it was what the Scripture said.
So many of us, listen, it’s never the messenger; it’s always the message. And we have got to learn in our day check it out to see if it be so. That’s one of the reasons I preach verse by verse, and I know sometimes that bothers people. But hey, listen, one of these days I’m going to be in glory. Some of you will outlive me for how many years, who knows? But I tell you what, if somebody ever steps in this pulpit, if God tarries and he opens up the book of Galatians and he starts preaching a message that’s not in the book of Galatians, you’re going to know I’m grinning in heaven somewhere, because in your mind you’re going to say, wait a minute, that’s not what God’s word says. You have checked it out and you know that that’s not what He says. We have got to know what this book says. The reason they bought into that error was they didn’t check it out. They didn’t see if it was so in God’s Word.
Well, “you deserted Him who called you by the grace of Christ.” The word for “deserting” there is the word metatithemi. It means to change sides. It was used in military and in political terms of somebody who defects. They defected this side to go over to this side. And the most damaging thing is, it’s in the present tense, which means they’re still doing it. When Paul writes the book of Galatians it’s going on. As he’s writing, it’s going on. They’re still doing it.
But also, even more damaging than that, it’s the middle voice. Now, I know we don’t have a middle voice in English, but this is helpful if you don’t understand the text. Middle voice means they made a choice on their own based on something that’s happening. In other words, they had heard a message that was error. It was error and yet, it was done so eloquently, it was done with such polish, that they bought it. They made a choice on their own. They bought into it willingly.
Paul is bewildered. He’s amazed. He’s shocked. He’s stunned. He risked his life to teach them the message of grace and all they had to do was to hear somebody put a message of works on them and their flesh bought it that fast. And that’s the whole reason for the writing of this epistle. They spiritually defected. To me the saddest thing is, they didn’t desert the message; they deserted Christ Himself. Did you notice the verse? It says, “I’m amazed that you’re so quickly deserting Him.” That’s the thing that gets me. They walked away from the personal relationship. They can’t lose their salvation, but they walked away from experiencing the fullness of what God wanted to do in their life. That’s amazing. We don’t realize we’re deserting Him when we choose a works mentality. We defect from His enabling power and we put ourselves over here to what we can do for God and we have defected. We have defected Him, deserted Him.
Now the phrase, “deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ,” in this phrase, it’s so neat, he’s already laid out the gospel one time, now he’s going to do it again. He does it over and over and over again in Galatians just, in other words, to say, “Now, are you paying attention? Let me say it again.” And that little phrase, “deserting Him who called you by the grace of God,” in this we find the distinctive features of what the gospel is all about.
First of all, regarding its source; the source is God, not man. It says “Him,” speaking of God, “who called you.” And then, secondly, the means of calling. It was of grace, not of works. I see these bumper stickers that say “I found God.” You didn’t; you weren’t even looking for Him. He found you. And it was because of His grace that you were called. The Scripture says nobody can come to Jesus except the Father draw him. So it’s not a matter of me calling anybody, it’s a matter of God calling people as He uses vessels who teach and preach His Word.
And, by the way, by using the aorist tense there’s something special here, and I want to give a little note of encouragement to those of you that teach. By the aorist tense he means that a certain specific time, and what he points back to is when he preached to them the gospel of grace. And what he’s saying is that “while I was speaking to you, the gospel of grace God in me and in the Word was reaching through me and calling you.” I don’t know how many times I’ll come to a service; I don’t know why—there’s a wall in front of me. There’s a wall. Nobody really knows that but me. It’s a mental war going inside or in my mind. Is anybody listening? Does anybody care? Is anybody paying and attention? And I feel like sometimes I’m the biggest failure that ever walked on the face of this earth. I’ll walk out of this building and I’ll get in my car and drive home and say, “God, I could drive a truck if You want me to do that.” And what God encouraged my heart with with this passage is, “Wayne, you’re called to preach; now you do what I called you to do whether they smile or whether they frown. It doesn’t matter. If they don’t do anything, that’s all right. Wayne, while you are speaking, I am calling others through you.” Boy, that blessed my heart.
If you’re a teacher here today, don’t ever be discouraged. It’s a win-win situation. You do what God called you to do. You get in the Word. You do your preparation. You preach it and teach it or whatever it is you do, and just remember something, God is using that word. He will call people through you. You don’t even know it. You don’t have a clue what you’re doing. God does and God uses vessels. And that’s what Paul is pointing to by using that aorist tense. Whether you preach, whether you teach—and listen—or whether you’re sharing the Word of God, remember it’s not you calling anybody. God in you will use the Word and your words to call others.
Christ and the grace He offers is the centerpiece of the gospel. There is no other gospel. And yet, they turned to something they thought was good. He says in verse 6, “I’m amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel.” Now, that’s the new updated New American Standard. The word “different” is the word heteros. Heteros means different from anything, or another kind. We get the word heterosexual from it, different, different, totally different. Men and women are different. Any man who says he understands a woman would lie about anything. There’s differences here. Heterosexual, heteros. He says “for another of a different kind.” You mean there’s good news of a totally different kind? You mean there’s good news when you take Jesus out of the message? There’s good news over here? Well, some translations translate it “another.” But that’s correct, because it means another of a different kind. But then the new updated New American Standard goes ahead and takes that translation.
Let me explain to you before I go on. There’s a word allos. There’s two words for “another.” I know this bothers some people, but there’s two words for “another.” One is allos, another of the same kind. Sometimes Paul will say “love one another.” What does he mean? He means within the walls of the church, because he says another of the same kind. You’re all believers. But heteros, again, is another of a different kind. And at first you think there can be two gospels: You chose a different gospel that’s outside of that which we preach to you, the grace of Christ, you chose that? You mean there’s another “good news”? And then he says in verse 7, “which is really not another” and he changes that word allos. It’s not another of the same kind. He uses both words there to prove his point. In other words, what they bought into has no good news in it whatsoever.
Let me ask you a question. How many of you have lived your life at a certain time as a believer and you’ve tried to do things for God and you were so frustrated you couldn’t stand it? There was no joy in it. You were condemning and critical and judgmental of other people and you didn’t realize that you had bought what you thought was good, but it wasn’t good. Besides myself, is there anybody else in here that’s ever experienced that before? Well, now you know what the Galatians have done. We’ve all been there. What they had bought into had taken Christ and the message of grace right out, completely out of the picture. And what was substituted was a path of righteousness which involved performance mentality: If we do this, we can attain this. But there is no other gospel. And religion offers no good news to us whatsoever. These Galatians were a foolish people. But don’t be too quick to pass judgment, because we’ve all been there. Nobody made them do it; they did it themselves, spiritual deception or desertion.
When I was over in Romania, I used to go all the time, 13 years in a row, three years under Ceausescu. And when they were freed up, I remember going back one time and I was saying, “You know what impressed me about you folks?” They all sit up and they said, “What?” And I said, “Your flesh is just as rotten as mine. You just speak Romanian and I speak English.” And they gave me a standing ovation. They said, “We need to hear that every day.” I asked them, “I said how in the world did somebody force you into Communism?” And I didn’t know my history. History had never been a real good subject with me. I’ve always enjoyed it, but I never have been too good at it. And you know what they told me? They said, “Wayne, you don’t know your history.” That was obvious. And they said, “Wayne, we weren’t forced into Communism.” And I said, “What?” They said, “Oh, no! We voted it in. We chose it. Somebody presented it to us. It sounded better than what we had, and we voted it in.” and for almost 30 years the whole place was plundered because of a choice that they made. The Galatians made a choice. Choices sometimes can cost us.
But secondly, not only do we see spiritual desertion, we see spiritual distortion. Look at the last part of verse 7. “Only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” Now, the tense there of “disturbing you” again is in the present tense. They’re continuing to do this, continuing to do this, deceived teachers. Now, these are not deceived teachers as much as they are deceptive teachers. Do we know the difference this morning? If I gave you a pop test would you know the difference? A deceptive teacher knows exactly what he’s doing, and he’s going to take Christ out of the message. He’s going to accomplish his end. A deceived teacher is different. He may want to preach the truth but has been deceived and somebody needs to correct his heart. These are deceptive teachers. These are lost people that have gotten in amongst the church crowd there in southern Galatia. And, boy, the damage they’re doing.
“There are some who are disturbing you.” Rather than identifying who they are, Paul majors on what they’re doing, and I like that. First of all, they’re seeking to disturb them. The word for “disturbing” is the word tarasso. It means to shake somebody’s allegiance, to cause them to defect. Oh, brother. I tell you what, the political world in which we live is interesting, isn’t it? And always somebody’s trying to say something to cause people on this side to defect and come over to this side and they use every way which they can to do it. That’s the idea of the word there. They’re shaking their allegiance. It goes back to verse 6. It caused these people to defect. They disturbed them. They shook their allegiance. And instead of going and listening to Christ, these people defected.
In 5:10 he says, “I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.” Now, it’s interesting to me if you have any history in Scripture at all, that the council in Jerusalem met right after Paul wrote Galatians. That’s interesting to me. And in Acts 15, look what he says. They sent out a decree. In verse 24 it says “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you”—it’s the very same word—“with their words, unsettling your souls.” Now, in other words after they heard about what went on in Galatia, they wrote a letter and warned all the other churches. They said, “Look out, look out. These people are telling you that they’re coming from us and they’re not, they’re not. And they’re going to disturb you in your soul.”
The word for “soul” incorporates the three faculties that make everyone of us up today. It’s the mind, the way we think; it’s the emotions, the way we feel; and it’s our will, the way we act. And he says they’re going to disturb your soul. They’re going to disturb the way you think. They’re going to disturb the way you feel. They’re going to disturb the way that you act. These false teachers had upset everything.
But not only did they seek to disturb the Galatian believers by causing them to defect the gospel of grace and go back to this religious mentality, they also sought to distort the gospel. Verse 7: “There are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” That word “distort,” metastropho, means to totally turn around, to pervert.
You know, it’s interesting to me, when I study this, this happens to me when I’m studying sometimes. The thing that hit me was, listen, it’s one thing to get them to come over to your side. “Yes, sir, we won. We’ve got them. We’ve got them.” But that’s not what their intent was. That’s just part of it. They wanted to erase the Christian message, the gospel message. They wanted to completely replace it with a message of law. They were out to remove Christ from the message with their doctrine of works. The true gospel is the gospel of grace. It’s the gospel of Christ. Saving grace, when He comes to live in you; living grace, when He wants to live His life through you. That’s the true message. That’s not terms that we just, that we just put those terms on living grace, saving grace, to help people understand. The message is just Scripture. This is the normal Christian life. To turn this around tells you everything you need to know about what these false teachers were seeking to do.
And I want to tell you something, folks, error comes in subtle ways. There’s a man up north who has started what they call, I think it’s called the open view of God. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it or not. And now it’s a major discussion in some of the top schools in our country. And here’s what it says. It takes statements out of the Old Testament particularly where God said to Abraham, “Well, now I know that you will not disobey Me.” Now, did God not know that? And so they take statements like that and say God doesn’t know everything; God’s still learning; and so therefore He’s not omniscient.
Wait a minute. You see how subtle that is? Scriptures were not written for God’s point of view or for His sake; it was written for our sake. God knows what He’s talking about. If you take away His omniscience—He knows everything—then you’ve just taken away His omnipresence; you’ve just taken away His omnipotence; you have subtly just destroyed the deity of God. You’ve taken Him right out of the equation. And that’s going on today right to this day. There are people that will sit down and argue with you about this whole thing because they don’t understand.
So, spiritual desertion, and then spiritual distortion. Remember, they’re not just trying to get you on this side, they’re trying to change everything that you ever thought about being, to take Christ and God and grace and all that out of the message and to substitute it with something else.
And, then, finally, spiritual destruction. Verse 8. I added verse 8 even though you could start a brand new message here, I wanted to add this verse: “But even though we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be [what’s the word?] accursed!” You cannot find a stronger word than that. For those who distort the gospel, who take Christ out of it, who take the grace message out of it, who pervert the gospel, there is waiting for them a spiritual destruction. He said, “Let him be accursed!”
It’s obvious from this that these are not saved people, because a believer can’t be accursed in that sense of the word. So these are lost teachers who never have bought into the message of grace, who never have surrendered to Christ, and yet they’re probably members of some of the Galatian churches, and they have one purpose, and that’s to take grace out. Second Peter 2:1 is a good reference point here about these men. “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you.” We’ve been warned folks. We’ve been warned. They may be sitting out here right here this morning. “Who will secretly introduce destructive heresies.” Oh, they’re real brave. They do it secretly, not face-to-face. They’re cowards. “Even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality.” Boy, we live in a day we’ve watched that: “And because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.”
Verse 3: “And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” That’s the word that we get the word “plastic” from. They take it and use words that you think you know what it is and they twist it to mean whatever they want to make it. He says, “They exploit you with false words; their judgment,” their judgment, there is a judgment for these people, “their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” An addendum to that is “here comes the judge.” They will stand before a holy God one day and their destruction has already been put into concrete. It cannot be changed.
You see, error is a serious thing to God. In verse 8 of Galatians 1 it proclaims a scathing judgment to them who pervert the gospel: “But even though we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed!” The literal here is “but even if,” and that’s a third class condition “if;” that’s a hypothetical situation. Paul is not saying he’s ever going to do this. But he said, “even if, hey, let’s just put it this way: if we ever did, if we ever did.” The “we” could be a writer’s “we” or it could be the ones that are with him.
But also he mentions the angel. That’s not being mystical, the word for angel means messenger, a messenger straight out of heaven. If they come down and they preach a message that’s contrary to the gospel of grace, the gospel of Jesus Christ, he said let all of us—he includes himself—be accursed. “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you.”
What had he preached to them? That’s the message of grace. The firm footing Paul is standing on is that message of salvation, the message of grace, the message of saving grace and the message of living grace: Christ dying for us in order that we might be delivered from our sins, also to be delivered from this present evil religious world system. It’s the gospel of grace that involved the enabling power of God so that daily we can experience it, and it’s totally unmerited by man. Paul warns that it is not the messenger, but it’s the message. And this is something we’ve got to remember. It doesn’t matter how well we dress up and look when we stand in the pulpit. The messenger is not the key. It doesn’t matter how polished he is; it doesn’t matter if he alliterates his points; the point is, what is he saying? That’s what Paul’s pointing to. There can only be one gospel, no matter who it is, it’s the messenger that carries that gospel. And that gospel has got to be absolutely accurately presented. Paul includes himself and the angels.
And, by the way, we’re going to find in several verses they’ve been questioning whether or not he’s a false apostle, these false teachers. You see, you discredit the man long enough, you can discredit his message. And that’s what they’d been doing. And they said, “You’re pleasing men is what’s you’re doing.” This message of grace, they interpreted it as a license, and they said you’re just pleasing men. Does it sound like he’s pleasing men? “If I or anybody with me preaches anything other than the gospel of grace, let him be accursed! Let him be accursed!”
Well, nothing could be more destructive than that word “accursed.” It’s anathema. You’ve probably heard it before. Hey, there’s no reprieve with this word anathema. It’s eternal separation from God. Now what does this tell you about these false teachers? It tells you that they’re lost. And I’m going to keep saying that. There are deceptive teachers that are lost. There are deceived teachers that are in a different category and need to be corrected.
But what grabs me here is the seriousness of this announcement, anathema! I mean, cut apart, separated from God forever, forever. Any man who preaches any message that leaves Jesus and His grace out of it is a man who’s going to be separated from God forever. There’s a serious indictment here. What grabs me, if the judgment is that bad, great, for people who preach a message like that that are lost, let me ask you a question. What about believers who are deceived and teach a message of works rather than a message of grace? What is that indictment to them? You ever thought about that? He’s talking about lost people. They’re going to be cut off from God forever.
But what about believers? I wonder sometimes, I wonder what we have in our church. Hey, I’m not throwing rocks. However, I’m going to ask a question. If the shoe fits, let’s wear it. How many teachers right here in this church are preaching performance mentality and don’t even understand the message of grace? Now, if error is that serious to God, what will be their judgment? Is there anything we can go to? Yes! James 3:1 is the only place I know I can go to. You know what it says? “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.” Right now my hands are sweating. It’s not because I’m just hot. They were sweating when I walked in here today. My stomach gets queasy every time before I step up. You know why? I’m going to be held accountable for everything I say that’s in this book.
And I want to tell you teachers out there, I want you to be praying that you understand something. I want to warn you ahead of time, we’re going to stand in a stricter judgment before God one day. These people were preaching law. They were preaching works over grace. They were lost. But what about us that are saved that, like the Galatians, had defected; and now we’re propagating the same message by preaching a message of performance mentality before God? Teaching error is a serious thing. A man once wrote, a great man, the outward person of the messenger does not validate the message; rather, the nature of the message validates the messenger.
Are we becoming Bereans? Are we checking it out to see if it be so? That’s why I love to preach verse by verse, word for word. It’s kind of hard to get messed up when you do that because it’s just following the flow of what it says. Any text without a context is a pretext. You know what that means? It means when somebody has an agenda he’s using God’s word to say it. And that’s what we’ve got to be careful about. Thank you for those of you out there that help me stay sharp. Iron sharpens iron. And some of you are good at it and I thank you. I’m serious, it helps me. The three years I spent in conference work were some of the best three years of my life. You know why? Because I was absolutely nailed after every message. I mean, I went all over the country. I’ve been asked a lot of questions. You know what that makes me do? That drives me back to this Book to check it out to see if it be so. And I’ll tell you what, when I see that it’s so, I won’t back down come hell or high water. But I want to make sure that what I’m saying is what God says. Check it out. I am never the authority. Are you listening to me? God’s Word is the authority. God’s Word will always be the authority. Don’t build your life on what I say. Build your life on what God in His Word says and we’ll be safe and kept from the error of the Galatians.
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