Where Did This Gospel Come From?
“For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12).
In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).
The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)
Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.
In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defends his apostleship. He begins by vindicating his gospel. The source of the gospel he taught was divine, not human. Paul received his gospel and the commission to preach it directly from the Lord Jesus Christ on road to Damascus (1:11-12):
Like the sweetest water from a high mountain spring, the gospel Paul taught refreshes because of its divine source—direct revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus told Paul to offer deliverance from darkness, Satan and guilt by faith in Him!
I. Paul, in defense of his apostleship, proves that his gospel came from God by reminding his readers that he received and was instructed in his gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ rather than mere men.
A. The source of Paul’s gospel was God, not man (1:11-12).
1. “But I make known to you” is Paul’s way of introducing a statement that he especially wants to emphasize (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 15:1, 2 Corinthians 8:1).
2. Paul’s gospel is not “according to man”—not an idea that a human would come up with, not sourced in human intelligence or reasoning.
3. Paul’s gospel is not “received…from, nor…taught by man”—not from a school of thought or a theology or a religious tradition.
4. Paul’s gospel came “through the revelation of/from Jesus Christ”—revelation, disclosure, unveiling, revealing.
B. Acts records the very words of that revelation to Paul to preach deliverance to righteousness through faith in Christ alone. Paul recounts his conversion before Agrippa:
“I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” (Acts 26:17-18) I will send you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, in order to turn them..from darkness
…from the power of Satan
…that they may receive..forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified
BY FAITH IN ME!
2. ThisiswhatPaulfaithfullypreached:Galatians1:4(beforetheJerusalemCouncil),Acts16:31(after the Jerusalem Council), Ephesians 2:8-9.
II. The gospel of Christ is not easy-believism or cheap grace.
A. Is it easy to believe? Not if you realize what is involved in faith. The object of our faith is a Person we’ve never seen nor has anyone else living today ever seen. This Person claims to be the Substitute for our sin in records written by His friends and devoted followers. The only explanation for someone trusting in Christ to receive eternal life is that the Holy Spirit persuaded that person to believe in Jesus.
B. Is grace cheap? No, it’s free. But it is extremely costly—the suffering and death of the Son of God.
C. Our flesh—the capacity to live life apart from God and sinful desire to make it work—loathes trust and desires control (Romans 7:18; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:17). From the Bible’s perspective, works-righteousness is far more appealing to unregenerate human beings.
III. The gospel of Christ is not “decisionism.” Those of us who hold to salvation by grace, through faith, plus nothing would never give someone assurance of salvation because they went forward or raised their hand, prayed a prayer, or asked Jesus into their life. Our question is always the same: Who are you trusting in?
A. The Healthy Roots of Revivalism: The Second Great Awakening swept through America in 1798 and lasted over 30 years. This powerful movement of the Holy Spirit transformed institutions (Yale), denominations, and communities. The Second Great Awakening or The Great Revival, wasn’t personality driven and was primarily driven by faithful pastors who led people to pray fervently and taught the Word of God.
B. “Decisionism” is an unfortunate by-product of revivalism. Near the end of the Great Awakening, Charles Finney converted to Christ. He was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1824.
1. Finney taught and practiced that conversion could be facilitated by what he termed “New Measures.” People could be persuaded by proper application of biblical arguments and were converted as soon as they “yielded to the truth” of those arguments. But Finney’s idea of the proper application of biblical arguments involved a lot of shame and manipulation.
2. With this understanding of conversion, Finney held huge meetings where people were shamed and manipulated into “yielding to the truth” by coming forward, praying the “sinner’s prayer,” or demonstrating their “yieldedness” through some tangible step of commitment.
3. These mass meetings were impressive to onlookers, but men of God bemoaned the real outcome of these “conversions”—alarming recidivism rates. Even Finney later admitted that his grown children who had prayed all the prayers and took all the “steps” of commitment weren’t “converted.”