The gospel is not fair

by Kyle
published February 1, 2014


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Have you heard about the scandal? It’s perhaps the most controversial issue of our generation. Really, of any generation.

It doesn’t include Macklemore or Natalie Grant. It’s not gay marriage, or immigration or abortion. It’s completely unfair and it goes way beyond how people treat each other. This has to do with how God treats us.

In every letter Paul wrote to a church, he expresses thanks for the church he writes to within the first chapter, except one. To even the casual reader, Paul’s tone with the church in Galatia is shocking.

Things proceed normally for the first few verses. Paul identifies himself as the writer, and he identifies Galatia as the recipient. Then he gives glory to God and reiterates the Gospel, that “Jesus Christ ... gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:4)

Then, Paul turns sarcastic in verse six. When he says he’s amazed, the word he uses in Greek is actually one used elsewhere for an actual amazement and even admiration. If I might paraphrase, Paul is saying, “My, look at you! I’m really impressed with how you have turned away from the Gospel.” His tone is even a little biting.

Why is Paul angry with the Galatians? He goes on to explain.

The church in Galatia has succumb to a sect called the Judaizers. After Paul had visited Galatia (you can read about it in Acts 16), and apparently established a church there, it seems a group followed after him and “corrected” what the Galatians had come to believe.

Paul had come preaching a simple gospel. He told the church in Corinth that the gospel is simply that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) He told the a jailer in Philippi that if you “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) Jesus himself said that “whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Paul describes this as a “free gift.” (Romans 6:23) That’s it. If you have ever trusted that Christ died for your sins and that he rose again from the dead, your sins are forgiven, your are a friend of Christ, you are a child of God and you have an eternal home above.

That’s not what the group that came after Paul taught, though. They taught there was more to the gospel than trust. There was circumcision and dietary requirements and, well, Judaism. They claimed that to become a Christian and to be saved, you need to first become a Jew.

Paul mixes no words when he evaluates this theology. He says anyone who adds to or takes away from the gospel is accursed. The Greek word is “anathema.” It literally means “cursed by God.” The strong implication is that anyone who preaches anything other than grace through faith has no part with God. No blessing, no relationship and no home, eternal or otherwise.

These are not soft or ambiguous words. There is only one gospel. Don’t get it wrong.

Paul goes on to recount how Paul came to be saved for three reasons. First, he establishes his qualifications for sharing the gospel. He received it directly from Christ. Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and also in Arabia. He learned the gospel straight from the source.

Second, he makes sure the Galatians remember who they’re talking to. Nobody knew how to be a Jew better than Paul. He had been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and it didn’t do him any good where a relationship with God is concerned because he realized he could never be good enough to earn a relationship with God.

Third, Paul does a little name-dropping. If direct revelation from God and personal experience are not sufficient evidence, Paul adds that the gospel he preached is the same that Peter and the rest of the apostles preach. Salvation by grace through faith alone is the historical gospel that Jesus himself and his closest followers and friends preached.

There may not be anymore “Judaizers,” but the gospel — the thing that saves us — says no more about baptism, speaking in tongues, living like a “good person,” or even going to church than it does about keeping kosher or getting circumcised.

The gospel doesn’t even involve “giving your life to Jesus.” Instead, the gospel is about accepting Jesus’ life from him. It is a free gift. There is not another free gift in all of God’s universe that you have to work for. Otherwise it wouldn’t be free. Similarly, the gospel is not something you work for. Otherwise, it isn’t really even good news.

There is nothing you can ever do to earn a relationship with God. Volunteer work, social causes, caring for the poor and sick, railing against immorality or bigotry, or doing whatever seems “right in (your) own eyes” (Judges 21:25) will never bring you closer to God. Only faith can do that because “without faith it is impossible to please Him.”

And that’s the scandal. Bad people will go to heaven while people much better than me will not. Bitter and angry people have a relationship with God that kind, well-meaning, generous people do not. Because someone who’s never done anything good, and could never undo the bad things they’ve done, trusts in Jesus, they are forgiven. Period. No matter what they did in the past or will do in the future. Good things God’s version of fair is different from ours.

The gospel, by every human standard, is not fair. But then, neither is life. Did your mother ever tell you that? Things don’t have to seem fair in order to be true.

Don’t corrupt the gospel. Don’t add to it. Don’t confuse it for a lie. The Bible is clear about the consequences.

It is “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

What do you think?

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