Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Galatians 1:1-12 Paul, an apostle– not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead– 2 and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
A friend of mine, Professor Pulse at the seminary tells the story of his first call to a congregation after graduation from the seminary. He was called to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Burt, Iowa. It was a small town/rural parish. The church building was older, with the fellowship hall and kitchen located in the basement. On the outside wall of the kitchen, facing the fellowship hall, was a thermostat, and every week, for every event, every Bible study, every meeting, he would faithfully adjust that thermostat up or down. For two years, he faithfully readjusted that thermostat until someone finally took him aside and explained, “Pastor, that thermostat isn’t connected to anything.” Two whole years! When he took a call to the seminary as professor, they gave him the thermostat as a going-away present!
The point is:
Man Is Easily Fooled, Taken In,
but There Is Only One Unchangeable Gospel.
People are gullible, easily fooled. It almost seems as if people want to be fooled. People will believe what they want regardless of their senses or their common sense. The attitude today is, “I will believe what I want. Don’t bother me with the facts.” That pretty much summarizes the post-modern mindset. Truth is to be found inside you today. Even modern educational philosophy is that learning must come from one’s own exploration of the world and is found in our personal experience. Truth, knowledge, learning does not come to us from the outside, but from our inner self and personal experience. The outdated institutions of family, parents, and church, all of which are external sources of knowledge, are not to be trusted. People will believe anything. Just present it correctly, package it properly, and people will believe anything. We’re gullible, easily fooled.
Of course, there’s no shortage of those who would take advantage of the gullibility of others. There’s always someone out there willing to help you believe what you want to believe, and they’re willing to let you pay them good money in the process. Many make a living convincing people they’ve discovered a better way—a better way to health and wealth, a better way to live, a better way to fulfillment, a better way . . . to God?
Yes, there’s no place like religion for supporting quacks and crackpots, for throwing money at gurus and preachers, for discovering something “new” amid that which was never lost and is unchanging.
And this is no new phenomena. Ask St. Paul. He writes to the Galatians, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different Gospel” (v 6). Paul knew all about those who claimed “new” breakthroughs in religion. He knew about those who claimed religion and faith needed to evolve over the years. He knew all about those who claimed that Scripture is outdated, at least incomplete. He knew all about those who claimed special revelation from God or a new discovery concerning God’s purpose for us. He knew all about them because they were as alive and well in his day as they are in our day.
So Paul says to the Galatians and to us: “I cannot believe you’re so easily fooled by all this!”
Do not be taken in! There will always be those who try to convince people that they’ve discovered these:
1. A better way to grow a church. Through adopting business models. We don’t need a pastor, we need a CEO to run a smooth business.
2. A better way to build the Kingdom. By social gospel.
3. A better way to come to Jesus. Find him and accept him into your heart.
4. A better way to find purpose. A purpose driven life
5. A better way to please God. just add a few more does and don’ts and we should have it.
6. A better way to market the church. Make it fun and entertaining to sell our product to the millennials.
7. A better way to believe and live. Have your best life now. Why wait for heaven?
It all sounds good on the surface, but as you peel away the layers of rhetoric, you find it always requires a tweaking of the Gospel. A little change here, there, a little nip and tuck, some theological plastic surgery, and there it is!
Paul: “I am astonished that you are so quickly . . . turning to a different gospel” (v 6)—which is really no gospel at all. Any change of the Gospel is a different gospel and, therefore, is no gospel! Changing the Gospel destroys the Gospel! Do not be fooled!
This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ: God in his mercy has sent his only-begotten Son in the flesh into our sinful world. Jesus has gathered up the burden of our sin and carried it to the cross at Calvary. On that cross, under the load of our sin, he suffered and died. He paid the price demanded for sin, the price demanded from us. He fulfilled the Law on our behalf, and we have been rescued and redeemed from sin and death.
By his death on the cross he rescued us from sin and opened the door to paradise. Jesus was laid in the tomb and rose from the dead the third day. Ascended to the right hand of the Father. He has risen, and so shall we! By his resurrection there is life after death.
Forgiveness, life, salvation are ours in Christ Jesus. All this he’s done out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy as a free gift for those who could never deserve such amazing grace. Now, the gates of heaven stand open before us. Now, heavenly mansions are prepared. Now, today, we see, experience, God’s eternal grace through Word and Sacrament, but one day we will experience it face-to-face. We eagerly look forward to that day, for then we shall dwell in the presence of our Lord forever.
That’s it! There’s only one Gospel of Jesus Christ! But my human logic says I must be active in my own salvation—different gospel. But that guy’s book says I need to do all the right things here on earth so I can have a better seat in heaven—different gospel. But my neighbor says that if I don’t speak words I don’t understand I’m not God’s child—different gospel. But the TV man says the more money I send to his ministry, the more will show up in my bank account—different gospel. But my other neighbor says that we must be tolerant of all kinds of behavior because God is love—different gospel. Do not be fooled—there is only one Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ pleases God, not man. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s plan, not man’s plan. It is God’s plan to save man, though not in a manner man would have chosen. It is God’s plan, not to please man, but to save man. Paul even says, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (v 10).
When a hunter and his dog walk across the fields on occasion, he will come across the nest of a quail. A quail is a game bird that nests on the ground. When the mother quail sees them, she will flop away, acting as if her wing is broken. She looks like easy prey, and the dog will go after her. She will stay just ahead of him until she is far enough away from the nest to ensure the safety of her young, and then she flies away.
Do not be fooled! Often we are led astray from the true Gospel in like manner. Something looks as if it makes sense, no matter what the Bible says. It sounds so tempting, so logical, so easy, so fulfilling . . . and off we go! But it only leads us away from the truth. Do not be fooled. There is only one Gospel—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is only one Gospel—the love of God in Christ, which snatched us from the jaws of everlasting death and opened the gates of everlasting life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.