Obeying Truth Rather than Following Men
Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
Here Paul is already distinguishing himself from the people that are influencing the churches in Galatia. The people that are influencing them are much about perception and man’s authority and man’s stamp of approval. “He’s associated with James therefore I should listen to him, because James is the Lord’s brother, for goodness sake!” In other words, everything is about respect for men and position among men.
We can see this in the book of John. The Pharisees believed in Jesus but they would not associate with him for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue because they loved the glory of men rather than the glory that comes from God. We see that the church in Corinth was carnal because they were allowing themselves to be impressed and even “slapped in the face” (2 Cor 11:20) by teachers who exalted themselves based on man’s claims and man’s ability and man’s reputation. This is all the flesh.
In this epistle, Paul immediately says that he is an apostle, not by men or of men, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead. He is going to emphasize that his message was directly from Jesus Christ and was not something that he learned from men. Once he received the revelation, which was the Son of God in Him, he did not go to Jerusalem to confer with the apostles. He did not meet with them until 14 years after he had received his revelation. He operated directly from God, based not on man’s approval but God’s. He acted based on the revelation, the gospel that had been given to him. His point was not that what he had received was different, but that he served God and not man.
The church has always had a problem with giving too much respect to people. Respect should not be given to people but the Gospel. Paul even says, “if I or an angel from heaven comes preaching another Gospel than the one that we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8) He is including himself in that warning. Paul is not the source of authority. Paul is not the reason they should be listening to the message. They should not listen because they like Paul because they respect Paul more than others. They need to use their spiritual sense to discern and test the message according to the gospel.
The Gospel is God’s testimony concerning His Son. In 1 John, John tells us, “if we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, and this is the testimony which He has borne concerning His Son” (1 John 5:9). God has a speaking concerning His Son, called the Gospel. It did not originate from men, nor does it need to be endorsed by men to be received. We are to obey that message and receive and believe it and cleave to it. We are to not be moved away from it, no matter what everyone else is doing. Paul even says if they preach another message, or a different message, they are disobedient to God and should be considered “accursed”. This means anathema, or “damned.”
The Authority of Resurrection behind the Gospel
Paul starts this letter strongly in favor of the Gospel and against men. The Gospel is in contrast to man’s wisdom, man’s reputation, man’s ability, man’s authority, men’s stance, and man’s stamp of approval. Man’s approval means nothing. The gospel is the authority. It came not by man but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father “who raised Him from the dead”.
The Gospel is rooted in the resurrection. Without the resurrection, the Gospel is in vain. If Jesus is not raised, the Gospel is a lie and our faith is in vain (1 Cor 15:14). God raising Him from the dead is the source of the authority behind this message. This reminds me of the story of the Almond rod that budded which can be found in Numbers 17. The people rebelled, saying “what’s so special about Moses and Aaron? We can speak for God.” So, God had all the leaders of Korah, and Aaron put their staffs down on the ground. The staffs wood and represented their authority and position. They put the staffs on the ground, but Aaron’s rod budded with an almond. This signifies resurrection or life from death. This was a supernatural working from God and a picture of resurrection. God was saying “Aaron’s authority didn’t come from him; it comes from the God who calls those things that are not as though they are and gives life to the dead. I have chosen him, and his speaking comes from Me. I have just proved that even though you guys say you can speak from God, you do not have the authority.” We know the story. The sons of Korah were swallowed up. The earth swallowed them. That is the “rebellion at Korah.” Then, the rod that budded was put in the ark of the covenant, or the “ark of the testimony” along with the broken law and the hidden manna as a memorial to the basis of God’s testimony which is rooted in the resurrection.
The authority came from resurrection, and the Gospel comes from resurrection. So, Paul is an apostle that is being sent by God, not by men, neither by men, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, “who raised Him from the dead.” The reason we know Paul is an apostle is not because he claimed to be one, but because of the message that he brought. He brought the testimony of God concerning His Son. The testimony is rooted in resurrection and produces life. The Gospel testifies of the risen Christ, and regenerates those who believe it with the Eternal Life of Christ Himself. Paulbrought the message that he was given, and said “look, even if I preach another gospel let me be accursed!” So again, this is not about man, it is about the resurrected Christ and the testimony of God concerning His work in Christ. It a message about what God accomplished and what it secured for us.
The root of the message is that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried and rose on the third day according to the scriptures (1 Cor 15:1-4). We believed that message, we were saved by it, and we stand in it. It is what we obey. It is God’s speaking concerning His Son. It is His testimony. It is the source of all authority. So do not listen to men because they have credentials or seem impressive or seem gifted. We test the spirit and search the scriptures to see if what they say lines up with God’s testimony concerning His Son and is rooted in the resurrection. If it does not, we discard not only the message but the person.
It is one thing to be confused and need to be saved. It is another thing to be an advocate of a message that is doing damage or running contrary to God’s testimony concerning His Son. That is a person who is in disobedience.
Not Standing Alone
Gal 1:2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:
On the one hand, he has told them that this message does not need man’s approval. On the other hand, he wants them to know that he is not alone. This it not something that just happened in a corner. Paul is not the “oddball” out there. By saying “The brethren that are with me”, Paul is saying, “ this bears fruit and we’re not standing alone. You do not have to worry about being in a vacuum if you believe the message. Even if it means you stand up contrary to everything everyone else seems to believe you are not alone. There are brethren with me”.
The Present Evil World
Gal 1:3-4 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father
In Paul’s writing, the World is primarily referring to the religious aspect. It is also primarily religious in John’s writing. 1 John speaks about how those who are of the world do not recognize the sons of God. They have gone the way of Cain. The world system came from Cain. Cain is a religious person who had an offering. He tried to offer his works to God. He tried to offer the fruit of the ground on the altar to God thinking that he should be accepted on the basis of his own righteousness and his own toil. He discounted the significance of the blood which Abel offered. His sin was religious. The world system came from Cain’s line as he struggled to fend for himself apart from God. The world system is at its root religious based on the unbelieving self-righteousness of someone who wants to be justified by works and who has a murderous hatred for the children of God and a refusal to recognize the testimony of God concerning His Son (which Abel believed).
Jesus gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the “present evil world”. This is the character of the age we live in. The root of it is religious. Later, Paul is going to say, “God forbid that I would glory except in the cross of Christ through whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world.” When he says this, he is speaking about his reputation in religion, specifically. He has count his reputation in religion as dung (Phil 3:8). They are going to reject us. The world does not receive the testimony, especially the religious world.
The religious world is a counterfeit of the people of God. We tend to think of the “world out there” – Lady Gaga, Beyonce. But that world does not pose the kind of threat to the believers as John MacArthur, John Calvin, Kenneth Copeland or the institutional church system. These are the things in the world that we need to be delivered from. They are the present “evil world” for the Christian! The Christian has an aspect of the world that is arrayed against him that is religious. It is a counterfeit of what he has in Christ.
Jesus died to save us from the present evil world. The “vaccine scenario” and the pandemics, and the masks and the economic fallout and all of that are not the things that make me want Jesus to come and get me. The reason I want to go home and be with Jesus is so that I can finally be done with all the people that come in and pervert the Gospel and stumble people who were abiding in Christ and growing in Him and carry them off as spoil. That is the frustrating present evil age that vexes anyone who wants to serve in the Gospel and serve the Lord and the Church and to minister Christ.
It is not the world “out there” that we care about so much. We can live in that by the grace of God. The toxic world that causes us the most headache and stress is the false religious people with their false teachings that make Christianity a place where we cannot find any rest because no one actually ends up believing the truth. So many believe in counterfeits and they become dangerous. They slip into the fellowship and we discover that they are operating in delusion and in the flesh, thinking they are serving God. The most toxic ones are those with the greatest amount of zeal. Zeal for God without knowledge produces fanatical zealots that cannot be reasoned with. They are unreasonable people. Their hearts are hard. That is the present evil age that Jesus died to save me from! That is what Paul is talking about in Galatians. These people who he later says, “I wish they’d cut themselves off” (Gal 5:12)! In Philippians, he calls them ”the judaizers, the dogs, the concision, the evil workers, and enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil 3:2;Phil 3:17). Those are the people he warns to stay away from.
Wee have to tolerate the “general” world in a sense. But when it comes to the religious, present evil age, this is the real evil. Paul says, “I wish they’d cut themselves off” (Gal 5:12!) Those are the kind of people that he says, “mark and avoid them.” “They teach contrary to the doctrine that you have received. Mark and avoid” (Rom 16:17). Even with a brother in sin, you are just not supposed to eat with them, but you are to admonish them as a brother (1 Thess 3:15). But when it comes to a false gospel, he says “let them be accursed”. There is no hope for someone that is accursed. John the apostle of Love gives the kind of admonishment: “Don’t let them into your house or say God bless you lest you partake of their evil deeds” (2 John 1:10). But of a sinning brother, John says, “pray for them” and Paul says, “you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness” (Gal 6:1).
The way he tells us to deal with the zealous fanatics for their religion (which is a perversion of the gospel of Christ) is much different than the way he tells us to deal with someone merely “Caught in sin.” So, Galatians is full of strong language.
Not Another Message but a Perversion of the True Message
Gal 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
He begins with “I marvel that you are so soon removed”. This reveals the source of his anger. This is a group of believers that has received the grace of Christ, and they are new believers who were troubled very quickly after they were born again. That is why it is so vexing. The people who are affected by perversions of the gospel are typically babes in Christ who do not have the tools yet to really stand firm. It is easy for them to be moved by people who look godly on the outside but have a different message.
Paul says, “I marvel”. That word, “marvel” is to “wonder”. He says “I’m amazed” that you are so soon removed from Him! They were removed from Him – a Person. That is the person of God Himself. They were removed from the Person who called them. The Gospel reconciles us to God. Without the gospel, we are back in the flesh where we shrink back in shame and the grace of God does not avail us because we will not come near.
Perverting the Gospel causes people to have problems in their conscience that keeps at arm’s length from God even though He has reconciled them to Himself through the blood of Christ and they have access through the blood to the Holiest of all. They should be able to come forward boldly but something has happened in their mind where they will not, and it is due to false teaching from people who desire to “trouble them” by “perverting the Gospel.”
He says, “I marvel that you were so soon removed from Him who called you unto the grace of Christ to another Gospel, which is not another….” The word there, “another” – the first time the Greek is hetero. But then it is “not another”, which is the Greek word allos. These words have different meanings. The gist is that we are dealing with not another Gospel, but another “kind” of gospel. Another kind than what?
They had been called into the grace of Christ. But this “other gospel” is not of Grace. It is different than grace. This is the root of the problem. They have been called into the grace of Christ. But now “another” gospel has come. It is not another Gospel. It is not actually a message. It is not like they have a contrary, different story of how God did something else or better. No, they actually do this under the cloak of the true Gospel, but they pervert it.
So, it is not another, a new set of information, but a perversion of the true Gospel to trouble them. They are not preaching another Jesus like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witness. The Jehovah’s Witnesses say Jesus is a created being that is not God. The Mormons say He is the brother of Lucifer and Adam is God the Father. It is all messed up, and these are actually really easy to spot. We as believers know that we do not want to be Mormons or Jehovah’s witnesses. These things are settled when we first come to the faith. Its easy to tell the true Gospel from “another Gospel” because “the other Gospel” is another record with a different message and a different story. But Paul says this is not “another Gospel”. Rather it’s a perversion of the actual Gospel that removed people from their standing in grace, removing them from the One who called them. It directly impacted their relationship with the Lord. This perversion deceived people who were saved early on through Paul’s ministry when the church was fresh in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We will see that this perversion of the true Gospel is law-based Christian living. Paul is not dealing with another method of justification in Galatians, but a seeking to be perfected in the flesh by law-keeping after they had already begun in the Spirit. As he says in Galatians 3, “Having begun in the Spirit are you now going to be perfected in the flesh?” He begins that chapter with “Who has bewitched you, before whom Jesus was evidently set forth as crucified? This I want to learn from you – did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? Does He who supplies you with the spirit and works miracles among you do so by the works of the law or the hearing of faith? “
In other words, the perversion of the Gospel starts with the same premise – Jesus Christ died for your sins, and He rose from the dead. It is not another Gospel. It does not say He is not the son of God. It does not say He did not die for your sins. It does not say He was not raised from the dead. It doesn’t deny any of the fundamentals like the Mormon Jesus or the Jehovah’s Witness Jesus does. It agrees with the fundamental. But regarding how the Christian life is to actually be lived, it moves you away from Him that called you to the Grace of Christ. It says, essentially, that having begun in the Spirit, you now need to maintain your position before God by law-keeping (self -effort). You received a free gift, yes, but the way to be “perfected” is in the flesh (by effort).
Again, it is not another Gospel but a perversion of the true Gospel. This is worthy of repeating, because this is much more subtle, more present, and more people are victims of it than they realize! They do not say that Christ did not justify you, but they say your whole Christian life is not based on how you began on it but based on law-keeping. It is based on perfecting yourself in the flesh. That is the root of why they were trying to get them circumcised. Many people believe that the issue in Galatians is merely circumcision. But Paul even tells us in Galatians 6, “what matters is not circumcision or uncircumcision but a new creation”, and “peace to everyone who walks according to that rule.” Paul’s main point in Galatians when bringing up circumcision was not circumcision itself, but what it is attached to, which is a pursuit of peace with God and a sense of blessing by the works of the flesh rather than by faith in the Gospel.
There was admittedly a mixture of messages among the Judaistic influences that were encroaching on the churches in Galatia. Some said unless you are circumcised you cannot be saved. Others said, “now that you’re saved, you need to be circumcised.” In the end, it amounts to the same thing and produces the same problem. For those who believe they cannot be saved, the message is undermined to the point where they question their salvation. The ones who say “you are saved but you need to be circumcised” take the believer off the foundation of the Christian life, which is God Himself as the Spirit and move them away from Him unto law-keeping for continuing in their Christian life.
Paul is going to mention the Acts 15 conference when he went to Jerusalem because brothers from James were coming and saying that Gentiles need to be circumcised. There were some false brethren mixed in there “unaware” who did not even have the gospel right. But the prevailing opinion, even among the believers in Jerusalem, (Even among the elders and the apostles!) was that now that the Gentiles are saved, they need to be circumcised. Even James believed that. There was “much disputation” at Jerusalem among the elders of the church at Jerusalem and James and Paul and Peter. Peter stood with Paul and even said “just as the Gentiles are saved by grace through faith, apart from the law, now that’s how the jews have to be saved too” (Acts 15:7-11).
The church at Jerusalem was arguing, “now that they are saved, they need to learn Judaism. They need to learn this religion. They need to learn the law”. So that was the belief that believers in Jerusalem had. Once they get saved, they must become part of Israel. They need to be like the Jews. Peter argued, “Actually, we jews need to be like the Gentiles!”
To be saved in this period of time as members of the body of Christ we are members of something new. We are not Jew or Greek, but Christ is all and all. Paul is going to make that point in Galatians 3. “As many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ where there is no Jew or Greek” (Gal 3:28). We are Abraham’s seed, not because of being Jewish, and definitely not because of being Gentile, but because of being in Christ. Christ was the Seed to whom the promise was made, and we are co-heirs together with Him as members of His body.
This is a mystery that had been revealed to Paul (Col 1:26-27). The Church in Jerusalem struggled with this. They did not understand. They thought about everything in the light of the Millennial Kingdom and the throne of David, Israel being saved, and the Gentile Nations coming to Israel. That will happen when Jesus comes and sits upon the Throne at the end of the tribulation. The gentile nations that exist during the time of the millennium will learn from Israel (Micah 4:2 for example). But what we have is different. This is not a “Jewish” thing. This is a Christ thing. We are in Christ, and we are members of His body. The Gospel made us members of His body in this age.
So, Paul is going to start talking about the confusion that existed because of the lack of understanding in Jerusalem and because He had been given something new that was having a hard time penetrating because there were all these enemies who were seeking to stumble the Churches. They wanted to stumble new believers, pervert the Gospel, bring them into bondage, and bring them back under the law. That is what Galatians is about.
The Seed of all our Struggles In Christianity
We need to know this story because this is the beginning of the Church. In fact this the story of the struggle throughout Church history. This is why the institutional church always becomes corrupt and apostate and why do people in every generation have to come out from among them and be separate when they receive the Gospel. It is a matter of being saved from the present evil age. Catholicism was not the problem in Acts, or in Galatia. In Paul’s day the struggle was the “religion of Jerusalem” (which Catholicism is very much built upon). These are the roots of the issues. This is why there was a reformation, this is why there are protestants and Catholics. It is the same issue. It is Christians in name and confused Christians who have embraced a perversion of the Gospel which is being peddled by people who are trying to trouble especially new believers who are not grounded in the word and separate them from the grace of Christ and from Him who called them and get them standing in the law and in the perfection of the flesh. In every generation, this is the root of the present evil age. Jesus died to save us from this, and for each of us this is what we are faced with that we need to overcome.
It is amazing that we live in the 21st century and if you go back and read the books in the 1500s and read John Bunyan’s grace abounding to the chief of sinners, the language sounds very familiar. They were struggling with the same things with which we are struggling. They were having the same debates dealing with the same kind of people we are. Luther called them papists; we call them Lordshippers. It is the same thing. It is the struggle between grace and law, (really flesh and spirit). What does it mean to walk in the spirit? Having begun in the Spirit, how are we to continue?
If having begun in the spirit, you are going to try to be perfected in the flesh, Paul calls this foolishness. It will bring you into bondage, and into darkness and cut you off from the grace of Christ. It is based on a perversion of the Gospel. We cannot mix law and grace. Law brought us to Christ as a schoolmaster. Now that faith has come and we are in Christ, we are no longer under the law. The purpose of the law was to condemn sin and to show us what sin was and to show us our need for Christ. Now that we have come to Christ, we need to abide in Him and stay with Him. We need to not let anyone bring us into bondage and let no one steal our crown (Rev 3:11).
A Little Leaven – Subtle Perversion of the True Gospel
We have stressed that this is not another Gospel, but corruption of the true Gospel. People with a bad motive are using the true Gospel to bring people into bondage. How can they do that? They borrow the language of the Gospel to try to make it sound like they are talking about the same thing. They do this to catch people unaware. John Macarthur is a master at doing that. I spent two or three years at a reformed Church. They would not admit what they believed. They did not talk about Calvinism and covenant theology. They insisted that they were “justified by faith” protestants. They spoke the language of grace, using the words, but these were a pretext to say, “we’re one of you.” That was their point.
Any time you would try to “corner them” on what they are talking about, their argument was “hey, we are one of you, we believe the same thing, but….” The word “but” is the critical word. “Yes, we believe in justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. We will even sing the songs. But if you really believe…” I was always left scratching my head. This was before I really understood what I understand now. Why did their sermons feel so burdensome? Everything they said, and every scripture they used always ended up leaving me more tired. You always felt more tired after the message than before. You felt more burdened. You felt more lost.
It was interesting because they were using the “right” language. It was very difficult to say that they were false. You could not say clearly, “these are false believers or wolves” unless you understood the gospel and the difference. This is like Paul says. It is not “another gospel, only some would seek to trouble you by perverting the Gospel of Christ.” This “other gospel” is a perversion of the true Gospel. It hides in the language of the true. That is why it is tricky.
Again, a new believer who is born again can pretty quickly discern the differences with the cults like Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witness. That is the basic stuff about what the scriptures say about the Triune God and the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. Even someone who is a believer for 15 years, however, can be taken off as spoil by someone who brings the “right” gospel (supposedly) with the perverse leaven.
We are dealing with leaven. Remember, Paul says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal 5:9). He is talking about something subtle that seems to have all the trappings of the real thing. It mixes the real thing with the false. It does not “not” have the real thing, but it has a mix of leaven in there. Even just a little will leaven the whole lump. So, a little subtle error is too much in this regard!
Again, the issue in Galatians is not “how do we get saved” but “how do we stand before God knowing that God has blessed us, knowing we have peace with Him?” What ground do I have to stand before God with a good conscience knowing that everything is okay? A lot of people will say “I’m ultimately saved.” Most people. Most Christians who get saved struggle at least for a time knowing how to stand before God in their daily life. How am I blessed now? How do I know I am blessed? Where is my sense of blessing? At one point in the epistle, Paul says, “where was that sense of blessing you had?” Also, he says you were running well, who hindered you” (Gal 4:15; Gal 5:7)? They had been moved away from how they began.
This is not speaking to people who did not start well. It is talking to people who did start well! They are saved but they do not know how to stand before God today because the people are who are perverting the Gospel are mixing grace for justification with law for how to live the Christian life and placing burdens on them. They are bringing them back into bondage.
I am just using the words that Paul uses in Galatians. They are bringing them back into the flesh to live according to the flesh and to walk according to the flesh and sow to the flesh (Gal 6:8). They are “striving” to serve God out of a sense that they are not blessed today, and they need to do something to be “blessed.” So, everything kind of centers on Galatians 3 which talks about the blessing of the Gospel, which is the promise of the Spirit (Gal 3:14).
We have already received this blessing. No law can come along after the fact and disannul what we have received or disannul our position as heirs or add any requirements necessary for the heirs to enjoy their blessing (Gal 3:17). This is the point he is making. He is speaking to heirs of the promise who should be walking in the blessing they have received. But people who have perverted the message of grace and are calling it grace are coming in and saying, “well if you want to enjoy Grace you should be circumcised, and you need to keep the law,” or “you should follow me.” It is subtle.
You know there are people right now who have made themselves “our enemies.” I am speaking of the “YouTube Community.” Yet, they use the language we use more and more because they want to sound like us. They are trying to speak to the same audience and seduce the audience, so they have to start using our language. That is in a sense a “Victory” for the word. The word is not bound. It shows that the word is leading the conversation and they are forced to “follow us.” The language that is going out has to be dealt with and even those who have made themselves our enemies have to use that language. It is very subtle because people come to me and say, “Hey this person uses the same language you do now. They didn’t use to, but they do now, yet something is wrong.” They will say, “It seems like maybe they’re coming around because they’re using the same language we are.” Then they will say, “something is not right because I still feel burdened when I’m done listening.” The problem is that they are trying to be as up-to-date as possible with the terms we use but they do not understand the terms. They undermine those terms to undermine.
For example, if we talk about Christ being the word and the word being Spirit and Life, they will say, “they’re separating Christ and the word when they say we’re dead to the law because Christ is the word and the law is the word.” So, they try to use what we say against us and to speak our language so that people who are listening to us will not be able to determine the difference, so they can introduce leaven and pervert the meaning of the words we use.
I see people on my YouTube comment feed who seem to be going along also subscribed to these people and commenting on their walls, not realizing what they are doing. They are coming in under the cloak of this language to pervert this message. They do not have another message, they are attacking this message, but they want you to think they are one of us. It is amazing to watch. This is what was happening in Galatia. False brethren crept in unaware were seeking to spy out the liberty which we have in Christ that they may bring us back into bondage (Gal 2:4).
Their purpose is to bring you back into bondage. What does it mean to be in bondage? It just means to not be enjoying your position in Christ. It means to not be enjoying the blessing that has been given to you freely, but to think that this blessing is only available if you meet certain conditions. So, with Galatians, the issue is not “how are you saved” but what is required that I can enjoy the blessing of God?
The Judaizers and the false believers and the confused believers who are legalistic who are galatianized are trying to separate justification that secures the blessing from the blessing itself. They say that justification took care of your eternal salvation but if you want the blessing, if you want the spirit, if you want the fruit, if you want to know God, it is a matter of other requirements. Paul answers that it is all by faith. “Having begun in the spirit, you’re not going to be perfected in the flesh. “ It all comes by the hearing of faith. The same way you have received the Gospel is the way you enjoy the Gospel, which is the promise of the Spirit. It is through faith, not by any other means. Just a little leaven will leaven the whole lump.
Consider the example that Paul refers to with peter in Galatians 2. All Peter did was to eat with the Gentiles, and when brothers from Jerusalem, from James, came, he shrank back from eating with the Gentiles in fear because to the Jews, the Gentiles are unclean. That is a “little leaven.” It does not seem like that big of a deal. It is not like he was imposing something or standing up and saying “okay let’s all obey Moses” or teaching a heretical doctrine. But by not eating with the Gentiles, he sent the message that the Jews are right. The Gentiles are unclean and even though you are saved you are still not clean. You have to be ceremonially cleansed to enjoy fellowship and have the blessing.
Because of the subtlety of the message that was being broadcast to everyone through fear, even though he was just getting up from the table, Paul rebuked him publically. He rebuked him publically in front of everyone, the Gentiles, and the Jews from Jerusalem. He had to point out clearly what this implied.
This is where people are saying that Paul was just immature and overreacting to something that was not that big of a deal. No, it’s a “little leaven” and it’s going to “leaven the whole lump.” By Peter just getting up from the table and not eating with the Gentiles he is re-establishing the law and even calling Christ a minister of sin (Gal 2:17)! He is rebuilding what he destroyed and saying, “I’m a transgressor (Gal 2:18) for eating with the gentiles”. He was essentially repudiating the freedom we have in Christ, that to the pure all things are pure (Titus 1:15), and it’s not what enters the body that defiles it (mark 7:5), and that we are justified by faith in the blood and can fellowship, and that we are not under any kind of yoke of bondage. He was broadcasting that this freedom is transgression and that he is sinning, and this makes Christ and the Gospel a ministry of sin. This is so heavy! Yet, on the surface, getting up from the table seems like just a “little leaven.”
Again, this is something subtle with which we are dealing. Galatians deals with a subtle error that can be hard to spot because those who operate in it seem like they are speaking the same language we are. This is why I sat at the reformed church for 3 years trying to figure out, “what is wrong here?” It is because they would not admit what they really believe. There is a YouTube channel that did a whole lot of videos about how the gospel of grace is gnostic heresy. We thought he was a “Grace believer.” He used to contend for grace. Now, he is forced to reveal what he really believes about the Gospel. He says it is not just a matter of believing the message of the Gospel, you have to have a “subjective inward experience” (which ironically is a gnostic insert). He calls what we teach about “faith alone apart from works” (Rom 4:5) gnostic heresy. People were surprised and thought maybe he had deviated from what he once believed. But he said, “actually, this is what I always believed” and now is coming out strongly against everything we thought he believed. He says he always believed this way, but now he dares to really say it. That is a false believer crept in unaware.
These are people who believe something different but go along with the “flow” of things because they want to be received in the community. Eventually, they intend to bring people into bondage, and they will reveal what they actually believe. I kept asking questions at the reformed church until they showed me what they really believed, and I started to understand what covenant Calvinism is. I realized; this is not the protestant reformation. This is a different definition of the word faith. I started to learn things like “what is Lordship salvation” and what is “backloading works”? How can they use the language, “we are saved by grace through faith alone, but faith is never alone,” and faith is actually work? That is one kind of perversion of the truth.
People who have been listening to grace teaching for years will start listening to John Macarthur because he can really expound on the Bible, and he calls his ministry “Grace to You.” I receive emails fairly regularly that surprise me from people who were clear on the truth and had not encountered John Macarthur, but then started listening to him and started to realize something was wrong after the damage had already been done to their concept of grace. The point is that these people are subtle and if you have not been warned you do not know what they are doing until you have been listening to them for a while.
This is why we need to address, not so much the people, but what is the teaching that is the problem. Grace mixed with law is no grace at all. A little Leaven leavens the whole lump. Its proponents are those who come speaking this language for quite a while. They speak our language and try to stay as up-to-date as possible with our language, changing our terminology as time goes by. This is good because it shows the word of God is leading the conversation, but the error becomes more subtle and has more of our language in it and therefore that much more difficult to detect!
The development of a “Headquarter” concept.
[Gal 1:12-24 KJV] 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called [me] by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me, but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. 20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24 And they glorified God in me.
Paul is building up to what he is going to say in Chapter 2, where he is going to say that James, Cephas, and John are perceived to be “pillars” in Jerusalem and that Jerusalem is perceived to be a headquarters. What is coming from Jerusalem was not healthy and was a problem. The Galatians were listening to men, the Judaizers, who were leaning on the fact that they were from Jerusalem for their authority. They were saying, this is where Jesus was crucified, and James the Lord’s brother is there, and that’s where the “pillars are.” They said, “you need to listen to us”. Because they came from Jerusalem, they were given special heed.
In Christianity, this is the beginning of headquarter-centered religion. Eusebius, a Church historian in the third century, wrote that James had “inherited the episcopal throne in Jerusalem.” That shows the view that had been adopted by the church already in the third century! Can you imagine the early disciples saying, “James sits at the episcopal throne in Jerusalem”? Not at all! The Lord had told them that they were not going to be the Gentiles lording it over each other with that kind of authority. The greatest in the kingdom is the least and the servant at all. We don’t exercise authority like that we don’t have positions like that. We don’t have an “administrative center.” But Jerusalem was becoming a “center.” That was becoming a problem!
In Corinthians, Paul says we don’t know Christ according to the flesh, and we don’t know each other after the flesh either. The point he was making was that the Corinthians were walking like mere men (1 Cor 3:3), in awe of the Judaizers, the ministers that associate themselves with the old religion and try to bring them into bondage. They were in awe of these men and becoming men-pleasers. That was the source of the problem at Corinth and Galatia.
Direct Revelation to Paul
Paul was making the point that the Gospel that they had received from him, that they stood in, was not the authority because this is what they preach in Jerusalem. In fact, Paul wasn’t taught it by men. Paul is unique in this regard. In Acts 9, when Ananias baptized Paul after 3 days of blindness, there’s no record gospel message to Paul that says “now if you believe the Gospel, and believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead according to the scriptures you’ll be saved” before he was baptized. He already believed! Jesus Christ had appeared to him directly on the road to Damascus. He said, “who are you Lord?” and was answered, “I am Jesus whom you Persecute.” At that moment he realized two things:
Jesus is the Christ, Jehovah, the great I Am, the one that Paul thought he was serving when he was persecuting the Christians. He received a proto revelation of the body of Christ. Christ is one with His members and to persecute them is to persecute Him.
Paul was going to be given a unique set of truths that had not yet been revealed. He says here that God called him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. He was exceedingly zealous of his fathers’ religion in Jerusalem, yet God is going to call him to go to the Gentiles. Paul was saved in Acts 9. Jesus told him “You’re going to bear witness to my name in front of the Gentiles and the Jewish People.”
Interestingly, the timing of this coincides with Peter’s realization and experience concerning the Gentiles. In Acts 10, Peter received the vision of the sheet with the unclean animals, and God said “rise Peter and eat!” Peter said, “I’ve never touched anything unclean.” He had to see the vision three times. Finally, God told him, “Don’t call what I have called clean unclean!” He was speaking about the Gentiles. Peter was going to be told that he would go to Cornelius’ house and Cornelius, being a Gentile, was going to be saved just as they were in Acts 2 the signs and the falling of the Holy Spirit. Peter, being in Jerusalem, was still under the idea that the Jews had nothing to do with Gentiles, they were unclean sinners. This was 10 years into the history of the Church!
The apostles and elders in Jerusalem weren’t leaving Jerusalem because they were so Jersuaelm centered. They were so zealous and still attached to the traditions and needed further revelation that there was something new. The body of Christ had not yet been revealed. They still thought they were part of Israel and were waiting for the Kingdom. They didn’t know that something new had been created (the Body of Christ). That revelation was given to Paul.
In Acts 9 and 10, you start to see a shift where God is starting to teach the early church what they are. We are members of the Body of Christ, and new, and heavenly organism that is revealed as a mystery primarily through Paul’s ministry.
Paul is referring to that period here in Galatians 1. He says when he was saved, he didn’t go to Jerusalem to consult with anyone. He received a revelation directly from Christ. Then he says he went to Arabia. He spent several years in Arabia and went to Damascus. Arabia is where Mount Sinai is. A lot of people believe that Paul went to Mount Sinai. In 2 Corinthians, he refers to himself in the first person, saying “I knew a man..” (2 Cor 12:2). He was clearly talking about himself because he said “I’m not going to boast in these things” (vs. 4-5). He was caught up to the third heavens to see things he was not even allowed to utter. Many believe that this was when he was in Arabia. They suspect he went to Mount Sinai, where Moses was also given a heavenly vision of God’s building and came down with the blueprints for the tabernacle. That was the shadow. Paul came down with the revelation of the mystery of Christ, the Body of Christ, the habitation of God in Spirit (Eph 1:23, 2:22). Paul called himself the wise master builder laying the foundation (1 Cor 3:10) in God’s New Testament economy. He brought the revelation that we need to stand in. We need to recognize that his speaking is authoritative in that sense. The speaking He received, the Gospel he delivered, is the speaking of the ascended Christ.
The early apostles heard the speaking of the earthly Jesus. He was there as a “minister to the circumcision to confirm the promises to the fathers” (Rom 8:15). He spoke of the Kingdom that they all anticipated (Mt 4:17). But, then He ascended to heaven. Paul is the one that brings us the present truth, which is the revelation of the ascended, glorified Christ. He brings us, Christ, not just as the man who redeemed us from our sins and will come back to rule on the Throne of David as the king, but as the Head of His Body which is the Church, and the life of all its members.
Paul says that it pleased God to separate him from his mother’s womb and call him through his grace. The only other person that I know of that said that God had separated him from the womb for his ministry was Jeremiah. This has to do with God’s election. In Romans 10 and 11, when Paul speaks of election, I believe he is not speaking of election unto salvation but election unto being an instrument to be used of God. Paul was prepared from birth. Everything in his life was given to him to equip him so that he could be the kind of vessel that God could use to spread the knowledge of the unsearchable riches of Christ, the mystery of the Gospel among the Gentiles. It was going to have to be significant because this guy was going to have to be trained in the old thoroughly so that he could contrast it with new and also prove from the old that the new is authoritative.
“Christ in Me” – The Sonship and its themes as the content of Paul’s Revelation.
Gal 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called [me] by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen (Gentiles)
Paul says that God separated him to “Reveal His Son in Me.” In Acts 9:20 it says that Paul began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. Paul says in Romans that the Gospel of God is concerning His Son, who was born the seed of David according to the flesh but declared to be the son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:4-5) For Paul, the sonship is not just speaking of Christ as the Son of God in eternity past being divine. It means he was incarnated and became a man. As the seed of David, he is the heir to the covenant which God made with David concerning his seed, that he would be a Father to him, and that the seed of David would be his son (2 Sam 7:14). When you say the “Seed of David” you’re referring to this covenant.
When Jesus came he was designated in His humanity as the Seed of David, the heir to all the promises that God had made to the seed. There is a covenant that God made with the Abraham and the seed of David. This is the same covenant with a revelation that unfolds at different points in the Bible, associated with these titles. The seed of Abraham means he is going to be multiplied and through him, all the nations will be blessed (Gen 22:17, 18). But as the Seed of David, he will sit on the throne forever (2 Sam 7:16), he will live forever (resurrection comes from this), and God’s mercies will not depart from Him (and that’s why he lives forever (2 Sam 7:15)) and that He would be the Son of God and God would be his father. This man would be God’s son!
When Romans 1:5 says that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power through His resurrection, that declaration was the Father’s decree, “You are my son, this day I have begotten thee” (Ps 2:7). The day of begetting is the day of resurrection. He was birthed – his Humanity was birthed into the status that he already enjoyed in His divinity. This is deep. This is the adoption of Humanity into the family of God. This is all according to a covenant that God made with the seed of David, the seed of Abraham, which is called the “everlasting covenant.”
It is based on this covenant that we have anything to do with Abraham or the Kingdom of Christ. According to Galatians 3, we were baptized into Christ and have been clothed with Him, and are therefore Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:27-29). We are heirs, not because we are the seed of Abraham but because we are in Christ, the seed to whom all the promises were made (Gal 3:16). That’s how we have our relationship to resurrection and the forgiveness of sins. We have the forgiveness of sins in Christ. Those are called the “mercies of David” (Is 55:3). God said, “My mercies will not depart from Him.” We are in Christ. He also inherits the nations and will rule them with the rod of iron. That was declared by the Father to the Son in Psalm 2:8. His high priesthood according to the order of Melchizidek is declared by the Father to the Son in Psalm 110. We are kings and priests because of all the things that God gave to the seed of David because we are in Him and we are one with Him (Rev 5:10). As such we will reign with him and even share his throne and the rod of iron to rule the nations with which He inherited (Rev 2:27).
When Paul said, “Lord who are you?”, Jesus said, “I am Jesus whom you persecute”. This was a revelation that the Body is one with the Head. This is the new creation, which Paul elaborates on in the book of Ephesians. In this new creation, there is neither Jew nor Greek, but Christ is all and in all (Gal 3:28, Col 3:11).
Also, God chose to reveal His son “in me”. And this is the Son of God, not just in His divinity, but the son in His divinity with His humanity that has been glorified and with it, the adoption. He has been given to us to be our life, and Paul can say in Galatians 2 “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live, yet not I but Christ who lives in me.” Paul reveals that Christ is in us as life. He is our hope of glory (Col 1:27). He is our inheritance, and we are positioned in Him as co-heirs, sons together with Him, brothers with Him, and members of His body.
When we were regenerated and received the Spirit that was not just the spirit in the way of the Old Testament that came upon the prophets to do miracles. It was the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Spirit of Christ, Christ Himself. Paul reveals in 1 Corinthians 15:45 that the Last Adam became the Life-Giving Spirit. For us, the Spirit is Christ. Everything that Christ has accomplished and everything that Christ is is now our as the Spirit and is conveyed to us by the Spirit for Christ to become our life so that we actually “live Christ.”
Most Christians have never even heard this before, and yet this is Paul’s revelation. This is “Pauline” teaching. You can see why many have accused him of being “gnostic.” He claimed to have a unique revelation. There is a lot to what Paul revealed. It is important and good to refresh ourselves with what specific things about Jesus do we know only because of Paul’s teaching that he received by revelation from the ascended Christ. You find out that it is very different from the expectations of the apostles in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, they watched Jesus be crucified. They saw Him raised from the dead. They even saw Him ascend to heaven. Stephen saw him standing at the right hand of God. They saw the Spirit come down upon the apostles but it was very much like seeing the Old Testament in the old testament come upon, for example, King Saul when he became another man and prophesied (1 Sam 10:6). The spirit would come upon them and there was a boldness and an equipping, clothing of power.
Paul’s revelation of the Spirit is richer. He is not only as we knew him in the Old Testament and the book of acts for power, but He is the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:19), Christ coming to us as life, with the Divinity and the Humanity of Christ to make us partakers of Christ (Heb 3:14), partakers of His nature, partakers of His life, and members of His body (Eph 5:30) – the many sons of God (Rom 8:29). Jesus Christ is the firstborn among many brethren who are going to be conformed to His image and glorified (Rom 8:29-31). That’s all “Pauline.” Our heavenly destiny and position are revealed by Paul. The distinction between this new creation called the Church and everything that went before, as the heavens are different from the earth, the Church is different than Israel! We need to understand that! We need to understand that this is why we cannot mix old things with new. There is a new wine that needs a new wineskin (Mrk 2:22)!
We have a different relationship with Christ than the natural man can understand (1 Cor 2:14). It is not according to carnal ordinances and old testament law. It is according to the New Creation. Yes, Paul is going to address circumcision in Galatians, but in the end, he says “it’s not circumcision or uncircumcision that means anything. It’s the new creation. Peace to everyone who walks according to that rule” (Gal 6:15). Paul was given the dispensation of the grace of God for the gentiles to make that mystery known. It was a mystery hidden in God’s heart, never before revealed to the sons of men and not anticipated by the prophets.
In Colossians 1:26 and 27, he said a dispensation was entrusted to him to “complete” the word of God, even the “mystery which had been hidden” from the ages and the generations, but was now being made known to the saints, to whom God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of the mystery, which is “Christ in you, the Hope of Glory.” Paul is going to develop that through his ministry. Here, in his first letter, he is already alluding to it.
God chose to reveal his son “in” Paul. He set him apart for that purpose that he could reveal his son in him that he could preach him to the Gentiles. The way he preached Christ is a little different. We don’t say that there are two Gospels. The Gospel that was preached in Jerusalem saves. It is the Gospel of the risen Christ and has his death for our sins and resurrection. There is a kingdom emphasis in the book of Acts because it was preached to the nation Israel. If they repent and believe, they will receive the promises that they were expecting, which centered on the Seed of David as their king. But to Paul, a mystery was revealed that partial blindness had come upon Israel. They had been cut off so that the Gentiles could in, but eventually, Israel would be saved (Rom 11:25). That was not understood in Jerusalem. James and others were waiting in Jerusalem for the kingdom and needed further revelation that something new was on the horizon.
Paul’s problem was that the new revelation was not understood and received in Jerusalem. When he came, because he hadn’t been with the Lord and wasn’t in that original group, it was very difficult for the apostles to receive him and understand his ministry. They could not understand that he had been given a dispensation of something new. They stayed loyal to the way they knew things which was a mix of the teachings of Jesus on earth and their earthly traditions in Jerusalem. That created all kinds of problems. James was still meeting in the Temple 30 years later in Act 21, where he asked Paul to take a vow to show that he had not apostatized from Moses (Acts 21:21). What is he doing in the temple? Hadn’t he read the book of Hebrews? They were still loyal to these things. It’s an unfortunate mix.
James was surrounded by zealots for the law, false brethren crept in unaware, Judaizers who were believers in Christ but loyal to the Old Testament law and were Zionistic. James was unduly exalted among them because he was the Lord’s brother. They respected the flesh, and that is the problem. He is perceived to be a “pillar” because of people’s loyalty to the flesh and serving men. They’re being brought into bondage, not by James but by the influences that surrounded him. It was that mixture that became a real problem for early Christianity and really for the rest of Church history. Again all of our problems with legalism and everything we are dealing with today with Lordshippers and works back loaders comes from this problem of mixing the old with the new and not appreciating the revelation that had been given to Paul.
Paul is wanting to ground the churches at Galatia in the new. This is why he is making a big distinction, saying he was zealous for the traditions of the fathers, but he didn’t receive his revelation from men, it came from God Himself. God chose to reveal His Son in me. Paul is making an emphasis that this is a strong turn from the old to something new.
Some historical Perspective (Acts and Galatians)
A lot of people don’t understand what the narrative in Acts is there for. Acts is said to be trial documents for Paul prepared by Luke. Paul was accused of sowing discord and turning the whole nation upside down, being a “divisive plague”(Acts 24:5) and bringing trouble everywhere he went. This is because there was a little group of Judaizing believers as well as false believers who had crept in unaware (Gal 2:4), and they were going from city to city to stir up trouble for him. They worked actively to undermine his teaching, lie about him, and falsely accuse him. Even in the epistle of Galatians, he’s addressing groups of believers who have been turned away from his ministry because of this kind of activity. In 2 Timothy, Paul said that all the churches had departed from his ministry (2 Tim 1:15), and it was because of this same little group of people that followed him around stirring up as much strife and discord as they could.
The story of the books of Acts is about the religious background that led to this. Why was such trouble able to penetrate Christianity? Why were the churches in so much turmoil and discord, and why couldn’t they grasp grace? We discover that the problem really came from Jerusalem and loyalty to the Temple and the Mosaic law. If we don’t have this background, we have a hard time really understanding the religious environment. Most people, for example, read the book of James without reading the book of Acts and Galatians, which tells us some things about the situation at Jerusalem, to let us know that things were not clear or healthy there. There was controversy and trouble stirred up between the church at Jerusalem and the churches that Paul raised up over the matte of the law. There were misinterpretations and misrepresentations of the message of justification by faith. It was being perceived as a license to sin.
The same kinds of things we see going on today have their roots in this trouble, which has been with us all along. Galatians is the book that addresses this problem doctrinally and gives us some historical background about Paul and Paul’s history, and why these things take place, and why there is trouble. The Churches in Galatia had heard really bad things about Paul from the Judaizers. Paul is going to have to tell them the story a little bit. But he has to be careful he says it. Just like today, we are very careful to call out names. It is better to address the teaching than to make it about people. People can change and when you make it about people and you have a mixture of people listening to you and to them, people like to turn it into a “people war” and a “drama war”. It is neither of these things. It is a battle about the truth.
The Jerusalem Centered Religion of the Flesh
[Gal 1:13-14 KJV] 13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
He says something similar in Philippians chapter 3, where he says if anyone has something to boast of in the flesh, he more – he was circumcised, of the tribe of Benjamin, a “Hebrew of the Hebrews”, as to the law, “found blameless”, as to zeal, “persecuting the Church.” But he counted all these things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ (Phil 3:8). We tend to think that the flesh is “the bad sinful stuff”. But he tells us these are all the flesh.
We tend to think the flesh is the guy going down and drinking, or the guy with problems with porn, or the guy who smokes. But Paul puts the flesh in a religious context and associates it with zeal for God without knowledge that leads to self-righteousness and persecution of those who follow the truth. You end up persecuting the Lord and His followers, thinking that you are serving God. That is the ultimate expression of the “uncircumcised flesh.” Uncircumcised flesh signifies the strength of the flesh which hasn’t been “Cut off”. But Christ circumcised our flesh on the cross (Col 2:11), and we are to be the true circumcision who have no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3). This means we have no self-confidence in religious service.
When Paul talks about the flesh in Galatians, he’s talking about religious flesh. In Galatians 5 and 6, when he says that if we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption from the flesh (Gal 6:8), he’s talking about the religious flesh. He’s not saying “if you go sin, you’ll sin more. If you go to the massage parlor, you’ll end up at the harem” (which is also a real danger). He’s referring to the religious flesh. They’re envying and provoking one another, and he says, “beware lest you be consumed of one another” (Gal 5:15). Then he lists the “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19-21). A lot of them are religious. Heresies, divisions, factions, envy, pride – all of those things are related to religious zeal. That is a bigger problem than the tax collector and the harlot and the leper and the people that Jesus became friends with. He hung out with publicans and sinners. They were “in the flesh” but they knew their need for a savior. Whereas the religious flesh believes it can serve God and believes God approves of it. So that’s the flesh that can quench the Spirit and sear the conscience.
When Paul was “exceedingly zealous for the traditions of his fathers,” he is speaking of Judaism. God passed those things down, yet God chose to reveal His Son in Paul, which was the beginning of a new revelation that really re-framed everything that God had given before and required Paul to be able to re-contextualize the things that had genuinely been passed down from God, even turning from the physical aspect of these things, including the Temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the Mosaic law. All of these things were of God. How could Paul be so bold to say that no flesh could be justified by the law and that if you put yourself under it, you are under the curse (Gal 3:10)? While Paul was saying these kinds of things, the church at Jerusalem was still meeting in the Temple!
In addition to the loyalty to the old things that clouded the perspective in Jerusalem, James was a factor. James had the respect of everyone including the zealous Jews that didn’t really believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but that he was after all the genuine heir to the throne of David. James was His brother, which put him next in line for the throne of David. James was convenient for the kingdom expectations of various groups. The Jewish zealots and the Judaizers and the false believers and the galatianized Christians all mixed together at the Temple, with James at the center, because of Kingdom expectations. However, in this mixed group, not everybody believed the Gospel, and those that did were struggling to recognize that God was doing a new thing called building up the Church as the body of Christ (in fact most of them didn’t recognize this truth at all).
The new thing that God was doing, the Church, was not “Jerusalem Centered”, it was heavenly. All those things related to the temple were a shadow, and Christ is now the reality who has eclipsed them (Heb 10:1; Col 2:17). When you read the book of Hebrews, you can see very clearly that those things were shadows of Christ. Christ is presented as greater than all of them and has replaced all of them. We need to move on to rest in Him and no longer associate with the earthly religion of Judaism.
If you had read the book of Hebrews at that time, what would you do if you went to the Church in Jerusalem and found that the apostles and James were meeting in the Temple? What would you think of that? We lose perspective. The book of Acts helps us see that there is a history behind all of this. They were not as clear as we tend to think. Just because they were apostles doesn’t mean they were clear on everything. As we know, in Galatians Paul records the time he had to rebuke Peter publically in front of the jews and gentiles because Peter was afraid of brothers that came down from James. He shrank back from the Gentiles, and this had real implications for the Gospel.
This incident he describes with Peter was 10 or 11 years after Peter had preached boldly, led thousands to the Lord, and done many mighty public miracles. Yet, Peter still had a journey to make from the old to the new. The whole church did. Unfortunately, most of them did not make that journey. Most of the churches did not “make it” into the understanding that there was a new dispensation of grace and that there was this thing called the Body of Christ that is neither Jew or Greek and that God is doing something new. That’s one of the reasons why God had to allow the temple to be destroyed. It was such a problem.
Unfortunately, the earthly religion and the mixture of law and grace, mixing the Old with the New hindered the understanding of the Role of Jesus’ ministry on the Earth versus His heavenly ministry as Head of the Body and High Priest, what He has become to us as life and what we have become in Him (all revealed by Paul). These distinctions are just not understood and have not been through most of Church history.
Unfortunately, the history of the Church that you can read about is controlled by the strong who were the Catholics who set up “episcopal thrones” and ruled over the sheep. They took the mixture of law and grace to their extreme and created an apostate system. They are the ones that wrote most of the histories that we have. We have to read other histories like “The Pilgrim Church” to see that in every generation there has been a group of people who came out from all that mixture to suffer outside the camp, “bearing Christ’s reproach” and to be identified with Jesus, who suffered for them outside the gate. They were persecuted by the mainstream Church. It’s always about the same thing. The mainstream church mixes law and grace into an incomprehensible, incoherent system of error. In every generation, there is a group of people who lays holds of books like Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, and Philippians and really gets into the heart of Paul’s ministry, and this brings them out. The New Testament Ministry, especially in Paul’s writings, has a way of sanctifying in the truth.
The Present Evil Age, the Flesh, Dead Works vs the Gospel.
Seeing who Christ is now in the heavens and what realities are ours today and what does it mean to walk in the Spirit, and all the things we talk about – this is a sanctifying vision that saves us from the “present evil age”. “Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth” (John 17:17). Remember, at the beginning of this, he said “God sent His Son, Jesus, who died for us that He might save us from the present evil world” (Gal 1:4). The word is really “Age”. He gave Himself for our sins to deliver from this present evil age.
When Paul talks about the evil world, he’s talking about this terrible mixture that brings people into bondage and removes them from Him who called them into the grace of Christ, to “another Gospel”. Again, it’s not another gospel. Deceivers cloak themselves with the true Gospel and then use the Gospel to import old things and bring people back into bondage. This is because they don’t understand or believe that Christ is everything now. Christ is our righteousness. Christ is our sanctification. Christ is our hope of glory. Christ is our reward. Christ is our life. It is by faith in Him that we make any progress in the Christian life.
The Judaizers were bringing people back to dead works. Dead works are anything that you do to earn what God has already provided for you in Christ. Dead works can be sacrifices in the Temple, circumcision, tithes, praying more, reading your bible more, going to church more, trying to keep the commandments. If you’re doing any of those things in order to change your status before God and be blessed and enjoy God more or enjoy the Spirit more, they become dead works. If you’re trying to use them to “purchase something from God” they are dead works. The only way to enjoy God and grow spiritually is to stand in the grace that’s been given to you and receive everything as a free gift. We are always on the receiving end and we have nothing to bring to Jesus.
We bring Christ to God as our offering, and God responds to our faith in Christ with the blessing of the Gospel, the promise of the Spirit. This includes our life, our spiritual growth, our fruit-bearing. Everything! It all comes as a free gift. That’s what it means to “Sow to the spirit” versus sowing to the flesh (Gal 6:8). To sow to the flesh is to try to work as a slave for a wage from God out of religious zeal and religious strength rather than to trust solely in Jesus and say, “Lord I can do nothing.”
This is what it means to be crucified. At the end of Chapter 2 Paul will say, “I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live, yet not I but Christ in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20-22) To be crucified with Christ and to recognize it is to say “I can do nothing. I’m dead. I can’t do anything bad or good. Anything bad I do is blotted out before the throne and not acknowledged, and whatever I do that’s good on my own to try to purchase something from God or win His favor is blotted out as well.” That’s not to say we don’t do good works. But why do we do them? Do we do them to grow? Do we do them to gain something from God, or to be more blessed, or to change our spiritual condition? If so, we are working by law, not by faith. We’re working by the flesh.
However, if we come to God and acknowledge who He is and acknowledge who Christ is in us, then whatever we do out of thanksgiving from that acknowledgment is good works. If our heart is full of thanksgiving, everything we do is good. It doesn’t have to be something “special” you’re doing beyond your life. Your life becomes good works because you’re filled with the fragrance of Christ.
The Goal is for Christ to be manifested in you. You can know when that’s happening. Your eyes are really fixed on Jesus and you’re not trying to earn something from Him, but you see that you are complete in Him. You are enjoying Gospel realities, the good news of the free gift of salvation. You don’t think you owe anything to God, you’re not in “debt”. You’re enjoying your status as an heir of God, enjoying your inheritance and you are full of thanksgiving. That’s how you know you’re walking in the Spirit. Anything you do from that place is good works. A lot of people do “good works” but they are dead works. It comes down to the motive. Are you trying to earn a reward? Actually, the reward is secured in justification and is our inheritance (Romans 4:4; Col 3:24).
You’ve already been given a crown (Rev 3:11). However, you can suffer loss if you build with wood, hay, and stubble, which is the flesh (1 Cor 3:12). If you lean on the flesh and stay under the works system, and under condemnation, you will not bear fruit. There’s no increase of what you’ve received. What you have received is your reward, but you can increase it. Remember in the parable of the talents, the man who buried his talent thought God was a hard taskmaster and he was afraid (Mt 25:24-26). You end up with just the bare minimum. “Saved, yet as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). But if you have a heart full of thanksgiving and Gospel reality, that treasure, that crown in you that you’re clinging to, is increasing in value and preciousness to you and to others because you inevitably end up sharing the comforts you’ve been comforted with by God.
It really comes down to walking as an heir, which is what Galatians about, especially Galatians 4, which speaks of the son of the bondwoman vs. the son of the free, the heir versus the slave. This is a picture of walking in the flesh vs. walking in the Spirit. Waiting on the promise versus trying to make things happen ourselves and producing an Ishmael.
Paul, Peter and Jerusalem
Paul had a background of religious zeal. He’s saying, “it doesn’t work. God set me apart to reveal His Son in me.” He mentioned here that he did not receive the Gospel from men, and was not taught by men. He didn’t confer with flesh and blood. He didn’t go to the apostles in Jerusalem. The only apostle he eventually saw was Peter. What condition was Peter in when Paul found him? You may wonder, why did Peter and Paul become good friends early on? Why was Peter able to take a public rebuke from Paul? He was powerful. He should have been the “lead” in Jerusalem.
Remember in the last message we said that Paul got saved in Acts 9. Then Peter in Acts 10 had the vision of the sheet with the unclean animals and the call to “rise and eat.” He said he didn’t eat anything unclean, but God said “Don’t call what I’ve called clean, unclean” (Acts 10:15). That was a precursor for Peter to go to Cornelius’s house (a Gentile.) While he was preaching to Cornelius, the Holy Spirit fell on everyone there just like in Acts 2. They were praying in tongues and prophesying and they were Gentiles! That was the opening of the door the Gentiles. When Peter came home rejoicing about this in Jerusalem, some of the circumcision persecuted him for eating with the Gentiles.
If you read the narrative in Acts 10 and 11, you will see that Peter was persecuted by the church – by Jewish believers in Jerusalem. “What are you doing eating with Gentiles?” They acknowledge that Gentiles can be saved, but, “come on you’re eating with the Gentiles?” That shows their concept. There is just a sentence about it, but it was worthy of mention in Acts, and we know it was the root of the issue as to why Peter was afraid in Antioch. Whether they were consciously persecuting him or it was just the institutionalized environment (Which is a form of persecution in itself) the Jeruslam centered, Kingdom-oriented, law-saturated viewpoints in Jerusalem were having implications for the Gospel and liberty in Christ.
We know that even later up until the Acts 15 conference, elders, brothers, and apostles in Jerusalem believe that Gentiles need to be proselytes to the Jews just like they always were. They need to be circumcised and they need to keep the law, and they need to be taught Moses. The environment was very troublesome for Peter’s conscience. It really shook him up. Peter was jailed by Herod, and when he escaped, he didn’t go back to the church in Jerusalem. He went to a prayer meeting at Mark’s house and the girl that opened the door thought he was a ghost. They thought he was dead, but they were praying and he told that girl, “tell James and the brothers that I’m out” (Acts 12:17) Then He was gone. He left Jerusalem. As far as we know, he did not come back except with Paul later in Acts 15.
Where did he go? He ended up in Antioch, where Paul was. Sometime during all of this stuff happening in Acts 19 and 12, based on what we know from Galatians (Gal 1:18) Paul visited Peter and stayed with him for 15 days. I believe it was while Peter was finding no rest in Jerusalem because he had eaten with the Gentiles and was struggling to process this in an environment overshadowed by the old religion. Paul, a former “pharisee of Pharisees” had been called and told and given a vision that he was going to preach Christ to the Gentiles (acts 9:15). I believe Paul would have had sympathy with Peter.
I also believe God sovereignly let Peter experience all of this as part of the training of the entire Church. Even today we are learning from his experience. He was ostracized at Jerusalem and Prepared to be sympathetic with Paul so that he could eventually stand with Paul in Jerusalem in Acts 15.
When you read in Galatians 2 that Peter was in Antioch and you look at the story behind that, you realize that the reason he is in Antioch is that he has no rest in Jerusalem because of the religious environment. The “present evil age” consisted of well-intentioned, zealous, religious people who were governed by the flesh, loyal to the law, unclear on the truth, and overly enamored with men and their carnal relationships (like James’s flesh relationship with the Lord.)
Gal 2:1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with [me] also. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. 3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: 5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
This is the first time that Paul showed his unique revelation to the Church at Jerusalem. When he went privately, to consult with those who were “of reputation” in Jerusalem, they tried to compel Titus, a Gentile to be circumcised! Do you see the mixture there? Even the church is trying to get the Gentiles circumcised and obeying Moses. Paul tells us that this was because of false brethren unawares brought in. They crept in privately. It’s not all James’s influence. I’m not trying to say that it is James, but he was surrounded by these people who were meeting as the church and even had a reputation among the Churches because men were impressed with the flesh and with religious zeal. The most zealous were these false believers who crept in unaware. They were trying to compel Titus to be circumcised. He said they want to bring us into bondage! He said, “We gave no subjection to them, not even for an hour so that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” Think about that. Paul is arguing with them in Jerusalem. He’s an outsider.
When he left, it probably left a bad taste in their mouth. How do we know that? Because this happened in Acts 15. In Acts 21, years later when he came back, these same brothers and James tried to compel Paul to take a vow in the temple to show that he had not apostatized from Moses. James said, “we have thousands and thousands who believe in Jesus and are zealous for the law. Now take a vow and show that you have not apostatized from Moses and walk orderly, keeping the law” (Acts 21:24). When you realize that the brothers and James put that kind of pressure on Paul, you realize things are not clear and healthy in Jerusalem. This mixture should not be tolerated.
The reason Paul says he went to Jerusalem first (in Acts 15) is that Peter had come to Antioch and shrank back from eating with the Gentiles when “Certain from James” came from Jerusalem. Peter was afraid of them and he shrank back. This shows the effect of the religious environment of Jerusalem on even Peter, the “mighty apostle”. He was intimidated by the Judaizers!
Religious flesh can be intimidating because there’s a zeal to it. They speak so powerfully, they look so Godly, they seem so upright, and they’ll even yell at you. Peter was afraid and shrank back years later from eating with the Gentiles while he was in Antioch. But you realize that the reason he was there in the first place was that he could find no rest in Jerusalem. It’s a sad story. He should have been the lead apostle. He was right in that scene. But thankfully Paul was there I believe during that window when Peter was on his way out and I believe he was a comfort to him. Paul tells us he met with him and stayed with him for 15 days during that time. Other than that, Paul didn’t see any of the other apostles. That’s when he and Peter became friends. I believe that’s why Peter was able to receive the rebuke from Paul.
Paul went to Jerusalem by revelation to communicate the gospel that he had been entrusted with, but “these who seem to be somewhat” (whatever they were makes no difference to him). He is talking about Peter and James and John, but he’s also talking about the false believers who had come in privately unaware. The brothers didn’t have the discernment to realize these guys were false brethren. They were allowed to circulate among the churches. Why? Because when you are mixing law and grace, your discernment goes out the window! The law is a veil (2 Cor 3:15). It keeps you from seeing the glory of Christ and really sensing the leading of the Spirit. The more you’re in a mixed environment that’s mixing law and grace, the less you’ll be able to discern, the more lukewarm you’ll become, the more numb your senses will be and the more your conscience will be seared.
I can attest to this. I can attest from experience. I’m not saying their conscience was seared, but they should have been able to recognize false brethren among them. Now that is just my opinion, we were not there. But this certainly explains some things.
6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed [to be somewhat] in conference added nothing to me: 7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as [the gospel] of the circumcision [was] unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we [should go] unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 10 Only [they would] that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
It is good that they were able to recognize the grace that had been given to Paul. Especially, James John and Peter recognized the genuineness of his apostleship. Paul is referring here to Acts 15. If you know about Acts 15, it was a meeting in Jerusalem to settle the matter of whether or not the Gentiles should be compelled to be circumcised and put under the law. It was because of this situation. They agreed that Peter and John would go to the Jews and Paul would go to the Gentiles. Some people think that this means there were two gospels. No, they preached the same Gospel. There’s a harmony between Peter and John and Paul. John and Peter’s revelation is Pauline. They learned from Paul, especially Peter. Paul said that they didn’t have anything to “Add” to him, but they said “remember the poor. Remember the letter of James he was very much concerned for the poor.
[Gal 2:11-20 KJV] 11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 4 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before [them] all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
This is all leading up to the account of Paul’s rebuke of Peter. Why is he bringing all this up? Paul is under all kinds of accusations. He was called “the divisive plague.” He rebuked people and he did not respect men’s persons. He stood with the truth and not with man. This whole point he is making is, “I’m a servant of Christ and not a servant of man.” He started talking about this in Galatians 1. This is the same conversation. He said, “I don’t seek to persuade men or please men. If I did, I would not be a servant of Christ. The revelation I received is not man, but from God.” Everything he is saying, including this history is to show that he is a servant of Christ and not a servant of man. He is saying, “this is your problem. You are seeking to please men. Look what happened to Peter.”
It’s interesting that Paul says he saw that they did not walk “According to the truth”. Do you want to know what it means to walk according to the Spirit? It means to walk according to the truth of the gospel and not fear men and not be moved by peer pressure and not give off the signal that what you are doing in your liberty in Christ is a sin. This is what Peter was doing by shrinking back from the Gentiles, because of the fear of the jews. It was all about the fear of man, he was giving in to Satan’s attack on the Gospel and clouding the Gospel and muddying it in the Gentiles’ mind. They said, “Well maybe we do have to be circumcised, we’re unclean! Peter can’t even eat with us now! The Jews came and not only that, but Peter is sending the message that he’s been sinning this whole time!”
This is why Paul is going to ask, “is Christ a minister of sin?” We need to stand with the Gospel. That’s what it means to walk in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit will make you stand up among men in the gospel and stand with the Gospel when everyone else is going the other way. Only God can strengthen you to do that because by nature we are all people pleasers.
I used to be the biggest people pleaser you ever met. Elders liked me because I was so much of a people pleaser. They knew I was “harmless” I’m not a people pleaser anymore. It is the strength of the Lord through the Gospel. The Gospel is the source of our power. When you stand in the Gospel you become bolder than you thought you could be. I’m not talking about having to go out in public and make a big scene. I’m saying you will not stand in the path of the sinner or sit in the seat of the scorner, but your delight will be in the Lord and you’ll be a true servant of Christ and not men. Peter was still being converted all this time.
The apostles had to grow just like us. We all have to grow. Peter needed this rebuke and when he went up with Paul in Acts 15, he stood with Paul and stood up to James and the brethren and said “why do you put a yoke on the details that neither we or our fathers were unable to bear? (Acts 15:10) Just as Gentiles are saved by faith apart from the law, and have to be justified in the same way” (Acts 15:11). He could never have done that before. Peter was a people pleaser. As much bravado as he showed in the Gospel and in Acts he had the flesh that needed to be “circumcised.” This moment of truth with Paul where he got rebuked in front of everyone, “did it.” He got converted totally to grace at that point. Before, he was mixing law with grace, trying to mix Judaism with the new thing that God was doing in Christ.
Remember Paul’s revelation was so new and seemed contrary to the flesh and their background that it really did not make headway that much compared to the Judaistic mixture that gripped Christianity at the time and became dominant for the next two thousand years.
There has always just been a small pocket of people that have come out, always through seeing Paul’s realization of Christ.
Manifestation of Christ as Life vs. Christless Imitation.
We’ve been discussing the history. I find that is important to understand that background from Acts. Most people read Acts 2 to Acts 5 and then get kind of “bogged down.” They might be familiar with Acts 15, but it seems kind of boring. Paul went here, Paul went there. However, if you trace the events with the understanding of what was being taught, it can be illuminating to see how things that are being taught affect people’s actions and responses, and perceptions. It also helps to understand why we struggle so much with so-called division in the Body of Christ. It is not division per se. It is the children of the flesh versus the children of the promise (Rom 9:8). Those who are grace and those who are of works. There is a mix of saved people who lean one way or the other to varying degrees depending on whether they’re still on the milk of the word or whether they have been set upon by wolves.
The obstacle to fruit-bearing for Christians is often other Christians with their teachings. If you see someone who is anemic spiritually it is not because they are “lukewarm” it is because they’re underfed, and they’ve been beaten. If there is no food or nourishment, there is no strength for the Christian life. If there is no understanding of how to enjoy Christ and who He is in us, there is no power. When we get saved, we have an understanding that Jesus went to heaven for us and that He is there now, and that we are on the earth “working it out down here” (whatever that means). That leaves us to our own resources in our minds. The Holy Spirit is acknowledged as sort of like a helper, but we can’t figure out how. But Paul reveals that Christ is in us and that He is our life. John, building on that, presents Christ not as only as our life but as our satisfaction and our enjoyment. He’s a big “Drink” (John 7:37) and he is food (John 6:57). All you need to do is to learn to take Him in and enjoy Him and appreciate what you have in Him, and the water flows. It all operates by faith.
Sanctification is by faith. Christ is our sanctification (1 Cor 1:31). There is a verse in Thessalonians that says “this is God’s desire for you, even your sanctification, that you possess your vessel in honor and abstain from fornication.” But that is not a process. You are either fornicating or you are not! It’s not like you are “more and more sanctified” as you fornicate “less and less”. No, if you are fornicating, you are not holding your vessel in honor, but if you are in Christ, you are still sanctified. Paul told the Corinthians that they were sanctified, and that they were washed, and that they were members of Christ, and that they were the temple of the Holy Spirit, but that if they were to fornicate, they would be making Christ’s members the members of a harlot (1 Cor 6:15). He did not tell them they would “lose their sanctification.” However, you can abstain from sex and not be sanctified. You can do this as a Mormon or a Buddhist. What sanctifies is our union with Christ. We are sanctified because we are one with the altar that sanctifies. He sanctified us in His blood and now we are in Him. Any real enjoyment of that sanctification comes as the result of the washing and renewing of the Holy Spirit as we learn to drink of Him and partake of Him. There is no enjoyment of sanctification apart from enjoying Christ. That’s what we teach.
We teach that sanctification is not a patchwork of works that you do. It is not incremental. It is given to you in your union with Christ. Now we are to put off the old man and to put on the new (Eph 4:22-24). We do this not by trying to keep commandments but by seeing a vision and believing what Christ has accomplished, which is called “renewing.” We believe and appreciate the true reality. We have been buried with Him in baptism into His death. We have been raised together with Him in newness of life. There is a new creation that flows out like living water. We are told our work is to believe and drink. To believe and to come. That is our drinking!
[Jhn 7:37-39 KJV] 37 In the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
The Christian life is a river of living water that flows out of from Christ Himself when we come to Him and believe in Who He is and what He has accomplished. Something flows out of Him to us. That is how we are washed and renewed. That is how the river flows out of us. That flowing of the river is our Christian life and the reality of our sanctification! It is our enjoyment of the sanctification that we already have as a reality.
So, if you are going to talk about the “experience” of sanctification, you have to talk about washing and renewing. You have to talk about living water. When you talk about living water, you have to talk about Christ, because it comes out of Him. What many are trying to advocate is a “Christless” sanctification that a monkey could imitate, or a Mormon could imitate, and not be regenerated. That’s why they call it your “practical sanctification”. No, “practical sanctification” is being renewed and putting on Christ. You can’t talk about sanctification without talking about Christ Himself and the work He accomplished and now what is available and what right do I have to enjoy it. What is available as the Spirit and how do I enjoy the Spirit? That’s what Paul and John brought especially.
Christ is in you as your life and that has positioned and qualified you for so many things. This is the focus of Paul’s ministry. Then John’s ministry shows us that this life is your satisfaction and enjoyment and fellowship. It has become so simple to enjoy Christ, and it has become a feast. So, we talk about the feast. As we talk about it, the “railers” call us gnostic.
I would like for them to define the word gnostic. Can they accuse us of being gnostic while defending Paul and John against the charges of Gnosticism? First of all, they do not define the word gnostic. They use it as an adjective without telling you what it means. If they wanted to warn you about Gnosticism, they would teach you what Gnosticism is so that you would learn to recognize it. You don’t just call a teaching gnostic without explaining what gnostic is. My challenge to them is, can you describe what about our teaching is gnostic while proving that John and Paul are not Gnostic? Defend them against the charge you are leveling at us! You’ll find that they’re (they won’t admit this) accusing Paul of Gnosticism.
Most people are stuck in that they only have a religion of the flesh. It is a Christless religion. That’s not to say that they are not saved, but they don’t understand beyond barely the milk of the word, which is the assurance of salvation. But growth comes from seeing our death with Christ and the life that is in us and learning how that life works and being able to communicate how that life is enjoyed. That becomes our “practical” holiness if you want to call it that. Christ is our righteousness. Christ is our sanctification.
So, when you read Acts, you will see that this is not a new struggle. From this history we see that this is what they struggled with from the very beginning. The Church had a hard time grasping what Paul was teaching. That’s why Peter said, “His letters are weighty and hard to understand and many twist them as they do the rest of the scriptures to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). This is nothing new. It all comes down to seeing who Paul is and how he was resisted and why the revelation he brought was different. Yes, there is one Gospel, but what was the emphasis that God revealed from heaven concerning the glorified Christ, the seed of David, who became the son of God? What does it mean that I was crucified with Christ. “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 1:22)
Galatians is foundational. During the reformation, every Christian had Luther’s commentary on Galatians. That book set so many people free it turned a whole continent upside down. Galatians is very short but it is very powerful. It is very practical in terms of how it exposes the difference between the flesh and the spirit, and the religion of the flesh which is an “Ishmael” versus the faith of the spirit, represented by Isaac. The children of the promise, even if they don’t see it in their life, have learned to believe God and wait upon His promise. I have learned to believe that God will manifest Christ in me in His time, and I’m not going to try to “manufacture it.” I’m going to try to wait on Him in faith. That’s what Galatians is about – the difference between walking in the Spirit and walking in the flesh really comes down to this. We stand with the Gospel even if we look like a sinner, rather than standing with men in their religion and traditions and any so-called “practical instruction” that claims to show you how to be sanctified but doesn’t have Christ in it and is not of the spirit. Any of that kind of instruction is not of the spirit but is of the flesh and its energy. You are either waiting on God to do it or you are trying to do it. It is not a cooperation.
99.9% of Christian teaching for the last 2,000 years has been this mixture. It is a mix of you and Christ. It is a mix of law and grace. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. So, we have learned to talk out of both sides of our mouth and just think it is normal! It takes more work to believe the Gospel and stand in it, despite our experience.
The Gospel is not just the beginning of the Christian life. It is the whole thing. There is a “manifestation” of sanctification available for Christians as Christ is wrought in them, but they need to look away from themselves and their efforts and any demand on the flesh and look to Him. Every time they see the demand on the flesh, their response needs to be, “I’m crucified with Christ”. That’s what we need to learn to do. When we see a law or command in the scripture, we should be asking, “How can that be fulfilled in me?” The answer is by Christ in me. Otherwise, it is just an imitation, even if I could execute that thing, it is just a poor imitation and not the reality. I’m just like a Mormon or a Buddhist or a Monkey, imitating. But we want the reality.
The reason we teach the way we do is because we actually want the reality. It’s not that we do not want holiness and do not want Christ manifested in our life. We teach this way because we want the reality. We teach these things in contrast to any substitute or counterfeit.
Paul’s Rebuke to Peter
Now we are going to see Paul’s rebuke to Peter in Galatians 2. Consider for a moment that Paul rebuked Peter in front of two groups of people: Gentiles and the Jews that Peter was afraid of. Some of these Jews were false brethren and already had an agenda against Paul’s ministry. They wanted to Judaize the Gentiles and bring them back under bondage. Now I guarantee that they would have capitalized on Paul’s rebuke of Peter and said, “See, Paul’s not walking in love! Peter was rebuked publically!” Paul is having to answer that years later while he’s writing this letter to the Galatians. He is explaining himself. These things stick with you. By the end of the book of Acts, Paul was imprisoned because he supposedly upset the entire nation and was being called a “divisive plague.” Those are the exact words that they used. He supposedly stirred up division everywhere. But the people who were accusing him of this were the same little group of Jews that followed him from the very beginning. They may be the same jews who had a vow to kill him in Acts 9 when he snuck out of Damascas lowered from a wall in a basket and had to hide!
Remember, Acts is a trial document prepared for Paul by Luke to show that Paul was not the one causing the division. He was being followed by a group that stirred up riots everywhere he went and then accused him of causing it. One scene that I find humorous was when Paul was standing before Felix. Felix doesn’t really know what all was going on. But he knows there was a riot after James and the brothers tried to get Paul to take a vow in the Temple to prove that he had not apostatized from Moses. The Jews from Asia stirred up a riot and said he brought a gentile into the temple. Paul knew he was going to be delivered over to the Gentiles and had been told prophetically (see Acts 20). He knew from the Spirit that he was going to Jerusalem to “trigger a trap” so that the whole situation would be manifested. A riot broke out and eventually he is standing before Felix. He says, “let me speak to the Jews.” He turns to the crowd of Jews and there is a mix of Pharisees and Sadducees behind him. HE says, “men and brethren, I stand before you today because of the hope of the scriptures which God promised concerning the resurrection from the dead.” They all broke out fighting between them because the Sadducees say there is no resurrection and the Pharisees believe in it. Why did he do that? Because he wanted to show Felix that he didn’t create the division. This is just the way they are. They love to fight. They are continually bickering among themselves. They’re trying to pin it all on Paul because the one thing they have in common is that they hate Paul.
Today many groups can’t stand us and it’s the only thing they have in common. Some of them believe you can lose your salvation. Some believe in a partial rapture. If I was standing in front of a crowd of these people and I would say “I stand before you today because of the hope of the rapture” they might all break out arguing. Some would say “you know the rapture is only for holy people who live this thing out!” Others would say “the rapture is a joke don’t you know we’re going to lose our salvation anyway!” Then they’d all start arguing among themselves.
This history helps us understand the dynamic behind what we experience today. For example, did you know that James was written before anything else was written? When you understand the background it changes your view of that book. What is it there for? I believe it is there as an object lesson to show what crossless, Christless, law-keeping but genuine Christianity looks like. It is a mixture. There is salvation by faith but Christ is not presented as the reality of your life. Some people might obviously disagree with that. That’s not to say it is not inspired. I believe the Holy Spirit hovered over it and that James was a brother. But I believe that it also reflects his views. When you consider the timing of its writing in conjunction with this other history in Acts it is illuminating. I’m not questioning the integrity of scripture, I’m teaching the whole counsel of the word of God. If you teach James and Galatians without the history from Acts, it doesn’t make any sense. People want to take it as a standalone book and then pit James against Paul and say, “there’s practical justification versus positional justification.” That is a mess. But Acts shows us that there was no harmony early on. There was trouble in Jerusalem. The reason Paul’s public ministry came to an end and he was jailed was because of the trouble from Jerusalem in the church. But the good news is that because he was in prins he was finally able to fully release the divine revelation that he had been given, the mystery of Christ, especially in Ephesians and Colossians.
So this is why the background is important, and Paul is giving us background as he discusses his rebuke of Peter. HE is telling the story because they have heard all kinds of things about him. They do not know what to believe. He is not defending himself, he’s trying to tell them, “look you are standing in the truth of Christ. The gospel you received is not of men. Stop looking to men. Don’t be brought into bondage by men. The situation is messy. Some people are in the flesh.” Now he’s talking about the Jews from Jerusalem, from James.
Certain from James
Gal 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
Peter was a people pleaser. Even in his bravado, he desired to please people. He wanted to please the Lord and desired to be recognized as the one that Loved the lord the most and was the most devoted. “I’ll follow you to death!” Jesus said, “before the cock crows three times you’ll deny me.” He found himself denying Jesus to a little girl at the fire. The little girl said, “didn’t we see you among the disciples?” He cussed her out and denied it! He went away weeping because he had failed. People-pleasing makes you alternatively fearful and bold, depending on whether you think you will suffer loss or win adulation. His reputation in Jerusalem had suffered because he had gone and eaten at Cornelius’s house with the Gentiles. Ultimately he couldn’t find any rest in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, they did not fully understand God’s New Testament Economy and what is the Body of Christ. Nor could they have because it would have come from Paul and he had not gone to talk to any of them. God chose to hide that mystery and not reveal it until Paul came. Poor Paul! To have to carry around a revelation that seems contradictory to the way that the “Apostles of the Lord” spoke. The Apostles of the Lord, who were with him for three years on the earth didn’t speak of the Body and the New Man, and of the habitation of God and the Church as the mystery of Christ and Christ in you, the hope of glory, and the spirit of Jesus and being crucified with Christ and being risen together with Him. That didn’t come out of the earthly ministry of Jesus. It came out of the heavenly revelation that the ascended Christ gave to Paul years later. Why did God do that?
God is not interested in a religion centered around men being raised up. It becomes overwhelmingly oppressive. Even in the “good thing” Jesus started, He held back some of the truth and revealed it to Paul to be a stumbling block to Jerusalem. Peter needed to go through what he went through. Jesus told him, “once you are converted, shepherd the flock.” You see him shepherding the flock in his epistles in a way that you don’t see in the book of Acts. In the book of Acts, he’s bravely preaching to the Jews and doing the miracles. It’s honestly somewhat terrifying. Ananias and Saphira fall dead at his feet. There is so much authority and power as God is vindicating the resurrection of Christ.
That is not the best atmosphere to shepherd bruised reeds and smoking flax and wounded and beaten sheep. The Church life is where that should happen. What you see after Acts is the epistles with the Church life. The Church life is supposed to be like a family. It’s not this radical adventure. It is a quiet living in households. That’s where Peter eventually became the living stone. He was transformed so that when he writes his epistles, they are so full of nourishment and gentleness and glory and love. He needed a stumbling block. HE didn’t have it all. He had to listen to Paul. “Many who are first shall be last.” This is the way God works. He will hide some truth. It has all been revealed but he progressively revealed things and chose vessels that were despised to reveal it through. He does this to put at naught the strength of the flesh and the wisdom of the flesh.
The Wisdom of God is hidden in a mystery and God chose, not many noble, wise or powerful, but the foolish things, the things the world despises. Paul had not even been with Jesus in his earthly ministry. Who was he to reveal these things? Who was he to rebuke Peter? The religion in Jerusalem centered so much around the flesh. That’s why James was exalted. He was the Lord’s brother according to the flesh. He was the next in line to the throne of David. Of course, he has to have the authority! Everyone respected James! Peter should have had the lead, but eventually, James is presiding over the council in Acts and later historians like Eusebius are saying he took the “episcopal throne in Jerusalem.” That’s how they looked at it. This is overly exalted flesh.
Paul said, we no longer know anyone according to the flesh. We used to know Christ according to the flesh. There is a new revelation, a body of truth from the Ascended Christ concerning the implications of what He accomplished on the cross for the church, and what is the Church, and what is His role now. Most people think Jesus is just up in Heaven waiting for the rapture. They don’t know anything about His High Priestly ministry to dispense Himself as life for the building up of the body of Christ, which is all in Paul’s epistles. So, their whole life is just waiting for the rapture to the point that it becomes an idol because it is gutted from the present reality of Christ. You can’t know that apart from Paul’s ministry. You don’t get it from the synoptic Gospels. You get it from Paul’s Gospel, which is Romans, the “5th” Gospel.
There is a record of Jesus on the earth and what he did. That’s what most of the apostles witnessed. Then Jesus went to heaven and was hidden from their eyes. He ascended and yes they received the Spirit as clothing of power. They knew their sins were forgiven but they still thought of it in terms of Israel’s new covenant and thought the Gentiles needed to be under the law. They were still loyal to the temple. Gentiles needed to come to learn from the Jews and be proselytes. James was eventually considered the best to lead the church because he was the Lord’s brother. Ironically James wasn’t even with the Lord during the earthly ministry. He was with his other brothers who mocked the Lord, saying “why are you hiding? If you do these things, go do a miracle for the world to see” (John 7:4). The Lord did appear to him in resurrection and he did love the Lord and served the Lord. But his claim to the throne of David and his bloodline and being the brother of Jesus eclipsed (in the mind of everyone in Jerusalem) any lack he had. They rejected Paul because he wasn’t there with Jesus, but neither was James! I’m not saying James and Paul were against each other. I’m not saying that James and Paul were against each other. I’m saying the people who surrounded James and overly exalted him and gave too much weight and credibility to him pitted that influence against Paul’s ministry and created problems everywhere Paul went.
The root of the issue was flesh versus spirit. I know that these are historical tangents, but they bring an interesting perspective. This is really what happened and how messy it was in the book of Acts. When you know that, you can take some pressure off yourself to try to reconcile everything James said with what Paul said. You can say, “I don’t know. I believe the Holy Spirit inspired it. But I’m going to stand with the Gospel and I’m not going to accept any interpretation of James that overturns my understanding of the Gospel.” You don’t even need to dig further than that. Various people to various conclusions about James, but you cannot use that one epistle to overthrow the doctrine from heaven that was given to Paul. That doctrine was the basis of Paul’s authority. He rebuked with “all authority” not because he was something but because he knew he was standing with the truth.
The good news about this is that it gives us all a chance to stand in the truth and operate with the authority of the head when we stand in the Gospel. Any of us has a right to stand for the gospel and function in our gift and speak even if it brings problems for people who are walking contrary to the truth. That’s not because we are divisive. They are the ones who have the issue.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before [them] all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
Paul says he saw they walked “not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel”. By shrinking back from the Gentiles, they were not walking according to the truth of the Gospel. As we have said, this is what it means to walk in the Spirit. It is to walk in the liberty that we have in Christ, according to the truth of the Gospel.
Verse by Verse through Paul’s Rebuke
Now we’re going to look more at what Paul actually said to Peter in his rebuke. When reading this, it can be difficult to discern where Paul stops talking to Peter and where Paul is editorializing on his rebuke in the epistle.
14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before [them] all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
The Jews know that Peter has been eating with the Gentiles now because Paul is calling him out. Remember that Peter’s actions affected everyone. Barnabas and the others all shrank back with him, and Paul called it hypocrisy. I’ve been in situations like this. When I was first saved, I was still a musician playing in bars. I remember the dilemma of seeing “church friends” while I was with my circle of musician friends. They’d see me in a circle of a bunch of people who were obviously smoking pot. Sometimes I was even smoking in that first year or so. Many times I wasn’t. But I would pretend like I was not. I would try to “clean myself up” because the Christians are around. That’s hypocrisy. You set up a standard that you’re not living up to yourself. It is acting for the sake of religious people.
Peter and the others were broadcasting the message to the Gentiles, “actually, we were wrong to be eating with you. In order for you guys to be right with God and be in the fellowship, you need to be circumcised. You need to follow Jewish customs. You need to listen to Moses. It turns out it’s still like it used to be. The free gift of salvation isn’t enough. Fellowship is only available to Jews and those who keep their ordinances”. That is the message they were sending.
Not Justified by Works
15 We [who are] Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
The Jews who came from James might not have agreed that justification was by faith. Peter knew the truth. The Gentiles, who came to believe through Paul, also should have known that Justification was by faith and that there was no way to be justified by the works of the law. Paul is saying that this is true not only for Gentiles but also Jews. The Jews are no different from the Gentiles, they need to be justified by faith as they always were. The Jews were never justified by law-keeping or by works. It was always by faith. From Abel to the time of Abraham to the time of Jesus, righteous individuals have been justified by faith.
They believed in the promise of the seed. In the Gospel of Luke, there was an old man named Simeon who had been told by the Spirit that he would not die until he saw the salvation of Israel (Luke 2:25-38). He stood in the temple where all the sacrifices were going on according to the law. But he looked at the baby, Jesus on the day He was circumcised. Simeon said, “my eyes have seen the salvation of Israel.” Simeon was looking to a man for salvation, not to the temple and the sacrifices! Those who understood the testimony of the prophets knew that their salvation was tied up in a seed to whom all the promises were made. Their salvation was not in the kingdom apart from the seed, or the temple works, or the feasts. Those things were a picture. Yes, to be partakers of national Israel’s rights as a citizen, they were supposed to partake of the feasts. The nation was judged on whether or not they kept the feasts. But when they kept them unfaithfully (meaning they became a religious ritual no longer attached to Christ because they rejected the testimony of the prophets), it was vain worship. It didn’t mean anything. Now that Christ has come, it is all in vain. Now everyone just goes to Christ. That is what Galatians is about and that is also what the book of Hebrews is about.
Peter is caught between the pressure of the old religion and the Gospel. He is having to make a decision between what used to be considered godly and what is now godly. Paul says, “we who are Jews by nature and not ‘sinners’ of the Gentiles.” In Romans 11:24, Paul taught the natural branch, Israel, is “at home” in their olive tree. They were genetically disposed to the things of God. They have a predisposition towards zeal for God. The Gentiles are the “wild olive tree” and have been grafted in “contrary to their nature”. For us Gentiles, it is not natural for us to be god-fearing. It goes against our flesh. We don’t take to ordinances and rituals well. Compared to Israel, we are “sinners”. Thankfully in Christ there are no rituals required. The “sinner Gentiles” are justified by faith, and the Jews are justified by faith. Everybody is justified by faith and not by the works of the law.
No flesh will ever be justified by the works of the law. Why? Because the law works wrath (Rom 4:15). By the law is the knowledge of Sin (Rom 3:20). The law is here to condemn sin and is a ministry of condemnation and death (2 Cor 3:9). The hyper dispensationalists who tell you that the old testament saints were justified by works or by law-keeping don’t understand why Christ died. They sound like they are grace and they can even preach the gospel of grace from 1 Corinthians 15. But they believe this only applies to this church age. This actually is a form of limited atonement like the Calvinists. Everyone in every other age, according to them, had to be justified by works. The blood of Jesus is only for the Church. But Paul tells us that if anyone could be justified by works, Christ would not have had to come. He died in vain (Gal 2:21).
Justification has always been by faith. In the past, people believed the testimony of the prophets. That’s what justified them. Now the One to Whom the prophets testified has come and we believe in Him and that justifies us. They believed he was coming, we believe He has come. He has already died for our sins and risen for our justification.
Is Christ a Minister of Sin?
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, [is] therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
Now are seeking to be justified by faith in Christ without any association with the old things that the Jews associated with godliness. By shrinking back from the Gentiles, Peter was basically saying that the Gospel is a “ministry of sin” and Christ is a “minister of sin”. Peter was signaling that taking Christ as salvation rather than seeking to be justified by law was a sin. Also, we should be reconciled to the fact that we are sinners, and the fact that we are sinners does not undermine the Gospel.
The Gospel is for justifying sinners! Me being a sinner and being discovered as a sinner doesn’t compromise the gospel! A lot of people think that they cannot witness to people unless they get their life cleaned up. They think, “I’m such a sinner that it would be hypocritical for me to preach the Gospel!” No, we are seeking to be justified by faith in Christ, even though we are found to be sinners. It is hypocrisy to try to go back to the law and clean ourselves up! The Gospel justifies us apart from the law, and by the law, nobody, no flesh can be justified! Christians get it wrong when they think that by sinning they are being hypocritical. No, by believing the Gospel even though we sin we are true to the faith.
This is why 1 John says, “I write these things to you that you may not sin, but if any man sins we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins but the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). That is the Gospel! It is our Gospel and the Gospel to those who need it. The faith that justifies is that Jesus died for sins. He came for sinners, including the “sinful Gentiles”!
Peter was not sinning. But when he was hanging around the Gentiles, to the Jewish mind, he was sinning. The Gentiles are “sinners.” To be among them is to be “in sin” Just like if a religious church person saw me hanging around at a bar with a bunch of people smoking pot. Technically, it’s not a sin. Because we are not bound by “do not touch, do not handle, do not taste..” (Col 2:21). All things are lawful, but not everything is beneficial (and no I do not smoke pot). But I’m saying that we call a lot of things sin that are not even sin because we have a defiled conscience. We are trying to be justified by law and that is what makes us hypocrites!
Believing in Jesus is not what makes us hypocrites. Believing in Jesus even though we are discovered to be a sinner does not make us a hypocrite, it makes us true to the Gospel. I can do nothing. I believe in Jesus who died for my sins and rose from the dead. I’m not trying to clean myself up apart from faith in Him. For the Gospel’s sake, we should abstain from things and hold our vessel in honor that, but that does not count toward our salvation. That doesn’t justify us, and that doesn’t make us more pleasing to God. What makes us pleasing to God is our faith in the Gospel.
God takes no pleasure in those who shrink back to dead works but appreciates bold faith that comes to Him (Heb 10:38). IF you come to Him, even though you have sinned, it is in the coming that you are washed. There is no washing apart from coming to Him. So, the solution for the person who abstains from things and the solution for the person who “Falls into things” is the same. We have to come to Jesus and have the “inside of the cup” cleaned. Otherwise we are empty tombs. We may be ugly on the outside or beautiful on the outside because we’ve learned to “clean” everything up but if we’re not touching Life within we are living in vain. If we touch Life within we are enlivened within as we come to Jesus. Hebrews tells us that as we draw near with a heart in full assurance of faith, our body is washed with pure water and our conscience is sprinkled (Heb 10:22), and we come through a new and living way. WE are washed with living water. In the coming,we come through Christ Himself. His flesh is a new and living way for us (Heb 10:20). When we come to Him in faith we are washed with living water. That is the only way to be washed. That will change our life. But that is not the point. The point is that Christ is being manifested. The point is faith in Christ. That is how we please God.
Yes, you can be circulating among Gentiles and be pleasing to God. Peter was not displeasing to God because he had abandoned traditions and was eating with Gentiles. Where he compromised and become hypocritical was when he shrank back for fear of men in religion.
Building Things I Destroyed
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
Peter had already destroyed his relationship with the law and died to the law through the law (Gal 1:19). Now he was trying to re-erect his relationship to the law, making himself a transgressor. He was sending the signal that Christ was a minister of sin and that the Gospel is sinful, eating with gentiles is sinful, and keeping the law is righteous. He was saying “I’m wrong, I have to go back to the law.” That is apostasy. This is a really big deal because it was an Apostle. This is why he had to be rebuked publicly. Teachers are accountable. People who are perceived as “knowing what they are talking about” are accountable for the messages they send.
Dead to the Law, Living To God
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
Paul is saying that through his experience of failure with the law and its condemnation of his sin, he finally died to it. We are already crucified to it. We died to the law in the body of Christ according to romans 7:4. This is so that we may live unto God. The point is not whether or not you are ‘keeping the law”. You’re not keeping the law. The point is living unto God. Living unto God is the same thing as coming forward through faith in Christ. To live unto God is to receive this life, which is why he says:
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain
This precludes anyone from ever having been justified by anything in the law, whether by the sacrifices that were ordained by the law, or the temple system or the ten commandments. Nobody has ever been justified by it. Christ died in vain in the view of those who say people have been justified by works in the past. Righteousness does not come by the law Remember in Romans 1, Paul says that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness in those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). The wrath is against those who suppress the truth. What is that? It is unbelief. But the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith in the Gospel (Rom 1:17). The righteousness is not in the law, the righteousness is in the Gospel. The wrath is revealed in the law. Yes, the law bears witness to the righteousness of God, but the righteousness of God is manifested in Christ. As it says in Romans 3:21, Christ is the manifestation of God’s righteousness, apart from the law, but witnessed by the law apart from those who believe.
Everything comes down to Christ. I am crucified. The law executed me. The law sentenced me to death. It showed me that God is righteous in punishing us all because we are sinners. We’re blasphemers. We are everything that the law is against. It is a witness against our flesh. We cannot live unto it. We cannot keep it, even if we get saved. The flesh is still the flesh. The way God deals with the flesh is not to reform it so that it can keep the flesh, but to crucify it with Christ. We are crucified with Christ, and now it is to be no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me. “Nevertheless I live yet not I but Christ who lives in me”.
What God is interested in is not just you living according to law but Christ living in you by faith. Righteousness is revealed in the faith. Righteousness is revealed from faith to faith through the gospel. Paul is saying “I don’t frustrate the grace of God.” To frustrate the grace is the same as “Falling short of the grace of God.” It is to go back to commandments and law-keeping rather than to come forward to Christ. There are people saying that there are “Christ’s commandments” and then they want to go to First John and say “His commandments are not grievous.” But that commandment is the eternal life, which is manifested in “Believing in the name of Jesus and loving the brethren” (1 John 3:23). It comes out of Christ. It says it is “True in us and in Him because the darkness is past and true light now shines” (1 John 2:8). There is a new commandment that we do keep, but it is not a command of the letter.
The command of the letter is something God writes down, then if you have not done it, you have broken it, but if you have done it, there is supposedly a reward, but you won’t do it, and you can’t do it! It does require to do it for a “minute” but to it forever with no breaking! If you break it in one point you’ve breaking the whole thing. If you’ve broken the least of the commandments you have broken them all! There is a difference between the letter that kills and the new commandment which gives life, which is the law of the spirit of Life in Christ (2 Cor 3:4-6). That is Christ as life in me. That commandments is kept not by trying to follow an outward instruction but simply by believing in God’s testimony concerning His Son. That is where the righteousness is revealed. The Gospel, the testimony of God, reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith.
Christ as Life by the Supply of the Spirit
I don’t want to frustrate the grace of God, I want the grace to operate. Even grace is Christ! IF you remember, John 1:16 says, “of His fullness we have received, grace upon grace.” Grace is the receiving of the risen Christ’s fulness. It is receiving His life. It is a supply of the Spirit.
In the next chapter, Galatian 3, Paul is going to talk about the supply of the Spirit. In fact we should ignore that we are going to a new chapter because when Paul wrote this there were no chapters. Those were added hundreds of years later. The next thing he says is “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” This is a continuation of what it means to frustrate the grace of God, and what it means to be crucified with Christ and what it means for Christ to live in me, and what it means to be under grace rather than under law”:
[Gal 3:1-5 KJV] 1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if [it be] yet in vain. 5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, [doeth he it] by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Now he is talking about the Hearing of faith. He was talking about “Christ living in me”. But how does Christ live in me? By the “supply of the Spirit through the hearing of faith.” This is the same conversation. He is continuing, “what is grace.” Of His fullness we have received,grace upon grace.” How did we receive that grace? When we believed the Gospel, we were sealed with the Spirit of promise (Eph 3:13). That’s what he is talking about in Galatians 3.
When Christ was set forth as crucified among them, they believed the Gospel by the hearing of faith. They heard it and believed it. What operated through their faith was a supply of the Spirit. The supply of the Spirit in Chapter 3 is Christ in me in Chapter 2. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I live yet not I but Christ in me, and the life I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:22) When I live by faith, I live by a supply of the Spirit. The One who loved me and gave Himself to me is ministered to me as a supply of the Spirit. The spirit is ministered to me as the life of Christ. This is Pauline revelation through and through.
The spirit today is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It is Christ as life. As Paul says in Romans 8, “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom 8:10). Christ is in me. How? By the spirit which is life because of righteousness. How does righteousness come? By works of the law? No, by the hearing of faith. How is the righteousness of God revealed? In the law? No. The law reveals the wrath of God. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith through the Gospel. So, Paul says “I am not ashamed in the Gospel in Romans 1:16 because it is the power of God unto salvation. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, for it is written, the just shall live by faith.” Those who are justified are justified by faith. Not only are they justified in the beginning by faith, but they have to live by faith.
Paul is going to expand the word justification to include not just the beginning of your Christian life but your whole Christian life. How are you blessed? How are you pleasing to God? How do you have peace with God? How does Christ get manifested in you? How does the fruit of the Spirit get manifested in you? How does the supply of the spirit work? It is all by faith in the Gospel. The same way that you began the Christian life, you have the continue it, by faith apart from the works of the law. That is the only way it works.
You can clean the “outside of the cup”. You can stop smoking and stop drinking and stop hanging out with the Gentiles and just pray and read your Bible in your room, but if you are not in faith in the Gospel and you are seeking to be justified by works and clean yourself by works and make yourself pleasing to God by works in order to receive the Spirit, you have it backward. You are under the curse. You won’t’ receive the spirit, you’ll come further into weakness and condemnation. I remember years of trying to read my bible and get the mood just right and try to get into the presence of God. I was doing it by works. I wanted him to cleanse me because I felt so dirty. I thought I was such a sinner. The only way to come to Him is by faith in what Christ has already done. In Romans, Paul tells us how we are to present ourselves to God:
[Rom 12:1-4 KJV] 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.
We have to see we are already holy. Already acceptable because of Christ’s work. We are living sacrifice. We are alive from the dead. We’ve been crucified with Christ. His life is in me. I am holy and acceptable because of His work. I come to in faith! Even if I just sinned I come knowing and believing what Christ has accomplished. It has to be faith in the gospel. He’s already done it all. Hebrews confirms this. We need to believe in what He has and not shrink back and not go back to dead works, trying to clean ourselves up. We need to come forward boldly to the throne of grace to receive grace and find mercy and help in the time of need. When we come our heart is sprinkled. We have full assurance of faith and our body is washed with pure water and our conscience is purged and we enjoy the spirit. We enjoy the fellowship for free. It is a free gift.
This is what religious people cannot understand. They think if we talk about this, and we say “come to Christ, don’t’ clean yourself up first” that we’ll just stay dirty, stay in our sin, and that we love our sin. But no, we love our Christ, and we know we are sinners, and we know the law can’t clean us. Just because we are seeking to be justified by faith, and just because we are discovered to be sinners doesn’t make Christ the minister of sin! We are not going to back to build up what we destroyed and make ourselves a transgressor again. We are going to say, no, I am justified by faith in the gospel. That’s where the righteousness of God is. When I come to Him I expect to be supplied by the spirit. That means I can enjoy God now. That is the blessing of the Gospel that he is going to tell us about in Galatians 3:14. The promise of the Spirit is the blessing of the Gospel. We were justified unto that blessing.
The Spirit is everything. You don’t have the Christian life without being filled with the Spirit and that is supplied only as a free gift through the hearing of faith. He gives himself freely to those who believe the gospel. There is no other way! There is no other way to be justified or to be satisfying to God or to live the reality of the Christian life.