"3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!"
If we take a step back, slow down for a bit, get our heads out of the Internet, out of the television, get our minds off of Monday and our stomachs off of lunch....if we can look beyond ourselves, our holy needs, our holy wants, and our holy desires and look and observe and take note of all that is around us it doesn't take long for us to come to the conclusion that the age in which we live is evil.
It doesn't take long for us to realize that something has gone terribly wrong, that things aren't suppose to be this way. Through observation of world events we quickly understand that this present age is full of heartbreak, sickness, tragedy, and death. Statistics tell us that this year alone at least 50 million people will die, about one hundred per minute, close to 6000 during our one hour class on Sunday. Most of those dying will not peacefully drift off into the eternal at a ripe old age...in fact most will die young, with terrible pain through some illness, by starvation, or at the hands of some calamity either caused by another man or some freak event of nature.
We are surrounded on every side by corruption and self-serving greed as is evident by all the news channels as story after story after story of fraud, lies, and deceit pour in from a parade of business men, bankers, financiers, investors, and corrupt politicians...all related to the economic crisis.
We live in an evil age of temptation where every year in America the pornographers make over 400 moves a month. It has been estimated that more money is spent yearly on pornography than all monies spent on the NBA, NFL, and MLB combined. The temptation is great and it effects men and women, alike dragging people into a secret world of addiction where the largest viewers are children under the age of thirteen.
It would be OK for most of us, and for most of us these things...the deaths in Iraq, the earthquakes, the ice storms in Kentucky, the child abduction, rapes, murders, lying, stealing, are OK as for most of us these things are "out there." They don't directly effect us.
Yet some of you don't have that luxury. You have seen the effects of this present evil age up close and it is very personal. You have seen loved ones sick with illness, dying with cancer. You have witnessed the devastation of your family through divorce, you have endured and undergone injustice after injustice after injustice as others have violated you and evil, injustice, and sin are all too real a reality for you not just some ethereal, philosophical, or moral talk coming from a pulpit Sunday mornings.
If you have looked around and if your conclusion is that something isn't right...something has gone horribly wrong....you are right.
In Genesis (Genesis 1:1-25) we read the account of God creating the universe. God spoke and creation came into being, time began. He created the heavens and the earth, the sky and seas, the days and the nights, all the plants and all the living creatures and as He looked upon all that He had created, all that He had spoke into existence He saw that it was good. In fact Genesis 1:1-25, God says six times that His creation is good and so it was. Then God created man (Genesis 1:26-34, Genesis 2:7)in a very personal way. All of creation up to this point had come into existence through the words of God but now, on the sixth day, at the height of creation, God takes His hands and forms man from the dust and breathes life into his nostrils and states that this is "very good" (Genesis 1:31).
There is no sickness, no disease, no death. There are no natural calamities, no sadness, no sin, no separation. So what happened to this paradise? What changed?
Sin entered into the world.
Adam and Eve chose to follow their ways instead of God's commands. They desired to be like God instead of worshiping God and through their rebellion they brought sin into the world, causing separation to come between the man and the woman and between them and God. As a result a curse was placed on everything. Now for the first time death, sickness, calamities, and chaos take effect.
I suppose for someone looking in it might appear that all was lost, that somehow God had miscalculated, that He had gambled on mankind and lost. Yet God did not lose, He did not gamble and He promises Adam and Eve that He will rescue them (and us) from this present evil age as we see the first hint of the good news of Jesus in Genesis 3:15.
Right now there is quite a bit of talk about bailouts. Bailouts for the auto industry, bailouts for the banking industry, the pharmaceutical industry, health care, and the housing industry. The logic goes something like this....that if we do not bail these industries out they will fail which will be devastating and utterly destroy our economy with powerful ramifications for you and I. And while these are real and very serious issues we are facing the truth is that the biggest calamity man has ever known, the greatest threat to our peace and prosperity, our dire emergency, our greatest area of need regarding a bailout was and is from our own sin. Without a bailout plan from God all of us are doomed eternally to die in our own sins. Yet unlike the world, God's economy is of the heart and His currency is the blood of Jesus which He has graciously and liberally poured out to purchase us and to rescue us from this present evil age.
At this point some of you are saying to yourselves...."We got it....We know...We have heard this before...hundreds of times...can we move on already?"
If you and I do not get Galatians 1:3-5 nothing else I tell you will matter. If you and I can't grasp and take hold of the work of Jesus at Calvary and what it means for us, the victory it brings, the new life it gives, the freedom we have then we won't understand the rest of the letter. We won't get the Bible, church, money, family, relationship...nothing(Colossians 1:16).
It was God's will from day one that He would rescue us. It is through Jesus giving Himself freely, taking our place on the cross for our sins and taking our sins upon Himself that pays the penalty in full. This payment is a gracious gift of God. God does not have to and is not obligated to us in any way to do anything yet "while we were sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). God loves us in spite of who we have been and who we are. God's gift of Jesus results in peace. Not that we are removed from this evil age but rescued from it! You and I no longer have to live under the slavery of this world, the world's way of lusting with our eyes, lusting with our flesh, and bragging about what we own (1 John 2:16).
We are no longer hostage to every new fad or philosophy on life. We don't have to spend our days drinking from the toilet water and eating the junk food of the world because we have tasted the bread of life and have drank from the living waters and that bread and that water is Jesus and it satisfies our souls! And through all of this God gets the glory forever and ever and there is not one second in eternity past nor in eternity future to come that anyone or anything other than God get the glory! Not you...not me...only God. Amen!
Paul is "astonished" (ESV) and he "marvels" (NKJV) that so many in the churches have turned from this great news to some other great news, which is a lie as Jesus Saves is the only great news! So there are some, both men and angels (Galatians 1:7-8) who have infiltrated the church and are preaching another gospel message to cause trouble and to pervert the truth.
Here are some examples:
1. In order to be saved you must believe in Jesus.....so far so good right? And you must convert to Judaism, you must be circumcised, and you must observe all the laws, feasts, customs, and diet restrictions of the Old Testament law which is pleasing to God.
2. In order to be saved you must believe in Jesus...and wear a white shirt and tie and attend church in a white building with a steeple on top.
3. More subtle examples would include but aren't limited to anything that proclaims salvation apart from Jesus. Food from stress, Sex from loneliness, Success from a lack of self-worth, etc.
so how do we spot a false gospel message among the true gospel message (Galatians 1:9)?
It is as if Paul is asking...."Are we clear? ARE WE CLEAR!" or "Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?" (Galatians 1:9)
No matter how good the promises are or how good the message sounds or even who the message comes from it if differs from Jesus Saves it is a false gospel and those who preach it are not to be trusted and are cursed!
Why the urgency of the letter? Why all the passion? Anger? Sarcasm? Because this is a matter of life and death. This is the difference between freedom in the finished work of Jesus or a lifetime of slavery to religion. Heaven and hell and all of eternity hangs in the balance. If we don't get this right nothing else matters.
You and I can believe....
1 Peter 3:18
Or we can continue to chase after false gospel messages of education, government, fad diets, gadgets, and sham messiahs.
What good news have you been holding fast to? I go to church....I am a good person...I do good things?
Or...I am a sinner, saved by the amazing grace of God, purchased through Jesus who gave Himself to rescue me from this present evil age according to God's will to Him be the glory and only Him, forever and forever.