Proper 4 • Galatians 1:1–12 • June 2, 2013
By Richard H. Warneck
“Other gospels? Come again?”
The gospel, the “good news” is a familiar theme for Lutherans. We hear it, and we hear it again; the news, Jesus died for our sins and rose again—for his sake, sins forgiven, peace with God, eternal life.
Yet, is this all there is? Do other religions, spiritualities, beliefs, pieties, churches, sects offer more, add something? Should the gospel be “updated,” made more palatable to a wider range of people, a bit more cosmopolitan, inclusive?
A quest so modern, but ancient too. Certain teachers, trouble makers, showed up in the churches of Galatia founded by St. Paul. They pressed to accommodate within the gospel of Jesus and his righteousness, a few strains of man’s good works; particularly, circumcision in order to be saved (Gal 5:2; cf. Acts 15:1). They said this would please certain Jews in the congregations.
The apostle was unpleasantly surprised. He was livid! So soon they forsook his painstaking teaching (Gal 1:6a)—the gospel altered, tweaked, and changed. Could such a gospel any longer be the gospel of Christ? Like inclusivism saturating current culture, false teachers had gotten to the Galatians with an accommodational gospel (Gal 1:7b; cf. 5:7–8, 10).
Shall we have the gospel as it is, or a revised gospel to please many?
Should not the gospel be more relational? Some say, our religion is sensible only with other religions (unitive pluralism). “All revelation has its origin, or at least part of its origin, in the individual and collective consciousness” (Jung). It’s about the experience of God speaking within—essentially the same within for all human beings. A shared belief among psychologists and psychiatrists—all the world religions are offspring of a common parent: the human psyche (Nitter). Have we grown comfortable with other gospels?
If other “gospels” are about us, what we do counts. Surely God is pleased. Really? Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame football coach, does a TV ad, calling backsliding Roman Catholics to church again. Appeal? A mixed gospel—the Virgin Mother, Jesus, Eucharist are there, but more, a bit of prayer, some good works added move you to heaven. And, another gospel, the notion that purity of life and rectitude of conduct is necessary to gain admission to the Celestial Lodge above. Symbol? The Lambskin reminds that purity of life and conduct gain approval of the Grand Architect of the Universe, and one enters heaven (freemasonry).
Not man’s gospel, but the gospel of Jesus is for us, a proposition that Paul would defend to the death—and he, an apostle not from man nor through man (Gal 1:1–2). This gospel—exclusively of Jesus who gave himself for the sake of our sins to deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of God our Father (Gal 1:4)—came not by man, or teaching of man, but revealed by Jesus Christ (Gal 1:12). A gospel of righteousness, not in us or by us, but in Jesus Christ, is ours by faith (Gal 3:11–12, 22; Rom 3:21–22). The true gospel—no human input, no supplements, no alteration. Without modification or accommodation, this gospel and the apostle who brought it are through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead (Gal 1:1; cf. 11).
Who dares to pose another gospel, an altered gospel? What are we doing? Pleasing God or man? (cf. Gal 1:10a). Surely, man! Then we are no longer servants of Christ (Gal 1:10). Listen! The gospel of salvation by grace alone through Jesus Christ, if changed, is a perverted false gospel. Espouse an altered accommodating gospel, and you are severed from Christ altogether! (Gal 5:4). Either the law and righteousness by works of the law abide, and Christ perishes; or Christ and his righteousness must abide, and the law perishes (Luther). Away with unitive pluralism, inclusivism, and moralism! Affirm anew the one and only gospel—liberation by Jesus from the curse of the law (Gal 3:10–13; 4:5), forgiveness of sins by Jesus (1 Pt 2:24), justification by grace alone, i.e., as promise received, and believed by faith in Jesus apart from works of the law (Gal 3:11).
Before the interlopers troubled the Galatians, they would rather suffer mutilation—have their eyes plucked out—than yearn for other gospels (Gal 4:15). Let it be so with us. If hearing the gospel again and then again is a Lutheran thing, it is good to be a Lutheran Christian. All glory to God! (Gal 1:5).