Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bethany Bullet - June 11, 2013

“Jesus + Nothing = Everything” - GALATIANS 1:1-12
As we start our time in the letter to the Galatians we find St. Paul’s purpose statement (so to speak), in verse 6. 

Note that Paul’s astonishment is not that false teachers exist.  Rather, he was astonished that the church was following those false teachers.  Paul expected false teachers, and in fact had warned the Ephesians elders (Acts 20:28-30) that false teachers would come. What he is so surprised about is that the church is so easily mislead to follow a different Gospel.

That of course begs the question, what is the “GOSPEL” as Paul defines it?  We must know that before we can understand what the DIFFERENT Gospel is.

In the text specifically, (Galatians 1:1-12) the Gospel is most clearly articulated in the words, “Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age.” The totality of Paul would articulate the Gospel by this simple definition, “God’s Grace in Christ apart from works, through faith, by which we are saved.”  This is the Good News or the Gospel in its narrowest definition, “That Jesus through His perfect life, innocent suffering and death, and triumphant resurrection has redeemed us from the curse of the law, setting us free from sin, death, and devil without any work or worthiness on our part.”
This Gospel needs no additions!

The Salvation equation is not Jesus + (my works, my commitment, my membership, my devotion, my growth, my behavior, my offerings, my trust, my decision, my discipline, etc.), saves.  Not that there is anything wrong with your good behavior, your offerings, your discipline in discipleship, your attendance in worship or your service to community.  In fact, all of those things you are called to do in response to what God has done for you; but God hasn’t done what He has done for you because of those things and He doesn’t save you on condition of those things!  Salvation equation is Jesus saves!  Or   Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

Jesus + something, on the other hand, is a different Gospel.  What Paul was facing in Galatia is what Martin Luther faced throughout the Reformation era and what we face today in America.  The Christians in Galatia had come to trust in Christ and Christ alone! Then came along a group of believers from the motherland and they were told Jesus, PLUS obedience to Mosaic Law (or most of them) equaled salvation.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, keep your food kosher and your boys’ circumcised…and ye shall be saved.  This is a different Gospel because it is no longer Good News perhaps it is good instructions if it is true; but not Good News, for what it states is, what you do will or won’t save you. 

Luther faced this same opinion in the Roman Church during the Reformation.  Jesus plus, your obedience to the church, a pilgrimage here, a mass there, an indulgence on occasion, the list went on and on, but in the long run it was a different Gospel for what it taught was that Jesus + works = salvation. 

Believe it or not 500 years after the Reformation we are facing the same situation. The most expansive poll of Christian beliefs ever conducted was led by the Barna Research Group a decade ago and it found that 2 out of 3 Christians answered the question, “believing in Jesus & _______ = Salvation” with a positive affirmation.  The ANDS varied mind you; from AND “keep 10 commandments, going to church, being good, loving your wife, petting the dog and saluting the flag.”  But 2 out of 3 had an “and” – and thus 2 out of 3 Christian respondents were following a different Gospel.

There is certainly no shortage of issues before the church in our world today.  Every culture in every age presents the body of Christ with issues on which it has something to say and before which it must take a stand; yet the chief work of the church = the proclamation of the Gospel and keeping the Gospel, the Gospel for Jesus + Nothing = Everything where as Jesus + Anything = a different Gospel. 

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer


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