A Works Based Gospel? Galatians 1:1-10

(If you are coming to this feature on nosuperheroes.com for the first time, it might be helpful to start with the first posts in the study of Galatians. Links are found at the bottom to all other articles in this series.)

Galatians 1:1-10 (Click here to read the passage)

Paul begins his letter in an unusual way. He does not have the standard greeting, but rather launches into a defense of his apostleship. Paul mentions that the source of his apostleship is God himself, not man or man-made institutions (Acts 8). This sets the tone for this contentious letter.

Paul does not waste any time.

In verse 6 he tells them how stunned he is about their turning to a different gospel. This is literally only a matter of months since he founded the churches. Now they going astray by believing the circumcision party (Judaizers).

Paul equates believing the teaching of “Jesus + circumcision” to following a completely different, works based gospel message. They are not playing on the same team anymore.

The church is leaving “the one who called them in the grace of Christ“. Grace means receiving undeserved kindness and unearned favor. Salvation came as a gift from God, not of works or things done physically. By adding circumcision to their faith in hopes of being pleasing to God, the Galatians are turning to a completely different message. A system based on works, not grace

Paul has some strong words for the those preaching different messages. “Let them be accursed.” No where else do we see this much emotion from the great apostle. Adding works to grace is something that angers him like nothing else. Consider all of Paul’s writings. He deals with gross sin in 1 Corinthians when a church member is sleeping with his stepmother (1 Cor. 5:1) He constantly faces the mixing of Christianity and pagan practices in books such as Colossians and Ephesians. Paul faces dilemmas with people who have been poison in the church and need removed (1 Tim. 2:19-20). In all of Paul’s writing’s, we do not detect the kind of intense emotion as we see here when people begin adding works to the gift of Christ.

He realizes this will not be a popular message, but it is one he is passionate about. To further understand why a works based gospel would upset Paul so much, come back next time as we look a bit deeper at the author.

Until then, let me leave you with a thought. Since grace means receiving something unearned, we want to make sure we are not doing things in hopes of being proven worthy of a gift. If we are deserving, then it is not grace. It is a paycheck.

Think back over the good things that you have received from God. Do you feel you earned them or deserved them? Or do you recognize them as free gifts, unmerited and impossible to pay for? Take a minute today and thank God for His undeserved blessings.

Related Links for 7 Minutes a Day:  Galatians Series
Introduction and Summary of the book