Sean Hannity is the polarizing commentator who nightly proclaims, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Well my friends, you do know he is not the one who first uttered and made famous this phrase, right? It is Jesus who said, “Let not your hearts be troubled … believe in God … believe in me.” He is the one who promised peace to all who would become his disciples and sons of the Father.
However, if we are introspective and honest, many of us find ourselves troubled. Many of us are uncomfortably anxious in regards to our relationship with God. We have lost our experiential peace and our souls are a bit disheveled.
What has happened? It is my contention that we have heard false teachers, chosen to believe a non-gospel, and have walked away from Christ and His Gospel. We have done this easily. We have done this quickly. We have done this repeatedly. And consequently, we are now troubled; we have lost our peace.
So what are we to do? Friends, it is time to:
- Remember and Rejoice in the Gospel
- Repent, Return, and Rest in the Gospel
- Resist All (Including Ourselves) who Distort the Gospel
Here is the inspired text from Christ’s Apostle:
Galatians 1:1–10 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Let us Remember and Rejoice in the Gospel
Paul was the Total Package.
He was born a Roman Citizen, and this meant he had rights, privileges, and a head-start many did not have. He was born on the “right side of the tracks.”
Additionally, he was a Hebrew Citizen. This meant he was part of God’s chosen people group, a worshiper in God’s sacred assembly, a holy priest in God’s kingdom, and a communing member of God’s Old Covenant church.
He was thoroughly raised in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” His parents gave him an ancient Hebrew name. He was named “Saul” after a famous father in the tribe of Benjamin. On the eighth day he was circumcised in accordance with God’s ceremonial law. And his parents sacrificial commitment to his holy tutoring was seen in their sending him off to Jerusalem to educated by the greatest scholar of their day — Gamaliel.
He grew to be brilliantly orthodox. As a student, he was diligent and went to the head of the class. He then progressed to become a teachers assistant and then a doctor of the faith. He was brilliant in his memory of the ancient texts, his comprehension of the Hebrew commentaries, his development of a systematic theology, and in his apologetic abilities.
He was also zealously orthodox. He was a teacher able to say, “Do what I say, and do what I do.” Paul thrived in keeping the Law — at least externally and superfically. He was different than most of his peers. He hated even the slightest compromise. An incredibly driven individual he was who was never satisfied with intellectual sloppiness, moral holiness, and religious disciplines. Therefore, Paul joined the ranks of the Pharisees. He became a proud member of the white-robe-wearing, scripture-wearing, bell-wearing fundamentalist party.
Paul also thrived as a leader. He became a community organizer who carried serious weight. His political influence and power was proven by the official letters he obtained and carried as he traveled about on “official Jewish business.” He had the power to disband, arrest, interrogate, torture, destroy property, destroy people, and devastate families. He was a man to be reckoned with. He was a made man. He was a leader, and many scholars think he may have even climbed to become a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin.
Yes, in the eyes of Paul’s parents, teachers, neighbors, and even himself, Paul had reason to boast. Compared to others, there was really no comparison. He was excelling faster and further than his peers. He was the sort of man you wanted your child to become. He was the kind of man you wanted your daughter to marry. As a wife, he was the model of man you wanted your man to be. And truthfully, as fellows, he was the man we would have wanted to be — even though we would have never admitted this fact. He was the real deal, and he knew this. In another letter to friends in Philippi, Paul boasted on his performance, “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Phil. 3:4-6) Paul was the model churchman. He was the total package.
Paul was Totally Deprave
Paul looked good in everybody’s eyes except for the One who mattered most. You see, in the eyes of the Holy Judge, Paul was not a perfect law-keeper in his thoughts, affections, words, and deeds. He was sinful through and through. There was no part of his being that was good and untainted by sin. Therefore, a sharp as he looked on the outside, he was sordid on the inside. Therefore, though an fantastic child of the church, he was also a fallen child of the devil. Sin corrupted his thinking, wanting, speaking, and doing. Consequently, he justly deserved the Lake of Fire created for the devil, his angels, and all sinful followers of Lucifer.
Though he was totally deprave, he was not utterly deprave. He was not as bad as he could be, and this was proven by the fact that he was increasing in his wickedness. That’s right, despite his scripture reading, scripture memory, scripture teaching, scripture keeping; spiritual disciplines, church membership, church attendance, more abstentions, external testimony, etc … he only grew worse and worse. In time, he hardened his heart, and God hardened his heart, and this was proven by his violent hatred of the most loving man ever born of woman. Paul grew in his spiritual warpedness and learned to hate the rabbi who healed the hurting, taught like none other, loved the outcast, and renovated the possessed. Paul hated Jesus and became the most fervent antichrist of his day. He transitioned to become the great middle-eastern terrorist seeking to defame the name of Jesus and exterminate any and all who called themselves Christians.
Paul was Sovereignly Elected
That right, the man who hated Jesus and looked most like Osama Bin Laden was specially chosen by God to not receive that which he had earned and deserved. Before the foundation of the world, Paul’s name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. His conversion, justification, sanctification, union, adoption, and glorification were decreed and set in stone by the immutable God who never changes. He was sovereignly predestined to receive grace and experience peace.
Paul was Specifically Covered
In accordance with God’s odd but beautiful plan, Jesus came to the planet. He did so at the same time Paul walked the earth, and he did so for two purposes.
First, Jesus came to live perfectly and earn 100% of the law-works needed by Paul.
Second, he came to receive the weight, verdict, and condemnation due to sin earned and deserved by Paul. Therefore, while Paul was found galavanting in Jerusalem during one famous worship feast, Jesus was dragged outside the city. And while Paul was found dressed for success in his all white at one Passover festival, Jesus was being dressed for play before being stripped naked. And while Paul was climbing the Jewish ladder of success, Jesus was hoisted high a Roman cross. Why such non-justice shown to both Paul and Jesus? It is because the Father, Son, and Spirit had chosen to relieve Paul of all the condemnation and damnation he had earned, was earning, and ever would earn. It is because Paul’s name was written on Jesus’ heart, graven on Jesus’ hands, and penned in Jesus’ book. Jesus came to earth, lived a substitutionary life, and died a substitutionary death for the great antichrist whom he had elected.
Paul was Effectually Called
However, Paul remained unimpressed with Jesus. Despite Jesus love for him, Paul still loathed the lover of his soul. He was not seeking Jesus in any way, but this is where God’s sovereign grace comes into play again. Jesus was the “Author and Finisher” of his salvation, and though Paul was not seeking Jesus, Jesus was seeking Paul. Therefore, when the time was right, the Risen Lord appeared on the Damascus Highway, spoke audibly to Paul, threw the antichristian terrorist off his horse, blinded his physical eyes, but graciously opened his spiritual eyes. Jesus took Paul’s hard heart and softened it. He took his totally-depraved-free-will and and freed it. He made Paul want him with all his being, and Paul did next that which he wanted most. Paul responded with faith and repentance. He was regenerated, converted, revived, and reformed. Without any works of his own, he became a happy of God’s grace and peace, and he would never be the same again.
Paul was Officially Commissioned
In addition to being chosen as a Christian, Paul was also chosen to be an Apostle — an official spokesman sent on a formal commission from the Risen Christ. He was personally instructed in the desert by Christ and his Spirit, then he was sent forth to focus primarily on Gentile people groups. It was his commission as an Apostle to travel about as a missionary, speak on behalf of Jesus, teach and preach the Gospel, heal miraculously and perform other miraculous signs, plant churches, develop leaders, solve problems, and pen sacred Scripture. Paul was not like other “little-a apostles.” He was not one sent by a man or sent through a group of men. No, Paul received his joint commission directly from the King of Kings and Heavenly Father. Formerly he carried about letters of authority from the High Priest and Great Sanhedrin. From his conversion on he would carry forth letters of authority from the Great High Priest and the Trinitarian Council.
Paul Encouraged His Family
Paul was writing to friends in Galatia – modern-day southern Turkey. Before these people he represented Christ, highlighted the Law, preached the Gospel, made disciples, mentored leaders, and planted particular churches. Later, following the leading of the Holy Spirit, he moved on to minister elsewhere. However, though his friends were far from his feet, they were never far from his heart. These were his disciples. They were his mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers – his spiritual family. They too were recipients of God’s undeserved favor, and he never tired of reminding them of their place in this world:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Gal. 1:3-5)
Grace – Though God’s laws had been written on their hearts and penned in the pages of Scripture, and though God had said “The soul that sins shall die,” and though “all of them had sinned and fallen short of God’s standard,” and though hell had been created for devilish individuals such as they, God had determined to give them undeserved blessings. Unimaginable relational and spiritual riches had been granted to them. The same grace that had been poured out upon Paul was theirs in abundance.
Peace – Formerly they were troubled. They lacked peace with self, with neighbors, and with God. However, because they had been targeted for grace, perfect peace was their inheritance. Jesus’ words applied to them, “They were not to be troubled because they believed in God and they believed in Jesus.” Experiential shalom was to be their norm. The world may hate them, but they were to enjoy peace with God, with themselves, and with their church family.
Trinitarian Unity – All of this was in accordance with the eternal plan of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Godhead were unified in compassion, decree, and performance. Never should one see the Father as the Holy Judge and the Son as the Compassionate Savior. Scripture shows judgment belonging to both the Father and the Son. The sacred text also shows both the Father and the Son to be consumed with saving compassion. And throughout the scriptures, the Spirit is always ready and able to make happen all that has been immutably decreed by the triune counsel.
Adoption – God was not only their Creator, Law-Giver, Enemy, and Judge. He was also their Savior, Friend, Lord, and Compassionate Dad. The Father of Jesus was their Father, and forever they would receive the benefits of this immutable relationship.
Freedom – Like Moses had come to rescue the Israelites from Pharoah’s tyranny, so Jesus had come to rescue his people. Jesus had delivered them from the curse of the Law, from their sins, from the wrath of the Judge, from satanic captivity, and from the bondage of addiction. And Jesus was in the process of delivering them from their sinful flesh and inclinations. And one day, Jesus would return to fully deliver them from their present sinful culture, sin-cursed planet, and sin-scarred bodies. Freedom was at hand, and more freedom was coming.
Celebration – Paul then exploded in a doxology, “To God be glory forever and ever, Amen!” to come. Paul was a recipient of grace and peace. The recipients of his letter were recipients of grace and peace. God had given them his Gospel. God had given them freedom and deliverance. God had given the grace and peace. They were not to be troubled. It was time to celebrate …
But then the music stopped …
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Let us Repent, Return, and Rest in the Gospel
A thanksgiving section is normally expected at this point in a Roman letter. Paul usually waxes eloquent in honor of his recipients, but this is not the case on this day.
It is almost like what experiences when a chaplain and a casualty notification officer arrive at the front door of a house or in an office conference room in the middle of the day. All around nothing something is wrong. Something is urgent. Heavy news is at hand.
Such is the situation in Galatia, and as John Phillips said, “Paul dipped his pen in the ink and plunged at once into the battle for their souls.”
Paul is astonished! He is astounded, bewildered, and beside himself. Something is incomprehensible.
The Galatian churches — despite the good Holy Spirit, the good Gospel, the good Apostle, the good apostles, the good leadership established, their good conversions, their good reception of God’s grace and peace — they had intersected with false teachers, heard false teachers, not been corrected and protected by good teachers, chosen to believe the non-gospel of their false teachers, and were in the process of deserting Christ and His Gospel. This was being done easily. This was being done quickly. And as a horrible consequence, they were being troubled. The Gospel had been distorted, the Gospel had been deserted (treachery, AWOL), and their experiential peace was being diminished. They are consumed with confusion, fear, trepidation, or trouble.
Oh friends, how quick and easy we are to desert Him who called us and His glorious Gospel. How prone we are to wander. If this is true for true believers in Galatia pastored by Paul, this is surely true you and me. All around us, the devil, the devil’s world, and our devilish flesh are perverting the Gospel and substituting it with a non-gospel, and the non-Gospel can be recognized by the following lies:
- God’s Law is keepable – You can do it
- God’s Law is powerful – It changes you
- God’s Law is encouraging – It shows how good you are
- God’s Law is relative – It proves you are better than your neighbor
- God’s Law is Exaggerated – The proclaimed curses are overstatements
- God’s Gospel Work is Exemplary – Be like Jesus and you’ll be OK
- God’s Gospel Work is Complimentary – He does his part; the rest is up to you
- God’s Gospel Work is Relationally Flexible – He likes you as you remain likeable
Brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers, we do not get right, stay right, or grow righter by our works. We do not add one iota to the finished work of Jesus Christ. He lived for us, died for us, prays for us, fills us, fruits us, finishes us, washes us, and clothes us. And because of Christ’s Gospel work, the Father looks at us every day and every night and he says, “Well done, my good and faithful servants.” This is not due to any works that we have done. This is only due to the completed Gospel performance of Jesus. It is in him that we boast. It is in him that we find grace and peace. And it is from Him that we are continually tempted and called to wander.
In the words of R.J. Grunewald, “The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart … The article of justification is fragile. Not in itself, or course, but in us. I know how quickly a person can forfeit the joy of the Gospel I know in what slippery places even those who stand who seem to have a good footing in matters of faith. In the midst of the conflict when we should be consoling ourselves with the Gospel, the Law rears up and begins to rage all over our conscience. I say the Gospel is frail because we are frail.”
Listen to Jesus as he says:
- My love for you is greater than you can imagine
- My moral law is fantastic
- My moral law is too high for you
- My assessment is you are totally deprave
- My assessment is your no better than neighbor
- My Gospel is finished and requires nothing
- My Gospel coverage is all inclusive
- My Gospel covers all sins
- My Gospel pays holiness and sin-debt
- My Gospel justifies and sanctifies
- My Gospel covers position and relationship
- My Gospel keeps no record of sin
- My Gospel makes you long for the Judgment
- My Gospel says, “You’re my well-pleasing son.”
- My Gospel says, “Come close right now.”
Oh wandering sinners, come back to Him who calls you. Come back to the Gospel. Come back to grace and peace. Come back to freedom. Come back right now! Why not pray this prayer which was penned by a believer guilty of a lack of self-discipline, a lack of self-control, committing adultery, and committing murder:
Psalm 51:1-12 … A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba … Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51:1-15)
Let us Resist All (Including Ourselves) who Distort the Gospel
Paul is astonished and he is angry, and from this perspective he begins proclaiming anathemas. What does this mean? It mean he begins uttering divine curses.
In the Old Testament one can see God cursing Jericho, Ai, and other insolent rebels. God’s anthem’s are seen as he devotes cities, citizens, gold, and silver to destruction.
In the Gospels, one can see the Son cursing the self-righteous Pharisees and Scribes. He calls them “Broods of vipers” and pronounces woe after woe after woe upon them. They are hypocrites, blinded teachers, whitewashed tombs, lawless liars, serpents, children of the devil, and on the highway to hell.
Therefore, as the Spirit inspires Paul to proclaim curses upon those distorting his Gospel, he is not playing word games. He means that which he says. And, if you want to take a sneak peak ahead in the text, the anthem’s of Paul get worse:
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (Galatians 5:7-12)
Paul applies this curse to anyone and everyone. He applies it to angels, apostles, and Apostles. It matters not one’s personality, success, school, creed, age, sending organization, miracles; without exception if a different Gospel is preached than that received, it is a damnable distortion. Those who preach such need to repent and run to the true Gospel themselves.
Therefore, let us repent and preach the True-Gospel to ourselves. Let us do this day in and day out. Let us look for the cracks of heresy and fill them quickly. We are prone to wander. Let us not tolerate it when we preach a false-gospel which is a non-gospel to ourselves.
Let us repent and preach the True-Gospel to our people. Let us recognize our proneness to be false-teachers, and seek to eliminate any hint of moralistic partnership with Christ. Anything more or less than “Jesus paid it all” is to be purged from our sermons and lessons.
Let us repent and preach the True-Gospel to our neighbors. In our evangelism, let us make the Gospel as simple as it is. Let us be the loudest in our cities proclaiming the full and freedom love of Jesus for sinners. Growth in holy living is to be expected, but it is not the Gospel.
Finally, let us correct and protect. Let us look for those in our assemblies who are preaching a non-gospel, and let us lovingly reach out to them. Let us apply Gospel grace to them and encourage their sermonic adjustment. However, when these Judaizing Brothers prove to be incorrigible in their proclamatory sin, let us separate ourselves from such. They are proving to be blind leaders of the blind. They are proving to be dangerous to themselves and to others. They are of great benefit to Satan, but they are of no benefit to Christ and Christ’s flock. Resist them. Stand firm in the Gospel. For if you do not do so, they will surely lead you and yours on a walk away from freedom.