The 1st Sunday After Trinity May 29, 2005
1 Kings 8:41-43
225, 498, 292(4-9), 261
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 brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
In the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, dear fellow-redeemed:
On a hot summer’s day there isn’t anything much better than a nice cold glass of water. That’s what your body needs. While growing up I would often beg my mother for a soft drink when I was hot and thirsty. Her response was that if I was truly thirsty there was nothing better than water. She was right. Water is truly what your body wants and needs.
What if you asked for water and received a glass that was half water and half motor oil. Yes, water is still in the glass, but the addition of the oil changes everything. If you drank the glass of “water” your body would be hurt instead of helped. Today we’re going to talk about what happens when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is changed. A CHANGED GOSPEL IS NO GOSPEL AT ALL and will harm your soul more than help it. May the Holy Spirit open our hearts to receive His message this morning.
If you would die today, what would happen to you? Would you go to Heaven or to Hell? A follow-up question would be: Why? These are questions, I believe, that most people have considered. If a person hasn’t pondered his future after death, then he should. Every person will one day have to stand before the judgment throne of God. These are questions that are good to ask your neighbors and other people with whom you have contact. I would suppose that most people would answer that they are going to heaven, but when asked why, you may find a wide variety of answers. Some answers would not involve grace. Some answers would not acknowledge sin and that is the first mistake.
Sin separates sinful mankind from God. Each person is accountable for his sin whether he is aware of it or not. That sin makes us guilty, and quite often we feel that guilt to the point that we are frightened beyond our wits. There is only one way in which that guilt is effectively removed and that is to have the guilty status is lifted. We find the good news of guilt removed in verse four of our text when we are told that Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins. In the very first verse we are told of how He was raised from the dead, which sealed the forgiveness He had won on the cross. That is the Gospel. Christ for us, the sinless dying in place of the sinful is the good news by which we are saved and have the certainty of heaven. Being forgiven through the work of Christ is the only way that a person can appear and stand righteous before the Lord God Almighty.
There is nothing lacking in the good news of sins forgiven. The death and resurrection of Christ are not the first of many steps that we need to complete for our salvation. It is not like an adult giving a child a jigsaw puzzle unassembled, and telling him to complete it. We have it all! It is also true that the forgiveness from Christ does not come piecemeal. Even now you stand completely forgiven through faith. On the cross Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30). There is nothing to add to His work and there is nothing that we can add. It is an insult to Jesus when it is suggested that we have to make a contribution to our salvation, or finish what He started. You are not saved by what you do, but rather by what Christ has done for you. Rest assured that everything that God does, He does completely.
It really becomes a matter of sinful pride when man tries changes the precious good news of Jesus. In the history of mankind that has happened time and time again, and it is a constant battle to this day. The Gospel seems too good to be true and we’d love to get our fingers in there and in some fashion take credit ourselves for the fact that we are going to heaven. In the days of Jesus the Pharisees prided themselves on what they had done. They believed themselves to be righteous by what they viewed to be the keeping of God’s Law. They even expanded on God’s laws figuring that the more they kept the holier they would look in the sight of God and, even more importantly to them, in the sight of other people.
There were also men who followed the Apostle Paul around and emphasized circumcision, refraining from eating certain meats, and the Sabbath Day laws above the work of Jesus. That sounds good to itching ears desiring to hear something different—itching to hear something that makes a person look better in his own eyes. The Gospel of Christ is so precious because it follows the knowledge that we are condemned sinners without Christ. Paul was astonished that the Galatians had turned away to this other gospel so quickly—a gospel which was really no gospel at all. The minute the Gospel was perverted by putting the works of man on an equal level with the work of Christ it ceased being the true Gospel of Christ. When works are factored into why a person is saved, then salvation is no longer free, the focus is taken off Jesus, and there is dependence on flawed man rather than our perfect Lord.
Don’t misunderstand me, there is an importance to what we do. As redeemed children of God and out of love for our Savior we will want to act in a way that pleases Him. Sin does lead to a destruction of faith, and we need that reminder as well, but today we’re looking at the other side of the coin. The emphasis on works for salvation is destructive because it undermines the work of Jesus and cheapens it.
This problem did not go away after the letter to the Galatians. The battle continues in this present day. Souls are being led away from Christ and into despair because they don’t feel forgiven, and seek out certainty and comfort in their own works. How you feel doesn’t change the fact that in Christ you are forgiven. That is a fact regardless of your feelings! The Scriptures speak clearly to this point. God has called you “in the grace of Christ,” [v.6] and washed you clean of all your iniquity. To say that we are declared righteous by what we do perverts the pure Gospel, like adding motor oil to a glass of water. That’s different water—not even water. So to adulterate the Gospel is to make it different and not suitable for salvation.
Because the Gospel of Jesus is so very precious we will want to do our utmost to defend it. This is easier to say than it is to carry out. Though there have been some exceptions, true Gospel preachers have never been very popular. Christians who defend their Lord and His Word will find that they will have enemies. In the last verse of our text Paul emphasizes his motivation. It is not to please men, but to serve Christ. It is always easy to tell people what they want to hear rather than to tell them the truth. Problems arise because the Gospel is foolishness to man, and when you are for Jesus you will be against what He is against. In this case you will be against what perverts the Gospel message.
Listen to the words of warning found in verses eight and nine of our text: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” You can see how zealously the apostle guarded that message of salvation.
We also need to have that zeal to defend the purity of the Gospel because it can become tainted so very quickly. The news of forgiveness is not only what has saved us, but is our motivation to lead a godly life and to please our God. Without it we are ruined. Beside pointing out when there is a perversion of the Gospel in what is taught we also want to be aware of actions that change the focus. To live in sin and impenitence tramples the Gospel. Forgiveness is freedom from sin, not freedom to sin.
As defenders of the Gospel we have been viewed by some as being the church or the synod that is against everything. For instance, in the founding days of the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) and beyond there has been an emphasis on the fellowship principle. It might be argued that there has been too much of an emphasis. But the reason that God has given us this principle is that it is like an immune system for the church. God wants us to be like-minded when we gather together to worship so that there is not an intrusion of teaching that could pervert His Gospel. Know well that any false teaching eventually leads to the doctrine of justification which is the heart of Christianity. We should be on guard against the pitfall of forgetting the reason behind our actions. We are moved to defend the Gospel of Jesus because without it we are lost. That precious forgiveness of sins is to be our drive in whatever we do. We are driven to uphold even what may seem to be insignificant teachings because we don’t want to see God’s Word changed in any way.
There are many powerful forces working against the pure Gospel message of sins forgiven through Christ. May God preserve us personally, congregationally, and synodically in the one, true Gospel, and no other. It is by grace that we have received it and it is by God’s grace that we will retain it. To our loving, gracious God alone be the glory! Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.