Saturday, March 3, 2012

Missions in Galatians

Paul writes to the churches in Galatia to counter the false teachers who have crept in since he departed. These wolves have been spreading a false works-based message of salvation. Basically, they were teaching that Gentiles had to follow the OT law in order to be saved. Paul refutes these false teachings with some of his strongest language, writing in 1:6-9, "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."

Regarding salvation, the apostle stresses that justification comes through faith apart from the law. In 2:15-16 we read, "We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."

In the midst of this apologetic for the true gospel of grace, can we learn anything about missions? Yes, we can.

Toward the end of the epistle, Paul says this in 6:14, "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

Those who trust in a false gospel for salvation are essentially boasting in themselves since they believe it is their own efforts/works that save them. Paul, instead, emphasizes that it is God alone who does the saving. Christ's work on the cross has earned it. Therefore, our only boast can and should be in the finished work of Christ at Calvary. This is what we see in the life of Paul. He was a humble man who understood his own sinfulness. His only boast was in what Jesus had done for him. Let it be the same with us. As Christ-followers we have one boast: in Christ and him alone.

(For previous posts in this series, click here.)

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