Our Sunday School class this week was from the first chapter of the book of Galatians. As you probably know, Paul established the church at Galatia, but after he left, the Galatians began to adopt practices from Judaism to “add” to Christianity.
In this letter, he blasts the people for turning away from the gospel he had presented to them. He tells them, as he told them originally, that they don’t need to add anything to the finished work of Jesus Christ.
In verse 6, Paul says, “I’m amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him . . . for a different gospel.” By adding circumcision or any other requirement to the grace that saved them, they were turning away from grace itself.
It’s easy for us to pile on these people and pass judgment on their stupidity in doing this, but I think if Paul were to return today and see what’s going on in the church, he would have much stronger words of rebuke for us than he did for the Galatians. So many Christians have drifted away from the pure gospel of grace to preach and listen to sermons about prosperity, “feeling good,” and all sorts of things that tickle our ears, and we have much less excuse than did the Galatians.
The only thing the Galatians had to go by was their memory of Paul’s preaching. How much do you remember from the last sermon you heard, much less one you heard three months ago or a year ago. It’s easy for me to understand some drifting by these people.
We, on the other hand, have the written, canonized New Testament. We don’t begin to have the excuse the Galatians had. When we hear a perversion of the gospel, or even a slightly questionable statement, we can refer to God’s word for the truth. We have no excuses to offer when we fail to do that.
When a preacher delivers a sermon without even referring to the scriptures, we need to be careful. When he preaches that God wants us all to be wealthy instead of telling us how to be saved, when the size of the church and the offering become more important than sharing the gospel and tending to the members’ growth in their relationships with God, when physical healing is preached before spiritual healing, it is time to get out our Bibles and seriously question the motives as well as the message of that preacher.
God does want us to be healthy and prosperous, but He doesn’t want preachers to amass great wealth by harping on that one message. He wants us to be well, both physically and financially, but that’s not His first priority for us.
His number one priority for us is to reconcile us to Himself. He wants that so badly that He sent His own Son to die on a cross in order to make it possible. That is so far ahead of His desire for our physical and financial comfort it can’t even be compared.
Once we are reconciled to Him through the salvation He offers by His grace, He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son. We will never be perfect in this life, but He wants us to become more and more perfect by submitting ourselves to Him so that he can work His changes within us. This is infinitely more important to Him than how much money we have or the state of our health—and it should be to us, too.
God is able to do more than we can even imagine. He can give us health and wealth while He’s in the process of perfecting us, but that should be a byproduct of our growth and our trust in Him, not something we preach sermons and hold seminars about.
Paul himself had an affliction that caused him to be nearly blind, but he didn’t go around asking people to lay hands on him for healing. He said he had lived with plenty and he had lived with little, and it didn’t mean a thing to him either way compared to the riches of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Which is more important to you—a level of comfort and pleasure in this brief stay on earth, or submitting yourself to the God who created it all and letting Him prepare you for a richer life in eternity?
If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
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