June 30, 2013 (Galatians 1:1-12)

Can you imagine what it was like to be a believer during the first generation of the Christian faith? Imagine having lived in the area of Galatia, part of Asia Minor, what we know today as Turkey. You may have been led to the gospel through the preaching of the apostle Paul himself. Remember that in those first years of the church, there was no Bible to put in your hands, no Christian schools or media.

You heard the gospel preached—that God sent His Son to die as a sacrifice for your sins and that through Him you can be forgiven and reconciled with God. As time went on, other teachers came through town, claiming to clarify the demands of the gospel. In this case, they would tell new Gentile believers they had to fulfill the demands of the Jewish law before they could become Christians, but in years to come there would be a variety of teachers coming through town offering perspectives on the gospel that differed from what you first learned.

That may have been a first-century problem, but it’s also a 21st-century problem. In our own day, there are all kinds of writers and teachers who would like to add to or take away from the gospel. Some of those teachings sound very attractive. What do we do?

That’s the issue Paul faced as he wrote to new believers in Galatia. At the very beginning of his letter, he reminded them (and us) of a key truth: Only the gospel contains the power to save us.

Paul began (vv. 3-5) by reminding us what the gospel is: that Christ gave Himself for us to save us. Our salvation does not depend on our own actions but on His. The gospel is centered in Christ and what He did for us.

Then Paul shifted (vv. 6-9) to express surprise that these believers would turn their backs on the good news that had saved them in order to adopt these new teachings. The word he used to refer to them is translated deserters, and it is a harsh word. It was used in that day to refer to traitors, people who shifted allegiance and turned their backs on their former comrades. That is what happens, Paul said, when we abandon the teachings of the gospel; we are turning our backs on the One who died to save us.

That danger remains with us today. All you have to do is turn on the TV or read a few best-selling books to think there’s a better way than the gospel you were taught. How do we remain faithful to the gospel? We stay rooted in God’s Word. We test every teaching according to its faithfulness to the revealed Word of God in Scripture.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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