The God-Given Gospel
Have you noticed in recent years the increase in the word "direct" in retail marketing? Much market research is done to understand the customer, the strategies used, the branding and product placement and the word "direct" has become common place. And for good reason. So we have: Sports direct, Tesco Direct, Linen direct, Coffee direct, and Direct Line insurance. There's even directgov.uk. What does this branding reveal? In terms of retail - the product comes or claims to come via a direct route. It cuts out the middle man saving money and time meaning we'll shop with them to get our things cheaper and faster. The marketing departments have worked out that getting something direct matters.
And getting something direct is so important as we'll see in our passage today. So please could you turn with me to p821 in the blue Bibles to Galatians 1 v11-24. We'll have a brief bit of background. We'll then look at the passage in three parts: Paul's argument, and two proofs backing up his argument. And we'll then consider a couple of implications for us here today.
The Apostle Paul has written this letter to the Christians in Galatia whom he'd previously preached the Gospel to (Gospel means good news) and that Gospel contains the message that we are saved by Jesus not by ourselves. And he writes this letter because there were false teachers who were saying you were saved, you got to heaven by works, by what you did. mainly by circumcision. Jesus may well have died for you to bring you to heaven but you need to do certain extra things as well. And the Galatians began to depart from the truth. They began to believe the false teachers. They were saying that what Paul had taught them wasn't true. But how was it that Paul could challenge them? How can Paul say he's got the right message and they've got the wrong message. That truth is on his side?
Well that's where we join in at our passage today. And Paul says that he got his teaching "direct from God", The Gospel he teaches is God-given not man-made.
And that's our first heading (from v11-12)
The Gospel is God-Given not Man-Made – it's Important v11-12
Paul begins this section by saying, "I want you to know." He's saying this really is important – it's important that you know this; that the Gospel, the good news, is not made up by man but given me by God. The Gospel is God-given not man-made – it's important. Let's have a read of v11-12
"I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.
I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."
This is his argument. This is what he is convincing them of in this part of his letter: The Gospel is God-given not man-made and Paul says this is important. It's really important. It's vital because the Gospel is the good news about how to be saved, about how to have eternal life, what happens to you after you die, forever, about how to be friends with the God who made us. What could be more important than that?
And he says the message of the way to be saved is from God. If you want to know how to be saved, if you want to know how to be forgiven, if you want to know how have eternal life then it's God who gives the answer. And Paul got it directly from God. And there are a couple of proofs:
Proof 1 The Gospel is God-given not man-made – Paul of all people wouldn't make it up. v13-14
Paul used to be an anti Christian. It's not exactly likely that he'd make this up. He of all people wouldn't make this up. He had everything going for him and everything to lose by becoming a Christian. The Gospel is God-given not man-made – Paul of all people wouldn't make it up. Let's have a look at v13-14...
"For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.
I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers."
Look at his former way of life as we read in our earlier reading. He was a zealous Jew who argued against Christians. He hated Christians. He was killing Christians and he approved of killing Christians and now he has become one! Paul is not a boaster - we can see that from his other writings - but he tells of his past and his conversion to help prove that no one gave him his message nor did he make it up himself. Everyone knew what Paul used to be like and the Galatians had heard of it too. How on earth could Paul have made it up? He couldn't stomach the idea of a religion contrary to his Jewish beliefs, so much so that he went out of his way to destroy other religions and destroy the Christians who believed differently. It's just not possible that he of all people would make up the Christian gospel. It's not possible for it to be man-made. The gospel; the good news can't be man made it must be from God; it must be God given. The Gospel is God-given not man-made – Paul of all people wouldn't make it up; proof 1.
The Gospel is God-Given not Man-Made – Paul Couldn't have been Taught it by Anyone Else v15-24
Paul didn't consult anyone else. Let's have a look at v15-24:
"But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased
to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,
nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.
I saw none of the other apostles--only James, the Lord's brother.
I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie.
Later I went to Syria and Cilicia.
I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.
They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy."
And they praised God because of me."
Do you see the fact that he hardly had any contact with other humans who could have taught him the Gospel? Basically; straight away Paul went and preached the Gospel to the Gentiles (the non Jews). He didn't go to learn the Gospel from Peter and the other Apostles, and he didn't even check with them first to compare what he believed but later (after 3 yrs) he saw Peter but only for 15 days and also he saw James. And then he went and carried on preaching. He hadn't even been to the churches were Peter and the others had been teaching. If you read on into the next chapter you find that it was fourteen years before he actually saw the other Apostles again. So Paul has not received the message from man. It can't be man made so it must be from God.
The Gospel is God-given not man-made – he couldn't have been taught it by anyone else.
And these two proofs that we've just looked at show that Paul received it from God. Let's think back to how exactly he received it and it will help us with the first of our implications;
The Gospel is God-Given which Means it's True
So how exactly did he receive the gospel? In the first few verses of the letter we saw Paul's emphasis on being sent by God the Father and the Risen Jesus Christ - that it was the resurrected Jesus. We saw in our reading from Acts that it was the resurrected Jesus who appeared to Paul. Jesus had been crucified, died, was buried and then rose from the dead.
Do we have any evidence that the resurrected Jesus appeared to Paul to give him the gospel? Yes. Apart from Paul's own witness statement look at the two proofs we have here: look at his conversion and look at the fact that he didn't get taught or get influenced by anyone else. He must have met the risen Jesus and been given it by him direct. So when Paul says to these false Teachers in Galatia that he's right and they're wrong; that he has the truth and they're mistaken or lying, who should the Galatians believe? Paul of course, because he has been given the Gospel and he has been given the Gospel direct from Jesus Christ. The Gospel he has is God-given not man-made
And what about you and me? When we are living in a post truth age – where anything goes and fools tell us the absurd notion that two people can agree to believe contradictory things.
There is a new film out, released 2 days ago, staring Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall called 'Denial'. It's based on a true story involving QC Richard Rampton defending Deborah Lipstadt and bringing to justice David Irving a denier of the holocaust.
On Friday when QC Richard Rampton, who spent three years of his life on this one case, was asked "Why did you do it?" - he said "because Truth Matters" Does truth matter? Does it matter who's right and who's wrong? Of course it does.
So what about you and me when other people say that another religion is the way to heaven? Who should we believe? Paul of the Bible of course.The Gospel that he has written down here is God-given not man-made so as we read the rest of Paul's letter to the Galatians, and indeed as we read the rest of the Bible, and we see the Good news, the way to heaven, remember it is God-given not man-made which means it's true.
And so what are the implications of this for you and me? As we've just seen. The fact that it's from God - the fact that the Gospel is God-given Means it's true. It means it's true.
Do you remember, from the first verse of the letter, Paul's earlier claim of being sent by God - it was to give the Galatians confidence that Gospel he preached was the true one. And it should give us confidence too. If almighty God who does not lie and came down as man to die on a cross in our place and rose from the dead – if HE gave us a message then the message must be true – if God gave the message then it should give us confidence that it's true. And if we can have confidence that it's true then we can have confidence that we can DEPEND on it –that we can put our faith in it – that we can stake OUR LIVES on it.
And this leads us to our second implication; The Gospel is God-given which Means it works . It works. By it you can be saved. By man's you can't. By it you can be saved. By man's you can't. All other religions are man-made. They're invented by man and they show man trying to get to God. Christianity is the opposite. Christianity shows God coming down to us - to save us.
You may have heard of C S Lewis's conversion from atheism to Christianity. Described as the most reluctant convert; he says, ""Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about 'man's search for God.' To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat." And that's not a bad description. If human beings knew how sinful they were before an awesome and holy God we would never try and approach God on own. It would be like a mouse looking for a cat! A human being looking for God is a person wanting to get judged and punished, because that's what we deserve and that's what we'll all get unless there is another way we can approach God and go to heaven.
We do hear of people searching for God and the problem is what they're looking for is their own way to God or a man-made way to God - a way to God that we have invented - a way to God where we can say, "Well done us." That's what we all want. We want to be able to say that we have made some sort of contribution to our own salvation; that's it's down to us, it's because of us that we'll go to heaven and so we can give ourselves some sort of pat on the back, some sort of, "Well sone." But it just doesn't work - none of us - not one of us is good enough to go to heaven. It doesn't work.
You see who seeks who? Who is it that is really looking for the other? It is God who takes the initiative. He seeks us and finds us. Like the parable of the lost sheep; the shepherd seeks and finds the sheep. The sheep doesn't find the shepherd. And we can see in this passage God's search for us. Look at Paul. It's not a case of God saying, "Oh dear. This man is killing lots of Christians. I'd better put a stop to it so I'll convert him." No, it's not that. Verse 15 shows that God chose Paul before he was even born.
"But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me"
And that's how every Christian becomes a Christian. God has been planning it before we were born. That's how much he loves you. He plans your conversion and makes it happen. Some of you may be looking into Christianity at the moment and you should know that God is in control and if he's chosen you since before you were born then he's helping you to understand more of who the Lord Jesus is so that you know he did die for you and rise again; that it's true and you can depend on him. It's not man trying to get to God. It's the opposite. It's God coming to us to save us.
The Christian Gospel is God given, is true and it works. The Christian gospel cannot possibly be man-made. Let me tell you another reason why. It's a reason we touched on a minute ago. Because people would never want to believe it. People would never want to believe it. Why? We don't want to be saved by someone else. We want to be saved by ourselves. We want to give ourselves a pat on the back for something. We are proud. We want to be able to say we are good enough. We don't want to be saved by grace – by God being undeservedly kind to us, coming down to save us, and us having to be eternally grateful and indebted to him. We don't want that. If we can introduce some way of saying 'well done me' then we'll be happy. If we can introduce some way of works - of our own effort or good deeds – of saying, "We're a relatively good person. We're good enough." then that's the kind of religion we want. We want to get to heaven under our own steam or have the good afterlife based on our own efforts. By nature we don't like the Gospel from God. By nature we don't want to be saved by grace. We would never make that up. And people don't like it. They didn't like it in Galatia. They were saying to Paul "I want to be saved by Jesus plus Jewish rules. What do you mean Paul - Saved by Jesus alone, and nothing else? Where does that leave me? That means I can't say, 'well done me' - at all - not even a tiny bit. I don't like that." No. A human being would never invent such a gospel as grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
You and I can be sure that the Gospel we read here is from God alone. It's direct.
It is God-given.
And it can save us.