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Twice in my preaching career I have presented a sermon series on the biblical view of baptism. Both times I covered the topic in four sermons.

Francis Chan says in 4 minutes, 40 seconds what I was trying to say in four sermons.

And he says it better.

Check it out here.

Chan was a keynote speaker at the Tulsa Workshop this year (2013). Several from within the Churches of Christ opposed Chan being asked to speak. Why? Because he is not “in fellowship with us.”

Hum. After listening to his presentation on how one gets “into Christ”–how one enters into fellowship with God, His Kingdom, and others who have so entered–my question to these opponents is this:

If this is not how one comes into fellowship with you–by hearing and believing the Good News, repenting of sin, confessing Jesus as Lord, and being immersed into Christ–then just how, pray tell, does one come into fellowship with you?

Just wondering.

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Human behavior placed under the scrutiny of a law of works? That is NOT good news! Why, that is lethal to human beings and an absolute perversion of the message Paul preached. Anyone so distorting the Christian gospel, even an angel straight out of heaven, must be eternally condemned!

Why such strong words? Because law keeping can never be the source of human justification, it’s just that simple. And, by the time the reader has reached Galatians 3:18, Paul has established that proposition beyond all doubt (unless one is willing to deny the inspired authority of the Apostle Paul!)

But, believe it or not, Paul is not done. He will add to the already devastating jabs he has taken at law these equally pejorative comments:

  • Principles of law are weak and miserable, 4:9a.
  • Going back to them will enslave you all over again, 4:9b, 5:1.
  • Returning to law as a basis for your relationship with Yahweh makes Christ worthless, 5:2.
  • Returning to law means you have fallen from grace, 5:4.

So, Paul anticipates the only logical response to his tirade against law: “If the Law is so terrible, why did God give it to the human family in the first place?” Paul answers the question with five emphases:

  • It was added: the Law was added to God’s promise.
  • Because of transgressions: literally, because of overstepping.
  • Until the Seed: the Law was temporary and incomplete but completed and eliminated by Christ.
  • Ordained through angels: Deuteronomy 33:2, Psalm 68:17-18, Acts 7:38, Hebrews 2:2.
  • By a mediator [Moses]: his somewhat obscure point in these last two emphases seems to be that the Law was not something given directly by Yahweh to the human family as was the promise.

And so, Paul says, the Law was merely a temporary babysitter given by Yahweh because of overstepping on the part of human beings. Now that Christ (the Seed) has come, it is time for God’s people to grow up. Faith in Christ forms the basis for human justification as well as the basis for living out a justified life—not rule keeping!

“The truth of the gospel” (ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου). Paul uses this expression twice in his short letter to the Galatian churches (2:5, 14).

First, he tells them that he earnestly resisted false teachers so that the “truth of the gospel” could be preserved within them, the believers (2:5). Then, he shockingly tells them that he confronted a group of Jewish Christians, led by Peter and Barnabas no less, because they too had been caught up in the deception of legalism and “were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.” (2:14).

The truth of the gospel is that God has done for humankind what we could not do for ourselves: God has supernaturally and sufficiently dealt with our sin problem. According to the New Testament, both aspects of the message (i.e., it is supernatural and it is sufficient) must be present or it is not “the truth of the gospel.” Let’s look at this more closely.

First, God took upon himself human flesh. Then God, in the person of his only begotten Son, suffered and died in order to remedy the problems caused by human sin. In other words, the gospel is supernatural in its origin. To deny that is to deny “the truth of the gospel.”

Second, Jesus Christ and him crucified has sufficiently handled the problem of human sin. When it comes to the elimination of sin, there is nothing left to do. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection has accomplished it all. In other words, the gospel is sufficient in its scope. To deny that is to deny “the truth of the gospel.”

But we, gasping within the throes of sin and being drastically distorted by sin, often refuse to accept God’s straight-forward solution to our sin problem. Attacks on God’s plan come in many forms and from many sources; however, according to the New Testament, all false teaching and all false teachers can be classified into one of two categories. While both groups directly attack God’s plan of salvation and try to modify it in some way, the difference between the two groups is seen in the angle of the attack.

  • Gnosticism, Liberalism. The first group attacks the gospel from a philosophical perspective. God could not and would not ever take on human flesh. His interaction with this creation is extremely limited (as proven by the empirical study of our world) and, therefore, any allusion to the supernatural is a figment of an overactive imagination. This category includes ancient Gnosticism as well as modern liberalism.
  • Legalism. The second group attacks the gospel from a religious perspective. God could not and would not ever offer to merely forgive human sins. His justice requires so much more than that (as proven by our own deep-seated need for vengeance) and, therefore, any dependence upon God’s grace is the result of a lack of self-discipline. This is legalism.

Notice that Gnosticism/Liberalism attacks the supernatural nature of the gospel whereas legalism attacks its sufficiency. The truth of the gospel is that God’s plan (the incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ) is both supernatural and sufficient to deal completely and finally with the human sin problem.

“The truth of the gospel” (ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου). Humankind cannot accomplish it, must not detract from it, and must not add to it. According to the Bible, those who accept it by faith will be saved; those who deny it must be opposed.