Study 2 THE PURE DOCTRINE OF THE GOSPEL
(Scripture Portion: Galatians 1: 6-12)
Martin Luther says that when Paul visited the Christians in Galatia, he taught them “the pure doctrine of the gospel”. The word “gospel” appears over and over again on the pages of the New Testament – look up Mark 1:1; Romans 1:15; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 9:16 and Philippians 1:5 – and compare Acts 20:24; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Ephesians 1:13 and Revelation 14:6. This word “gospel” occurs no less than twelve times in Galatians, and by comparing these references we are able to set out the teaching they bring before us.
1. The Gospel is Good News from God to Man.
The word “gospel” means “good news”. The good news of the gospel is summarised in John 3:16 and it is important to include verse 17. The Devil would have men to believe that the gospel is bad news, that God sent His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in this he is wrong. The gospel is the best news that has ever come to this poor old world, and it declares a great act of God – something very wonderful that God has done for mankind. Read John 3:16 again, and then compare Romans 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The gospel is such good news because: (1) it is the news of salvation – pardon, purity, peace, power and Paradise – to all who will receive it; (2) it is a free offer; (3) it is for all; (4) it is undeserved, and (5) it is offered, received and experienced by believing, that is, by faith alone.
2. There is only one true Gospel though there are many false gospels.
This, of course, was the burden of the apostle’s letter. He had preached the true gospel to these Christians, and then false teachers had come in and had led the young believers astray by teaching “a different gospel” – compare verses 6, 7, 8 and 9. This “different gospel” which had been preached to the Galatians by these false teachers was a counterfeit gospel, and the marks of a counterfeit are similarity without reality or validity. The world today is full of “different gospels”, false gospels. See what Jesus said in Matthew 7:15, and what Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:1-3 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5. These false gospels may be gathered under three headings:
- Romanism, which for the Gospel substitutes the Church, Mariolatry (the worship of Mary), angel-worship, the confessional, salvation by merit and by works.
- Ritualism, which says that we can only be saved if we conform to certain rites and ceremonies, such as being baptised, confirmed, circumcised, etc.
- Rationalism, which substitutes man’s opinions for God’s truth. It denies the authority of the Word of God and it substitutes character and works for the gospel of salvation.
3. The Gospel is true because it is not man-conceived but God-revealed.
See what the apostle says in Galatians 1:11-12. Where did the gospel come from? If it is of man it is like man, frail, faulty and unreliable; but if it comes from God it is God-like, reliable and authentic – compare Romans 1:1, where the words “gospel of God” literally mean “the gospel out of God”. God is the Author, the Source of the gospel. This means that the gospel is not a religion but a revelation; it is not something which begins with man and endeavours to reach God, but it is something which begins in the heart of God and has been revealed to sinful man. Paul tells us that he received his gospel from God – compare Galatians 1:11 and 1 Corinthians 15:3. The gospel was not Paul’s gospel; it was not a man-made system, but a God-revealed salvation. It is therefore true to say that while every religion is comparative, Christianity is superlative, for it is unique; it stands alone; it is the only true revelation from God and of God. No wonder Paul so ardently defended the true gospel!
4. Strong censure is brought against those who do not preach the Gospel.
In Galatians 1:7 they are described as those who “pervert the gospel”, and see what the apostle says of them in verses 8 and 9. This is very strong language, but is it too strong? No! What a dreadful thing it is to impart wrong information, especially when this may bring damnation to the soul instead of salvation. Often, when preachers do this, we say, “Yes, but they are very sincere! They are good men. We must be tolerant. We mustn’t be critical!” But there is only one gospel, and it is a very solemn thing to preach and teach any substitute. It is against the law of the land to offer quack medicines to the public. How much more serious it is to offer a quack gospel which has to do not only with the bodies of men but with their eternal well-being! When a “different gospel” is preached we must always denounce it – look up Jude 3.
5. The Gospel must be preached.
Compare Galatians 1:8, 9, 11 and 23; 2:2 and 4:13. There are three main reasons why the gospel must be preached:
- Because we are commanded to preach the gospel – look up Matthew 28:19.
- Because it pleases God by the foolishness of such preaching to save those who believe – look up 1 Corinthians 1:21.
- Because if we fail to preach the gospel we are hiding the way of salvation from those who are lost and who can only be saved by hearing and believing the gospel – look up 1 Corinthians 9:23.
The gospel, of course, must be preached not only by lip but by life – look up and compare Matthew 5:16 and Mark 5:19.
6. The Gospel is for all and must be preached to all.
There is one gospel for all men – look up Isaiah 45:22, and compare Luke 2:10-11 and Romans 10:11-15. How urgent the need is to take the gospel to every creature – Mark 16:15!
7. The Gospel is often preached in much weakness.
Paul tells us in Galatians 4:13 that when he preached the gospel to these Christians in Galatia “it was because of an illness”, and how often God’s servants preach in weakness! It is never easy to preach the gospel, for we have a powerful Enemy and frequently men do not want to hear the gospel – and in addition to this, those who preach often have to overcome physical handicaps. When we preach, however, let us always remember that it is the message that counts. Oh, that we might get this message out to the dying, perishing millions! – look up Ephesians 6:18-20.