Galatians 1-2, Psalm 5
A modern day proverb: Tolerance! Tolerance! The world screams. But the world in it's foolishness is tolerant to every sin, but intolerant to the ways of God. We have all seen the bumper sticker on cars which spell out tolerance using a multitude of religious symbols, making the statement that it is intolerant to uphold one particular faith over any other. If you disagree at all with the homosexual or transgender movement you are labeled a "homophobe". If you disagreed with anything President Obama said you were labeled a "racist". Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said of those who are "right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, and anti-gay" that they have "no place in New York". When my daughter, Elizabeth, was in Barnard College she was practically run out of class when she spoke out against partial birth abortion. Worse than that when she was engaged to be married in her senior year she was ridiculed daily for "giving into the man". Oddly this class was being taught by a teacher who taught that there was nothing wrong with a child performing sexual acts on adults for money in other countries for they felt love and earned a living by doing such acts. She went on in her book and class to explain how intolerant our western ideology was to look down or disagree with such behavior. Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" was fired from his show due to his religious beliefs and his stand in support of religious marriage. The examples of this are endless.
As opposed to this Paul states clearly that the one thing that we should not compromise on and be intolerant of is any altering of the gospel message or the Word of God. In Galatians 1:6-8, Paul said, "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we preached to you, let him be accursed." It has always been and should always be a matter of true relationship with Jesus and not religion. So if unsure whether any practice in the church is of God or man, it should be seen in the life of Jesus, continue in the book of Acts, and taught in the letters. If it is, like communion, you can trust it. If not, beware of the legalists and those perverting true faith for man made doctrine and religion. In Galatians 2:5, when men came in trying to alter or compromise the gospel message, Paul said, "to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue in you." Paul was unintimidated by the "spiritual giants" in the early church, saying in 2:6, "But from those who seemed to be something-whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man-for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me." In fact, later in 2:11-12 Paul calls out Peter for behavior which was hypocritical to the true gospel message. Paul concludes this section with two powerful statements on the issue of following law versus grace, following religion versus establishing a relationship, in 2:16, he said, "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified." He concludes in 2:21, saying, "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."
Grace is the unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor that God bestows on us, which we add nothing to. Every religion since the early church tends to add laws and rules which must be followed in order to be in God's favor. Think about it, when Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me" (Matthew 26:39), Jesus was talking about His death. God would not have sent His Son to die on the cross if the law could save us. But in Judaism, Yom Kippur, the national day of atonement for sin, when the high priest would sacrifice a goat as a sin offering has now become a day of reflection. In meditation the people sit on that day and reflect on a scale all the bad things versus the good things they have done, hoping the good will outweigh the bad. In so doing, they feel they will be acceptable to God. This despite the fact that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission" for sin (Hebrews 9:22), and Isaiah's statement in Isaiah 64:6, that "All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." In Catholicism, the sacraments are stressed as works needed to be done in order to be right by God, such as infant baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, etc. If our hope for eternal life in heaven or a good relationship with God is based on what we do, we are all in a heap of trouble. Grace is completely based on the finished and complete work of what Jesus and not at all on what we do. So why do we do good works: because we actually get to, out of love for Him, never because we have to out of obligation. This is the liberty of the gospel message. Like Paul, we must be intolerant to any twisting or perversion of this pure message handed down to us so long ago.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: