Forsaking the Grace of Christ

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-10)

The last time we were in Galatians together, we covered the first five verses and we talked about what led the apostle Paul to write this letter. We saw that the Galatians had been led astray from the gospel. They had been persuaded to count on their own good works, their own obedience to the Law, to save them. This persuasion happened because the Galatians had been puffed up by false teachers known as the Judaizers. Galatians 4:17 says that the Judaizers made much of the Galatians. They gave them praise and approval.

In the time that Paul himself spent with the Galatians, he had preached the true gospel to them, the gospel of grace. And in the gospel of grace God receives all praise, He receives all glory. But God receiving all praise, that wasn’t enough for the Galatians. They wanted to be made much of, they wanted to have reason to boast of themselves. They tried to take the weight of salvation, the weight of being justified, off of Jesus, and put it on themselves.

Now, none of us are strangers to the idea of being self-reliant, right? We can relate to this. I’m sure there isn’t a day that goes by, for any of us, when we don’t have some of this problem of being self-reliant. In the big picture of reality, yes, we are always completely reliant on God for everything, for every breath. We can’t do anything apart from Him. But, on the ground level, in our daily lives, we often live as though God doesn’t exist. We get caught up in trying to do things on our own, in our own strength, relying on ourselves.

So what’s the difference between us doing that, and the Galatians doing what they were doing? It comes down to one key point. There’s one key question we can ask ourselves to help us see if our self-reliance is like that of the Galatians, or if it’s just the result of being sinners, who are not yet fully sanctified. And that question is: what are we counting on to save us?

What are we counting on to save us? It sounds simple. And it is simple. The grace of God is what saves. Grace alone saves. Are we counting on anything more, or anything less, than the grace of God to save us?

Today’s passage is about forsaking grace. Paul is calling out the Galatians for forsaking the grace of Christ, and we see three ways they have done this. Three ways that we may be prone to do this. First, we’ll look at forsaking grace by deserting God. Second, forsaking grace by deserting the truth. And last, forsaking grace by seeking the approval of men.

Before we start with number one, let me read again for us, the first couple verses of this passage, verses 6 and 7.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7)

The Galatians are accused by Paul of deserting “him.” Who is this “him”? Some people think this refers to Paul. They think Paul is referring to himself here. And though, in a sense, the Galatians have deserted Paul, it seems more likely that Paul is referring to God here when he says “him” – more specifically, he is referring to God the Father. Listen to what he writes just a little later in this letter, a few verses down. Chapter 1, starting in verse 15. He says, “he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me.” That’s the same verbiage there of being called by grace, and clearly the person being spoken of is God the Father. So I believe – and from what I’ve seen, the majority of theologians believe – that chapter 1, verse 6 is also speaking of the Father. It’s speaking of the Galatians deserting God the Father.

When I think about that, the Galatians deserting God the Father, the question that pops into my head is: why would anyone desert God the Father? Why would we desert the Father? We’re not above making the same mistakes the Galatians made. What could lead us to ever desert the Father?

Think about the Prodigal Son. Like the Prodigal, we might be driven away from the Father because of the appeal of the world. We want to see what’s out there. Experience all we can of worldly pleasure. The worldly pleasure that our Father seems to be keeping us from.

When we long for things the Father hasn’t given to us, we can easily start casting doubt on our Father’s character, His nature. The line of thinking is simple: if our Father was a God of love, if He loved us, then wouldn’t He provide for us all the pleasures we desire? Or, if He was a good God, if He was actively doing us good, then wouldn’t He give us all those pleasures that we believe would benefit us, that we believe would be good for us?

Jess and I have seen a picture of this firsthand with our foster son AJ. He’s still a baby, only eating formula and some rice cereal, but he is fascinated by grown up food. Every time Jess and I have a meal together, he makes every effort to get a hold of our food so he can eat it. What we know, as his parents, is that he has no teeth, so if he got a hold of that food he couldn’t chew it up. Worst-case scenario he would choke, and die. But from his perspective, it seems like he’s being kept from something that would be good for him.

If we’re thinking in these ways, doubting God’s love or His goodness, we may start to think that our Father is holding out on us. That He’s keeping us from what’s good. And that could lead us to desert Him.

This thought, this degrading of God’s character, it was present in the very first sin of mankind. We see it in Genesis 3:1-6. This is where Satan is trying to convince Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. It says…

1 [The serpent] said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-6)

What we see in this account is that Satan convinced Eve to desert the Father. He convinced her to turn her back on Him. Even though God had been nothing but good and loving to her, Satan convinced Eve to sin by first planting a seed of doubt in her mind. He said, “God told you that you would die? You won’t die! God is just trying to keep something good from you. He doesn’t want you to be like Him.”

Based on the text, it seems like Eve didn’t fully believe Satan at first. She didn’t fully buy into his words at first. But then she looked at the tree. Verse 6 says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” Eve looked at the fruit, and it looked good to her. And because of that, she believed Satan. The seed of doubt that he had planted took root.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say, that if Eve had looked at the tree and its fruit, and seen something unattractive, then she wouldn’t have believed Satan. She wouldn’t have taken a bite. I say that because verse 6 shows us that she trusted in her eyesight, or you could say, she trusted in her own judgment. When she saw that the fruit was good looking, she sinned. Which means that she trusted her own judgment of things, more than she trusted the character of her God, her Father.

Eve’s choice is an example to us of why we desert God at times, why we choose to sin. It’s because we trust our own judgment, we trust our own understanding of things, rather than trusting God – rather than trusting the character of God, and the Word of God.

Paul writes, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ.” Based on this verse, what is the manner in which God calls us? He calls us “in the grace of Christ.”

Let’s go back to the Prodigal Son. That story gives us a picture of what this manner of calling, this manner of grace, looks like. After the prodigal realized how hopeless he was on his own, listen to the manner that his father receives him in.

20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:20-24)

Our Father calls us, He receives us, like the prodigal’s father received him – in grace. He is compassionate toward us. The father in the story runs out to meet his son. Instead of standing in one place, impatiently stamping his foot, he pursues him. Rather than punishing his son, the prodigal’s father embraces his son, kisses him, then clothes him with royal garments and throws a party to celebrate his son’s return.

If you were an outside observer, watching this scene, if you didn’t know anything about the father, or the son, and you were watching all of this happen, you would probably think that this was a son returning in glory from a victory on the battlefield. In reality, this son was returning in shame. Returning in shame after selfishly and sinfully throwing away his inheritance, the inheritance that he had demanded from his father. This son did not deserve a loving welcome. But that is the beauty of God’s grace: He treats us not as we deserve, but to the total opposite extreme. We deserve severe punishment, and we receive extravagant blessing.

Paul says that the Galatians deserted the Father. But in what way, specifically, did they do this? They deserted Him by being given all of this extraordinary grace, and then turning away and rejecting it all. They acted like the Father’s grace wasn’t enough for them.

Can you imagine if the prodigal son had done this? After he expected to become his father’s servant, but then he was welcomed with open arms as a precious son, can you imagine any scenario where he would reject this amazing grace?

When we’re shown extravagant grace, we can sometimes be tempted to reject it simply because we know we don’t deserve it. We have a real sense of how undeserving we are, and maybe we have a real sense of what this grace would cost the person who’s giving it. So we try to reject it. But that’s not the kind of rejection Paul is talking about here. The Galatians weren’t rejecting grace because they understood how unworthy of it they were. They were rejecting it, because they didn’t think they needed it. They thought they could muster up enough good works that God’s grace wouldn’t be needed as much.

Just think about what this would have looked like if the prodigal son had done what the Galatians were doing. He had brought shame to himself and his family. He had been brought so low that even pig’s food seemed appealing to him. But he resolved to go back home, hoping his father would at least make him a slave in his house. Then when he gets there, something shocking and awe-inspiring happens. His father welcomes him back with open arms and tears of joy. He treats him not as a slave, but as a treasured and beloved son, forgiving all wrongs and showering him with blessings. What if, after all of that, the son had said, “Father, I don’t want your grace. I think I can stand on my own merits.” That would have been crazy. Of course he wouldn’t say that! If he were to stand on his own merits, be judged by his own works, it could very well have meant facing the punishment of death. Yet this is the very thing the Galatians were doing. They were forsaking grace, and thus, deserting the Father, the one who called them in grace.

The next thing we see is that they were forsaking grace by deserting the truth.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)

The Galatians had been deceived into believing a gospel that was no gospel at all. They’d bought into a way of living, a religion that had no power to save. They went to the Law looking for vindication, but for sinners the Law can only condemn. There is one gospel that can save, and it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is why Paul so strongly opposes any other gospel being preached. It’s because every other gospel is a false gospel. And the only power false gospels have is the power to lead people, like sheep, into eternal slaughter in the depths of hell.

In verses 8 and 9, Paul puts great effort into warning the Galatians that whoever a message may come from, however it might be delivered, a false message is still false.

Throughout human history there have been many examples of men and women who present their message, their “good news,” with such charisma, such conviction, such skill and passion, that those who hear them quickly become their followers. Adolf Hitler is a prominent example of this. He was known for his impassioned speeches. Due to his influence, and under his leadership, millions of men, women, and children were massacred.

The spoken word can be very powerful. So Paul says that no matter who is speaking, and no matter how well they present their message, we must not be deceived. He says even if it’s an angel come down from heaven! No matter who it is, if their message is not the true gospel of grace, then it is a false gospel that can do nothing but condemn. And to believe a false gospel is to desert the truth.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

This last verse shows us how seeking approval can lead to forsaking grace. Paul says that he is not trying to please man, but God. His focus is on pleasing God as an agent of truth. He holds fast to God, and he holds fast to the truth. One of the interesting things about Paul’s words here, in verse 10, is that they seem to shed light on the false teacher’s motivations. Earlier I briefly mentioned Galatians 4:17. And we looked at it last time. But let me read that for us. It says, “They [speaking of the false teachers] make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.”

There is a stark contrast between Paul’s commitment to seeking God’s approval, which we see in chapter 1 verse 10, and the Judaizers’ commitment to seeking man’s approval, which we see in chapter 4 verse 17. The false teachers were focused on pleasing men, and so, they distorted the gospel of Christ. They changed things about the gospel message to make it more appealing to sinful men. They did all of this in an effort to earn the approval of others.

But Paul says that while they may have earned men’s approval, they lost something along the way. He uses the language, in verses 8 and 9, of being accursed. On the path of earning approval, the Judaizers became accursed. In Matthew 16, verse 26, Jesus said, “what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Though the false teachers may have gained the world, so to speak – they had earned the following of the Galatians, earned the praise of the Galatians – in doing all of this, they had forfeited their own souls. And the Galatians, they were on the same path. And Paul sees that! In their efforts to earn the approval of the false teachers, to earn the approval of men, they were deserting God, they were deserting the truth, they were forsaking grace.

Following Jesus often means earning the scorn of others. Paul says that here. He says, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” As Christians, we’re following a man who did not come to earn the approval of other men. Jesus could have come in great glory and splendor. But He didn’t. He chose not to. Listen to what Isaiah says about Him…

2 he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:2-4)

Jesus didn’t come to earth with the goal of being widely received by the people of earth. In fact, several times in Scripture we find Him saying things, speaking truth, that He knows will lead many to desert Him, that He knows will turn many away. He didn’t come to amass a huge following. He didn’t come to be crowned on earth as king. He came, not to be served, but to serve. This is our Savior. This is the one we follow.

Now, we may ask, how is it that Jesus could live such a life? I mean, we all want to be liked, we all enjoy having the approval of other people. Did Jesus somehow not desire anyone’s approval? I don’t think that’s it. He had someone’s approval. He had someone’s acceptance. And that someone’s approval was all He needed.

When Jesus was baptized, a voice came from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus could handle rejection, He could live with being the outsider, because His Father was well pleased with Him. Rather than endlessly chasing the approval of men, He rested in the loving arms of His Father. He basked in the warm smile of His Father.

And what’s really incredible, what’s truly incredible is, that God’s grace puts us in Jesus’ position. You and me. God’s grace gives us Jesus’ status. His approval rating. Because of grace, the Father says to me, and He says to all who trust in Him, “This is my beloved son, my beloved daughter, this is the one with whom I am well pleased.”

This is the grace that the Galatians were turning away from. May we never, never forsake this amazing grace.

Paul writes…

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-10)