DEVOTIONS FROM THE HEART
Justification, “The Principal Article of all Christian Doctrine”
“Paul, an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead– and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 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–not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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. 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. 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. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:1-12
This is what I call a “power-packed” chapter. On first read, one would think this is all about the Apostle Paul, but in reality, it is not really about the man “Paul” but rather about the authority and power on which he preached and taught and WHAT he preached and taught. John the Baptist said, and we say, “we must decrease” and “Christ must increase” in our lives so it is not “about” us or the Apostle Paul (or any other Apostle or theologian) but rather about God’s truth and its message in the true gospel. Now there are many gospels, “in the Garden,” in Paul’s day, and there are many gospels today. The first question we must ask is “what say ye of the Christ” and that means, in a nutshell, what is your doctrine of God? Before we can get on in the chapter and lesson with the questions that arise about Paul’s apostolic authority we must ask ourselves this question and look inside our own hearts and minds to see if we really do “know” our God as the total and complete Sovereign who divines and directs all things for His purposes. If we understand that He is who He says He is (and He is!) and understand that He alone is God doing what is pleasing in His sight for His own glory and purpose, then we can make heads and tails out of His authority and direction for the life of the Apostle Paul (and for us) and the “why’s” and “how’s” of the Apostle Paul arriving at such a place and time in redemptive history to proclaim the gospel of Christ to the Jews and Gentiles and, to us, through God’s Word.
The foundational truth that we must, without exception, know and acknowledge then as we study the Book of Galatians is our justification is in Christ alone. It is the foundation of our theology and why we are “Reformed” believers. God is the author and giver of life and the gospel and unless we understand the true gospel we will not understand or make heads or tails out of Scripture and God’s salvation of grace. “Salvation is of the Lord” as the Scripture says and anything added or taken away is “another gospel” (a “so-called” gospel, a “false” gospel, a “second” or “different” gospel and one altogether different from the one and only true gospel). Thus, the doctrine of justification by faith is foundational and in the forefront of our thinking and application. If need be, we must “beat it into our heads continually,” as Luther so aptly put it:
“Justification is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consists. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into our heads continually.”__Martin Luther
Thus, we are not to be fooled into looking into areas that take us away from doctrine and unprofitable arguments and opinions about those things that do not affect our soul welfare, but rather we look to the truth of Scripture from the very mouth of God. He is the “Justifier” of His people; He is the “Elector” of His people and He is the Providential God who directs their steps down to the very hairs of their head and each breath they take. Paul’s apostolic authority and power to preach the true gospel of Christ comes from God’s providential purpose and plan in his life and to question God’s purposes and authority is to question God Himself. Men, especially today, want to go off into diverse and “so-called theological” discussions (especially this so-called “New Perspective on Paul”) about authority and make up their own “new” (which is old error, heresy, treatment) to take our eyes, and thus our heads, away from the truth of God’s doctrine and justification by faith. We are not fooled and God is not mocked. Know what you believe and do not let any lead you to “another gospel” which is not, again I say, NOT, the gospel of Christ. Paul preached and taught the “true gospel” and we are to do likewise. There is no compromise with error or heresy. There is no “works-plus-grace” gospel; there is only “works” because any work becomes work which will damn a soul to eternal wrath and hell. There is only “grace” His grace, which is, by Christ alone through His faith alone. This is the only gospel that delivers souls and the only true gospel of the Bible. Anything else is polluted and mixture. We are to stand strong with God and the Apostle Paul, be bold and courageous, sharing the true gospel of grace and refute-flee from any type of gospel that stinks of works or legalism. God has defined the terms, not men, and to Him and His Word we look for truth. Works and legalism binds the hearts and minds of souls but the true gospel frees the soul to live, love and serve God acceptably.
“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. 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 1:8-9
Our independence and harmony flow from the knowledge of the True and Living God and who He is. He is the “I AM” and once we get that into our “heads” we can understand the power of living for God freely. We will not have “harmony” with all as neither Christ nor the Apostles did but we will have freedom and harmony with our God who is our life and in whom we live and move and have our being. Be a Christ-pleaser and not a man-pleaser. Seek Him and His Kingdom first and all these things will be given unto you. What things? “Everything” that is needed for life and godliness with peace that passes understanding. They too are His gifts of grace. This is freedom indeed! What a joy to study these things!
Soli Deo Gloria,
*TheologyGirl-ReformedWomen, Editor-Publisher Copyright: Heavenly Notes & Devotions From The Heart ©1984-2017 All Rights Reserved
This article is an excerpt from my original ReformedWomen Bible-Book Study “No Other Gospel” July 2007 and lectures and studies in 2009 and current.