Friday, October 17, 2014
THE CURSE OF THE JUDAIZERS
Imagine living in a time when travel pretty much consisted only of walking, boat, and horseback (or other beast of burden). You travel many miles on foot, risking your health and even your life, bringing the good news, the gospel message of Jesus Christ to a mostly pagan and barbaric country. You convert many to Christianity there and start a number of churches along the way. Your message has been clear and direct, mincing no words, yet, spoken in love. Before you leave this faraway land, the churches there are showing a lot of promise. Ok, great. But you find out some time later that the teaching for which you risked so much, and fought so hard to share, has been twisted in a manner that voids the whole message and puts their souls at stake!
Such was the situation in the Apostle Paul’s case. On his first missionary trip, he traveled through the region of Galatia, preaching the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, Who (mercifully) came to pay the full penalty for our sins. But the message got distorted somewhere along the way. Paul’s famous question to the saints in Galatia jerked them back into reality… “O foolish Galatians, WHO HATH BEWITCHED YOU, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Galatians 3:1)
No New Testament epistle has a stronger message than the one to the Galatian churches. Paul states that the message that he first brought to them is, and always will be, the true gospel. He says that if ANYONE (including himself) would preach a different gospel, that messenger is cursed:
“But though we, or an angel from Heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)
Sobering words! But what was it, exactly, that grieved Paul so much? What was this other gospel that had crept into the Galatian church? It was the message of the Judaizers. It was simply a message that accepted Jesus’ work on the cross for salvation, but also added something else to it. It was salvation “by faith plus works.” The works that the Judaizers added were circumcision and the Law of Moses (Acts 15:1, 5). Ok, so what’s wrong with adding the Law of Moses? Wasn’t this law directly from God, and therefore the ultimate guide to righteous works? Absolutely. And wasn’t the Mosaic Law summed up in the Ten Commandments? Indeed it was. And did not Jesus, Himself, condense all these even further into only two commandments, i.e., love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40)? So, what’s the big deal? What could possibly be wrong with any work that would fit in the category of these two commandments?
The fact is, ALL good works fall under this category. So, nothing is wrong with the Mosaic Law itself, it’s the fact that it was added to the cross. Therefore, any time we try to add good works…. any good works…. to the work of the cross in order to be saved, we are saying that Jesus’ work was just not quite enough. But there is only ONE work that can save us… and it is HIS work, HIS suffering, HIS paying the penalty on the cross. We can do nothing to add to our salvation at any point in our Christian walk. In fact, if we even try to, we are insulting Him and we are cut off, we are severed from Christ and fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4)! We have deserted Jesus for another gospel (Galatians 1:6)! Any mixture of God’s grace and man’s works to be saved is fatal.
But the error of the Judaizers is not just a problem of the past. We have many today who claim to be Christians, yet who strongly embrace this evil doctrine. The Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and even many Protestant churches all claim to believe and trust in the work of Jesus, yet try to add some type of work(s) to the cross in order to be saved. This creates a false gospel. It may be water baptism, it may be speaking in tongues, or perhaps performing the “moral aspects” of the Mosaic Law, helping your neighbor, giving to the poor, becoming a martyr (dying for your faith), etc., etc. All these things can be good, but they cannot be trusted in to save us, even partially. They cannot contribute to our justification. Salvation is a gift, and you don’t work for a gift (Romans 4:4-5). There is no amount of suffering or work that can be “added to” Jesus’ work for salvation. To add even one of these works is to say that Jesus did not completely pay the penalty for our sins (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:12; 1 John 2:2). This is blasphemy. No wonder Paul was so severe with the Galatians.
Are we claiming that Christians should not do good works? No, we are not at all saying that. But we should simply do good works out of a love for God, and in appreciation for what Jesus has done. And we will be rewarded for our good works which are done in the right spirit. The wrong attitude would be, “I am doing these good works to help my chances of getting into Heaven.” But if Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross wasn’t enough BY ITSELF, then surely nothing could save us.
Put your faith, your trust, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Don’t put yourself under the curse… don’t be a Judaizer.