Apologetics, Biblical Doctrines, Christian Living, Church, Church history, Culture & Society

Is the Ancient Galatian Heresy a Modern Day Reality?

AN EXPOSITION OF GALATIANS 1:1-10

     1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

There were three qualifications for being an apostle. An apostle is a person who has been an eye witness of the resurrection. “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” (1 Cor. 9:1).

An apostle is a person who has been with Jesus, or at least been familiar with the ministry of Christ, from the beginning to the end. “And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27).

An apostle is a person who has been called, and then sent by Jesus. “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14).

All self-appointed, modern day apostles, are Biblically unqualified, and logically, unauthorized.

Again, an apostle refers to a person who was sent by Jesus to preach the gospel, perform miracles, and to suffer for His sake.

An apostle was sent forth to preach. “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7).

An apostle was sent forth to perform miracles. “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matt. 10:1).

An apostle was sent forth to suffer. “Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” (Luke 9:63).

      2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:

Galatia refers to a region in central Asia Minor, which is today, modern Turkey. The region was bounded on the east by Cappadocia, on the west by Asia, on the south by Pamphylia and Cilicia, and on the north by Bithynia and Pontus. The northern part of the region was settled in the third century B.C. by Celtic tribes that had been driven out of Gaul (France). From these tribes, the region derived its name, Galatia. (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

     3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,

The word for “grace” in the Greek text refers to undeserved favor being shown to the undeserving. When we do something nice for a person that we care about, that is a wonderful expression of love. But when we do something nice for a person that is not worthy of our affection, that is grace. While we were yet sinners, God extended His grace, His unmerited favor, towards us.”

Paul writes “Grace to you.” As you read the New Testament, look for the person pronouns for they speak of distinguishing grace. There is common grace, reflected when God makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the godly and the ungodly. But then, there is “grace to you”, the elect of God. There is distinguishing grace.

Paul was commanded not to leave the city of Corinth. “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).

Jesus said that none of His sheep would perish. “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

Be grateful to the grace of God given unto you. It is a distinguishing grace that brings peace with God. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” (Rom. 5:1).

The grace and peace that comes from God is extended to us because of Jesus.

      4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

There are many reasons why Jesus came to earth through the incarnation. Three reasons are stated here.

Jesus came to give Himself a ransom for our sins; again, notice the personal pronouns. Jesus died for “our sins”, that is the sins of the elect, for He shall save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).

Jesus came to deliver us, the elect of God, from this present evil world through sanctification of the Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13).

Jesus came because it was the will of God the Father. “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34)

      5 To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

     6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

Following that lovely and profound introduction, the apostle Paul suddenly lashes out at the Galatians in a fit of righteous anger. There is nothing subtle, or nuanced about the apostles words. They are bold, biting, and bitter. “I marvel,” said Paul, “I am amazed that you are so soon removed from God that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.”

A modern day lay psychologist would accuse Paul of being bi-polar. One moment he is sweet and lovely, he is filled with gracious words. Then, in the next second he is a changed personality. His temper is aroused, and he is sarcastic for Paul says that the “other gospel” to which the Galatians have turned is not another gospel at all!

      7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

Theologians have identified those who were trying to pervert the gospel of Christ as the Judaizers. This is a reference to individuals who came from a Jewish background, embraced Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, but wanted to keep the Law, and they wanted Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses as well. Specifically, these Judaizers wanted the Gentile Galatians, who were male, to be circumcised. Then, they wanted all Christians to observe the Jews religious holidays and high feast days. This was the Galatian Heresy.

Two thousand years later the Galatian Heresy still exits. Within the church of the 21st century there is the Messianic Movement. Jack Zavada provides some basic facts about Messianic Judaism (web:ThoughtCo.)

The Messianic Movement consists primarily of Jews who accept Christ as Yeshua, or Messiah. They seek to retain their Jewish heritage, and follow a Jewish lifestyle, while at the same time embrace Christian theology. There are about 1 million Messianic Jews worldwide, with more than 200,000 in the United States.

In modern times, the Messianic Movement traces its roots to Great Britain in the mid-19th century. The Hebrew Christian Alliance and Prayer Union of Great Britain was founded in 1866 for Jews who wanted to keep their Jewish customs but take on Christian theology. The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), started in 1915, was the first major U.S. group. Jews for Jesus, now the largest and most prominent of the Messianic Jewish organizations in the U.S., was founded in California in 1973.

Messianic Jews accept Yeshua (Jesus of Nazareth) as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. They observe the Sabbath on Saturday, along with traditional Jewish holy days, such as Passover, Shavn’ot, and Sukkot.

The Feast of Passover begins on the 15th day of Nisan (March), and is the first of three major festivals. Passover remembers the Exodus from Egypt. All grain products and related foods are avoided. There is the family or communal retelling of the Exodus story. The feast last for eight days.

The Feast of First Fruits (Sukkot) begins on the 15th of Tishri (April), and lasts for seven days (Lev. 23:34). Historically, it remembers the wandering of the Jews in the dessert. Agriculturally it rejoices at the ingathering.

The Feast of Weeks / Pentecost (Shavn’ot) commemorates the giving of the Law. It lasts for two days. It takes place 50 days after the Feast of First Fruits (May/ June) Exodus 23:16

Messianic Jews hold many beliefs in common with evangelical Christians, such as the virgin birth, atonement, the Trinity, inerrancy of the Bible, and the resurrection. Many Messianic Jews are charismatic and speak in tongues.

Messianic Jews baptize people who are of the age of accountability, meaning those who are able to accept Yeshua as Messiah. Baptism is by immersion. They practice Jewish rituals, such as bar mitzvah for sons and bat mitzvah for daughters, say, Kaddish for the deceased, and chant the Torah in Hebrew at worship services.

What makes the Messianic Movement “another gospel” is that it mixes truth with error, just like the Judaizers of the first century. In order to embrace the Messianic Movement the heart must re-enter into spiritual legalism and ritual bondage which Christ died to deliver His people from. “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years” (Gal. 4:9-10). “I am afraid of you,” said Paul to the Galatians, “lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Gal. 4: 11).

The Messianic Movement promotes a practice which Scripture calls the doctrine of demons. They forbid people to eat certain foods, and demand that certain days be observed. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:1-3). While promoting many Christian teachings, the Messianic Movement falls in the category of “another gospel.” Those who preach another gospel are anathema. They are accursed.

     8 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.

     9 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.

The Messianic Movement is not the only false gospel which is anathema. The gospel of the Mormon Church falls into this same category. Mormons preach a gospel that is based on the direction of the angel Moroni telling Joseph Smith about some golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was written.

One main lesson to learn from this passage is that there is a true gospel which must be embraced, and preserved against any other gospel, which is not “another gospel.”

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