Links Daily Devotional

The Gospel Fight

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:8, NIV)

Golf is not, thankfully, something that takes place in the octagon of the mixed martial arts. There’s no “ultimate” or “extreme” in the name of any major championship. And there’s definitely no fighting—at least not among the professionals on TV.

We, too, must be fighters when it comes to the gospel. And the place we must fight most fiercely is in our own hearts and minds.That does not mean that contentions don’t arise. Pace of play is as much of an issue between different sorts of players on tour as it is on the local course near you. And there have been infamous disturbances on both the men’s and women’s sides, especially when it comes to the supercharged cup matches. But where fighting words may come to the surface, fisticuffs are reserved for those playing under the Marquess of Queensbury rules (or those decidedly not!).

You might expect a similar standard of decorum on the pages of Scripture, where kindness and gentleness are advanced as fruit of the Holy Spirit. Jesus instructed his followers to turn the other cheek, then demonstrated this in its fullness during his betrayal, false trials, and advance to the cross.

But in the opening chapters of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the apostle dispensed more than a few fighting words.

On the whole, Paul was deeply disturbed by the drift the Galatians were engaging in, as they turned from the emphasis of the gospel and returned to the strictures of the law. It was into this context that Paul wrote strong words, both in defense of what he had preached and in challenge of those who were choosing another course.

Perhaps we would do well here to reiterate how Paul defined the gospel. Simply, it was faith, not works. “So we too have put our faith in Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:17). This idea was—and often still is—anathema to the Jewish mind, but the Galatians proved that we Gentiles too can slip quite easily into a pattern of self-justification, thinking and acting like we’ve got “the goods” to capture God’s saving attention.

Not so! Paul declared, withholding no adamancy. In fact, as we see from today’s verse, he was more certain of the truth of the gospel than he was of his own human ability to hold to preaching its message—“even if we should preach another gospel…”

If we’re to learn any one most important thing from this passage, it is this: We, too, must be fighters when it comes to the gospel. And the place we must fight most fiercely is in our own hearts and minds. Our fleshly tendency will always be to “try to win the approval of human beings” (Galatians 1:10). But when we have been crucified with Christ, our thrust instead must be to have Christ’s heart and mind fully alive in us. This way we will know the gospel has fully taken hold.

Jeff Hopper
October 24, 2016
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