In Homer’s work of ancient literature, The Odyssey, we read about a war hero named Odysseus. In one particular scene, Odysseus is attempting to sail home to his wife and son when he comes across the fabled female foes, known as the Sirens. The Sirens were half bird, half human creatures who would call out to passing ships using their beautiful and enchanting voices. Apparently, their tantalizing tones were so tempting that sailors, in an attempt to get closer to the source of the sounds, would steer their ships into the jagged rocks that surrounded the Sirens’ island. Odysseus knew the dangers of listening to the melodic calls of the Sirens but attempted to both hear their serenades and survive. Was he successful? Even though Homer wrote The Odyssey around 2800 years ago and we all have had plenty of time to discover the ending, I won’t give away if Odysseus escapes the charming chirpers or escapes with his life. Now you may be asking, “what does this have to do with Galatians 1?”
Paul begins his letter to the Christians in Galatia by both warning and reprimanding them about the dangers of listening to those who would distort the truth of Jesus Christ. It seems that at the time of Paul’s writing there were sacrilegious sirens you were deliberately distorting the Gospel. They did this in the hopes that followers of Jesus would turn away from “THE Way” and head toward the treacherous and spiritually destructive path of religious regulation and works righteousness. Paul’s response to his readers was, “I can’t believe you’re turning away from the One who called you through the mercy of Jesus. You’re being fooled by a message that sounds good but is leading you to utter devastation” (Gal. 1:6-7 my paraphrase). Paul would go on to say that anyone who preaches another Gospel should be cursed.
So what does this mean for us in modern day? Pastor Greg summarized Paul’s message in this first chapter by saying that the Gospel formula of being right before God is not Jesus plus human effort, but instead is simply Jesus plus nothing. There is nothing that can be added to the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ to bring salvation. He alone is the source. Anyone who attempts to twist the simplicity of that truth is speaking distraction at best and out right death at worst.
In closing, consider this quote by Johnathan Edwards; “You contribute nothing to your own salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” All praise, gratitude, and glory to the one who made a way for the unrighteous to be righteous. The true source of life; Jesus Christ.
Question for Reflection:
1. One of the main reasons Paul wrote this letter was to combat the negative influence of Judaizers (those who sought to make living under the Mosaic Law a requirement of the Christian faith) on the new gentile Christians. Why would the Judaizers’ message of Jesus + works = justification be so compelling? Why is it hard for us to accept the truth and simplicity of the Gospel (faith in Jesus + nothing = justification)?
2. How do we attempt to earn our right-standing before God? What routines or rituals do we do that make us feel like we are more worthy of God’s love? What things do we do/think/say that are misrepresentations of the Gospel?