Scripture Text: Galatians 1
Stockholm Syndrome – emotional bonding with captor or abuser.
Just like those who developed such a strong attachment to those who have hurt, kidnapped, abused, or even tortured them we as Christians tend to long for what God has set us free from. We don’t see the danger in it and wind up chasing it even though it will destroy us. We’ve been Rescued by the Grace, Love, and Mercy of God. Don’t go back.
Read and pray
- Why are you turning back? – verses 6-7
God transformed Paul from a man who wanted to destroy the church into a man who loved the church and sacrificed everything to build it. So, Paul took it personally when the church came under attack, and that happened a lot even in the early days. The purity of the Gospel has been under attack since the very beginning, and thankfully God has provided people like Paul to defend the truth.
Here’s the issue. In Acts 14 we read how Paul established churches throughout Galatia. You can see some of them on the map here: Iconium, Listra, and Derbe. As with all of the churches that Paul helped start, he loved these people and wanted God’s best for him. The problem was that there was a group who came along to many of these churches after Paul left and caused a lot of confusion. These people are typically referred to as Judaizers because they added circumcision and other Old Testament laws to the requirements for truly being saved.
In other words they said that faith in Jesus isn’t enough for salvation. There had to be more. You need faith in him, plus you have to be circumcised and follow the Law. Then you can be saved. It caused a lot of confusion and a lot of hurt, and it jeopardized the purity of the Gospel message. Because as Paul notes here. That’s no gospel at all.
So Paul reminds them of what the Gospel is. Verse 3.
The true Gospel is that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. It’s faith in that which saves us “from this present evil age.” Nothing else should be added to that message.
Said another way: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 & Romans 10:9-10
Adding anything to the Good News destroys the message and hope that Jesus brought us and on which the church has been established. And this is still an issue for today. We may not have people who are working to get us to be circumcised or to follow the Law in order to be saved, but there are still false teachers out there who are trying to add to the Gospel message.
It comes down to this: our hope is built on Jesus. It’s not Jesus plus something. It’s Jesus. One of the threats to the pure message of the Gospel that we face today is legalism. Simply put Legalism says that I have to do something to earn God’s love, and to keep His love. Different words than were used in Paul’s day, but it’s still the same message. Jesus plus something. On the surface legalistic teaching seems to make sense. If I read my Bible God will love me, if I don’t He’ll be disappointed. If I work hard, teach classes, evangelize, dress right, talk right, pray enough and long enough then God will love me even more. If not, then I am shunned.
It sounds right, because that’s how we think, but then it goes to a whole new level. Eventually someone asks, “when is enough, enough?” “Who decides what is right and what is wrong?” And of course the one who will call those shots will be the leader who wants to keep control of you. That is always what legalism degrades to, control.
Here’s the thing, though, it’s never good enough. Jesus plus something else will always leave us empty and in bondage. Jesus came to free us, that’s the message that Paul had taken to the Galatians, but when they began to believe that their actions could somehow save them they stepped back into bondage. And so Paul asks the question, “how could you ever want to go back?” He wrote it this way Verse 6.
Living under this is a miserable existence. I’ve seen it first-hand. From a leadership standpoint legalism creates an oppressive environment. Individually it drains life of joy because legalism is an endless list of do’s and don’ts. The true Gospel sets us free from all of that so that we can live in peace with our Savior.
Paul reminded them some things about the Gospel in order to bring them back.
- The Gospel is True – verse 11
It’s not something that was just made up by men. Unlike the message that was throwing them into confusion, the Gospel is true. Paul believed that with all his heart no, but had not always. He had been on the other side. He did everything that he could as a young man to stop the spread of what he would have considered a myth. From Paul’s perspective back then all of this talk about Jesus was dangerous and had to stopped. He put it this way Verses 13-16
How can Paul be so sure that the Gospel was true? He saw Jesus. Acts 9 tells his story. He was on his way with approval from Jewish leaders to imprison anyone he found who taught about Jesus. On the way Paul saw Jesus and that changed everything. The early believers were very careful to emphasize eye-witness testimony. That was their best way early on of giving validity to what they taught. Those who saw Jesus’ ministry first-hand gave testimony to what they saw and heard. Paul saw Jesus after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. That was enough for him.
- The Gospel is from God – verse 12
Paul trusted the message he received and asked the Galatians to trust it because the message came from God. Now I know anyone can say that they have a message from God, but notice how Paul is giving validity to his message.
Paul had been an enemy of the church – verse 13
He received the Gospel directly from Christ – verses 12, 16
He studied on his own for 3 years – verses 16-18
Paul’s understanding of the Gospel lined up with those who were with Jesus – verses 18-24
- The Gospel is Salvation – verse 4
The Gospel is our way to Salvation, so it is also our way to freedom. Sin has sucked us into bondage. We don’t easily recognize it as that, but the reality is without Christ we are in bondage. As Paul puts it in Romans 6, before Christ we were slaves to sin. Sin, shame, and death had us locked up tight, but Jesus set us free from all of that.
Freedom from sin
Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for our rebellion against God and set us free from our bondage to sin. We don’t have to be ruled by it any longer. That means we can be free from anger, lust, and addiction. It means that our words can be honoring to God and uplifting to others. Freedom in Him also means that we don’t have to be ruled by our past. We are set from the grip of sin in every way, including its consequence – death.
Freedom from the law
Jesus has also freed us from the law, or trying to earn God’s love with the things that we do. Again going to Romans, the Law is good. It was given to the Jews as a way of showing them how to honor God. It also provided them with boundaries for their protection. But in our sinful minds and hearts the law became another source of bondage. It turned into an endless list of requirements that could never be filled, and the Pharisees made it even worse by adding their own laws to the list.
Jesus set us free from all of that, however. We are saved by God’s grace and through faith in His son Jesus. That sets us free from all of the other stuff.
We’ve been rescued by Grace. Don’t let yourself go back.
- Understand that salvation is faith in Jesus plus nothing
- Rest in the grace that God has provided
- Extend that same grace to others
More info on Stockholm Syndrome at http://counsellingresource.com/therapy/self-help/stockholm/
Map courtesy of http://www.bible-history.com/