I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (verses 6-9)
“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness – I dare not trust the sweetness frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. “
The hymn-writer got it exactly right. He captured the focused simplicity of the gospel. It’s Christ alone. He alone is our hope. We dare not trust anything else.
But the Galatians had shifted. They should have been singing this tune, but they’d taken up an alternate melody, heading into discordant (indeed disastrous) harmony.
Paul is shocked by their abandonment of foundational truth. He’d preached to them, straight and clear, the rock-solid “gospel of Christ,” focused solely on what Jesus himself had accomplished through his sacrifice on the cross. His pattern with them had been the very one he articulated to the Corinthians: “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
Why? Because our only hope is “Jesus’ blood and righteousness!” Paul himself had previously trusted in his own righteousness, leaning on what he himself had accomplished. He’d “put confidence in the flesh,” trusting in his ethnic pedigree, his Pharisaic commitment, his adherence to the details of the Jewish law, his zeal, his legalism (Phil 3:4-6). But he came to realize that it was all a loss, so much rubbish, unable to secure salvation. Instead, all he could do was put his weight on Christ, trusting in him alone, receiving salvation as a gift of grace, embraced by faith.
And so, his voice rings out passionately to every one of us: “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:9).
This is the gospel – the grace of Christ, made effective through his death on the cross, received by faith alone. There is nothing more we can do to earn salvation. It must be received solely by faith.
As this letter to the Galatians unfolds it becomes apparent these new believers had departed from this simplicity and had succumbed to an alternate narrative. They had embraced the idea that in addition to Christ, they needed to keep the details of the law, principally the rite of circumcision. Paul calls it a “different gospel … no gospel at all.”
And then, passionately, with fire in his eyes, he calls down curses upon the purveyors of such a gospel. Such intensity and fury take us aback. “Let him be eternally condemned,” Paul shouts. But salvation is at stake, and he doesn’t want his Galatian friends to be thrown into confusion. Instead, he shakes them fully awake to the grace of Christ in the simplicity of the true gospel.
May we stay wide awake, too. May we never desert the one who has called us. Let nothing be added to the clarity of focused faith in Christ. “My hope is built on nothing less …”
Lord, I, too, resolve to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. Keep my eyes on Jesus. Strengthen my grounding in grace alone through faith alone. To the glory of Jesus. Amen.
Give thanks: Take time to simply sit in the Saviour’s presence, focusing on his gift of salvation through the cross. Give thanks.
Take the words of the hymn and make them your refrain throughout the day: My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Give thanks.