The gospel doesn’t come from anyone but Christ Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 23 February
Galatians 1.10-12 KWL
10 For do I now put confidence in people, or God?
Or do I seek to please people?
If I was still trying to please people,
I wouldn’t be a slave to Christ.
11 For I want you all to understand, fellow Christians,
the gospel I’m evangelizing to you:
It isn’t according to people.
12 For neither do I receive it from some person,
nor am I taught it.
Instead it’s through Christ Jesus’s revelation.
Previously:
  • “Christ Jesus’s apostle to this present age.” Ga 1.1-5
  • “The ‘gospel of grace’… with a little karma in it.” Ga 1.6-9)
  • When Paul critiqued the Galatians for adopting an alternative “gospel,” which isn’t really a gospel, he wanted to make clear he’s not talking about his gospel. Even though he regularly refers to it in his letters as “my gospel” or “our gospel,” it’s not really his; it didn’t come from him. It came from Christ Jesus.

    We still have various contrarian scholars in Christendom who try to claim Paul’s gospel (i.e. the gospel, as Paul presents it) is not the same gospel as Jesus presents. Nor is it the same gospel as Peter, nor John, nor James, nor Luke. It’s “the Pauline gospel,” and they try to dig up proof texts to show exactly why it’s different than the “other gospels” in the New Testament. Fr’instance Jesus spent a lot of time talking about our good works, but Paul pointed out we’re not saved by good works… but James pointed out faith without works is dead. These scholars are trying to take all the subtle differences between the messages of our Lord and his apostles, blow ’em out of proportion, and claim they’re entirely different, and even opposed to one another. It gains ’em a little notoriety… and gives people all the ammunition they need when they don’t care to follow Jesus and his apostles at all. “Oh, Jesus and Paul preached two different gospels. So which one do you mean?” Meanwhile they recognize neither.

    But there is no alternative gospel; there’s just the one.

    Mark 1.14-15 KJV
    14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

    God’s kingdom has come near. So repent and believe!

    That’s the gospel. Any “Jesus gospel” which isn’t that gospel, isn’t the gospel, or didn’t come from Jesus. Any “Paul gospel” which isn’t that gospel, isn’t the gospel, and is just a twisted mishmash of Paul quotes which misses the whole point. Any “James gospel” or “John gospel” or “writer-of-Hebrews gospel” or “Old Testament gospel” which isn’t about God’s kingdom coming near, isn’t the gospel. These controversy-stirring scholars are simply cherry-picking verses so they can claim these writers had a different gospel, but they’re really just trying to sell books and get invited to talk shows. Stop taking them and their fans seriously.

    Paul didn’t have any “Paul gospel,” and he says as much in 1 Corinthians about his fellow evangelists Apollos and Cephas. (“Cephas” is a bad translation of Κηφᾶ/Kifá, the Aramaic nickname of Simon bar Yoannis Jn 1.42 which usually gets translated Πέτρος/Pétros, “Peter.”)

    1 Corinthians 1.12-13 KJV
    12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

    There’s one gospel, and one savior, and it’s not Paul’s gospel nor Paul’s salvation. Paul calls it “my gospel” only because Christ Jesus entrusted it to him. And if I ever refer to it as “my gospel” (I usually don’t; I tend to say it’s the gospel) it’d only be because I’m trying to distinguish what I say, as opposed to what someone else says—but both of us should defer to what Jesus says it is, ’cause really it’s his gospel.

    But unlike Paul, I don’t claim I got it directly from Jesus. I didn’t. I got it out of the bible. I got pointed to the bible by other Christians, who likewise got pointed to the bible by fellow Christians… and so on back to the original apostles. Although since Jesus still appears to people, it’s likely many of those forebears did hear the gospel directly from Jesus, same as Paul. Same Jesus; same gospel.

    And in this passage, we’re reminded we have to keep returning to what Jesus’s gospel is. ’Cause goodness knows there are myriads of alternate gospels. Or emphases on certain parts of the gospel (fr’instance all those evangelists who love to quote John 3.16) which tend to confuse people into thinking that favorite emphasis, and nothing else, is the gospel. Those are the gospels of other people, and Paul isn’t preaching those. Just what he got from Jesus himself.

    Where Paul got his gospel.

    As you’ll see in the rest of Galatians, the Galatian Christians were being peer-pressured into making their gospel more Judaizer-friendly. If you were gentile and wanted to be saved, you had to first become a Jew, and obey the Judaizers’ instructions on how to become a Jew; namely get ritually circumcised. But in adding rules and steps to salvation, the Judaizers were unwittingly turning salvation by God’s grace into salvation by good works. Gotta earn God’s favor, instead of recognizing his favor is a free gift.

    As to how Paul got the proper gospel… most every Christian hears Paul’s story at some point. (Heck, it’s told three whole times in Acts.) Paul was a Benjamite Pp 3.5 from Tarsus, Cilicia, born a citizen of the Roman Empire, but a devout Pharisee with the Hebrew name of Saul. He moved to Jerusalem to study under rabbi and senator Gamaliel Ac 22.3 in a Pharisee academy. It was there he first encountered Christianity in the person of Stephen the deacon—and decided he personally needed to stamp it out.

    But enroute to doing a little stamping in Syria, Christ Jesus personally stopped him, blinded him, and turned him 180 degrees in his direction.

    Acts 9.3-7 KJV
    3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

    Paul was Christian ever after, proclaimed Jesus all over the empire, and was ultimately beheaded because the Roman Empire came to demand its citizens and subjects worship the emperor. (Kind of a problem for us monotheists whose LORD God forbade that.) To the Empire, the emperor and his divine rule was good news, i.e. their gospel. But like I and Paul have been saying, there is no other gospel.

    Now when we read Paul’s conversion story, we don’t see Jesus correcting him and telling him what the gospel properly is. Which means we can’t help but come to the conclusion Jesus appeared to Paul another time to instruct him. We already know Jesus appeared to him while he was under arrest—

    Acts 23.11 KJV
    And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

    —so it’s not hard to imagine Jesus appearing to Paul other times. It appears to me, at least, that Jesus trained Paul himself. Taught him everything he taught his Twelve, and when Paul later went to visit Peter for 15 days, Ga 1.18 it wasn’t to get trained by Peter, as Christians commonly assume; it was to have Jesus’s best student confirm everything Jesus had taught Paul.

    Yeah, my interpretation is probably way more supernatural than a lot of Christians are comfortable with. That’s their hangup. Paul appeals so often to the fact “flesh and blood” never taught him stuff, Ga 1.16 but that he got it by revelation, from God himself, that I can’t help but take him at face value. What, am I gonna say “Paul’s exaggerating; he didn’t really get it from special revelation; he heard secondhand revelations from other Christians, and we can trace all that stuff back to when Jesus walked the earth”? I take bible more seriously than that. Revelations mean revelations.

    Hence Paul didn’t receive the gospel from “some person.” Didn’t hear it from Ananias, from Barnabas, from Peter or James, from those Jews he stayed with in Arabia. He got it straight from Christ Jesus. He got it pure and unfiltered, without various selfish human biases stretching it this way and that. The only biases which matter are Jesus’s.

    The reason Paul wrote he wasn’t trying to please people with it, is because the distorted gospel the Galatians were teaching was trying to please people: It was specially adapted to placate the Judaizers. It told people, “The kingdom of God has come near… to Jews, and if you want it to come near to you, become a Jew! We’ll schedule your appointment with the mohel right away.” It’s Christianity with extra steps. And while I personally have no problem with circumcision (unlike Paul, and many a gentile Christian nowadays) it is absolutely not a prerequisite for salvation. Jesus didn’t come to earth to turn gentiles into Jews. He came to make daughters and sons of God from every nation.

    Where should our gospel come from?

    If Jesus doesn’t personally appear to you and tell you what the gospel is, that’s okay. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t drop it into your mind, or give you some vision or dream, that’s okay too. We don’t need special revelation to know what the gospel is. We got bibles.

    If you don’t trust the bible, that’s a whole other problem. Talk to God about that. But generally he’s gonna confirm what he already had the authors of the bible write: God’s kingdom has come near. Repent, and trust this good news!

    Yes, there are alternate “gospels” floating around Christendom. Most commonly it’s the one where you believe Jesus died for your sins, say the sinner’s prayer, and now you get to experience God’s wonderful blessings for your life, and you get to go to heaven when you die. It’s a popular and nice idea, but does it touch upon living in God’s kingdom at all? In fact did Jesus spend most of his ministry on earth talking about living in peace and safety and going to heaven, or teaching his kids what God’s kingdom is like? Which do you think he prioritizes? (And don’t just guess. Double-check with a bible.)

    Too many “gospels” are meant to make people happy and comfortable, or meant to accommodate hypocrites who only care about becoming famous and influential. They’re not about loving God and our neighbors; they’re about conforming to popular Christian culture. Such Christians think they’re going against the mainstream, but really they’ve joined a different mainstream… one which, from time to time, actually goes against Jesus because they’d rather follow the people of their churches than our Lord. Or follow the heroes of the people in their churches, or follow their politics. We need to stop trying so hard to please those people.

    ’Cause when Paul wrote, “Do I seek to please people?” Ga 1.10 he wasn’t talking about pagans! He wasn’t talking about mainstream culture. He was talking about church people. Fellow Christians. Who had gone wrong. Whom he had to write a whole letter to correct. They were following the current Christian trend, but Paul was following Jesus. Let’s be like Paul, shall we?