I once came within about twenty yards of a magnificent humpback whale. My friend and I were walking along the seawall in Okinawa, Japan, and there she was—right off the shore, taking a break on her long journey from north Russia to south of the equator.
We stood silent, in awe, sharing a sort of spiritual moment.
“She’s beautiful . . .,” I said.
“Amazing . . .,” my friend responded.
“How kind of the Lord to let us glimpse this wondrous creature up so close!”
“Yeah. Wow. Wait—is that—do you think . . . ?”
“Yep. It’s rocks.”
CLEAR VISION: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH
The tide and morning light impaired our vision. Add to that my genuine need for glasses, and there’s no telling what else we misidentified that morning.
Clear vision matters. If we can’t see clearly, the results can be catastrophic: a car accident, a misstep down a tall flight of stairs, whale watching that’s really rock watching.
Whales are one thing. But what about more important things? Eternal things?
An inaccurate vision of God or an inaccurate vision of the gospel can cause us to misidentify the very source of our hope for this life and the next.
If we don’t get a true vision of God and the gospel, your Christian life and mine are a sham. It’s hell when we thought it heaven. Death when we expected life. Eternal damnation when we were sure of eternal salvation.
The stakes could not be higher. That’s why, when Paul heard that his beloved Galatians were being taught a false gospel—a blurry vision of God Almighty and his redemption through Jesus—he took pen to paper without delay.
THE ONCE-BLIND APOSTLE
Paul normally would’ve waited for a scribe, but this was too urgent, too critical, too life-dependent (Gal. 6:11). He was astonished that they were so quickly deserting the true God and the true gospel (Gal. 1:6).
Are you so foolish? he wondered, or bewitched even (Gal. 3:1)?
Paul had planted those churches ten years prior. He had even gone back to check on and strengthen them. So, when he heard false teachers were amongst his spiritual children—wolves in his own sheep pen—and that some of his children believed the lies, he was incensed.
Once so pious and religious in Judaism that he "persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Gal. 1:13), Paul knew better than anyone that to err from the truth was to err from life, from salvation, from God and the gospel.
Jesus himself had revealed the truth to Paul. Ironically, he was struck blind so he could see clearly (Acts 9).
CLARITY IS CHRIST ALONE
After the scales fell from Paul’s eyes, he boldly preached Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. And in his letter to Galatia, he reminds them (and us) of this clear truth: It was the Father’s will that Jesus would give himself for our sins, to deliver us from the present evil age (Gal. 1:4). It was the Father’s plan and the Son willingly and mercifully carried it out.
Each and every step, every detail in our salvation story, was written and accomplished by God alone. To add anything to the salvation story is to write a different story altogether. Any addition, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, makes it no gospel at all (Gal. 1:7).
Paul says to let anyone who blurs the gospel be accursed (Gal. 1:8,9). Even if it’s an angel from heaven, or Paul himself, or anyone else—he who blurs the gospel shall be cursed.
We are daily tempted to blur the gospel story by injecting ourselves into it, because transactions make sense to you and me. We want to do something. Earn something. We want some personal control over the whole thing.
But inserting ourselves into the story distorts the view and replaces what’s true with a counterfeit, and then it’s worth nothing. It delivers death, rather than life. The gospel plus anything is nothing. It’s a big pile of dead rocks when you thought you had a wondrous living whale.
Vision matters. We must continually commit ourselves to a clear view, a vision that matches reality.
What’s real and true and clear is that we have a good and kind God who is solely responsible for the rescue mission that is our salvation.
May we continuously remove ourselves from that view, consistently keep ourselves out, and so keep a clear vision of God and the gospel.
It’s Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.
Editor’s note: This is part of a series on Galatians from staff writer Jen Oshman.
Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters and has served as a missionary for nearly two decades on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado where she and her husband serve with Pioneers International, and she encourages her church-planting husband at Redemption Parker. Her passion is leading women to a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. She writes at www.jenoshman.com.