HomeReligion ZoneGrace tidings: ‘Who has bewitched you?’

Grace tidings: ‘Who has bewitched you?’

By Doug Mamvura

Paul’s defence of the true gospel in the letter to the Galatians, clearly demonstrates his uncompromising stance towards trust in self-righteousness.

He skipped most of the customary politeness of an introduction and got right to the point with a stinging curse placed on anyone who would dare to preach a gospel other than the one the Galatians had already received.

He compared the Galatians to a people who had been bewitched when they started following a false doctrine which was contrary to that which they had been taught.

Paul was very disturbed that the Galatians had been seduced from their faith in Christ through a perversion of the gospel. This perversion had been caused by a group of people called Judaizers.

The Judaizers in Paul’s day were a group of religious zealots intent on bringing believers in Jesus under old covenant law. Hence, the name “Judaizers” means one who converts to Judaism or the religion of the Jews.

They told the Galatians that faith in Christ alone wasn’t enough for salvation; they had to keep the precepts of the Old Testament Law, specifically the rite of circumcision. Paul wrote to turn them back to a pure faith in Christ alone for salvation.

Paul revealed that trusting in anything other than Christ alone for salvation voids the death of Christ. He also said that the work of Christ can be made of no effect to those who are trusting in their own keeping of the Law in order to produce justification. They are fallen from grace.

Paul was often troubled by these travelling preachers who were mainly the Judaizers who would follow him, wait for him to leave a city, and come in after he left to deceive the new believers in Jesus. These preachers would seduce them into believing a false gospel of a mixture of law and grace. But the gospel doesn’t need any help or to be mixed with a legal system that could not change a person’s heart. Actually, that causes those who believe it to disconnect from experiencing God in their hearts and they end up putting their trust in their own flesh

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29).

Jesus foretold these types of ministries when He taught the parable of the sower. He said the fowls of the air would descend to steal the Word that has been planted. Jesus later identified this robbery of God’s Word as satanic in nature or anti-Christ (Mark 4:1-20).

The main message of the Judaizers in Paul’s day was to try to convince people Jesus wasn’t enough, that they needed more “knowledge” than just knowing Him. They convinced the Galatians that to stay blessed and righteous before God, they needed to know about God’s law and keep it as well.

Many believers find themselves falling into this trap. I certainly was one of them before I got the revelation of the gospel of Grace.

When word got back to Paul his precious flock had been seduced into believing a false gospel and that “knowing Jesus wasn’t enough,” he wrote them a long and detailed letter challenging them to reconsider their new belief. He pointed out the numerous flaws and shortcomings of rejecting the work of Jesus on their behalf and embracing a new system of belief that was powerless to make them righteous or to change their hearts. This new belief wouldn’t help them walk in righteousness, peace, and joy or experience God’s love but would rule them by guilt, shame, and condemnation. The fruit of love wouldn’t be produced by a system designed to exploit all the weaknesses of their flesh, which was at its core all about being sin-conscious.

Today, we still have the same seductive Judaizing spirit around with essentially the same message. There are numerous religious organisations claiming to be Christian in doctrines that are no different from what happened to the Galatians. They have been seduced into believing Jesus isn’t enough and mixing some law with the gospel is needed to please God and live in a way that honours Him. Today, some groups keep the Sabbath or the old covenant dietary laws. Some are strong supporters of keeping the Ten Commandments.

Today’s Judaizers are no different from those in Paul’s day. The heart of their message is still the same, even though it may have been modified and less severe, it still has the same goal. It is to convince the believer “knowing Jesus isn’t enough” and you need other knowledge Jesus cannot give you by knowing Him. Yet, Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth you know will set you free” (John 8:32). Jesus said He is that truth! (John 14:6).

It isn’t “truths” you need to know but “the truth” who is the source of all the knowledge you need to know. The idea that we need knowledge or wisdom and experiences outside of what Jesus can supply is a very dangerous teaching that will cause believers to disconnect from God and place their trust in themselves.

This teaching is subtle and seductive and comes with empty promises. Paul asked the Galatians, how did miracles happen among you? (Galatians 3:5-6). Was it because of the good news you first heard or because you kept God’s laws? Paul is driving home a very important point about the power of the gospel, which is a revelation of God’s heart toward mankind. The miracles the Galatians saw and experienced happened because they believed the gospel, not because of how they lived and conducted their lives.

The Judaizers convinced the Galatians that by keeping the law, God would be pleased with them. And as a result, they would see great blessings and miracles take place. Paul knows from firsthand experience that keeping the law cannot cause you to be blessed or make you righteous. He knows they had disconnected from God by faith in their hearts and had now tried to earn or maintain their righteousness and blessings from God by their performances.  A performance driven religion is still prevalent amongst many believers today. I also used to be an expert in that practice. I used to think that God loved me according to how many days I fast, how much money I pay as tithe, how many hours I spend reading the Bible.

While all these things are good, they don’t make God love me more. God loves me not because I am lovely but because He is love. He died for me whilst I was still a sinner showing His love for me. It is important to realizse that we don’t do all those works in order for God to love us. We do those things because God loves us. It is in response to God’s love for us.

The other seductive and false teaching the modern-day Judaizer tried to convince the believer of is very similar in nature to the first that “Jesus isn’t enough.” It is the idea that asks “Is God’s love enough?” This false concept again tries to convince the children of God that God’s love alone isn’t enough to live a successful and victorious life in Christ, that they need to know “other truths” to help them achieve the goal of being victorious in their Christian lives. Again, this is another subtle attempt at getting believers to trust themselves and their efforts, instead of relying on God’s love for them. Suggesting that “love isn’t enough” is saying God isn’t enough because He is love. Can you imagine Jesus saying, “My Father isn’t enough!” It is utterly ridiculous because Jesus boldly taught that He can do nothing apart from His Father (John 5:30). He also taught His disciples the very same truth, that they cannot do anything apart from Him (John 15:5).

We should take note of Paul’s rebuke that anyone who preaches the gospel that is different from what he preached should be cursed regardless of who they are. We are saved by grace through faith lest any man boasts (Ephesians 2:8).

  •  Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: drdoug@corporatemomentum.biz or Twitter @dougmamvura

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