Paul’s letter to the Galatians began with a crime scene and a smoking gun. Like any crime scene, it is a picture of disarray, confusion, and abandonment. The wreckage left behind points to a faith once firm and steadfast. Having been attacked by a distorted gospel, those once faithful have become foolish and bewitched (3:1). They’ve been blinded and beguiled by a different gospel originating from a different source. It didn’t come from the Lord, and it necessarily wasn’t true. On the other hand, what Paul had taught them did.
Paul wrote, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11,12).
Much of the letter is given to a description of what was wrong about this distorted gospel and what havoc it had and would continue to wreak upon Gentiles newly turned to God. But before the first effort was made to refute that which was false, the fundamental flaw was exposed – this destructive “gospel” was not from Jesus but from man.
Many years prior to writing that letter to the churches of Galatia, there was a scene that took place at Herod’s temple in Jerusalem. Jesus had entered the temple to teach the multitudes when His authority to do so was challenged by the chief priests and the elders. Rather than give them the direct answer they hoped for – one that they no doubt planned to use to discredit Him – Jesus asked them a question, stipulating that unless they answered His question they should expect no answer to their own.
Mt. 21:23-27 23 When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 “But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.” 27 And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Obviously, the Lord was not childishly saying “if you won’t say, then I won’t say.” He simply knew that they hoped to twist His words and discredit Him as a false prophet. His divine wisdom was illustrated in a question calculated to expose their disobedience to God. But don’t miss the significance of that simple question: “…from what source, from heaven or from men?”
They were all in the right place (the temple). All believed in God and considered themselves children of God. All believed in His word, although on that point there were significant differences. The Sadducees, well represented by the chief priests, did not accept the writings of all the prophets; but the multitudes certainly did. To validate John’s ministry was to admit his authority was from God. To invalidate his ministry was to destroy their own credibility as priests of God.
You see, even they knew that the source or the origin of a doctrine is the basis for acceptance or rejection. If more of us asked the question the Lord did, fewer of us would suffer the devastation of a wrecked faith like those Christians in Galatia once did. Where it came from matters!
Keep studying and keep serving! DC Brown ©2015