By Michael Fitzpatrick

A Reading from Galatians 1:1-17

1 Paul an apostle — sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead — 2and all the members of God’s family who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

10 Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

13 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. 14I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.

Meditation

Perhaps no greater danger exists for the Christian than the threat of losing our grip on the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel — which is no gospel at all. In a world of shifting opinions, rapidly advancing technology, evolving social mores, and increasingly complex social relations, how do we keep our grip on the true gospel?

St. Paul offers both an objective and a subjective litmus test. The objective test concerns the origin of the gospel we believe. If what we take to be the gospel has human origin (note: this is different from human transmission), then it is not the gospel of our Lord. The true gospel is a revelation from Jesus Christ, and although it has been handed down and taught to us by those Christians who have gone before us, the chain of transmission must terminate in the incarnate disclosure of the God above all gods.

Why do we need a subjective litmus test in addition? Because as much as we might wish it to be simpler, some of our best clues to our own fidelity to the true gospel, and the fidelity of others, lie in our motives. Those who share a gospel to win the approval of humans, rather than to please God, are not serving Jesus. The true gospel cannot be used to secure earthly power. If human gain, rather than God’s glory, is the desired or actual result, we’re losing our grip on the gospel. So let us put aside the promises of earthly salvation, of comfortable religion, of white saviors, of demagogues, of conspiracy theories, and all those who would throw us into confusion and distort the gospel, and hold fast to the Good News that is not of human origin, always in humility examining whether we live for God or for earthly recognition.

Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Akure (Nigeria)
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas