You can feel the great concern that Paul had for these believers as you read through the book of Galatians. It was an urgent situation with no time for pleasantries. As he put pen to papyri under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I can imagine him struggling through the spectrum of human emotion as he writes. These were people he had visited and preached the gospel to, personally. He had seen the evidence of the Holy Spirit granting to them repentance and empowering them to believe the message of truth. Yet, as he writes to them—only a short time after he had been with them—he wonders if his efforts among them were in vain (Galatians 3:4). In this letter we see, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are running to a different gospel—not that there is another one…”(Galatians 1:6-7a), and “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1a).
After Paul left the region of Galatia, a group called the Judaizers—who accepted the necessity of the atonement that Paul taught about, but added to it some aspects of Jewish law—came in behind him to add to the message. This is like looking at two compounds that are composed of hydrogen and oxygen. One is H2O (water) and the other is H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide). The addition of a second oxygen atom makes all the difference. The substance goes from being water—with all of its familiar properties—to hydrogen peroxide. It seems like such a small addition, but the difference is immense. It is the same with this message of the gospel that the Judaizers were teaching behind Paul. They agreed with Paul in regard to the necessity of the atonement secured by Christ on the cross, but then added that second oxygen atom of works to grace—which then robs grace of its meaning. They couldn’t imagine that after 1,400 years of God’s people being under the Mosaic Law (the Old Covenant), that this would no longer be required of them, so they were trying to join the two. They were teaching that faith in Jesus was necessary as the introduction to the Christian faith, but that a certain keeping of the law (namely circumcision) was necessary for earning the favor of God.
What was Paul’s opinion of this false teaching from the Judaizers? He calls it a distortion of the gospel message in chapter 1v7. In v8, he pronounces a curse on anyone who is preaching a so-called gospel that is different from the one he preached to them. In case someone might think, “That’s pretty strong, I wonder if he really meant to say that.”, he repeats it in v9–“As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed”. He feels so strongly about this that in v8, he says to them, “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed”.
I imagine this being like the instructions you might give to your children to make sure they heed your safety instructions while out in the yard playing. You might begin with, “I don’t want you to talk to strangers, ok?” Then to drive the point home even further you add, “If someone drives by in a white van with “FREE CANDY” painted on the side of it and asks if you want some, you run inside the house and come get your mom or me.” Then—and I think this is where Paul is here in Galatians 1:9–this is so vitally important for you to understand that I’m going to lay out this absurd circumstance to make it crystal clear for you, “Even if it’s your grandma or me driving the “FREE CANDY” van around, you turn and run inside the house and get one of your parents.” There is absolutely no circumstance in which you are to approach this potential danger.
This is a matter of primary importance. There is only one message that can be rightly called the gospel. It is that Jesus paid it all. The Christian gospel is the gospel of, “it is finished”. We don’t perform for God in order to gain acceptance from Him. For those who are born again, we are fully accepted in the eyes of the Father through the finished work of Christ, who paid the penalty for all of our sin. This is not to say that good works have no place in the life of the Christian. We have been saved to walk in good works and to image the divine nature of God as light in the world by the power of the Spirit, but we don’t do this to earn the favor of God. We do these works of light because we love Christ and we are fully devoted to Him—who is light—the One who rescued us from a sure Hell.
So, what happened after the Judaizers? Did people stop proclaiming false gospels that lead people away from the finished work of Christ? No, they never stopped. They’ve been busy spreading error —in one form or another — since there was a truth to proclaim. We aren’t dealing with the Judaizers, specifically, but I want us to think about a particular message that is in our culture today that calls itself a Christian message, yet in reality, it is a desertion of grace and a “gospel” that is contrary to what the apostles preached. It’s “FREE CANDY” that sadly lures many away from truth.
The message of social justice has slipped in the side door and infected the church while folks were busy paying attention to the world and the things of the world. Those who profess faith in Christ have been caught with their eyes down and this false message has metastasized. This movement is running rampant in our culture today and is spreading like cancer in the church. It is a false message because—like all false messages—it calls upon the listener to draw their gaze downward to the temporal things of the world. That’s what makes it “FREE CANDY”, but I want us to examine its specific composition. Which receptors of fleshly desire does it appeal to? We’ll look at what I see as the major ones: the promotion of disunity, partiality and discontentedness through a temporal (worldly) focus.
We have the clear teaching of Scripture which tells us not to love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15-17). That’s clear language. Don’t love the things of the world, and don’t make them the objects of your affection. Why? Because the world is temporary and the things gained here are passing away. The truth of the Word instructs us to love and pursue eternal things rather than earthly things because they are eternally valuable (Colossians 3:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:7b-8). Jesus is to be the object of our affection rather than whatever the world has to offer. This movement is based upon the pursuit and distribution of worldly things—power, money, opportunity for ease of life, etc.—rather than the pursuit of holiness in Christ.
From the promotion of a preoccupation and love for worldly things, we move to another danger that this movement promotes—covetousness. Colossians 3:5 says that covetousness is idolatry. How is this so? How is a seemingly lesser thing like covetousness placed on equal ground as idolatry? Perhaps we have an incomplete understanding of covetousness. To be covetous is to put oneself above God as the one who knows what you need and when you need it. We might think of it as a seemingly innocuous thought of, “I wish I had a car like that”, but that’s just the beginning. Covetousness then fixates on that temporal thing and then dissatisfaction and discontentment grow. You question how good God really is to have withheld something so seemingly good from you. As you examine the money, power, influence and ease of life of others, you begin to think that God has not done right by you in giving you this particular lot in life. Rather than promoting godliness with contentment of heart (1 Timothy 6:6) and a trust in the Lord regardless of circumstance, this movement promotes the falsehood that I am higher than God and I know better than He does about what the circumstances of my life should be. We don’t get to dictate our lot in life as this is God’s to give. Whatever our situation may be, the responsibility of the Christian is to be thankful, to find satisfaction and contentment in the Lord and to pursue holiness in the light of truth rather than live according to the darkness.
Lastly, the emphasis of Scripture is unity within the body of Christ. Enmity, strife, jealousy, rivalries, dissensions, and divisions are all listed as belonging to the darkness (Galatians 5:19-21). There are no divisions based on physical differences in the body of Christ. There is no Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11). We can say there is also no male or female as Paul mentions it in Galatians 3:28. This is not to say that there are no recognized differences within the body of Christ as men and women are clearly given different roles within the family and church, but what this is saying is that these differences are not grounds for preferential treatment—there is no partiality. They are instead an opportunity to praise God for granting salvation to all types of people—people of every skin color, people of either gender, people of every socioeconomic status, people of every nationality, people of every IQ, etc. God shows no partiality and we are also called to show no partiality (James 2:1-9). The social justice movement highlights differences and promotes unbiblical division within the body by using these differences as grounds for preferential treatment—contrary to Scripture. This is partiality. This is sin. The answer to past partiality is not present partiality. It is instead repentance and faith in the pursuit of unity in Christ.
In the final analysis, the social justice movement is “FREE CANDY” which is—in reality—a trick rather than a treat. The intent is to draw the eyes of man away from the light of God’s truth and to cause one to focus on the temporal things of this world and to see them as worthy and desirous. This movement, if allowed to persist within the professing church, will divide the people into unbiblical categories and promote disunity, dissatisfaction, discontentedness and disdain for God. The intention of the gospel is that all who believe would be saved from the oppression of sin and the wages of sin—death (Romans 6:23) and that we would fix our eyes on Jesus who is the founder and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2). He endured the greatest injustice on our behalf. This is that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)—the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Peter 2:11). He who knew no sin became sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ, the Holy One of God, died on behalf of sinners and in Him is life and the life is the light of men (John 1:4). Now we repent of the darkness that used to rule our hearts and we live in the light of Christ as we follow Him. We must put to death the divisiveness, the discontentment and the love of the world that social justice promotes. So, if the “FREE CANDY” van comes driving by handing out social justice, run to the light of God’s truth.