“Paul had preached the Gospel throughout Galatia, founding many churches which after his departure were invaded by the false apostles. The Anabaptists in our time imitate the false apostles. They do not go where the enemies of the Gospel predominate. They go where the Christians are. Why do they not invade the Catholic provinces and preach their doctrine to godless princes, bishops, and doctors, as we have done by the help of God? These soft martyrs take no chances. They go where the Gospel has a hold, so that they may not endanger their lives. The false apostles would not go to Jerusalem of Caiaphas, or to the Rome of the Emperor, or to any other place where no man had preached before as Paul and the other apostles did. But they came to the churches of Galatia, knowing that where men profess the name of Christ they may feel secure.”
– Martin Luther in his commentary on Galatians Chapter 1.
In this excerpt, Luther compares the false teachers in Galatia with the Anabaptists of his time during the Reformation, who were not willing to take the Gospel to the hard places (the Catholic provinces in Europe as he states), but rather desired to congregate with other Christians only. It is clear, at the very least from Luther’s assessment, that the Anabaptists’ actions of not going to the hard places with the Gospel, as he says, parallels that of the false teachers in Galatia. I’m not knowledgeable enough to say whether or not Anabaptists were indeed false teachers (they were definitely at the very least synergists, which says a lot), but I also don’t necessarily agree with everything Luther said either. Regardless, this is off topic … you could call the Anabaptists unwillingness to go to the hard places with the Gospel the “Reformation Christian Bubble” I guess, just as we have our own in America, which is why this amply applies. It is very tempting to only surround ourselves with believers. But it is in my opinion the modern church in America should listen to Luther when he says believers who only congregate together and do not go out into the world with the Gospel (the workplace, areas where unbelievers congregate, bars, the big cities vs rural areas) where there is hostility towards the Gospel and God’s glory, are paralleling the actions of the false teachers mentioned in Galatians. If these actions continue, we risk becoming totally irrelevant in our society, at which our culture will further digress into even more depravity. Those believers who totally separate themselves from society are not willing to be scorned for their faith in Christ. It is apparent by their actions. Instead they become puffed up with pride that they may somehow be polluted by worldliness if they go to those places, when really this is an excuse to escape persecution at the hands of those who hate the Gospel. At the heart of this belief system is legalism, the idea we are approved by God because of our works. And isn’t it ironic this is the very heresy Paul is refuting in Galatians, that had entered the church there by false teachers? I’m being sarcastic, it’s not at all ironic, because beliefs and actions go hand in hand.
I constantly hear preachers, teachers and others within our Christian culture who condemn the actions of unbelievers (many times yelling at them in public; still not understanding how a heart changed by Christ can do this) and have not the Christ-like courage to befriend them, be kind to them in Christ, in order to share the Gospel, in order that they may be restored to the glory of God through the Gospel by the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead these professed believers publicly persecute unbelievers by calling them names, bashing them with the poison of asps that is on their lips. I read one quote recently on a comment to a blog from someone stating, “As a Christian, I’m sick and tired of this Babylonian culture around us!” Well, let us love this “Babylonian culture” by entering their lives and preach the Gospel to them then! Many professed believers are quicker to condemn the actions and behaviors of unbelievers than preach the Gospel to them. But just as Paul says in Romans 10:13-15, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” In His High Priestly prayer to the Father in John 17:15, Jesus prays, “I do not ask that you take them [the disciples] out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” And then He goes on to say in verse 18, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” So our calling is not to remove ourselves from the pagan culture surrounding us, but to enter it and embrace these people as those who need the Gospel desperately, without which they are lost forever, and share it with words and actions, by entering into their lives, no matter how messed up it may be.
Might I remind all of us as well, that we as believers need the Gospel just as they do, everyday, for progression in our faith in Christ. We do not start with the Gospel and then “move on” by trying harder. Rather we start, progress and finish with the Gospel. Just as we gave up on our works when we came to faith in Christ, so also we lose confidence in ourselves and abilities and look to Christ more and more for these things, provided in the cross. Even as believers, we are broken sinners in need of restoration and healing that can only be found in Christ and His work for us, not through “trying harder” to become moral. Everyday, we need a spiritual heart-change by the Holy Spirit to turn from sin and replace it with Christ. Believers and unbelievers alike are sinners. Is the believer better than the unbeliever even after being saved? No! Then what is the difference? The grace of God alone making us to differ, not that we earned it or merited it at all, but based upon His own purpose and grace to us in Christ purposed from the foundation of the world, He has made us alive spiritually to see the truth of the Gospel and beauty of Christ. May He do the same to our unbelieving friends! May we take this wonderful message of salvation to those who are in bondage and captivity to the work of Satan by loving them with the Gospel at the expense of ourselves and our comfort, even though our culture may be detestable. And of course the world is morally detestable … how do you think the perfect Son of God felt everyday of His life on earth submerged in a world of sinning? Do you not think it vexed His soul on a scale we cannot even fathom? And yet who did He hang out with the most? The “Sinners” and “tax collectors”, the “Samaritans”, those considered to be on the outside of the faith as professed by the Pharisees. He poured Himself out even unto death in obedience to the Father to bring people to Himself, to deliver us from the wrath of God by His blood! May we have the same mind as that of Christ by taking this message of the cross and redemption thereby to those within our culture, even if it injures us! May we enter culture, not reject it, for the sake of Christ and His Gospel.
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” – Romans 1:16