Leaving The Message My plan for studying Galatians is to take one chapter at a time and just talk about those things that mean the most to me now. When I was first starting to see the errors in the message I read through the entirety of the New Testament in a few days and it was like I’d never read the words before. I knew what the bible said—I could recite verses and I had a pretty good understanding of what the scriptures contained, but when I read it for what it said and not for what I was told that it said, and allowed the words of scripture to speak to my heart without preconceived ideas I realized that much of my theology was wrong and not scripturally sound. A lot of what I thought the scriptures said were simply out-of-context interpretations of what is said instead of the actual context and meaning of the verses. In the book of Galatians the subject of law versus grace is discussed in great detail, as well as the precise nature of the Gospel and the Freedom we should be embracing as new creatures in Christ apart from the law. This is something I really didn’t understand until less than a year ago. I’m still by no means an expert on law vs. grace, but I know now that the legalism taught in the message is incompatible with the grace taught in Scripture.
Paul begins in Galatians 1 with a simple introduction:
Verses 1 through 5:
1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me, To the churches in Galatia: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Paul acknowledges that no man sent him but Jesus Christ and is writing on behalf of himself and all those men and women that are with him—maybe the congregants with Paul or maybe those in the ministry working with him to spread the gospel. But either way, Paul and the brothers and sisters with him are writing to the churches (plural) in Galatia. So, we know there were multiple groups, and we know that Paul is particularly interested in their well-being, as we’ll see in the content of the letter and his very serious and stern tone throughout it.
He gives them the customary salutation—“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”, and then finishes the salutation with the true statement about our Lord: “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” The greeting foreshadows the subject matter Paul will address, which is the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and our ability as Christians to live holy lives through Jesus Christ apart from the law.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Wow! So, in Galatia there were people that were turning away from the grace of Christ and were instead turning to a different gospel. If that isn’t timely and applicable to us I don’t know what is! Paul says that they are perverting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and confusing the simplicity of it—in later chapters we see that what they were doing is teaching that Christians should be obeying the Jewish laws and that obedience to the law was a requirement of salvation. Instead, Paul is urging the people of Galatia to remain Free in Christ and to not allow the simple truth of salvation by faith to be perverted—to not submit themselves to a yoke of bondage, but to stay committed to the Gospel as preached to them by the apostles and by Paul.
Paul says that if anyone comes and preaches a gospel that is different from what was originally accepted then he desires that they be under a curse of God. In verse 10 Paul tells them that he is not interested in winning the approval of me, but of God Himself—that seeking to please men would be at odds with his commission to live for Christ. As it is in our lives as well. We can’t have more than one master—we can’t be slaves to the opinions of our families, friends, and churches if we desire to serve the Lord, but we must be willing to step out and serve God even when it’s unpopular.
For those of us that have left the message we have gotten the opportunity to experience how it feels to do the unpopular thing. Our pastors condemned us; our friends shunned us and our families disowned us. Those relationships that do remain are forever changed—we can no longer be in perfect agreement and unity with them, but regardless of how hard we try we will always have a major difference in focus. We are committed to serving Jesus Christ alone, and we can’t go back to that which we know is false, regardless of how badly our families and friends want us to and regardless of how badly we want to protect our reputations and our relationships. We would not be servants of Christ if we obeyed the message for the good of men and fashioned our lives after we leave to please people.
If we tailored what we say and do after the message to please men and to not offend, we would be seeking to please men instead of pleasing God. Ultimately, it’s not our intention to offend, but sometimes the Truth can be offensive. Such was the case for Paul in this letter. He knew he wasn’t likely to please some of the people in Galatia, but his purpose was to do what God had called him to do regardless of how it made those people feel.
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.
Paul continues his introduction by laying a ground work for his ministry so that those who are reading have a better understanding about where he was coming from. Paul didn’t come to the conclusion he did by listening to other men, nor was he taught by other men to believe upon Jesus Christ. Instead, he came to believe upon the Lord by revelation from Jesus Christ—and don’t we all come the same way? We sit in church and we are taught, but until God comes down and speaks to our hearts, giving us a real conversion experience in our own lives we aren’t going to see or believe it. In Paul’s case it was a supernatural conversion experience, but for many (including myself) it is the Word of God that reveals the Truth to our hearts. It was reading the words of Christ and the accounts of Him by the apostles after His resurrection that caused me to believe upon the Lord. And there has been a definitive change in my life—as there certainly was in Paul’s.
He was a Jew, the harshest and strictest of Jews who persecuted Christians and was incredibly zealous over his faith. It was the faith of his fathers and he was well pleased to continue in the tradition that they laid for him. He was sincere, and whole-heartedly believed that what he was doing was the perfect will of God. He put Christians to death believing that he was doing God a service. He faithfully kept the laws as perfectly as he could believe that those who did not were doomed for hell. But when the time came and the Lord spoke to him and revealed Himself to Paul, Paul didn’t ask anyone of his Pharisee leaders what they thought. He didn’t ask anyone what the thought as a matter of fact—he leapt head-first in the direction God told him to go. He went to the Gentiles and preached the Gospel. It was three years before Paul even went to Jerusalem to meet up with Peter and the other apostles—it wasn’t about the other apostles—it was about the Lord.
An amazing thing happened because of Paul’s actions. No one in Judea knew much about Paul, but they did know one thing—in times past he persecuted Christians, but he changed. His testimony preceded him. It made Paul and even more effective minister to those in Judea because they knew the truth of his conversion—it was dramatic and it was without question sincere.
In the same way, those of us who leave the message have a testimony. We were once in the message. We once obeyed all the rules, and many of us taught Sunday school, preached, led song service. We were cold and distant with “worldly people” and we participated in the judgment of others for their inability or unwillingness to submit to the rules. We were honorable in the sight of our parents when we faithfully attended services, and we were thought well of in message circles as we continued in the way we had been taught—and sincerely believed was right. Our neighbors and friends that weren’t in the message knew of our zeal as we lived our lives in accordance with the message ways. It defined us.
But then something changed. Some of us found inconsistencies in Brother Branham’s life story that set us on a search for truth. Some of us saw the extra-biblical doctrines and realized that they were incompatible with scripture. And some of us, because of the hypocrisy, abuse, or judgmental nature of some of those in the message left without looking back. But at some point, we found Jesus. Some sooner and some later—but we changed. We no longer cared what people thought about us. We didn’t try to appease them to avoid their judgments, but we only sought to serve the Lord. The rules we once used to prop ourselves up and to judge others were traded for grace and compassion becoming a Christian. We weren’t zealous of our religion any longer, but we fell in love with our Savior and started loving people the way He loves them. We didn’t try to live in order to appease the pastor or our parents or our message friends. Instead we live only to please our Lord and Savior.
And yes, that was very unpopular. But it was real, and raw, and it is our testimony—something we won’t be ashamed of. We left the message to serve Jesus Christ—and we will go right on serving Him, wherever that happens to lead.