That Other “Gospel” (Galatians 1:6-10)
“I am astonished, that you are quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel-not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one of preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which received, let him be accursed” Galatians 1:6-9).
For the Galatians church these words must have sounded brutal as Paul fires off another cannon shot across the bow of the Galatian church. The phrasing and words were well calculated to startle the Galatians out of their levity. They are like a lightening-flash and loud roll of thunder or a cannon shot fired across their bow attempting to get their attention. That flash of lightening or the flash from the cannon shows a church standing on the very edge of a precipice in which the precipice is starting to give way from under them, all the while they are unaware they are about to plunge into the sea.
But it was just what they needed. It shocked them into realizing the error of listening to these false teachers and how dangerous their footing really was. Paul began by saying how astonished he is at the change taking place among the believers. Generally the word astonished conveys the idea of surprise. But as Paul uses it here, the word has connotations of “irritation” and rebuke.”
The Galatian converts had upset Paul by turning away from the gospel of grace to a different gospel. The word Paul uses for deserting is the same one employed to describe soldiers who revolt or desert, people who change side in politics and philosophy, or individuals who turn their back on one religion for another. For the Galatians, it is desertion from the very thing that saved them (God’s grace in Christ) to a different way of salvation.
The Gospel Paul had preached and taught was the gospel of the grace of God (acts 20:24). Paul declared that “no human being will be justified in his sight by the works of the law” (Romans 3:20), that all are justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as the propitiation of His blood through faith (Romans 3:24, 25).
But above all, Paul clear taught that Jesus had made full provision for salvation by bearing our sin and becoming a curse for us on Calvary’s tree (Galatians 3:13) (some modern translations do not use the word tree, but substitute cross. Both are a correct, but tree is more correct).
What is this false doctrine or false gospel that was coming into the Galatian church by these false teachers from Jerusalem? It apparently had something to do with Gentile coverts needing to become circumcised and follow the Mosaic law before they could become full members of the Abrahamic covenant and the people of God (Galatians 6:12; Galatians 5:11; Galatians 3:29; Galatians 3:16-18; Galatians 4:21-31). This makes it obvious that those teaching the false gospel were saying that you being gentiles could not truly become saved unless they were circumcised according to the custom of Moses.
This was the argument that brought upon the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:1-34. This was an important council for at this council the brethren, the other apostles rightly rejected the different gospel of the Judaizes. But in the meantime, Paul had to contend with the perverters of the gospel in Galatia.
That which happened in Paul’s time also happens today in that those spreading the false doctrine or gospel appear to be good Christians leaders. In fact, his allegations against the Judaizers probably would have chocked the Galatian church members. After all, did not these Judaizers preach salvation through Christ? Yes, they did, for as far as we know, they never denied that Christ was the Messiah. Then, how is it that Paul knew they had a different gospel? That is an important question. He never accused James, John or Peter of preaching a different Gospel and yet they seem to have remained faithful to the bulk of the Jewish tenants.
So, why the difference? Because the false teaches were teaching that mere salvation by grace was not enough to be justified, that they as Gentiles had to be circumcised and to observe the Jewish law if they wanted to be part of God’s covenant people. These Jewish teachers were still trying to earn their way to heaven and were pushing this belief upon others. Paul said: “No, no, no, that the preaching and teaching of Christ alone was sufficient for their salvation and they did not need to add their works to what Christ had already done for them.
To Paul and later the council at Jerusalem (Acts chapter 15) to preach such a gospel as salvation through grace was not enough so that works had to be added for one to be saved was a total perversion of the Gospel (Galatians 1:7) To think otherwise, to think that Christ’s grace was not sufficient enough, eroded the very heart of the Christian message. Paul would later say in Galatians; “If justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose” (Galatians 2:21). In short, to add anything to grace as God’s way of justification is to destroy the very idea of grace itself.
I grew up in a very legalistic church and there were some really good Christians who were members of that church, who I still admire for their faith today. But they failed to have true joy and love because they were never satisfied. Why? Because they were always trying to earn or work their way to heaven.
For all those that today feel they need to earn their way to heaven by the merits of their own works then Galatians should be like a warning canon fire across the bow of your spiritual ship warning you that you have lost the true reason for being a Christ is that it is a gift, an unmerited gift from God the Father Himself to us. There is nothing we can do to merit or earn this gift. We received this gift by simply accepting that Christ Jesus came from heaven, lived among us to show us the Father’s character and then was humiliated by dying upon a tree (the cross) that our sins upon asking for forgiveness might be taken from us as though they had never happened.
Paul felt so strongly against the false teaching of the gospel that twice, in verses 8 and 9, he says; “Let him be accursed.” Paul could have used no stronger language. Why this concern and strong language. The Galatian heresy was dangerous because both the glory of Christ and the salvation of souls was at stake. Nothing could be more central than the gospel message than justification is by grace alone through faith alone with works of law. There is only one way to God the Father and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Christ alone.