I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! ~Galatians 1:6-9
Paul begins his letter to the church of Galatia in a way that is different than any of the other letters that we have which he wrote. If you look at his letters to the churches at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica, and even to the individuals of Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, you will notice a consistent pattern that is not followed in this letter. Normally Paul starts his letters praising God for the recipients to which he writes, expressing his thanksgiving for them, and acknowledging his prayers on their behalf. However, after a very brief greeting, without any hesitation, he addresses an issue he has heard about in the church of Galatia. The issue is so important that the apostle does not even have time to share his usual common commendations and courtesies. What issue could be so pressing? Neglecting the true gospel message to follow a false counterfeit.
The problem plaguing this church was that a group known as the “Judaizers” insisted that the Gentiles (non Jews) who had, by God’s grace, come to faith in Christ, be circumcised as prescribed by the Old Testament law to actually be saved. Thus, salvation became based not solely on what Christ has DONE experiencing God’s wrath by dying in the place of those who trust in Him on the cross but also on something that one must DO. This could be described as a different gospel which serves as a distortion of the gospel of Christ (vv. 6-7). In fact, Paul says that this serves as no gospel or good news at all. The true gospel of Christ is that one is saved by God’s wrath that they deserve for their sins through their faith ALONE in Christ ALONE to save them. Not in anything they have done or can do but only on what Christ has done on their behalf and them placing their only hope in Him and His death and resurrection to be saved. As Paul reminds the Galatians of this true gospel: a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; since by the works of the law no flesh will be justified (2:16). God only declares a sinner to be righteous who has placed their trust in Christ to save them through His death and resurrection, not those who think they might be good enough or do a substantial amount of good deeds to earn God’s favor. The Galatians were abandoning the truth of this gospel and being enticed by the teachings of these Judaizers that the act of being circumcised served as a condition of being saved.
Paul views distortions of the gospel of grace as being so serious that he rebukes those who proclaim them with some of the strongest words available. He states that if anyone, even an angel from heaven or himself, preaches a gospel different than the one found preached by the apostles and recorded in Scripture, that he is to be accursed (v. 8). The Greek word for accursed basically communicates the idea of being devoted to destruction and brought under a curse. And he not only says this once but twice (v. 9). A false gospel is no laughing matter or something that one can cast a blind eye towards. After all, one’s eternal destiny depends on their reception to the true articulation of the gospel.
Several “Judaizers” exist today. They may not be demanding the necessity of people to get circumcised in order to be saved but they distort the gospel by teaching that one must DO something in order for God to save them. The truth of the gospel lies in the facts of what Christ has DONE to save those who by faith look to Him alone as their hope and basis to stand before a holy God who cannot tolerate sin. The moment that someone places the focus on you for your salvation instead of pointing to Christ and His life, death, and resurrection as what saves, they have distorted the gospel of Christ and presented another gospel which really isn’t good news at all. Let’s make sure that we do not make the same mistake as the Galatians and desert Christ by following any of the false gospels that are so prevalent today. Repent of your sins and place your trust in Christ ALONE to save you, not in anything you do.
Love in Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!