Another Gospel

The epistle to the Galatians opens with a stern warning. What some believers contemplated doing would replace the true Gospel with something quite alien to the Apostolic message. To turn from the “faith of Jesus Christ” to the “works of the law” for justification meant abandoning the grace of God and rejecting the message preached by Paul, which is why he summoned God to “curse” any man, even “an angel from Heaven,” who preached “another gospel.”

There is a lesson here for all followers of Jesus, a warning of the danger posed by any deviation from the Apostolic Tradition. Forsaking the Gospel bequeathed to the Church by the Apostles results in apostasy and judgment from God.

Showman - Photo by Kyle Smith on Unsplash
[Photo by Kyle Smith on Unsplash]

Thus, the sternness of his language. Rather than offer his typical thanksgiving and compliments, Paul launched into a rebuke with words expressing astonishment and irritation, and he also invoked a curse formula on anyone who preached a “
different gospel” - (Galatians 1:6-12).

The issue was the danger in which this false “gospel” placed the Galatian believers (“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting from the one who called you”). The false teaching undermined the very basis of the faith and identity of the people of God.

The Greek word translated as “deserting” or metatithémi means to “transfer” or “alter” from one condition to another.  In the middle voice, as it is here, the sense of the verb is “desert, abandon, apostatize.” The Book of Jude applies the same word to men who pervert the Gospel:

  • (Jude 4) - “For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, PERVERTING the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Paul was shocked since the Galatians were “so quickly deserting from the one who called you.” This clause is a verbal echo of the incident in the Book of Exodus when the Israelites built the golden calf. Yahweh commanded Moses to get down from Sinai, “for they have TURNED ASIDE QUICKLY OUT OF THE WAY which I commanded them.” The allusion illustrates the dire situation in which the Galatians had placed themselves by following this alien gospel, one that was not “good news” at all - (Exodus 32:8, Deuteronomy 9:16).

Intentionally or not, they were forsaking the grace of God for “a different gospel.” The Greek adjective translated as “different” is heteros. But when Paul repeats the warning, he switches to a different adjective, namely, allos. Often, heteros and allos are synonymous, but when used together, heteros means “different” and the sense of allos becomes “another” or “alien.”

Paul referred to those who were “troubling” them using the Greek verb tarassō, the same word used in the Book of Acts when Jewish believers argued for the necessity of keeping the Mosaic Law, including circumcision, thereby “troubling” the Gentile members of the Assembly - (Acts 15:24, 17:8, 17:13).

Paul used the same verb in Chapter 5 of this epistle when describing the chief agitator in Galatia (“but the one who is TROUBLING you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is”), echoing the story of Achar in the Book of Joshua, “the one who TROUBLED Israel” - (Joshua 7:1-5, 1 Chronicles 2:7, Galatians 5:10).

The agitators were “altering the Gospel of Christ,” one that was fundamentally different in content and purpose from the one preached by Paul and the Apostles. The measuring rod for determining the validity of any message was (and remains) the APOSTOLIC TRADITION. The struggle was over the content of the Gospel.

“ACCURSED”


Paul pronounced a curse formula twice on his opponents.  “Accursed” translates the Greek noun anathema, the same word used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for the Hebrew word hérem or “ban,” the cursing and setting aside of something for destruction - (Leviticus 27:28-29, Joshua 6:17-18).

He was not cursing his opponents but CALLING ON GOD TO DO SO (“let him be accursed”). He repeated the formula, demonstrating that he was not engaging in mere rhetoric. His words expressed the depths of his concern. MEN WHO PERVERTED THE GOSPEL WOULD FIND THEMSELVES UNDER GOD’S CURSE.

He asked two rhetorical questions: “For now am I persuading men or God?  Or am I seeking to please men?” The adverb translated as “now” is emphatic. Considering what he had just said, was he trying to persuade men or God?  The implied answer to the first question was “God.” He would curse agitators who disseminated false gospels.

The expected answer to the second question was “no.” Unstated is the opposite side of the coin - Paul was seeking, instead, to please God. Those who sought to please men could not be “Christ's bondservants.” While Paul was attempting to persuade others, he would not become a man-pleaser in the process.

The Apostle solemnly affirmed the supernatural origin of his Gospel. He received it through “a revelation of Jesus Christ,” referring to his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road - (Acts 9:1-16, 22:21, 26:17-20, Romans 1:5).

The long rebuke continues through Chapter. If the Galatians remained on this course, they would “desert” the grace of Christ and embrace a very “different gospel.” The agitators were “perverting” the Gospel of Jesus Christ whether they understood so or not. Anyone who did so risked placing himself under the curse of God, and possibly everlasting destruction.

Cross in Sun - Photo by Nicolas Peyrol on Unsplash
[Photo by Nicolas Peyrol on Unsplash]

Any believer who embraced the works and rituals of the Law rather than the “faith of Jesus Christ” as the foundation for reconciliation with God risked abandoning His grace and rejecting everything for which Jesus died. The Church must cling to the original “word of the Cross” no matter what.

The safety and health of the Body of Christ is dependent on its adherence to the Apostolic Tradition taught by Paul and the other Apostles. Any “gospel,” sermon, prophecy, or reported vision that departs from this tradition must be rejected decisively and immediately.



RELATED POSTS:
  • Christ is Risen! - (Paul anchored all that God has done in the resurrection of Jesus, which also inaugurated the Messianic Age - Galatians 1:1-5)
  • Conflict in Galatia - (The key issue in Galatia is whether Gentiles must be circumcised and keep some, at least, of the deeds required by the Torah)
  • The Faith of Jesus - (Paul responds to his opponents by emphasizing the all-sufficiency of the faithful act of Jesus in his obedience unto death – Galatians 2:15-21)

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