Proclaiming Another Gospel


The Judaizing faction at Galatia was preaching a different message that deviated from the apostolic tradition – Galatians 1:6-12

Angel - Photo by Andika Christian on Unsplash
Paul’s letter to the Galatians includes a stern warning. What some believers are contemplating amounts to replacing the true gospel with a false one. To turn from the “
faith of Jesus Christ” to circumcision and other “works of the law” as the basis for justification means the abandonment of the gospel preached by the Apostle - [Angel - Photo by Andika Christian on Unsplash].

There is a lesson for all Christians in this episode, a warning of the dangers posed by any deviation from the apostolic tradition. That path leads to apostasy and inevitable destruction if not corrected.

And thus, the sternness of Paul’s language. Rather than offer his typical thanksgiving and compliments, he launches into a rebuke with words expressing astonishment and even invokes a curse formula on anyone who preaches a false gospel.

All this demonstrates the depth of Paul’s concern and the very real danger posed to the churches of Galatia by the false teachings propagated by “certain men from Jerusalem.”
  • (Galatians 1:6-12) - “I marvel that, so quickly you are moving away from him that called you in the grace of Christ for a different gospel, which is not another, only there are some that are troubling you and wishing to change the gospel of the Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven announce a gospel aside from that which we announced to you, accursed let him be! As we have said before, even now again, I say, if anyone is announcing to you a gospel aside from that which you accepted, accursed let him be! For am I, even now, persuading men or God? Or am I seeking to please men? If I had still been pleasing men, Christ’s servant had I not been! For I make known to you, brethren, as to the gospel, which was announced by me, that it is not after man; for neither from man did I accept it nor was taught it, but through a revealing of Jesus Christ.

DESERTING CHRIST


The issue in Galatians is not over how individuals become Christians, but the danger in which this false “gospel” championed by “false brethren” places the Galatians (“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting from the one who called you”).

If followed, this teaching will cause apostasy since it undermines the very basis of the Christian faith and the identity of the people of God.

Paul is astonished that the Galatians are “so quickly” deserting their original call.  This indicates a relatively short period of time has passed between their initial conversion and this new development. And the clause, “so quickly,” emphasizes the depth of his surprise at how easily they are turning from the gospel preached by him.

Deserting” or metatithémi means to “transfer” or “alter” from one condition to another.  In the middle voice, as it is here, the sense becomes “desert, abandon, apostatize.” The book of Jude applies the same verb to men who were perverting 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.”

So quickly deserting from the one who called you.” This clause includes a verbal echo from the incident in 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 verbal allusion is deliberate, and it illustrates the dire situation in which the Galatians are placing themselves - (Exodus 32:8, Deuteronomy 9:16).

Intentionally or not, they are forsaking the grace of God for “a different gospel.” The Greek adjective for “different” is heteros (Strong’s - G2087). But when Paul repeats the warning, he switches to a different adjective, allos - (Strong’s - #G243). Often, heteros and allos are synonymous, but when used together, heteros means “different” and allos means “another.”

In other words, they are deserting the grace of God for a “different gospel” that is not, in fact, “another” gospel at all but something quite different.

THE OPPONENTS


Paul refers to those who are “troubling” them using the Greek verb tarassō, the same word used in Acts when Jewish Christians argued for the necessity of keeping the Mosaic Law and, thereby, they “troubled” Gentile believers - (Acts 15:2417:8, 17:13).

Paul will use this same verb again in chapter 5 to describe the agitator in Galatia (“but the one who is troubling you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is”), and that clause echoes the story of Achar from Joshua, “the one who troubled Israel” - (Joshua 7:1-51 Chronicles 2:7, Galatians 5:10).

The agitators are “altering the gospel of Christ.” They preach not just “another Jesus,” but a gospel that differs fundamentally in content from the one preached by Paul and the other apostles.

He warns against heeding any message that differs from the one the Galatians have already received, even if Paul or an “angel from heaven” proclaim it. The measuring rod for determining the validity of any message is the apostolic tradition.

That Paul can reason so suggests the underlying struggle is over the content of the gospel itself.  The reference to an angel delivering a false gospel anticipates his later discussion about how the Law of Moses was mediated by angels - (Galatians 3:19).

POSSIBLE JUDGMENT


For emphasis, twice Paul pronounces a curse formula on his opponents.  “Accursed” translates the Greek noun anathema (Strong’s - #G331), the same word used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to render the Hebrew word hérem or “ban,” the setting aside of something for destruction - (Leviticus 27:28-29Joshua 6:17-18).

The Apostle is not cursing his opponents but calling on God to do so (“let him be accursed”). He repeats the formula for emphasis, but also to demonstrate that he is not engaged in mere rhetoric. Paul is deadly serious, and his words prove the depths of his concern.

New Testament open - photo by Luis Quintero on Unsplash
[New Testament photo by Luis Quintero on Unsplash]

He asks two rhetorical questions: “
For now am I persuading men or God?  Or am I seeking to please men?” The adverb “now” is emphatic in the Greek clause. Considering what he had just said, is he trying to persuade men or God?  The implied answer to the first question is “God.” That is, God will curse the agitators who are disseminating this false gospel.

The expected answer to the second question is “no.” The harshness of the language communicates just how serious the situation is.  Unstated is the opposite side of the coin - Paul is seeking, instead, to please God. Those who seek to please men cannot be “Christ's bondservant.” While Paul is attempting to persuade others, he would not become a man-pleaser in doing so.

Paul solemnly affirms the Divine origin and character of his gospel. He received it through “a revelation of Jesus Christ.” He is referring to the revelation he received on the Damascus Road. Its contents include his commission to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles - (Acts 9:1-1622:2126:17-20Romans 1:5).

The long rebuke that began in this paragraph continues into chapter 4. Noteworthy is the severity of the language; arguably, the sternest language found in any of Paul’s letters. If the Galatians continue their present course, they will “desert” the grace of Christ and embrace a “different gospel,” one that is not “good news.”

The agitators are “perverting” the true gospel, whether they understand it or not.  Anyone who engages in such activities places himself or herself under the curse of God and may possibly face everlasting destruction.

Anyone who follows this course of action risks abandoning the grace of God and everything for which Jesus died. The safety of the church is dependent on its adherence to the apostolic traditions preached by Paul and his fellow apostles. Every message that deviates from that tradition is to be rejected out of hand.



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