Key Verse: 1:8
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”
Paul’s letter to the Galatians is his defense of the true gospel. He was upset that those Galatians who had received the gospel through his preaching were quickly turning away from the true gospel. What would make them do that? In other words, why would anyone who had received the gospel do such a thing? Another question is equally as important. How serious is it for a Christian to turn away from the true gospel to a counterfeit gospel? Are they innocent or guilty? How does God see that? How much responsibility does the Christian carry when he turns his heart away from the true gospel to another gospel? All these things are dealt with in the book of Galatians, perhaps even in these few verses we are looking at today.
In verses 1-2, after identifying himself as an Apostle and stating his mission as one called not by men but by God, Paul greets the Galatian churches with these words: Look at verses 3-5. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 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.” We talked extensively about this greeting last time because of its depth. But when we did not fully explore it. In his greeting it was as if Paul was reminding them of the grace of God they received through Jesus’ sacrifice for them. [it’s terrible when people forget the sacrifices other people made for them. But it’s a crime when they forget the sacrifice Jesus made for them on the cross] It was as if Paul was reminding them that it was through Jesus’ sacrifice that they had received the forgiveness of their sins. That it was through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that they were delivered from the wrath of God. When they lived in sin, they were dead, cut off from God and God considered them his enemies. But because of Jesus’ sacrifice for them, they were no longer God’s enemies, but they became God’s children. They were reconciled to God, not by their own effort, but through Jesus who gave himself for them. Now they were at peace with God— because of Jesus— and only because of Jesus. Paul’s greeting reminds them of that. It reminds them of the gospel of Jesus’ grace which saved them through Jesus’ sacrifice. It reminds them that the glory belongs to God forever and ever.
Read verses 6-9. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
Paul was astonished that they were deserting Jesus. He was astonished that they were deserting the grace of Jesus. He was astonished that they were turning to a different gospel. He makes it clear here, not that there are many gospels, but that what they were turning to is no gospel at all. They had deserted the gospel— the true gospel. In that, therefore, they had deserted Jesus and his grace in their lives. It astonished him! It blew his mind.
As I said last time we looked into this, the people who were corrupting the Christians in the Galatian churches were the Judaizers. They were the Christian Jews, perhaps even from the Jerusalem church who had gone to Galatia to plant doubt in these Christians regarding Paul’s credibility as an Apostle and servant of God, and the gospel he was teaching. Paul was teaching the gospel of God’s grace— what we’ve been talking about— that is, Jesus’ death and resurrection— that salvation comes to those who put their faith in what Christ has accomplished through his death and resurrection. The Judaizers were saying that it’s not enough to believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, that salvation cannot be completed unless the convert obeys the laws of Moses, such as circumcision.
Wherever there is truth, there is always lies to pervert the truth. Even in the true gospel, false gospels sprang up to pervert the true gospel. In Paul’s day, even when the true gospel touched and changed people’s lives by the grace of Jesus— there were those in the churches who would undermine the grace of God. Some were saying that one aught to be circumcised to be saved. Later on in the churches they were saying that unless a person is baptized they cannot be saved. Others would say that not only baptized by sprinkling but one must be submerged under water to be saved. Still others would come to tell of other ways to be saved besides the true gospel. And naïve and easily swayed people, were quick to put aside what they had learned— the truth— the gospel of God’s grace— to listen to new teachings. Paul was astonished how easily these Galatians would take a new teaching and way of salvation over what has been said and done through Jesus. But astonishingly, most people prefer such lies. They prefer lies because lies seem more reasonable than truth. Lies seem more easily acceptable by the sinful nature than truth. Paul warned against the lies which make light of the true gospel.
The true gospel is Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. There is nothing more precious than this truth. We aught to hold on to it in a generation of lies. Especially as we near the end of the age spoken to by the Lord, the lies of the devil will grow stronger and his voice will grow louder. But God has already spoken through his Son. Besides his Son, we aught to listen to no one else, even if what they say seems good and reasonable. There are no words “better” than the words of our Lord Jesus to whom we must cling to with our very lives.
The days are nearing as the Bible tells us when lies will prevail and when people will be so distressed by the signs in the heavens that they would believe anyone who cries out offering people salvation and comfort, offering them security and blessings. Gospels that promise better blessings, second blessings, spiritual blessings, holy blessings, spirit filled blessings, signs and wonders blessings, will arise and be promoted. They are already being promoted everywhere— all in the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus is being used, and his gospel is being perverted for better blessings, higher blessings, blessings to make life bigger, greater, more powerful, more biblical— as they say. We must know the difference between what is from God and what is from the devil— for these lies have their origin in the devil. It is so sad that in this age, people have no idea what the Bible says— and they believe anything because they are desperate for miracles and signs and wonders when what God requires is faith. And for those who think they know what the Bible says— what they believe are other gospels taught by demons. You need to know the difference between what Jesus taught and what others teach— to know the difference between true gospel and false gospel. Paul wrote the letter to these Galatian churches to free them from the lies that had gripped them— to help them return to the freedom they have in Christ Jesus, the freedom they received when they put their faith in Christ.
Read 8-9. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
Let me explain to you what eternally condemned means, because we hardly think about it, and you will not think of it unless we give it some thought. To be eternally condemned, or another word for it “cursed” has the meaning of being “cut off from Christ and God” doomed to eternal punishment (Romans 9:3). And here’s what Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 1:8:9. “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” God has freely given us the gospel— the true gospel. It is a gospel of grace. It is a good gospel of life. But the gospel is given to us that we may obey it. People have a choice. But the choice should be to obey the gospel of God’s grace. I know that people fool around with the gospel as if they have eternity to figure things out and to right their wrongs and to make up with God. Others simply reject the gospel. But God has given us a lifetime that we should obey the gospel. And the prospects of rejecting it— this free— beautiful— gracious gift of God’s forgiveness and of Jesus’ kingship— his divine right in our lives— his Masterly position over us— the prospect of rejecting this is really a terrifying prospect because of the torment the Bible talks about and the length of it— its forever. I believe it.
I shudder at the thought of what will happen to those who will die apart from Christ Jesus— those who have perverted the gospel— those who have, for their own benefit used the gospel for their own good, to achieve something, to gain money, or make followers for themselves, or to gain popularity, or if they changed some part of the gospel because they saw that in doing so they could gather more people around them, or make someone like them more, or in adding something small to the gospel, it becomes more interesting, and more appealing to others, or if they only twisted the gospel a little bit, for good reasons, it would make the work easier, or others would be able to relate better to it, or if they were to emphasize one aspect of the gospel and not talk about the other aspect of the gospel at all, then people would come to church in droves, and would readily accept it, or if they would simply make the gospel merge with the culture they were in. I shudder at the thought of what would happen to those who will die part from Christ because of those who have perverted the gospel for their own benefit— to gain money or to gain converts— or to gain a following— or to gain people’s approval. It’s a terrifying prospect, something we don’t think about.
Paul loved the gospel of Jesus. He loved Jesus. He loved what Jesus had done for us. He understood the sacrifice Jesus made to rescue us from the present evil age. Paul loved the gospel. To him both, those who pervert the gospel, and those who listen to them, and desert the gospel are among those who will suffer the eternal condemnation he is talking about here— he mentions it twice. Each one of us should reach that level where we deeply have that kind of love and honor for the greatest event in all history— the gospel of Jesus and Jesus whose gospel shattered darkness and evil and brought the age of light upon us. And we must be careful and well grounded in the gospel and not let the enemy Satan lull us into being swayed from the true gospel. That is why we must keep our hearts rooted in the word of God. And I don’t mean just opening the Bible once a week when we come to church. We need to make it a point to study the Bible daily and commune with God in prayer. And we need all the more to bring others to obedience to the gospel, so that they may not be eternally condemned. These words should make us shudder when we hear them, like a child is scared when he or she hears thunder.
Read verse 10. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” In verses 8 and 9 Paul said something that’s probably not going to win him friends. A lot of people don’t like to hear anything about eternal condemnation— let alone hear that about themselves. But in this verse he is explaining why he is bold enough to talk this way. Pleasing people is so low on the list of his priorities. His first and foremost priority is pleasing Jesus. He is truly amazing. When people pervert the gospel, it takes away from their salvation. But it also does something much worse. It takes away from Jesus’ glory. Paul is not willing for that to happen. Paul is God’s servant. He is first and foremost Christ’s servant. In the course of preaching the gospel to these Galatians, he made friends with them. He loved them as his own children. They also loved him. Their relationships grew over time. It was very difficult for Paul to break relationship with them. But for the sake of pleasing Christ, for the sake of preserving the gospel of Jesus’ grace, for the hope of their repenting, Paul was willing to write harsh words. He spoke the truth in love. He loved God. He loved them. He lived to please God and not men.
Read verse 10. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” This was one of Apostle Paul’s most powerful of life convictions. A conviction which served as the driving force behind everything he did in his service to God. What about you? Am I serving God or is it men that I am serving; is it God or men that I am trying to please. Or even the self? People are either living to please God or living to please each other; either living to serve God or living to serve each other. In life, it’s all about whether we are living to serve and to obey the gospel or obey our human drive or sinful nature, or our ambition or the ambition of others for us. Whatever we do in life, can be reflected in this one single verse; what are we doing; who are we serving; who do we please?
As for me, this verse was a major challenger in my own life. It is a question which every Christian must ask himself or herself at some point. We must ask, because in all that we do— in our calling and we are all called to serve Jesus— even in our day to day life as a Christian— we have to ask the question; who do I please when I make a decision or another; who is important enough to me that I am actually wiling to give my life, my future, my family, my all to that will! As for me it has been liberating because it freed me from having to worry about pleasing this person or that person. There is one person to please above all others— the Lord Jesus. In your life you can also be free to serve and please one person above all else— Jesus. Especially if you are called to serve the gospel as Paul was.