Not Another Gospel!
6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
– Galatians 1:6-9
In some places confrontation is counter cultural. The idea of “save face” in some Asian cultures makes confrontation more complicated. In America there is a cry for tolerance in permitting everyone to just do their own thing. This is encouraged by the prohibition of judging others.
However, true love for another involves caring enough to confront. “Open rebuke is better Than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:5-6).
Confrontation in religion is very common. Paul indicates that when confronted with a different Gospel, the Galatian Christians needed to be intolerant. The letter to the Galatians begins with a stern warning and condemnation of those teaching another gospel than what he had preached to them.
This makes the introduction to the letter quite unique. In most of Paul’s letters after his opening greeting, he offers a prayer on the recipient’s behalf and gives some encouraging words of commendation for their faith and love. However, in penning Galatians Paul offers no opening prayer or thanksgiving or praise or approval.
Paul’s Painful Perplexity Concerning…
Paul expresses surprise or marvels at how quickly these congregations in the province of Galatia have turned to another gospel. The term used for “marvel” denotes “painful perplexity” according to Hendricksen. It could also be translated “astounded”, “amazed”, flabbergasted, bewildered or dumbfounded.
■ Deserting Quickly
Why does Paul so marvel at their “turning away?” The phrase here literally means “to bring to another place” (22 George). They are deserting one place for another. It is used of a soldier deserting his given post. He has switched his allegiance. Paul is calling them turncoats or apostates. According to the tense of the verb used, they have personally chosen to turn to another. This situation is occurring as Paul writes to them. Paul hopes to stop them in their tracks and turn them back around to the Gospel, he had preached to them.
The speed at which they were turning is also part of the perplexity of Paul. This is happening “so quickly.” They were novices and were vulnerable to heretical teachings of Judaizing teachers.
■ Deserting God Who Called Them
Paul’s astonishment was not just the swiftness of their apostasy, but the fact that they were abandoning God. Calling is of God, for God does the calling. The calling occurs through the preaching of the gospel (2 Th. 2:14). God had called them to salvation. This calling is described as a “high calling” (Phil. 3:14); a “holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9); “a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1); and a “calling of hope” (Eph 2:18). Notice the place to which they have been called is “into the grace of Christ.” No one is worthy of such a calling by God.
■ Deserting the Gospel
The final aspect contributing to Paul’s amazement is they are deserting the true Gospel for “a different gospel. which Paul goes on to describe as a false gospel. They turned away from what was genuinely good news to embrace lies.
Only ONE Gospel
Paul warned them they are turning “to a different gospel, which is not another.” How can another not be another? The question is resolved by noticing Paul uses two different Greek words for “another”. The first Greek word for “another” is heteros. This term shows the divergence in kind between one thing and another. The second Greek term is allos meaning another of the precise same kind. So to paraphrase what Paul wrote: “I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ to a gospel that is of a different sort, different of Christ.”
Not only is this a different gospel, but it is also not even good news. The use of the term “Gospel” meaning “good news” to describe this new good news being taught is a misnomer. The turning back to the Law of Moses is in no way part of the good news of salvation in Christ. It is a lie and distortion of the Gospel. The Gospel does not change. It cannot be changed. And if it is changed, it is no longer the Gospel.
Paul is defending and defining the exclusive nature of the Gospel. God has not offered a choice of “gospels” to be picked. There is one Lord, one faith, one hope, and there is only one Gospel. It is the perfect and final gospel. The Galatians needed to know that if they hear a different Gospel, it is not new. And if it is not new, it is not true.
Judaizing Teachers are…
■ Causing Trouble
Next, Paul turns his attention to the source of this false gospel. He indicates these false teachers “trouble” the saints. The Greek word tarasso is translated “trouble.” It means to stir up by moving something back and forth. Like the wind or a sea creature would trouble the waters. It means to agitate and can be used to refer to a disturbed mind. As when the disciples’ minds were troubled, when they saw Jesus walking upon the water (Matt.14:26).
Those who are troubling their hearts and minds are the Judaizing teachers who have modified the true gospel and are agitating the minds of Christians. This very term was used to describe the false teachers at the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15:24: “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment.” Throughout the letter of Galatians, Paul is going to settle the minds of the saints by showing them how these Judaizers are not teaching the same Gospel he has brought them.
Gal. 2:4 -And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage),
Gal. 2:16 – knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Gal. 2:21 – I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Gal. 3:10 – For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
Gal. 5:1 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
Gal. 5:2 – Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. and I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Gal. 5:4 – You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
■ Perverting the Gospel
Not only are these teachers agitating the hearts and minds of the saints, but they “want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” The term “pervert” means to twist one thing from its original form into something different. This could be done to distort a thing and reverse it from its intended original design. Thus, they have taken the good news and reversed it into bad news. The bad news is the saints have to keep parts of the Law of Moses to be saved.
Again, the conference at Jerusalem helps explain what was going on during this time. “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). These men were most likely Jewish Christians who were still clinging to parts of the old Law. They wanted to impose these upon the Gentile believers. This perversion was in fact reversing the Good News that freed them from the Law of Moses to bring them back into subjection to it.
The Good News cannot be improved by adding the requirements and rituals of the Law of Moses. This different gospel was dangerous, because it added requirements for salvation.
– Daniel R. Vess