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 last week’s article Paul explained to the Galatians why he was painfully perplexed by them. They had quickly turned away from God who had called them to salvation through the Gospel to a difference gospel. He reminded them that there can only be one Gospel. However, Judaizing teachers have come in and troubled their minds and perverted the true Gospel by claiming they had to keep parts of the Law of Moses in order to be righteous. Now Paul gives them warnings as to the dangers involved in turning away from the Good News he had taught them. Next, he condemns those who promote a different gospel. To show how serious this is, Paul repeats his warning in verse nine.
Paul’s letters are filled with warnings of false teachers. The problem of Judaizing teachers was not just isolated to the province of Galatia. The church in Corinth also had to be warned. “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! 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” (2 Cor. 11:3-4).
▸ Paul and His Companions
Paul warns the saints that they are not to accept a different gospel from anyone. This would include Paul and his companions. The term “we” is in reference to Paul and perhaps those who worked with him in spreading the gospel, such as, Silas, Timothy, etc. Perhaps, “we” might also include any other apostle. No matter the credentials of the messenger, the message was not the certified Gospel. The Galatians were not to listen.
The word spoken is not evaluated on the qualifications of the teacher. Fair-minded Bible students will even check out the things taught by an apostle was they did at Berea. Luke writes “these were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Teachers will change what they teach from the truth to a lie. Truth does not change.
▸ Angels from Heaven
Paul just does not include himself in this warning, but he warns that even if an angel came from heaven teaching a different gospel, they still should not accept it. In the Old Testament divine messages came through these heavenly messengers (Heb. 2:2). They had a role to play in the revealing of the Law (Gal. 3:19). Paul is using a hypothetical argument and not claiming the literal actions of angels preaching among them. He is deliberately exaggerating in order to heighten the seriousness of the danger of a different Gospel.
Satan does use men as teachers of his lies. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
Two different religions have been founded upon the revelations they have supposedly received from angels. Joseph Smith claims that he received his teaching from an angel named Moroni. The religion of Mormonism is founded upon a different gospel than that which the churches of Galatia received. Islam was founded by Mohammed. He claims that the angel Gabriel gave him the words of Allah which he has written down in the Qur’an.
Paul adds a third group the Galatians are to ignore in verse nine. The term “anyone” is all inclusive of everyone who is not an apostles or companion of Paul or an angel from heaven. In other words, no matter who is sharing a different good news, they are bad.
Next, Paul tells the Galatians how they are to view those teaching a different gospel: “let him be accursed.” In the original manuscripts and some translations, the phrase is rendered “anathema.” This is an Aramaic word from the Hebrew term cherem meaning ”something” delivered up to divine wrath, dedicated to destruction and brought under a curse…” (TDNT I:354). Or “yielded up to the wrath of God, surrendered to the curse of God” (Herman N. Ridderbos, op. cit., p. 50).
Thayer says, “…a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and , if an animal, to be slain…” (Thayer 37). So, it means they are to consider these false teachers to be eternally condemned under the wrath of God. Later some denominations of men would use the term for excommunication. The phrase could be rendered: “Let him be condemned to hell!” or “Let them be damned.”
There are examples of this in the Old and New Testaments. Achan violated God’s ban on taking spoils from Jericho. Because God had determined that certain things in the city must be destroyed. “Now the city shall be doomed by the Lord to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it” (Josh. 6:17-18).
Speaking concerning two false teachers named Hymenaeus and Alexander, Paul wrote, “I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20). The apostle John warned, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds (2 John 1:10-11).
There are other uses of the term anathema in the New Testament. Paul uses it in reference to himself. “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3). He uses it in an argument about those who are inspired by the Holy Spirit. “Therefore, I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).
Judgment will be rendered by the Almighty Judge in the last day. “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed O Lord, come!” (1 Cor. 16:22). Luke uses the term in reference to those who vowed to kill Paul. They had anathematized themselves to starvation until their task was done. Acts 23:14 – it is used as a verb, “They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul.”
This is one of the virulent words used against false teachers in the New Testament. However, it is not an outburst by an out-of-control Paul. After all, Paul includes himself under the same curse, if he were to teach a different gospel. This is not a person filled with pride or over differences in personalities. This is a manifestation of how God views the perversion of His Good News.
In an age of great “tolerance”, the use of anathema shows God’s will is total intolerance. It is based on the exclusive nature of Good News. There can be no changes or compromises. It does matter what one believes. It does matter what one teaches. A different gospel will not and cannot be tolerated.
Verse nine is an intentional repetition of verse eight. However, they are not identical there are at least three alterations made by the Paul to the second warning. 1) “The one we preached” is changed to “what you accepted”; 2) “we or an angel from heaven” being changed to “anybody”; and 3) future possibility “if we…should preach” is replaced by present supposition.
Why the repetition? Repetition represents the seriousness of the situation. Paul and Barnabas had shared the Gospel with them during the first missionary journey (Acts 14). “Said before” refers to an earlier visit. Paul had warned them in person of the dangers of those coming with another “Gospel”.
– Daniel R. Vess