A Different Gospel (Galatians 1:6-9)
We are living in a time where Scripture is coming under increased attacks. Churches are appointing openly homosexual leaders, we’re being told that the Bible is just a bunch of myths that have been collected over a long period of time, and we’re being told that any sincere person—regardless of faith in Jesus—is going to go to heaven.
This is not the first time that truth has come under attack. Truth has been under attack since the days of the Lord Jesus, and Paul, in this morning’s passage, deals with some who were propagating error. Judaizers—those who taught that Gentile Christians had to be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses—had come in among the Galatian Christians. Paul deals quite poignantly with these heretics. Let’s examine this situation to see what lessons we can learn.
Deserters of the Gospel, v 6
Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel.”
Paul marveled that these Christians were so quickly turning away from the Gospel.
The Greek term “marvel” used here is quite interesting. the term was often used by Greek writers to express surprise at something quite reprehensible. The word was also a rhetorical device used by lawyers and politicians to attack things done by the opposing parties. Paul was expressing complete and utter surprise at the Galatians’ leaving the Gospel—he viewed it as something reprehensible and could not believe it was occurring.
He marveled that they were so quickly turning away from the Gospel. There is quite a bit of discussion as to whether the recipients of this epistle were the churches of southern Galatia or the churches of norther Galatia. It would do us no good to spend any amount of time on that issue this morning, but it does seem more likely that Paul wrote this epistle to the churches of southern Galatia. If that is the case, we have a record of Paul’s work among the Galatians in Acts 13-14.
Thus, Paul had labored in Galatia, established congregations there, and now, just a short time afterward, these brethren are turning to a different gospel.
This illustrates quite well how quickly one can go into apostasy. Paul had worked among these brethren, taught them the gospel, and now they’re turning away from it. We need to be careful lest the same thing happen with us—if the Galatians could go into apostasy so quickly after being taught the Gospel by an apostle, we can quickly go into apostasy after reading the words of the apostles. Let us take heed lest we quickly go into apostasy: Let us study the Scriptures, let us fellowship with our brethren, let us pray to God for strength!
These Christians were deserting him who called them in the grace of Christ. “Desert” is a military term and was used for military desertion—just as soldiers might desert their country, these Christians were deserting their God. Some say that error is not really that big a deal; they tells us that everyone has a right to believe and do his own thing. I’ve even been told that I shouldn’t worry about preaching doctrine because it’s not really that important. But, if we desert God through error, I believe that’s a serious thing!
These brethren were turning to a different gospel.
The Greek language has two words for “different” and they are both used in this passage.
The first word is “heteros” which is used in this verse. This word means that something is essentially different from that to which it is compared. We get the word heterosexual from this word—the word means that one is attracted to the opposite gender, the gender that is completely different. Thus, the gospel to which these Christians were turning was completely different from the true gospel.
The other word is “allos” and indicates another of the same kind. It is not at all different from the object to which it is being compared. Thus, when Paul says that there is not another gospel, he means there isn’t even another gospel that closely resembles the true one.
There is no other gospel; we dare not seek another; we dare not turn to another.
Perverters of the Gospel, vv 7-9
There is not another gospel, but there were some wanting to trouble the Galatians and pervert the gospel of Christ.
The gospel revealed from the beginning is the only gospel from God; there is not another. “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). If we hear something new and different, we can readily reject it, because there’s not going to be anything new and different coming from God.
Some wanted to trouble the Galatians and pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians makes clear that those troubling these Christians were Judaizers who taught that one must obey the Law of Moses—including circumcision—in order to be accepted before God.
The Greek term for trouble means “to shake back and forth, to disturb.” The term was often used of political agitators who troubled nations and caused confusion and turmoil. Thus, these Judaizers were causing turmoil in the Galatian churches. False teachers continue to cause turmoil in the religious world. There are so many claiming to speak the truth from God that many folks do not know where to turn. Undoubtedly, many will be in hell because of the turmoil brought about by these false teachers.
These Judaizers perverted the gospel of Christ—they changed the gospel of Jesus into something God never intended it to be.
If Paul, or any angel from heaven, preached a gospel contrary to what had previously been preached to the Galatians, that one should be accursed. Paul does not envision that he or an angel would preach something contrary to the gospel—he is simply setting up a hypothetical situation.
The one who did preach something contrary to the truth should be accursed. The Greek term for “accursed” is closely related to the Old Testament concept of dedicating captures cities to destruction. The idea is that just as cities or loot in the Old Testament were given over to God for judgment, anyone who teaches error is given over to judgment. Let’s be very clear: Paul is saying that those who teach error will be condemned to hell.
We know that those who teach error will be cast into hell. “Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 Jn 9). Revelation 19:20.
Paul reiterated his point and said, “As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”
So many simply gloss over what Paul says here because it is so similar to what was said in the previous verse, but what Paul wrote here is not exactly the same as what he wrote in the previous verse. Paul began this sentence by saying, “As we have said before. . . .” This certainly sounds as if Paul had warned the Galatians about false teachers when he ministered among them. Paul knew that false teachers were going to come and that these Christians needed to be prepared to deal with such teachers. He’s reminding them of what he had previously taught.
Will we heed Paul’s warning and be mindful of false teachers?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.