“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (KJV)
If someone asked you to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them how would you respond? Would you tell the person that God wants to save people by His glorious grace through God-wrought faith in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ, but we must also do good works in order to be saved? Would you say that we need to be good people who obey God’s commands and once we do God will grant us eternal life? Or would you tell them that we must be baptized and become a member of a church in order to be saved? Sadly, many people today, who attend Bible believing churches every Sunday and who confess to be Christians, really can’t give a clear explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, they would explain the Gospel in the ways just mentioned. This is one major reason why we hear some who profess to be Christians saying there will be many good Muslims, Mormons, and people of other religions in heaven-even though these people clearly deny the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why, as Christians, we must grow in the knowledge of the truth (2 Peter 3:18). We should be so familiar with the truth of the Gospel that if any man or even an angel from heaven preached anything contrary to the true Gospel we could recognize it in a moment as being false. Sadly, this is not the present state of the church. This is why the Apostle Paul is so amazed by the Galatians turning away from the truth. It was as if they didn’t understand the difference between the true Gospel and a false Gospel, even though the Apostle Paul had personally taught the Galatians and had so clearly explained the truth of Scripture to them. This should cause us to take notice. If people who were taught directly under the tutelage of the Apostle Paul were suddenly turning away from the truth, what does that say about our propensity to embrace lies? This is why we must pay careful attention to the reading, teaching, and preaching of God’s Word. There are always those who will attempt to lead the people of God astray from the true Gospel into something that is contrary (Acts 20:29-30; Galatians 1:7). Every Christian must be a diligent student of the Word of Christ lest we also turn away from the One Who has called us in the grace of Christ to another Gospel, which is not another. There is only one true Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners and it’s by way of grace through faith and not of works, and anyone who teaches contrary is under God’s curse.
ONLY ONE TRUE GOSPEL
In Paul’s letters it was common for him to give a greeting of thanks to the church for their common faith or their love for the truth. And this he does in almost every one of his epistles except for his letter to the Galatians. His first words after the opening greeting are not “I give thanks”, but rather (vs. 6) “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel…” Paul was not one to mince words when it came down to the truth of a matter. He was not about to praise the Galatians when in fact there was no reason for him to do so. The Galatians were not remaining steadfast in the faith to which they were called, but were turning from it. And Paul was not about to thank them for their perverse behavior. Rather, the Apostle Paul gives the Galatians a solemn warning about their “turning away from Him that called them into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel, which is not another.” Notice what Paul says here — to turn away from the true Gospel is to turn away from God Himself. This is very important for us to understand.
To turn away from the message of the Gospel is to turn away from God because what the message says, God says; what Scripture says, God says! “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:8).
God the Father had called the Galatians to Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Gospel — the Gospel that’s altogether good news for sinners. The Gospel that declares that Jesus Christ perfectly obeyed all the righteous requirements of the law and then went to the cross to die for the sins of many who had transgressed God’s law and who were under the curse of God because of their transgression. Christ suffered the curse of God in their place on the cross and then imputed to them righteousness which He alone had merited in exchange for their sins being imputed to Him on the cross. He was then raised from the dead as a witness that God had accepted His atoning work. And all of this is received by the sinner by grace through faith – not works! This is good news for sinners!
Yet this was the good news that the Galatians were so easily and quickly being turned away from, and the Apostle Paul is bewildered by this. Not that they were being turned away but rather that it happened so suddenly. Paul knew that there would be those who profess faith in Christ who would later turn their backs on Christ. You’ll remember the words he spoke to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28-31: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore, watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Paul anticipated this, but what was troubling was that it happened so soon after he had departed from Galatia. The message they were turning to was not even good news. Oh, how could they be so fooled into embracing a teaching that was just the opposite of what Paul had preached to them? And so clearly was the Gospel preached to the Galatians that Paul says in chapter 3:1: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” It’s always amazing when people turn aside from the Gospel. You present the truth to them and they seem to be so zealous for the truth and to rejoice in Christ’s atoning work. Yet not long after you explain the Gospel to them they become members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons. They turn from the true Gospel of freedom in Christ unto a teaching that only brings them into bondage and places them under the curse and wrath of God. As Paul said to the Galatians: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another…”
When Paul condemns those following a different Gospel we need to understand that there are two Greek words for the English word “another.” When Paul says he marvels that they are so soon removed to another Gospel he uses the word “heteros” — a teaching that stands over against the true Gospel. It’s a teaching that’s not homogenous with the true Gospel –– it’s not the same; it’s altogether different. In verse 7 Paul says, “which is not another Gospel.” Here he uses the other Greek word “allos” –– meaning it’s NOT the same as the true Gospel. So Paul says I am amazed that you are following a different Gospel which teaches contrary to the true Gospel, which is not in its true character a Gospel at all; it’s not good news. And so Paul says to the Galatians: There’s only one true Gospel and it was already preached to you by me. This other teaching that claims to be a Gospel is no Gospel at all. It’s NOT good news. It’s not another Gospel, but only a perversion of the one true Gospel.
This revelation condemns all other religions. Any other message that men may bring, Paul says, is not good news, is not the Gospel of God. In one verse the Apostle Paul eliminates every other religion on the face of the earth since they carry a message contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not popular to say in our world today. Our world wants universalism –– it wants a message that says you can have your religion and I can have mine, but since we are both sincere in our religion we will both be accepted into heaven. The world wants a message that says we all worship the same God just in different ways. But Paul says the Gospel is fixed in heaven and any teaching contrary to this Gospel is false and is under the curse of God. Christianity doesn’t teach universalism, but exclusivism! Jesus said there was only one way to heaven and He was it. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” And Peter said in Acts 4:12: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Paul also makes the Galatians aware of the fact that there are those who always want to trouble the church by perverting the Gospel of Christ. They want to shake the church to its foundation rather than strive to edify and build it up. And the churches of Galatia were being shaken by the false teaching of the Judiazers, who were attempting to pervert the Gospel of grace by adding to it the works of the law. But this is an impossibility. As Paul wrote in Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” The two are diametrically opposed; either Christ is a complete Savior or He is not a Savior at all.
Beloved in Christ: The greatest enemies of the church are not those who openly contradict the teaching of Scripture and deny Jesus Christ, but those who quote Scripture and profess to trust in Christ all the while subtly undermining and distorting the true Gospel with a system of works-righteousness. This is exactly what the Judiazers were doing. And men do the same thing in the church today. They come into the church and profess Jesus Christ and the teaching of Scripture but soon they begin to introduce false teaching, which is not good news, and try to draw away disciples after themselves, which always causes the church to be unsettled. Be aware of such men, beloved. Be diligent readers of Scripture in order to recognize their false teaching. Be so familiar with the true Gospel that you can instantly recognize the counterfeit. And be a faithful reader of the confessions of the church as they will keep you on track regarding the truth of the main and plain things of Scripture. This will make the church strong and will edify true believers.
And notice also that this one true Gospel belongs to Christ. It’s His message; He owns it. Therefore, no man has the authority to change it. But this is exactly what the Judiazers were doing. They were seeking to change something that was not theirs to change. Paul was angry because Christ’s Gospel was at stake. Men may dislike and reject the Gospel message but the fact is they cannot change it and still call it God’s good news. The Gospel is not ours to change as we will. It belongs to Christ, and the true preacher is a slave of Christ and is called to faithfully proclaim Christ’s message. And His message is fixed and man has no power over it. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The Scripture is eternal truth that never needs amending.
FALSE MESSENGERS ARE ACCURSED OF GOD
For any man to tamper with Christ’s Gospel will result in his being devoted to destruction, as Paul says in verses 8-9: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Notice that Paul puts himself and every preacher of God’s Word under the same condemnation. Even if an angel from heaven were to deliver a message contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul says let him be anathema. When something is called “anathema” it means that it has been taken from ordinary use and handed over to God. If it’s a good thing it has been handed over to Him for His use, but if it’s a bad thing it has been handed over to Him for destruction. But either way it has been taken out of ordinary relationships and is devoted to God. So what Paul is saying is that the punishment of the man who attempts to change the Gospel of Jesus Christ should be in God’s hands. The man should be regarded as beyond men’s power to help and as having fallen into the state about which the writer to the Hebrews says: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
The error of the Judaizers, which the Apostle Paul pronounces to be anathema, is something that the church today would probably see as minor because the modern church is so zealous for unity at all costs. After all, the Judiazers agreed with Paul about many things. They agreed that Jesus was the Messiah, the divine Son of God. They agreed that He was raised from the dead and was the object of saving faith if men would be saved, and that the requirements of the Law needed to be kept, yet Paul says let them be accursed for tampering with the Gospel. The main difference was the way in which those elements which Paul and the Judiazers agreed were grouped together and set before the people. Paul preached, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and at the moment you believe you are saved.” He then taught that believers proceed to keep the Law by the saving power of the Holy Spirit out of a heart of gratitude to God for such a wonderful salvation. The Judiazers, on the other hand, said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and keep the law as best you can, and then you will be saved.” Many say how slight the difference. Yes, but how great the consequence. It’s like two trains at the station that start out only thirty feet apart. They seem to be very close, yet because they’re on different tracks they end up hundreds of miles apart. Many today say this was just theological hair-splitting and Paul should have joined hands with these men and embraced them as brothers, and these are the same men who say that Protestants and Roman Catholics should also join hands. Yet Paul did nothing of the sort. Rather he said, “Let these men be anathema” –– set apart to God for destruction. Paul didn’t tolerate false doctrine, and if we want to be faithful to apostolic doctrine neither should we. This is how important the truth of the Gospel really is. Just a little poison added to the well of grace is enough to kill all who drink from it. This is not theological hair-splitting –– this is a matter of salvation and damnation. If we have to bring even an ounce of works to bridge the slightest gap for our salvation then we are still lost in sin. We must trust Christ for nothing or for everything. To trust him partly is no trust in Him at all. As the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 30 teaches: “Do those also believe in the only Savior Jesus, who seek their salvation and welfare from “saints,” themselves, or anywhere else? No; although they make their boast of Him, yet in their deeds they deny the only Savior Jesus; for either Jesus is not a complete Savior, or they who by true faith receive this Savior, must have in Him all that is necessary to their salvation.”
Will we have a religion of merit or grace? Will it be divine accomplishment or human achievement? It can’t be both since they are diametrically opposed as Paul says in Romans 11:6: “If of grace not of works, if of works not of grace.” The Judiazers taught that a man must earn part of his salvation, while Paul taught that salvation was earned by Christ and they who trust Him have all that’s necessary for salvation. Yet Paul did show remarkable tolerance elsewhere in his ministry. In Philippians 1:15-18: “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Men were preaching the true Gospel out of a wrong motive. They only wanted to cause trouble for Paul. But Paul says I don’t really care because the Gospel is being proclaimed. Paul recognized that it wasn’t about him. Whether people liked or disliked him wasn’t of great concern. What mattered was whether the truth was being preached.
The main question for Paul was always the truth of the message, not the personality of the messenger. But in the church today, this is just the opposite. Paul was intolerant about the content of the message but he exercised much tolerance towards the personality of the messenger. The church today is tolerant about the message but intolerant about the personality of the messenger. Paul’s principle was plain; he didn’t defend himself or utter anathemas out of an interest in his own personal pride or because of the personality of the messenger. Paul did so only when the glory of Christ and the truth of Christ’s Gospel were at stake.
This issue was so important that the apostle repeats his warning in verse 9: “As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” In others words he says, I gave you the warning on my last visit and now again I am giving you exactly the same warning. “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
TRUE MESSENGERS SEEK GOD’S APPROVAL
And then he says in verse 10: “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” A servant of Christ cannot seek to be a man-pleaser. This is a hard saying since every church officer would have to admit the tension in his heart to please men. But Paul teaches that this attitude is incompatible with being a servant of Jesus Christ. The servant of Christ must serve Christ, regardless of what men may say or do. Think about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. We must serve God – we must obey God and serve Him. The servant of Christ must not worry about pleasing men or cower to their threats. The Judaizers probably accused Paul of vacillating because of such things as being all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22), and having Timothy, the half-Jew, circumcised in order to enter the synagogues. But where traditions and customs didn’t interfere with the truth of the Gospel, Paul had no problem observing them. It was only when the traditions violated the Gospel by imposing issues of observance in order to be saved that Paul resisted them.
But Paul says to the Galatians, who do you think I am trying to please when I pronounce anathema on those who distort the Gospel? Do you think this is going to win me friends or will this create irritation among men? It’s clear that Paul was not serving men but God. One who trims his sails to every breeze of opinion cannot be a servant of Christ. No one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). Paul knew he had been entrusted with Christ’s Gospel and therefore man-pleasing was to be avoided. The Gospel that he was entrusted with is not according to man therefore all thought of gaining men’s favor must be put aside if he would be a true slave of Christ. You see, a man-pleaser will tell you what you want to hear, but a slave of Christ will tell you what Christ says. Whatever Christ says is always what we need to hear. Man- pleasers want to be liked by all the people so they tone down the Scripture in order not to offend. However, the slave of Christ fears God above all and therefore will tell you “Thus saith the Lord.” And if he doesn’t proclaim that which he has received from Christ he cannot be Christ’s slave, and therefore comes under the anathema of God. May God continue to grant his preachers boldness to fear God rather than man and to stand faithful in the proclamation of Christ’s glorious Gospel, which is the only hope for the salvation of sinners.
Rev. Scott Henry