Previous posts in the True Gospel Series (Book of Galatians)
After defending his apostolic call and laying out a brief gospel primer in verses 1-5, the apostle Paul gives us in verses 6-9 the situation that occasioned the writing of the letter to the Galatian churches. Here’s my translation from the Greek…
6I am astonished how quickly you are turning away from the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel 7(not that there is another gospel). But there are some people who trouble you and who want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should now preach a gospel contrary to what we preached, let that person be cursed! 9Like we have said before, I now say again: if anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that person be cursed!
Paul had personally founded these churches on his first missionary journey (recorded in Acts 13-14). Now, only a few years later, there was an outside group that had come in and was teaching a different gospel than what Paul had taught. They came to the Galatian churches claiming the authority of James. See Galatians 2:12. This was the highest authority claim one could make in a church, humanly speaking, since James was the leader of the “mother church” in Jerusalem.
What was this group teaching that was so different from the true gospel that the apostle Paul taught? Acts 15:1 records the message and teaching of this group, “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’.” It is this very controversy that forced the hand of the apostles to have the most significant meeting in the history of Christianity. This council meeting is recorded in Acts 15.
Don’t Abandon the GOD of the True Gospel (6-7)
The message being preached by this group was Jesus + circumcision = salvation. Paul responds and says that Jesus + anything = abandonment of God. Funny thing that he doesn’t say, “You’re abandoning a message.” Rather, he says, “You’re abandoning a person, God.” To trade in the true gospel that was preached by Jesus and the apostles is to trade in God himself for something else.
For a false teaching to be effective, it must be presented as just a bit different, as something that fulfills or completes what you already accept. In Paul’s day it was Jesus + circumcision. That’s not our issue. Today it’s either one of the Christian cults like Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witness (both of these cults say that Jesus + good works = salvation). Or perhaps it’s our good old American ethic that we combine in a Jesus + “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” type of gospel.
Any way you slice it, if you add any requirements to Jesus (social class, wealth, skin color, education, standing in community, reputation, a generally good-looking clean life, etc.) then you end up with nothing.
No New Gospels Are Being Revealed (8-9)
The reference to angels in verse 8 demonstrates that preaching another gospel cannot be defended by any means, even by appealing to a heavenly source or a heavenly revelation. The reason is simple: full revelation of the gospel has already been given by Jesus Christ. There is nothing left to add.
Case-in-point: Mormonism – founded by Joseph Smith after he claimed he had a private revelation from an angel named Moroni.
There’s really no response to a person who claims heavenly revelation except to say, “No, you didn’t receive new revelation, because revelation is complete with Jesus Christ.”
In verses 11-12, the apostle Paul will explain to us more about the source of the true gospel and why no new gospels are being revealed.