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"And Now For Something Completely Different...!"
Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
June 22, 2005
While Paul was in prison, he rejoiced that others were were emboldened
to preach the gospel. Some, however, were preaching out of bad motives - in
order to add 'affliction' to his chains. Even still, he rejoiced that
Christ was preached. So long as the true message of the gospel was being
proclaimed, he didn't mind. This was because, as he said, "I am appointed
for the defense of the gospel" (Phil. 1:17).
And the same sense of appointment caused him to be aggressive when
someone was preaching something other than the gospel. That was the case
with the Galatians. Some had crept into the church of people he had
ministered the gospel to not long before, and were now teaching a false
"gospel" of works. The crucial doctrine of "justification by faith alone"
was being compromised; and this motivated Paul to "contend earnestly for the
faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
In these opening words of the actual body of his letter, Paul stresses
that . . .
I. ONLY ONE GOSPEL IS TO BE BELIEVED (vv. 6-7a).
A. Paul jumps right in by saying that he 'marvels' at the
Galatians - and not in a good way! This is, of course, not his normal way of
greeting his readers. Usually, he begins by saying something about his
readers that he's thankful to God for (Rom. 1:8ff; 1 Cor. 1:4ff; Phil. 1:3;
1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:3ff; 2 Tim. 1:3), or that he "blesses" God for (2
Cor. 1:3ff; Eph. 1:3ff), or that he urges them to do (1 Tim. 1:12ff; Titus
1:5ff). But he is quite upset in this letter.
B. The thing he 'marvels' over is that the Galatians had so soon
turned away (metatithãmi; to transfer, to change over; was even used to
refer to a military desertion) from the One who had called them.
1. This may have been the first letter that Paul had written; and
so, their 'turning away' was relatively soon after the time that he had
first preached to them.
2. Their turning away was from a Person. He says that they had
quickly turned away from "Him who called you in the grace of Christ". Their
"calling" was a calling to salvation; and their turning was from Him who had
called them (i.e., the Father). They may have thought that they were simply
turning away from one form of "the gospel" to "another"; but in turning away
from the grace to which they were called, they were turning away from the
One who had called them to it! Gospel truth is always "relational" - not just
3. They thought that they were turning to "another" gospel. But
Paul uses his words carefully. He says that they had turned to a "different
gospel" (heteron; i.e., something of a completely different kind); which was
NOT "another" (allo; i.e., another of the same kind). The "gospel" they
turned to was not "another of the same kind"; but something of "a completely
different kind" that was not the gospel at all!
C. The "other" gospel, as we will see from the rest of the letter,
was a "gospel" of works. It was a message that a man or woman could be made
righteous by keeping the law of God - while Paul was called to proclaim the
message that no man can be justified by the law (Gal. 2:16). A man or woman
is justified only by faith alone in Jesus Christ. This reminds us that
there are two forms of false "gospel"; one stresses that we are made
righteous by keeping the law (Legalism), and the other stresses that because
we are righteous, we have no need to live righteously (Antinomianism). It
also reminds us of the subtile danger of false doctrine. It is not simply
presenting another option of the true gospel; that brings us salvation
through a different way. It is presenting something completely different;
something that deceives, because it doesn't present salvation at all! False
doctrine results in people believing a lie of the devil, and in their being
lost forever! No wonder Paul was so strong in this letter!
II. NO OTHER PREACHING IS TO BE PREACHED (vv. 7b-9).
A. There wouldn't even be the need to stress that this "other" gospel
is NOT "another" if it weren't for the fact that there were "some" who who
were "troubling" (tarassõ; to agitate, trouble, terrify) the Galatian
saints. These weren't people who simply "misunderstood" the gospel; because
if that were the case, Paul would have simply sought to correct them.
Rather, he says that they are aggressively seeking to "pervert"
(metastrephõ; to convert, change) the gospel once delivered to the saints!
B. Paul therefore makes it unmistakably clear that no other preaching
is to be preached or heard.
1. He stresses that, if anyone preaches anything other than what
the apostles (plural; 'we') had preached to them, that preacher was to be
"anathema". This Greek word was the word that the translators of the Greek
Old Testament used to describe the "ban" - that is, anything that is dedicated
to the Lord for complete destruction (see Josh. 6:17-18; 7:1, 20). In this
case, it refers to complete damnation (see Romans 9:3). It doesn't make any
difference if it were another apostle, or Paul Himself, or even an angel
from heaven. Paul didn't mind if someone else preached the true gospel; but
he wouldn't even allow it to be accepted if even he preached a "different"
gospel - because it was the message, not the messenger, that was to be clung
2. To make it clear that Paul really meant what he just said, and
wasn't simply speaking out of emotion, he says it again. If anyone preaches
any other gospel to them than what was preached to them, then let that
preacher be accursed! He again chooses his words carefully. He says "As WE
have said before" (meaning the testimony of the apostles; see Acts 15), "so
now I say again" (meaning he himself).
C. The most dangerous thing in the world is a preacher of "another
gospel" - which isn't one at all! There is no other; and anyone who preaches
another "gospel" than that which was first delivered to the saints - that is,
the gospel of justification by faith alone through the grace of God by
Christ alone - is someone who is, by the testimony of God's own word,
"accursed". John warns, ". . . Do not even receive him into your house or
greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 7-11).
D. It's important to note, though, that a false teacher can repent
and cease to be "accursed". Paul uses the present tense to describe their
preaching - that is, referring to anyone who "is right then, as an ongoing
practice, preaching" some other gospel. The good news of grace through
faith in Christ applies even to false teachers who will repent!
III. JUST ONE MASTER IS TO BE SERVED (v. 10).
A. Some were accusing Paul of preaching his message out of a motive
to please men. Dr. F.F. Bruce suggested that these words imply a charge
that was being laid on Paul - that he was preaching a "law-free" gospel in
order to make the way of salvation seem "easier" for people; and that he was
trying to persuade God to accept such people on less rigorous terms than
those required by the law. This would be another way of saying that Paul
was making it all up; and later on in this chapter, Paul defends himself
against this charge.
B. Paul's strong words in verses 7-9 show that he is NOT trying to
merely "persuade" men. He of course often sought to "persuade" men to the
gospel in a good way (see 1 Cor. 9:22; 2 Cor. 5:11); but never to the
compromise of the message. To "persuade" here (peithõ) can mean "to seek
the favor of". It can be translated, "There now! Do I seek the favor of
men or of God? Or do I seek to please men?" (See 2 Corinthians 10:7-18).
C. He further argues that, if he had been making it his ambition to
please men, he could not be the bond-servant of Christ. He said elsewhere,
". . . Yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16). He was
a man under orders from Christ to preach a message that was an offense to
men (1 Cor. 1:18); and if he sought to please men, he ceased to be the
servant of Christ.
D. A false preacher, preaching a false doctrine is making it his or
her ambition to please men. But the preacher of the gospel is motivated to
please Christ - and in serving Christ, thus serving men in truth! May God
help us to be servants of Christ by serving men the truth of Christ!