Scripture passage: Galatians 1:6-12
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel – not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell! Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ! Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. For I did not receive it or learn it from any human source; instead I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ.
1. Galatians converts warned:
The words of Paul here may be translated as, “Are you so quickly transferring yourselves– that is, your loyalties to a different gospel?” The Galatians were in the process of defecting, and Paul hoped he was in time to bring them to their senses.
There is only one Gospel, and its trademark is the sufficiency of the shed blood of Christ. Those in Paul’s day who felt it necessary to add circumcision or law-keeping to God’s provision of salvation by grace were not preaching the true Gospel.
Those today who insist that salvation is by grace plus good works are also preaching “a different gospel.”
2. The danger of cultic doctrine:
Many religious sects strongly emphasize righteousness by works. They are highly legalistic and teach, essentially, that man is his own savior. They teach that theirs is the only true Christianity. That they usually have high moral standards and demand much of their members gives these movements an appearance of spirituality.
A churchgoer who is concerned about theological or moral drift in his denomination or local church, but who has little sound biblical understanding, is especially susceptible to the influence of these pseudo-Christian cults.
Unless he is well grounded in Scripture, has a knowledge of the heresies of the sect involved, and is prepared to witness strongly for the Gospel, he is better off politely declining to talk with cultic missionaries.
3. To back out or take a stand?
We should be patient with those who disagree with us on such issues as church government, free will and election, baptism, etc. Christians who are equally sincere and spiritual have honest differences of opinion on these matters. But when crucial points of doctrine are involved– the deity of Christ, His atoning death and bodily resurrection, the inspiration of the Bible, and the like– we are to take an uncompromising stand.
4. False doctrine sends people to hell:
As he indicated in his epistle to Corinth, Paul was much aware of the dangers of personality cults (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).
Often through no fault of a Christian leader, certain members of his immature followers begin to think that they can do no wrong. They begin to measure the Word by their favorite preacher rather than measuring a preacher by the Word. Paul wanted the Galatian believers to understand that the truth of his message was not based on the wisdom or authority of any man, including himself.
“But even if we ((Paul, Barnabas, Silas, or any apostle) or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! (Galatians 1:8)
Whoever spread any gospel but the true one of salvation by faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, should be considered accursed. His leadership should be rejected and his teaching opposed as strongly as possible.
Because the preaching of a false doctrine sends people to hell, this offense is heinous in the sight of God. There is no room for tolerance in dealing with false teachers, since precious souls for whom Christ died are at stake.
5. Paul- ever faithful to his Master:
It responding to the accusations made by Paul’s enemies that he was trying to please man rather than God, Paul says, in effect, “In saying things like these, does it sound like I am trying to win man’s approval? Regardless of what people say, all I want is to please Christ, whose bond-slave I am, and to be loyal to His Gospel at any cost.”
Having warned that to trifle with the Gospel is a serious offense against both man and God, Paul describes the manner in which the uniqueness of the Gospel was revealed to him and preached by him. Paul gave all his allegiance to his Lord, Jesus Christ. He never felt the need to “butter up” any human being. He often called himself “Christ’s bond-servant” or a “steward” whose responsibility was to be faithful to his Master and to seek to please Him alone. He wrote, “For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason for boasting, because I am compelled to do this. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16)
Paul has a sole purpose, to serve Christ by winning people to Him. We should be as winsome and pleasing as self-forgetfulness can make us, and this Paul was. But he strongly denounced sinful compromise. Far from flattering people, Paul preached a Gospel that humbled them.
6. Paul- commissioned by God not man:
Paul’s authority as an apostle stands or falls on the question of his teachings had been revealed to him directly by God or taught to him by other men. If his message was straight from God, obviously he was in a position to speak with with more authority than if he merely proclaimed what someone else had told him. He goes on to prove that it was impossible for him to have been taught by the other apostles at Jerusalem.
Paul’s doctrine was not according to man. It was not the kind of truth that man’s mind would ever have imagined. It came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. The veil that hides Christ from mortal view, was drawn aside for Paul to see.
Prior to his encounter with the risen Lord on Damascus road, Paul had doubtless known a great deal about Christianity. But only after Christ was revealed to him did his whole life changed.
The whole of Scripture, and only the Scripture, is God’s revelation to man. If we want to avoid the Galatians’ heresy, we must master the Word of God. Most Christians spend very little time systematically studying the Bible– or even reading it. Pastors and preachers study the Word to prepare their sermons. Few of those who regularly attend an adult Sunday School class prepare their lessons in advance. Always remember that even the best Bible teachers in the world are no substitute for personal study of the Word of God and meditation on it.