The following message was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church on March 16th, 2014:
We are going to look at Paul’s letter to the Galatians this morning and how Paul felt about the problems that they were facing. Galatians was one of the problem churches of the New Testament. They had been born out of Paul’s missionary efforts and had become a church—but a crisis has hit this church of Galatia. It’s important that we read about the crisis that hit their church because there isn’t anything that makes us any different from them today. So let’s get into this text.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Do you see what is missing here? Not that the Scriptures are inefficient and lacking, but there is something missing here that is usually found in Paul’s letters. Let’s take a look at all of Paul’s letters to the churches of the NT and see if you can find out what is missing here in his letter to the Galatians:
To the Romans: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” (Rom. 1:8).
To the Corinthians: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4).
To the Ephesians: “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:16).
To the Philippians: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:3).
To the Colossians: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” (Col. 1:3).
To the Thessalonians: The first letter, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers” (1 Thess. 1:2). The second letter, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing” (2 Thess. 1:3).
As soon as we read the first few verses here, we notice that there is no thanksgiving. Of course I don’t mean the holiday, Thanksgiving, but there is no expression of thankfulness for these Galatians like there is in the rest of Paul’s letters to the churches. Paul expresses his thanksgiving to all the churches to whom he has written, except for the Galatians.
But not so with these Galatians. Paul doesn’t waste any time addressing the problem and says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (1:6).
It is Astonishing to Turn Away From the Gospel
First Paul tells his Galatian readers, “I am astonished.” This is his expression—and it wasn’t a good astonishment either. It was astonishing to Paul that these believers were turning away from the gospel. The idea here is that it is astonishing to turn away from the gospel!
The gospel isn’t a genre of music, it’s not a lofty idea in literature, it’s not something that only theologians argue about, folks the gospel is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel is the greatest thing that God could ever offer you—and to turn away from it is astonishing.
The gospel is what reconciles us to a God whom we have offended (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). The gospel not only individually transforms, but it corporately unites (Rom. 15:6; Eph. 2:14-18) . The gospel is received by individuals but the gospel grafts you into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:16). The gospel is how you are made right in God’s sight (Rom. 5:1, 8:30; Gal. 2:16-17, 3:24; Titus 3:7). The gospel is how the wrath of God was absorbed for you (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2). The gospel is how you are free to serve God (Gal. 5:1; 1 Peter 2:16). The gospel is what sets you free from the power of sin and death (John 8:36; Rom. 6:7, 8:2). The gospel is what’s worth living and dying for (Phil. 1:21).
The Gospel Brings You to God
The gospel is what brings you to God. You see, God is the ultimate goal. You see, everything that the gospel accomplishes is really to remove the obstacles that are blocking your way to God. Through the gospel, the obstacles are moved out of the way so you can get to God. In justification—sin is out of the way and only Christ’s righteousness is seen (2 Cor. 5:21). In substitutionary atonement—the debt is paid—here’s the warrant for your rightful arrest and it has listed on it “The soul that sinneth shall surely die” but instead of us paying for it, God nails that warrant through the hands of His Son, thus canceling the debt against you (the debt is out of the way). (1 Peter 3:18)
In redemption, God purchases you for Himself. You are His possession. “For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20) In setting you free from sin, you are free to serve God—enabled to serve and honor Him (John 8:36). In giving you eternal life, you will be in a place where you will never depart from God’s presence (Revelation 5:9-13).
All that God does is in the gospel is to bring you to Himself. He is the ultimate, final, highest and greatest gift of the gospel. And to turn away from this gospel? That’s absurd! Yet people are doing it every day. The world counts the gospel as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18), as folly. And apart from the grace of God leading you to faith, you will naturally hate the things of God. So you will naturally turn away from the gospel if you aren’t redeemed.
It is true that people are turning away from the gospel and this is a most astonishing thing, but are we living our lives in such away that demonstrates the worth of the gospel so that people will see what a mistake it is to turn away from the best thing God could ever offer you? Let’s make sure we are demonstrating to the world the worth of the gospel by our lives being transformed.
Turning Away Can Be a Christian Problem
Paul says here that it is astonishing to turn away from the gospel, but he also says more about the problems for these Galatians: “. . . you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (v. 6b). It’s also interesting to note here that Paul says they were quickly deserting Christ and His gospel. This means that not much time has passed since the Galatians had believed in the gospel. Not much time had passed since their conversion, and now they are quickly deserting Christ and His message. More specifically, they were deserting “him who called you in the grace of Christ.” They are not just turning from a doctrine or a teaching. But if they were “called [into] the grace of Christ,” then this indicates that these Galatians were believers.
If they weren’t Paul would not have said that they were “called [into] the grace of Christ.” Because that’s how salvation happens for people. God calls you to repentance and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ—and everything, everything, about salvation is dependent on the grace of God. So this problem of deserting the gospel and turning to a different gospel can be a Christian problem. Nothing has happened that makes them any different from us today. What was the “different gospel” that they were turning to? The teaching of justification by works.
We as Christians are suspect to fall prey to “quickly deserting” Jesus Christ and the message of justification by faith just like these Galatians. If the Galatians were, why wouldn’t we be? Their reason for quickly deserting Christ was that there were some who troubled them. It was people who were within the church. They weren’t being infiltrated by some religion in a distant land. They were being deceived by those called themselves Christian “brothers” (Gal. 2:4). They were Judaizers who were within the church trying to teach that justification is by works—in this case, keeping the law. Paul reveals throughout this letter that this is what the Judaizers were trying to teach.
Today we are not likely to hear a church member say that Jesus is not the only way to heaven. Something like that should easily turn on a red light for us, but we do have an epidemic in the church today. Many of us become Christians and then we fall into this “do-it-yourself” mentality. We believe that God gives us grace to be saved, but after we are saved, we fall into a type of thinking where we actually believe that we must do more service to gain more of God’s approval. For some reason, we start to believe that God’s approval and acceptance of us.
This was exactly the problem for the Galatians.
But according to the gospel, there is nothing you could ever do to gain more approval in God’s sight. Nothing. God’s approval and acceptance of you is totally and completely based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. His work specifically of justification. Justification is the brightest facet on the gospel diamond.
What happens in justification?
1) Christ takes your sin, like making it His own—charging it to His own account, though He never sinned. That way, in God’s sight it is as though you had never sinned to begin with.
2) But the other side of that coin is that God credits Christ’s righteousness to your account. Christ takes your sin and in exchange gives you His righteousness. That is how we are accepted and approved of in God’s sight. Oh God wants that for us! “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
You can do nothing to add onto that. You can do nothing to take away from that. What about if you gave away all your money to the poor? Wouldn’t that make Him love you a little bit more? Absolutely not. What if you went to live on the foreign mission field with another people group, a different language, and stripped away from your family? Absolutely not. What if you went one full-week without a single, lustful thought? Absolutely not! God’s approval is based on this: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). And Romans makes this truth explode with brilliance: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4).
In Christ, there is nothing you can do that would make God love you any more than He already does. He loves you because He loves you. And in Christ, there is nothing you have done that makes Him love you any less.
Do not fall into the mindset of “works-righteousness.” Embrace the gospel’s truth of justification by faith. You will wear yourself out trying to gain more of God’s acceptance. In fact, the Scriptures say that you will become a slave to “works-righteousness” if you think that obedience is earning God’s approval: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).
What should be the driving force behind obedience to God then? We are seeking to please Him every day. We are seeking to be more obedient today than we were yesterday. But we should be seeking to be obedient to God because we want to. The proper response to receiving this “so great salvation” (Heb. 2:3) is joyful sacrifice to Him regardless of the cost. Christ paid the greatest cost at Calvary, and we will want to joyfully give our lives in service to Him because He is worth losing everything and anything for.
Make sure you check your motive for obedience to God. Are you motivated by thinking that God will approve of you more? Or are you motivated because you want to make much of Him in every part of your lives? Are you motivated to serve God because you want to see Him glorified, magnified, and lifted up? Are you motivated to serve God because you want people’s attention to be drawn to Him?
No Other Gospel
We have seen that it is astonishing to turn away from the gospel, and that we as believers today are easily subject to fall into the mentality of “works-righteousness” but that we must not, for that is not the gospel at all. Paul continues his argument here and defends the gospel by saying: “not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (v. 7).
In this verse, Paul says that what they were turning to was not really the gospel at all. He refuses to recognize this heresy as a “gospel.” This “different gospel” was the product of “some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
Paul states the truth that there is no other gospel. And there isn’t.
There is no other message on the face of the planet that teaches that God completely forgives sin based on the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. There is not another message in this world that has endured the test of time, death, persecution, and struggle. The message of the gospel is the final triumphant message in the world—and there is no other gospel. There is no other good news like this good news.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ is the only way to God. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He is not a way. He is not a good way. He is not one out of many ways. He is the way. And there is no other way that you could ever reach God by your own efforts, by your own works, by your own good intentions. The only way that you could ever get to God is through Jesus Christ. There is no other gospel. No other way.
This is quite contrary to the belief today that there are many ways to God. I read in a story once that there were these two religious leaders talking about their religions. One of them was a Buddhist religious leader. The other was a Muslim religious leader. And they said, “You know, when it comes right down to it, our religions aren’t really that different. Some minor details at the most are what make us different. Really we are trying to reach God at the top of a mountain but we are going up that mountain different ways.”
Folks, the message of the gospel is that God came down from that mountain to meet sinners like you and I. We do not climb a mountain different ways to get to the same God. The foundational, life-transforming message of Christianity is that God came to you. Because you couldn’t come to Him. The Bible says that we are born haters of God (Rom. 1:30), sinners by nature and dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:3), enemies of God (Rom. 5:10), not seeking Him (Rom. 3:11). There is no way on earth we could ever get to God on our own. But thank God Jesus paid a debt that we couldn’t pay! He lived the life we could never live! And He died in our place, He paid for our sins, He bought us with a price, He justified us in God’s sight, and He absorbed the wrath of God that we deserved.
Imagine it this way: If you and I were standing about a hundred yards away from a dam of water that was ten thousand miles high and ten thousand miles wide. All of the sudden that dam was broken and a surging flood of water comes crashing down at us. But right before it reaches us, the ground in front of us opens up and swallows it all. Folks, at the cross, Christ drank the full cup of God’s wrath, and when He downed the last drop, he cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). All who turn away from sin and have faith in Jesus Christ have can have their sins totally forgiven though this gospel.
Some Who Trouble You
But again, the problem was from those who wanted to distort the gospel of Christ. And there are many today who are deceived by “every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Don’t think that you are immune to being easily deceived folks, the Bible says that the devil can even disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
But how will we protect ourselves against “different gospel[s]” as Paul says here if we barely spend time in the Bible? Folks, if Sunday morning and possibly Sunday night is the only time you get a feeding of the Word of God, then you are as vulnerable to false gospels as a baby lamb is to a roaring, hungry lion.
If you are not arming yourself with the Bible, meditating on the Bible, memorizing the Bible, studying the Bible, reading the Bible, then you will be “tossed about like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:16). Often times, when we have revivals we get our hearts set on fire for Christ and have a rekindled passion for the word of God. But if we we’re growing in our maturity and knowledge of God’s Word like we should be, then we wouldn’t have to depend on events like these to get revived!
These events are great, but we need to realize that clear knowledge of God is the kindling that sustains fires of affection for God. Theology matters. The study of God matters. Because if you have a low view of God, then your worship of Him will be low. But if you have a high view of God, then your worship of Him will be high. We need to strive for maturity in our faith—and study God’s Word to defend ourselves against what is not true or right.
For years people have tried to cheat the US Treasury Dept. by producing fake bills and attempting to duplicate currency. But you know how the US Treasury Dept. recognizes counterfeit bills? They know the real thing. And we will be utterly defenseless against heresies and false teachings if we do not know the real thing—the Word of God.
Will you take the time to arm yourself with the Word of God? Will you take the time necessary to read, study, and memorize the Word of God in order to recognize “different gospels?” Dive into Bible study and trust that God will help you discern what is right and what is wrong. Just plunge into Bible study on faith.
Paul has expressed that he is astonished that these Galatians are so quickly deserting the gospel. Then he defends the fact that there is not another gospel, but the problem is with “some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (v. 7), now Paul reinforces his argument by saying: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (vv. 8-9).
Paul says that “even if we” meaning himself and his missionaries, preach a different gospel, let him be accursed. What was the gospel that Paul and his missionaries preached? The gospel of justification by faith. This is clear throughout this letter. In fact, a theme verse to sum up Paul’s argument is Galatians 2:16: “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
It’s interesting that Paul uses himself and his missionaries as an example here. “Even if we. .” Paul extended that curse to himself and his missionaries if they had preached a different gospel. That means that his message must never change or deviate—because the truth of the gospel never changes. There is nothing you can add to it, nothing you can take away from it.
Paul says that anyone, even an angel, that preaches a gospel contrary to justification by faith, is to be accursed. Paul doesn’t mean “let that person be excommunicated,” like if someone is preaching to you a different gospel, kick him out of your church. It can’t mean that. Paul says that “even if an angel” preaches a contrary gospel, let him be accursed. Angels can’t be excommunicated from a local body. The phrase means “let him be delivered up to the wrath of God.”
Why? Because to preach a different gospel meant to reject the gospel—and if you reject the gospel you bring God’s curse upon yourself. Don’t read over these verses and yawn and then turn the page. What these Judaizers were doing was forthright damnable. If they taught that keeping requirements and keeping laws was the way to be justified in God’s sight, that justification is not based on the finished and final sacrifice of Christ on the cross and you must receive that justification by faith. . . then they were:
1) Presenting a “road of salvation” that actually leads to death. Because no man will be justified in God’s sight by works. Paul says elsewhere in this letter “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:4).
2) Denying the claim that Jesus was the Messiah. The Old Testament Scriptures promised that the Messiah was the One through whom God’s saving purposes would be accomplished.
Paul says that if they do that they are anathema. When a person is anathema he is cut off from Christ (Rom. 9:3) and doomed to eternal punishment. Paul says that because this justification by works is the way that leads to death. The way that leads to eternal punishment—because works will never be enough to gain God. They only way to do that is through faith in Jesus Christ.
I just shriek in my heart when I see these televangelists who are preaching the prosperity message and these people are just eating it up! These false teachers are under the anathema and so are the They are “amening,” singing and dancing. And why? Because God has apparently chosen to bless you with nothing but financial wealth? I tell you what, I don’t need that folks. I’m rich enough through the gospel!
This damnation isn’t just for these false teachers described in these verses. This goes for anyone who rejects the gospel. John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Paul even uses the same word in 1 Cor. 16:22, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed.”
Meditate on the Horror
We need to think deeply about the horror of rejecting the gospel folks. We are too occupied with work, television, and worldly things that we hardly think about the real damnation that people will experience if they reject the gospel. We need to think about the anathema the way a child hears his first peal of thunder, or the way a child feels his first earthquake, or suffers his first storm at sea.
1) God’s wrath is real and we need to be sharing what Christ did about this wrath with everyone we meet. We need to have a real concern for them because the whole world is under God’s curse if they do not trust in Jesus Christ to be their Savior. C. H. Spurgeon said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”
2) We need to meditate on that from which we have been saved. That if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ on the cross and God’s grace extending to us who are totally undeserving of His mercy—then we would face the full wrath of God for our sin.
Ponder these things. Allow them to humble you.
The Servant of the Gospel is Not a Servant of Man
Paul has expressed his astonishment for the Galatians giving allegiance to another gospel, which Paul says is no gospel at all. He tells them how serious it is to distort the gospel’s message. And now, Paul concludes this passage of Scripture by asking a few rhetorical questions. Questions that have obvious answers: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (v. 10).
Paul isn’t asking this question in regards to justification. Because God’s approval was already his through Jesus Christ. The reason Paul says this here is because of what he said above. He has said some things that will not win him very many friends. He says that those who preach a false gospel are accursed. Paul realized that it doesn’t please very many people to hear the pronouncement of damnation. Paul is talking this way because pleasing people (telling them what they want to hear) is much lower on his list of priorities than serving Jesus Christ.
There is too much at stake for Paul to talk lightly about this problem of swearing allegiance to something else other than the gospel—it’s a life or death situation. If the gospel is twisted then Christ’s work on the cross is dishonored. If the gospel is twisted, then the way of salvation for sinners is blocked. So, Paul must oppose the perverting of the gospel with all his might—whether it pleases people or not.
Seeking to Please God
The meaning here is not that if more people are displeased with you, then you are more spiritual. Paul’s aim was never to take people out of the equation. He didn’t want to alienate people (1 Cor. 10:31; Rom. 15:2). It is good to “please people” when it means that pleasing them is a means to their salvation and it builds them up in the faith for God’s glory. But when the gospel is at stake, and we are in situations where our faith could be compromised, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I now seeking to please God or man?” For Acts 5:29 says, “We must obey God rather than men.” When you are tempted to hide your faith ask yourself this question.
Paul indicates here that he lives for God and for God alone. How thrilling is that? You don’t have to worry about pleasing one person here and another person over here. You only live to please one person—God. That challenges every aspect of your life. When you live to please God, everything you do relates to pleasing Him. Should I see this movie? Read this book? Make this purchase? Take this job? Go out on this date? Marry this person? It is so freeing to know that there is one person who is to be pleased in every decision of our lives—Jesus. Sometimes pleasing Him will please others. Other times it won’t. Other times it will cost you dearly—but anything is worth losing when you know you have a God that you can never lose. A God that is infinitely worth more than anything this world affords.
The shining truth of this passage is that there is one, and only one gospel. It is astonishing for one to turn away from this gospel—because you are turning away from God, and away from grace in Christ. It is not only astonishing, but it is tragic, damnable, because the person who rejects the gospel is accursed and cut off from God.
But on the other hand, if you embrace the true gospel—the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your justification—not only are all your sins forgiven by God, but freedom will come into your life because you will live to please one person—Jesus Christ.