Galatians 1:6-10 - The Most Severe Rebuke In All Of Paul's Letters
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I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! - Gal. 1:6-9

Question: Look at verse 6, who and what were the Galatians deserting? And what were they exchanging that for?

Who: Jesus, What: the grace of Christ, i.e. the true gospel. For: A different gospel. Does this warrant such a strong rebuke from Paul? I should think so and it should be alarming for us too.


"Should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you". This is significant because Paul was a true Apostle's which as we said before were to lay a foundation. These men were trying to undermine that and lay their own foundation. It's interesting that Paul went straight to the rebuke regarding this distortion of the gospel even before returning to defend his apostleship and authority as we'll see later in this chapter. He promptly gets this rebuke out before returning to testify by what, or rather Who's authority he speaks these things in. You can sense his urgency, he speaks as a captain who's crew just made a choice to abandoned the lifeboat and swim back aboard their sinking ship that's on fire after being convinced by the enemy that it's the only way they'll make it. Therefore Paul doesn't hold back given the severity of the situation. This distortion of the gospel he attributes later in this letter to being sneaky (Gal. 2:4), enslaving (Gal. 5:1), devastating (Gal. 5:4), and spreading like wildfire (Gal. 5:9), even persuading the likes of Peter and Barnabus (Gal. 2:13). Greatly frustrated, Paul uses strong language throughout (Gal. 5:12).


Question: To the one bringing the distorted gospel Paul writes. “he is to be accursed!” Why so harsh? And how is what they are preaching "contrary" to what the Apostles were preaching? Why is it not really another gospel at all as Paul puts it (v7).


All religion falls into one of two categories, either by works or by grace. As C.S. Lewis put it, grace is the one thing that makes Christianity different from all other world religions. That is, the idea that God does all the saving and all credit is to Him alone. The danger is, once works is added, by it's addition grace is entirely nullified and inapplicable (Rom. 11:6). Grace and works are a dichotomy that cannot be mixed or combined. These men were seeking to pull men out of the one and into bondage to the other. Paul knows this which is why the rebuke is so harsh, and why, unlike in all his other letters, Paul doesn't let up for the entire epistle to the Galatians. Almost desperate (Gal. 5:12) and beside himself (Gal. 4:11), he spends the entire letter driving home that if you seek to be justified by works than you have actually fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4). It's one or the other, you cannot have both. The gospel means "good news". The moment you bring a person under the bondage of the law, of rules, of works, it's no longer "good", nor can it be successful which is why it's not another gospel at all (Rom. 3:20). The message of grace, if preached properly, should bring water to dry bones, and as Isaiah writes, it even makes the feet of the one who brings it seem beautiful by association (Isa. 52:7), like a man who's been nearly lost at sea that kisses the ground as soon as he finds it.


Question: What do you suppose Paul meant when he said "there are some who are disturbing you"?


The word disturbing here comes from the greek word tarasso which also means "troubled" or "terrified" and is translated as such elsewhere as when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea and "were terrified" and "cried out in fear" (Mat. 14:26) or when Herod was so troubled by the birth of Jesus he sent men to kill all the boys who were in Bethlehem (Mat. 2:3). This distortion of the gospel was having the same effect on the Galatians, and has the same effect on Christians today.


Question: Why do you think Paul included angels in this rebuke?


It's interesting that Paul mentions that even if it's an angel, they are to be accursed. We know from 2 Cor. 11:4 that even Satan has disguised himself as an angel of light. Many religions that have distorted the gospel claim divine inspiration often citing encounters with angelic beings that give them teachings contrary to the gospel and sound doctrine. Many even claim to have separate "inspired" writings through these encounters and teach them alongside God's word. In the early church days they weren't as experienced as we are today with other religions. Not that we're wiser, but for us a solid foundation has been well established. Those of Paul's day this was all new and fresh. We know who the true apostles were, but in those days other men were claiming to be apostles inasmuch as Paul and the others (2 Cor. 11:12-13). Not that such deceit is limited to biblical times. Today many preach "Jesus" and yet follow apostle type figures such as Joseph Smith (Mormon), Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah Witness) Muhammad (Islam), and Ellen White (Seventh-day Adventists), and even in modern times David Koresh (Branch Davidians) and Jim Jones (Peoples Temple). One only need watch certain televangelists to see it's still happening today.


Question: What is the difference between a distortion and a lie? And why do you think the Galatians "so quickly" deserted the true gospel?


Judaizers is the term coined for these men distorting the gospel; they are those that taught a combination of God's grace and human effort in order to be saved. The word Judaizer comes from a Greek verb meaning “to live according to Jewish customs” and is derived from Galatians 2:14. Paul faced large numbers of Judaizers who believed that a number of the ceremonial practices of the OT were still binding on the NT church. Following the birth of the Galatian churches the Judaizers insisted that gentile converts abide by certain OT rules, especially circumcision. They argued that Paul was not an authentic apostle and that Paul, to make the message of grace more appealing, removed certain legal requirements from the gospel. Paul encountered these judaizers often as they would follow after him discrediting the foundation he was laying. If that weren't enough, they were discrediting the messenger too, but the part that bothered Paul the most was, it was working to the Galatians demise. They were succeeding and winning over Jews and even Gentiles extracting them from grace, and bringing them back under the bondage of works. These false teachers were "spying out our freedom in Christ, in order to enslave us" (Gal. 2:4), and they were gaining ground. I can only imagine how disheartening that was for Paul who loved them and greatly labored for them (Gal. 4:11).


Question: How would Paul's statement thus far come across to the false teachers? Or for those who bought into their false teaching?


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. - Galatians 1:10

These men, seeking to discredit Paul and His message of grace were saying that Paul was removing legal requirements from the gospel in order to be a people-pleaser and make everyone happy. By calling the other men out as ones that should be accursed Paul then challenges them all as to whom he is seeking to please now. For if Paul were seeking to please men he would have went with the flow, but if seeking to please God, then he would speak the truth against the flow. Later Paul laments that he's actually become their enemy for speaking the truth to them (Gal. 4:16). It's been my experience that the preaching of grace is strongly resisted, especially within the church. Those teaching it are often painted in the same light that Paul was, so it should be no surprise that we'd face the same opposition today.


Question setting up for next week: How did these judaizers so easily convince the Gentiles who are not familiar with the Mosiac law that Paul was wrong?


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