Having introduced the theme, and reminded us all of the basics of the Gospel, Paul now turns to the reason of his writing to the Galatians: they had forsaken the Gospel and had embraced another one.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Gal. 1:6 – 10
1. Removed from Him
The word ‘removed’ means to replace one thing with another object. And this is just what happened: the Galatians had replaced the grace of God in their lives with the works of the flesh and law. The life of the Spirit had been replaced by a life of legalism. This word also indicates that the Galatians themselves were responsible for their declension, they had chosen to go down that particular path – no one had forced them; they had fallen from grace Gal 5:1; it was their fault, no one else’s; they had allowed alien influences to take root and take take their course.
Let it never be said that you cannot fall from grace; here, in this epistle Paul plainly states that these believers had fallen from grace, they had shifted from grace to law. This is a clear warning to us all; having begun in the Spirit we can move away from what God has given us. We must be at all times aware of any influence that would move us from the ground God has clearly put us on. This epistle is a clear warning not to remove ourselves from the liberty in Christ.
How many times in history have we seen God move, only to witness later a falling back into the works of the flesh in order to try and keep what we have, or yearn for something new? Only then to discover that we have lost that which we had. It can happen to anyone; we must take heed lest we fall. If we do fall, then make no mistake, we are the ones to blame; we have the Spirit and if we abide in Christ, then whenever false teaching comes along, He will guide us in the right way; if we fall it is because we have not listened to, nor obeyed Him.
2. Another gospel
And coupling this with
For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
II Cor. 11:4
The word ‘another’ means a different sort, one that is of a different nature. What was the problem in the early church? In Acts 15 we see the problem that arose:
And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
There were people who were teaching that salvation was still based on keeping the Mosaic Law. This was a total denial of the simplicity of the gospel in Christ. These ‘certain men’ adopted the approach of the Pharisees, which was to add law after law and placing heavy burdens upon the people.
The Galatians had succumbed to the teaching of these ‘certain men’, and received a message that Paul did not preach (v9): it was that salvation was Christ PLUS something else, whereas the gospel is Christ ALONE. This, in turn, resulted in the Galatians trying to live the Christian life by works of law rather than by faith. (3:3; 4:9; 5:1.)
And do we see it today? Well yes, this problem has always been around throughout the history of the church: for men try and add their little bit here and there; they are saying in effect that Christ is not sufficient, and we need to help Christians so that they can live the life. There are those Judaisers today, those who would insist on keeping the Jewish Torah for spiritual life, or at least keeping some aspects of the Mosaic Law.
Legalism in Christian circles is not confined to the Judaiser, there is much in the ‘standard evangelical’ set up. Examples include: Christ plus membership of a local church. It said by many believers, no doubt with good intentions but none the less wrong for all that, that if a believer is not a member of a local assembly they are not in the body of Christ! This idea stems from denominationalism, and a desire to bring people under man made control systems. Then there’s Christ plus tithing; or Christ plus the Bible; or Christ plus keeping the Sabbath, and no doubt one could add as many such things.
Apart from the organised churches, individual believers can be legalistic, either in there own lives or by trying to run other people’s lives; even though Paul said he would not have dominion over people’s faith (II Cor.1:24). This can come about by many means: some say they have special revelation, visions etc; some say they have no confidence in the flesh and everything they say or do, whether it be spiritual or ‘secular’ (for want of a better term) is all directed by God. Such a super-spiritual attitude is meant to intimidate believers and impose a guilt complex if one does not follow them!
This is the sorry state of affairs indeed amongst many believers; it does not matter who is advocating the legal straight jacket – it is wrong. The Galatian epistle, throughout the centuries, has been known as the ‘Magna Carter’ of the Christian, for in it we see that Jesus has freed us from all externalisms, and exhorts us to stay in that liberty: let us be exhorted not to lose our liberty in Christ.
3 Corrupted from Simplicity
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
The gospel is simple; it is not complicated at all. For Eve it was the simplest thing to do in order to obey God: it was only when she listened to the doubts that Satan put to her that things went wrong. The Galatians had received the Gospel in its simplicity by faith; it was only when these ‘certain men’ were received by them that they went astray.
This word means to agitate, unsettle or to subvert by false doctrine. It wasn’t the Galatians’ fault that they were troubled, but it was their fault in allowing such subversion to take root in their lives. They allowed themselves to be moved off the foundation, which had been already laid in their lives – Jesus Christ Himself I Cor.3:11. Compare this to Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness. He was troubled by the devil, yet He remained faithful and did not allow Himself to be moved from the ground of faith. See study 46.
Anyone troubling the believers with a false gospel of: Christ + something else is disobeying the clear apostolic instructions at the conference at Jerusalem:
Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
This has the meaning of something of opposite character. The message that the false teachers was completely the opposite to the true Gospel. Whether or not they deliberately intended it to be so or not makes little difference, but it was certainly the fruit of their teachings.
Later when in Ephesus Paul gives a sober warning about what was to happen there:
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
On this occasion the apostle warns that the false teachers will come from their own company! He then gives the remedy of watching and remembering what they had received from himself. We have the complete canon of Scripture, and so if anyone comes from without, or arises from within we are to watch and remember what has been written for our benefit, and check the teaching against the Bible. Acts 17:10-12.
This word is both misunderstood and misused by many; its meaning indicates a setting apart for God to deal with.
Such is the serious nature of preaching a false Gospel, that Paul declares a curse on those that do so. Those who would pervert the true gospel are cursed, that is set aside for God Himself to deal with; this extends even if the messengers are angels! This is a significant statement because the OC was delivered via angels:
…………. the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
It is not surprising that many that would bring God’s people into bondage, by law and works of the flesh, do so by claiming special revelation, or by visions etc. Such claims spring from proudful hearts setting themselves up against God and His Christ, as we read in Ps.2; this is no different from Lucifer’s attempt to exalt himself to be as God, which in turn had him cast out from heaven.
In these last days many claim to be the last true prophet, or the one with a special revelation, yet we know that God’s final Word to us is spoken by the Son, and not by angels, or self confessed latter day prophets. Whatever men’s boastings and claims, the only one we have to listen to is Jesus:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
4. Men or God Pleasers?
For do I now persuade [=win over by change of mind ] men, or God? Or do I seek to please [= be acceptable to ] men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Paul flatly refused to please men, even his friends at Galatia, or as we shall see in Ch.2 the elder apostle Peter; Paul’s aim was always to please God. Jesus asked ‘how can we believe if we seek honour one of another?’ Jn. 5:44 We must seek the honour that comes from God alone. We must have this singleness of heart, not to go around pleasing Men (the flesh) but God. Paul was an apostle of God not of Men (flesh). Let that be our stance too and what God has clearly spoken let us remain firm unto the end.
Let us beware of anything that would corrupt our minds from the simplicity in Christ.