The Warning Extends to Us Too
6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace [of Christ] and are turning to a different gospel— 7not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But 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. 9As 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. 10For 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.
After having focused the readers of this letter on the Lord Jesus in his introduction, Paul immediately jumps into the reason for his writing. The shift in tone is jarring. He’s not kidding here. This is serious. “I am astonished . . . “ leads us into the emotional climate of the letter. The actions of the believers in Galatia are shocking and dangerous. They are deserting their faith for something fraudulent.
The messenger who read the letter to the Galatians would at this point dramatically change his tone. Every syllable would now be filled with frustration and righteous anger bubbling to the surface. The Galatians have reached a crossroad. They will either continue on the path of Paul’s original preaching, or they will take a different path. Paul makes as clear as possible that the Galatians must choose; these two “Gospel” messages are in no way compatible. Apostasy looms dangerously near.
Das, A. A. (2014). Galatians. (pp. 98–99). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
While the speed with which the Galatians may be moving away from the Lord appears to be alarmingly quick, we cannot forget that we are a fickle bunch. We can stretch back into the story of the Children of Israel escaping from Egypt and the numerous times they were shockingly quick to step away from the God who had saved them. Most notable was the moment when, after only a few days (maybe 40) of waiting for Moses to return from to top of Mt. Sinai, they fashioned for themselves a golden calf to worship. Our attention span is remarkably short. This is why reading this letter to the Galatians is important for us still today. Apparently, the Galatians are leaving the Gospel as Paul had presented it for something else. We must be aware of the temptation to augment or take away from what the Word of God actually says about our salvation in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t take many additions or subtractions to lead us into apostacy. This is why Paul is so alarmed and why we do well to heed these words in our own faith life.
Paul allows the one(s) who are spreading this erroneous gospel to remain anonymous, which is an act of grace in an of itself, although everyone probably knew who was sharing these false words. Typically, the person who has instigated a false story prefers to stand in the background, but not in the case of false doctrine. Usually those who share these weak messages prefer to do so on a very public stage. Paul’s warning is imperative and heart-felt. Engaging with those who would lead us away from the truth of Jesus Christ is a perilous decision.
In a pluralist, Western society, people do not, on the whole, subscribe to absolute truth claims. Even Western Christians shy away from expressing such claims. Paul contends that absolute truth can indeed be known because God has intervened in human affairs, yes, even in Paul’s letter itself, in order to reveal truth. To compromise that revelation is to compromise one’s commitment to the Revealer. In an age of rampant sensitivity training, Paul’s harsh tone will likely seem offensive. Modern Westerners are not as accustomed to inflammatory rhetoric as were the ancients. Nevertheless, the danger Paul warns against threatens the modern no less than the ancient: The absolute truth of the Gospel message must not be compromised in any part.
Das, A. A. (2014). Galatians. (p.105). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.