One Gospel – No Turning Away!
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. But do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I could not be a servant of Christ. But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (Gal. 1:6-12).
We like happy stories, so we would like for this to read something like: The people in Galatia heard the good news about Jesus Christ and recognized their lost condition. They responded according to the teachings of the apostles and after being baptized, they just did fine, faithfully serving the Lord until they died.
The devil didn’t let the story move in that direction. There were men in this region used by the devil to cause trouble, perverting the gospel of Christ. Paul learned of this trouble and the Holy Spirit used him to write to them, expressing his concern, correcting the error and charging them to be obedient to God, not men.
He begins with a warning against turning away from the Lord. “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.” When first converted, we turn from sin to God, being able to do that because of Christ’s sacrifice. Once we do that, we should carefully guard against turning back into sin, out of fellowship with God.
It’s sort of like fixing the biggest problem in your existence, having your sins forgiven and being in fellowship with God . . . then turning your back on God, and walking back into sin! It was a marvel to the apostle Paul that people would do that. Embracing the grace of Christ, becoming a Christian . . . only to turn away or turn back. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ, and are turning to a different gospel.” (NIV)
We should read this and take it as a warning against any movement away from God. To be able to leave sin and come to God is an opportunity of such grace - To have what you need for good moral life here and to be ready to meet your Maker - To be able to trust in God and rely on His promises – To have the teachings of the New Testament to guide you to good character and service - To have Christians who are ready to help you serve God - THEN, turn away from all that?? What can be said of that? “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God,” (Heb. 3:12).
So the apostle Paul responds to this turning away of some by laying down this affirmation: THERE IS NO OTHER GOSPEL!
If you depart from . . .
If you accept a perverted version . . .
If you do not continue to obey the truth of the gospel . . .
THERE IS NO OTHER!!
In the region of Galatia, men came in and apparently persuaded some – that the gospel Paul preached was incomplete. The argument was made that, in order to be saved from sin – there are requirements you must meet, that Paul didn’t tell you about. Seems clear, they were pushing Christians back into the Law of Moses and the practices of religious Judaism.
“Change agents” were advocating that the apostles of Christ didn’t really have it exactly right; they didn’t tell the whole story about being a child of God. They were saying, “there are actually other things necessary.” Thus, they were “changing” the message (not in reality but in presentation).
Paul is responding to that, offering this very simple answer: THERE IS NO OTHER GOSPEL.
Think about what the gospel is. The problem we have is sin (violating God’s law, offending Him and taking us away from Him and destined for hell). God has provided a remedy. In sending His Son to live and die for us (and be raised from the dead), God has acted with love and grace toward us. If we believe all this and we respond (as taught by the apostles), we become Christians and enjoy the privilege and obligation of continuing to obey God and be His children, as we abide in Christ. That’s the gospel. That’s the simple message delivered by the apostles and written in the New Testament. If we accept a “modified version” or “changed message,” we have turned away from the author of the true message, the only message.
It behooves us to understand, when people come along and claim they can “complete the message” delivered by the apostles, they really cannot! God gave a perfect, complete message of salvation through the apostles of Christ. There is no other gospel. Don’t let anyone deceive you or tell you otherwise.
While it may be pleasing to accept an ecumenical, pluralistic, generic form of Christianity, we ought to stand where Paul stood: Look at verse 10 – “….do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Pleasing men is not our objective. We are to be pleasers of God first.
When someone promotes something that may sound like the gospel, but isn’t what is written in the New Testament – we ought to see that as TROUBLE!
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon form Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
The broad, pluralistic, ecumenical approach to Christianity is offered in our society as sweet, unifying, diplomatic, accepting and comfortable. Problem is, God didn’t give us a message we can adapt, modify, change or add to! it is not our purpose to take the Bible and tamper with it, deny parts of it, or handle it to suit our tastes or the demands of popular culture. Later in this epistle, Paul says: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth?” (3:1). Obeying the truth. There it is plainly.
God says to us through His Word: Here is the truth. You have sinned and Christ is the remedy. Respond to Him by the activity of your faith, obeying the teachings given through the apostles. What could be simpler?
But the devil enables and entices and men to come along, perverting the gospel of Christ with all their changes, additions and twists and turns. Paul speaks to that – “There are some who trouble you.”
But, the troublers do not pervert the gospel without consequence. Observe the last phrase in verse 8: “…let him be accursed.”
Paul doesn’t take the pluralistic approach, that any message you like can be called “the gospel of Christ.” Paul doesn’t say – It’s ok . . . . they have their version of the gospel we have our version – NO PROBLEM. Paul doesn’t say, “Here’s the message; but it is flexible; do with it as you please, no problem.” (Read again verses 6-9).
I believe this: Those who take God’s truth lightly, those who misrepresent the teachings of Scripture, those who build human religious empires, those who turn away from Christ to another gospel face a terrible prospect on the judgment day!
This word “accursed” is not like a slap on the hand or something. In the NIV, it is translated, “eternally condemned.” Perverting or changing the gospel is not a right, an option or a liberty – it is a sin that takes us away from God – to eternal condemnation. I ask nobody to take my word for it. Paul wrote: “As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received let him be accursed.”
Paul takes all this to a foundational truth of God:
“…I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.”
We must – when we read the gospel – understand this simple fact: It is not according to man! Men witnessed the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Certain men were inspired by God to deliver the message and give the terms of the New Covenant. Men can hear the gospel, preach the gospel and obey the gospel, becoming a member of the Lord’s one church.
But man did not originate the gospel. Paul did not make it up. The apostles did come up with baptism. The gospel we read and believe and obey – was in no sense an invention or product of men.
“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. for I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
This is foundational truth – the gospel Paul delivered, that we have in the New Testament, is not ours to change – it is ours to obey!
Do you see what Paul is saying, that there is no other gospel? That there is only the one revealed through the apostles?
The gospel of Christ simply says . . . The problem we have is sin. God provided the remedy in sending His Son to live and die for us – who was raised from the dead. Believing that, we respond, according to the instructions given by the apostles – become Christians, and continue to follow the instructions of the apostles in all that we do. That is the gospel; that’s the message. Hear it, believe, obey it, live by it and have life with God now and eternally. Reject it, turn from it and you bring upon yourself eternal condemnation.
Other articles regarding Galatians one in previous issues of EF:
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 17.6; June 2010