6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;
7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing 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 what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!
9 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!
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
None of us wants to be a quick deserter. This term brings to mind pictures of shame and cowardice, someone who can talk the talk but isn’t willing to follow through with the walk. Jesus gave us an example of quick deserters in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:20-22: “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” I believe this applies to the church in Galatia, because the Pharisees had a tendency to try to pull Christians back under the Law (see Acts 15 for an example) – persecution in the form of pressuring Christians of abandon their freedom in Christ. Although it is certainly a less extreme form of persecution than, say, getting your head chopped off for your faith, it is still very dangerous - prcisely because it is less noticable and easier to succumb to. This has a striking parallel to what the church is still experiencing today – people still push various rules, traditions, and observances that take on the role of making us “better people” and, in the extreme, supposedly enable us to somehow earn our salvation. The fact of the matter is that humans are prideful creatures, and we are extremely offended by the notion that we need a Savior and that we can do nothing to earn God’s love. Yes, the Gospel is humbling, but it is also freeing! Let’s not reject it out of pride or desert it because of persecution of any form.
As we can see throughout the book of Galatians, this “different Gospel” is essentially that we are still under the Law, that we must earn our salvation. Galatians 3:1-3 is a poignant example: “You foolish Galatians, who had bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Such “different gospels” are certainly abundant today, despite the reality that our righteous acts are a response to God’s forgiveness, not the cause of it.
Paul also takes care to warn these young Christians that these deceptive, false Gospels may come from an authority figure, like an apostle or angel. Many modern cults began when a person failed to heed this warning, receiving a “revelation” of a “new” gospel from a fallen angel (a demon) masquerading as a "good" angel or as Christ Himself. In the latter case, it is important to realize that Jesus would never contradict His own word; He doesn’t change His mind. These false gospels are demonic lies designed purposefully to lead Christians away from the truth. Perhaps the most applicable to modern Christians, however, is the warning not to listen to Christian teachers who proclaim a different gospel. As the Bible warns repeatedly, there are many false teachers (see 2 Peter 2:1), and they may appear as lowly the pastor of a small congregation or as influential as a famous televangelist. Therefore, we should continually be on guard (2 Peter 3:17: “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness”), checking what our teachers say to be sure it matches up with the Bible. (And that includes me - never take my word for anything, always check it with Scripture!) The best way to be on guard, of course, is to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17).
Today’s discussion starters are:
1- How can we communicate God’s freely-granted forgiveness to those who still (wrongly) believe that we must earn it?
2- What experiences have you had with trying to balance faith and works in your own life?
3- What false doctrines have you observed that were snuck into the church by someone who seemed to be following God? (Let’s please discuss only specific beliefs, and not discuss specific denominations or individuals…there is a time and place for such discussions, but I do not believe that is here right now).
And remember, feel free to comment on anything else you notice in the passage - don't feel limited to my questions. :-)
Remember to come back Friday as we dive into Paul’s testimony and how his past equipped him to confront the Galatians with this matter, and how you can use your past to witness and minister to others, as well.