Series on Galatians, I The Apostolic Authority, C The Astonishment, Text: 1:6-9, Title: A Miserable Choice


We have all made choices that we regret. Some we can undo and others we cannot and we must learn to live with them But there are also those people who seem to enjoy being miserable and depressed and that too is a choice. If you have ever been round someone who is persistently miserable you may find that they have a working technique for making their experience disagreeable for themselves. For one thing it’s easy to be miserable and the numerous incentives are that it can make you feel righteous like Job, and it makes you unique, and you can assign blame. Chronic misery, however, was not the problem in the churches of Galatia. They made a miserable choice, but Paul is calling them back to the truth. They made a choice under negative influence and duress from false teachers. They were derailed. I just read about a train derailment which is an infrequent occurrence, but a big mess. A 93-car freight train en route from Spokane to Minneapolis derailed on Montana's heaviest used rail line, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. Two crew members were injured and three locomotives and 23 cars piled on their sides along the tracks. That’s a big mess to clean up but it isn’t as bad as  the derailment Paul was dealing with. No lives were lost there, but the Galatians were literally in a life-threatening situation. Their derailment was a desertion from God, a departure from the gospel and a defection from the way of salvation.

I Desertion from God

We read in verse 6, I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ. The Apostle is astonished. The force of this word is greater in the Greek because this is the same root that is used for signs and wonders in the New Testament. Paul marveled and was astounded because how could they desert God as they had come to know Him, the God of marvelous grace. Moreover, when Paul writes that God is the One who called them by grace, it is not as if you were in the next room and I called to you. Then you might hear or not hear, come or not come at my bidding. O No! This is what the Bible calls being born again, or regeneration. It is what theologians call “effectual” calling. That means the call actually draws the individual. The call is a sovereign call and it compels a response because in the call the heart of the person is changed and inclined to accept the offer. If that is the way they were called and the way we are called, how can anyone turn away? We are not spectators in this drama of salvation, we are actors and we have experienced the grace of Christ. Again, how can we turn our backs on that? The Apostle was utterly convinced that these Galatian believers had genuinely experienced the grace of God and that teaches us the insidious power of false teaching. Jesus said the kingdom of God is like a pearl of great price or a treasure in a field, and a man will give all that he has for it. Yet these people were depreciating its value and surrendering the foundation of all their hope. It was appalling that they could desert so quickly, desert from so much, and desert to so little.

II Departure from the Gospel

And so the Apostle elaborates further in verses 6 and 7 stating that these folks are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. God is not the author of confusion and disorder Paul later wrote to the Corinthian  church. No this confusion came from people who were giving a perverted twist to the gospel. The word gospel means good news and is a translation of the Greek word from which we get our words evangel, evangelism and evangelistic. Literally a good message; for the word angel means simply messenger. When Caesar had a birthday it was announced throughout the empire and it was called an evangel. Thus there is a play on words here when Paul later says even though an angel from heaven brings you a different message from what we preached, do not listen. Of course, the gospel, was first delivered by an angel as we read in Luke 2:9-11, Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round them; and they were filled with terror. But the angel said to them, “Put away all fear; for I am bringing you good news  of great joy — joy for all the People. For a Savior who is the Anointed Lord is born to you to-day, in the town of David. The Chinese character or pictograph for the gospel means happiness from above. Paul describes the gospel in a unIque  way in II Corinthians 8:9, as Weymouth translates it, For you know the condescending goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ — how for your sakes He became poor, though He was rich, in order that you through His poverty might grow rich. This is the gospel in a nutshell. Jesus gave all and we give nothing. He gives us his righteousness and we give him our sin. This is the greatest story ever told. It captures the mind, the heart and the imagination in the most profound way possible. No philosophy, no religion no ideology, no belief, no reasoning and no theory ever could or ever has approached the gospel in its utter uniqueness, power and beauty. That is why Paul writes in I Corinthians 1:21, For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. There is only one gospel and if we turn from it we have nothing at all.

III Defection from the Way of Salvation

Paul’s ruthless and ferocious response to this defection is expressed in verse 8 and 9, But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! This is a known as a statement of condition contrary to fact. In other words it is hypothetical in suggesting that either an angel from heaven or Paul and his associates would ever preach a different gospel. But somebody did! Suppose an angel right out of heaven should arrive and begin changing the gospel. What should believers do? Curiously enough someone has pointed out that In the 19th century a major cult grew out of just this kind of situation. In September of 1823 Joseph Smith claimed that he had been visited by Moroni, a heavenly being who revealed the location of golden plates which contained “the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.” Smith claimed to have translated these plates and this became the Book of Mormon.  It would not matter if the story were entirely true. Not even an angel from heaven has the right to change the original gospel. Essentially this new gospel is no gospel at all because Something “other than” the simple truth is being preached; instead of the true gospel, something “besides” and in addition to the truth is proclaimed. The original gospel becomes somehow remodeled and revised. Simple faith in Christ is no longer sufficient; now circumcision and other laws are added. Again, what should believers do? We learn later in this letter who these “people” are. They are Judaizers that are teaching that one must keep the Old Testament law to be justified and saved and therefore Christ is not enough. If one accepts this false teaching he might as well become a Muslim, or a Taoist, or a Buddhist, or a Hindu, or an atheist in the ethical culture society because they all teach exactly the same thing as these false teachers. Namely, that we are saved by what we do and not by what Christ has done. Do you see how unique the gospel is? All other religions and philosophies of life can be found on a street corner where, in response to the question, “Why should God let you into heaven?” we hear the answer, “I tried to do my best.” Only the gospel shows us that our best is useless, and Christ alone saves. In Paul’s hypothetical scenario the gospel is not being denied or denounced it is simply being changed by addition and that addition nullifies the whole, Therefore Paul pronounces the ultimate judgment, an anathema, a curse on anyone who perverts the gospel. Let him be destroyed says Paul, which is equivalent to consigning the person to everlasting punishment. And Paul repeats it augmenting the force of his words. It is the absolute worst thing that anyone could do because it removes not only the hope of salvation  but condemns others to eternal loss.