Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble 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 the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As 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.
10 For 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. – Galatians 1:1-10
The letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia has a distinct tone. It does not contain his usual congenial warmth we see in his other letters. There is no thanksgiving section in which Paul thanks God for his work among the letter’s recipients. Galatians is rather stern in tone. You might say Paul is ticked off.
This tone should be an alert to the significance of the message of this letter. The entire letter is written to underscore one thing, the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation. In reformation language, the message is that salvation is through faith alone, by grace alone through Christ alone, period! Any attempts to add to the plan of salvation will be met with God’s curse (Galatians 1:8-9). Paul could not write in more severe terms.
Paul characterizes the turn of events in Galatia as “deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” Language is important. God called us “in the grace of Christ,” not in the law of Christ. As we will see as we work our way through Galatians, the distortion of the gospel of Christ is that converts have to obey the law of Moses and be circumcised as well as believe in Christ as Messiah to be saved. This specific error is not one we deal with regularly in the contemporary church. However, what is important to us is to see the principle that Paul teaches that adding human efforts to faith are a distortion of the gospel that Jesus delivered to Paul.
Paul is so adamant about the nature of the gospel, he even includes himself in the curse if he should preach a gospel contrary to the gospel he had already taught them. This is also true even if an angel from heaven should be the messenger, let the angel be accursed.
There are those today who teach that the glories of the highest heaven are only open to certain people who follow a certain set of religious practices. That teaching violates the principle Paul teaches so adamantly in Galatians. Our salvation is not dependant on our conduct, but on our faith in the conduct of Christ who died for us and rose again to prove our justification. Some even claim their message came through an angel. Paul says, let the angel be accursed if he teaches any plan of salvation that varies from the one Paul taught. As we work through Galatians, the message of the gospel will become extremely clear for any readers who may be in question about the content of the gospel.
Apparently, Paul has been accused of being a man-pleaser and not a God-pleaser. I can imagine Paul sticking out his chin in a daring fashion when he wrote, “For 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.” Paul had thrown down the gauntlet. The battleground is the doctrine of salvation. How is a man saved? The rest of the letter to the Galatians is Paul’s response to the question. We will see:
True gospel v. false gospel
Faith v. works
Grace v. law
Liberty v. Legalism
Sonship v. slavery
Fruit of the Spirit v. desires of the flesh
Are you being tempted to turn to another gospel? Have you already bought into another gospel? Are you trusting in something other than Christ alone and his work for you? If so, there is a remedy. It is the lifelong pursuit of all Christians; it is called repentance. Turn from the false trust to the solid foundation of the work of Christ. It is not hard for us to trust in our own efforts. We are wired to work hard to get results. In most areas of life, that is how it works. But not with salvation. We can’t work hard enough or well enough to earn what Christ has purchased for us, so if you find you are trying, Stop! Repent of your human efforts and throw yourself and your eternal destiny on Christ alone.