Paul didn’t waste any time with pleasantries in his letter to the Galatians. His short opening is immediately followed with…
“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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! 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! 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. For I would have you know, 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 I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:6–12, NASB95)
Wow, right off the bat, he’s accusing them of deserting and distorting the Gospel. Which invites a question, what is the Gospel? In a very literal sense, “gospel” simply means “good news.” But there’s much more. The first four books of the New Testament are called Gospels since they contain the Good News of Jesus. In them, we also see Jesus and His disciples preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. So what Gospel is Paul talking about?
In Romans, Paul summarizes the Gospel this way, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:1–2, NASB95) Paul will take us through similar themes as we continue our exploration of Galatians.
For the sake of clarity, allow me to offer this simple description of the Gospel of Christ. God is the creator, and human beings are created in God’s image. That image includes the ability to make our own choices, call it free will. In one way or another, we have all used that free will to choose evil instead of good, self instead of others, hate instead of love. That rebellion is called sin. Because of our sin, we are separated from God, dead in a way. Try as we might, there is nothing we can do to appease God to purchase mercy or forgiveness. What we couldn’t do, God did for us. He sent Jesus, His only Son, into the world. During the few short years of Jesus’ public ministry, He showed us the ways of the Kingdom and offered Himself to die on a cross for our sins and rose again on the third day. Through Jesus Christ, we are invited to die to self, live for Him, and enter into God’s family – freely receiving mercy, grace, and forgiveness. That is the Gospel, the Good News, Paul preached to the Galatians and others.
So, how were the Galatians deserting and distorting the Gospel? Paul will recount and expose that answer further on in the letter. Essentially, the Galatians were adding back in some of the Jewish law as a condition of God’s Grace. Basically, saying that God requires the Gospel AND these other things. This, of course, is nothing new. People with good intentions bolt all kinds of things onto the Gospel of Christ. But those add-ons risk distorting the Gospel from one of freedom and grace to one of slavery and works.
Paul’s warning is for us as well. If anyone comes and preaches a different Gospel in Christ’s name, they are accursed. Paul wasn’t mincing any words here and used the strongest curse the Greek language made available. People and preachers say all kinds of things in Jesus’ name, that doesn’t make them right. As Paul said in another letter, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NASB95) That includes all that is written here at Lambchow.
The Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom is truly Good News. God invites everyone everywhere to enter into His presence through Jesus Christ. No one is excluded from the invitation, including you.