In today’s passage, Paul gets straight to his point, without any preliminary niceties. Why? Because the Galatians had a big problem: They were turning away from the gospel.
Don’t turn away from the gospel
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. (Galatians 1:6-7)
Christianity is based on the gospel, the good news that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins.
Paul had just settled the Galatians into the gospel, and now some people were confusing them by adding rules to it. They were saying, “Trust in Jesus, but you also need to be circumcised and observe Jewish holidays to be right with God.”
This is a bigger deal than it might seem when you first read it because adding Jewish law to the gospel ruined it altogether. What Jesus did on the cross freed people from a law-based relationship with God by establishing a grace-based relationship instead. As Paul says in Galatians 2:16, “a person is not justified (made innocent) by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” Add any rule to the gospel and you distort it into something different.
Like the Galatians, we too must be careful not to add anything to the gospel because only faith in Jesus Christ justifies people (makes them innocent before God). The Jewish law doesn’t justify people. Trying to be good won’t make us innocent. Being nice won’t make us right with God. Getting involved in social justice efforts won’t pay for our sins. Jesus alone justifies sinners.
We need to hold tightly to the gospel so we won’t turn away from it and so we won’t turn others away from it either.
Don’t turn others away from the gospel
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. (Galatians 1:8-9)
It doesn’t get more serious than this. Paul is saying that anyone who distorts the gospel ought to be damned (accursed), even if it is him or an angel from heaven. This is not something Paul writes in the heat of the moment. He had said it before and even repeats it here.
You might be thinking, “I’m glad I’m not a preacher so I won’t run the risk of distorting the gospel.” But you don’t have to be an official preacher to communicate a distorted gospel. It happens in conversations, on t-shirt slogans, on bumper stickers, in social media posts, and by text too. It happens when Christians repost memes that say, “You can’t be a Christian and vote for _______.” It happens when Christian parents discipline their kids by telling them to be better but not pointing to the good news of Jesus’ payment for their sins. It happens when a well-meaning church generation teaches their young people morality instead of the gospel.
We have the good news this broken-down world needs to hear. Let’s strengthen our grip on it and speak it clearly. Let’s never add to it or distort it. Jesus died to pay for your sins. Trust him to make you right with God. You’ll be forgiven and enabled to live by his good teachings.
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