“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 If anyone preaches any other gospel to you, let him be accursed.”
The gospel is the good news about salvation. Anyone who distorts the good news about salvation is cursed. It is as harsh as the Word of God ever gets, pronouncing a damning double curse on anyone who alters the gospel. The gospel is the good news of salvation in Christ, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And that is the only way that sinners can escape hell and enter heaven.
Obviously Satan wants to confuse and deceive and distort the gospel. This then becomes a major enterprise of Satan, the distortion of the gospel, so that people are believing something that is not true, does not save and thus end up in hell. They say, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this, and didn’t we do that?” only to hear, “Depart from Me, I never knew you, you who practice lawlessness! (Matthew 7:22-23)
The apostle Paul here does not hesitate in proclaiming this fierce declaration of divine punishment. This is so confrontational, that this kind of forceful pronunciation of damnation is just not what you would hear preachers preach today. This is a day of tolerance. Liberals say, this is the day that you can believe anything, there’s no absolute truth: Nobody should condemn anybody for anything.
This passage is extremely disturbing to the tolerant world in which we live. But it is absolutely necessary, because salvation is at stake, and it only happens through belief in the true gospel. Now in the Old Testament you will find that God was pronouncing curses on people who turned against Him. It is the same in the New Testament, Jesus in Mark 11 cursed the fig tree; and when the disciples come back the next day it is dead.
This is a symbol of the divine curse on the nation Israel for its rejection of God and the Messiah. Jesus attacked the Jewish religious system at the beginning of His ministry when He assaulted the temple, at the end of His ministry when He did it again. The curse that comes out of the mouth of Jesus is directly from heaven. There is a severe and everlasting curse from God when God is not followed.
What about today? Is God still cursing, pronouncing judgments? Is God still declaring destruction and devastation on people today? The answer is in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed,” same word, anathema. Damnation is pronounced on anyone who does not love the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever your religion, if you do not love the Lord Jesus Christ you are cursed.
What does it mean to be cursed? In Romans 9:3, Paul says, “I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren.” He desires for the Jews to come to Christ, and He is so passionate about it that he says, “I could almost wish myself were accursed,” and then he defines what it means: separated from Christ and therefore separated from the presence of God forever.
And there is more. In Matthew 25:41 it says this, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Those cursed in the Old Testament are there now. Those cursed by Jesus in Israel at the time they rejected Him are there now. Those propagating a false gospel during the apostolic era that Paul addresses here are there now in the torment of eternal fire.
And continually throughout all of human history, those who do not come in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ to love Him, acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior are cursed and are sent to eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Paul’s curse is very severe, and it applies to anyone who perverts the gospel. People who dishonored God in the Old Testament and people who reject Jesus Christ are all cursed.
Look, assaults on the gospel do not stop. The devil and his followers have always been present since the very beginning. Here we see that early in the life of the apostles. Galatians is likely the second New Testament book written. At the beginning of the ministry of the apostles, there is already widespread distortion of the gospel, propagated by Satan, his demons and his human agents.
In 2 Corinthians 11:3 Paul says, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” I’m afraid what Satan did with her, he will do the same to you, and your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. The gospel is Christ – not Christ plus anything, but just Christ.
In verse 13-15 Paul says, “There are false apostles,” propagating these false christs and false gospels, “deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
2 Peter 2 warns with the strongest kind of denunciation, the false prophets already at work. Jude repeats that in his brief epistle. Paul repeatedly warns about false teachers. The Lord gives letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 that show they already accomplished destruction of false teachers. And here in Galatians Paul pronounces eternal damnation on perverters of the gospel.
Here we are talking about Judaizers. Their belief is that Jesus is the Savior, and you need to believe in Jesus, but in order to receive salvation you have to come through Judaism. You need to be circumcised physically. You need to adhere to Mosaic Sabbaths and ceremonies and laws and rituals and standards. Now these Judaizers came from James in Jerusalem as noted in Galatians 2:12.
So they are not anti-Christian, they are declaring themselves to be Christians representing the true God of the Old Testament and believing in Jesus as the Messiah. And they have come from Jerusalem the mother church, from James is the leader of that church. And they have decided that salvation cannot occur unless they adhere to the practices, rituals and ceremonies of the Old Testament Judaism.
Now Paul doesn’t see that as a minor detail. There is deadly harm, because if you add any work of any kind to the gospel, you have undone grace. Paul is not writing about a personal offense in Galatians, he is writing about the distortion of the gospel, which cuts people off from the truth, the only truth that saves. They are literally attacking God and attacking His redemptive plan.
Now this issue of adding works to the gospel had been settled. Look at Acts 15 where the leaders of the church in Jerusalem and the apostles all are together making decisions about the essence of the gospel. Verse 7, “Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.”
Verse 8-11, “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Paul says in Titus 1:10-11, “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.” There is only one way to God, and it involves no rites, no rituals, no ceremonies, and no works of religion.
We are told what the gospel is. Paul summed it up in verse 4-5, the Lord Jesus Christ, “who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of God the Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore, Amen.” Your work is not mentioned there, because it all is the work of God, and the work of Jesus Christ, and all glory goes to God for it.
The heart of the gospel is not what you do, it is what Christ has done. God validated what He did by raising Christ from the dead and exalting Him to His right hand. Gospel is the gospel of grace; faith alone, not works. First, you see Paul’s wonder, then his wisdom, then his warning. His wonder, verse 6, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel.”
His astonishment is over the Galatians’ defection. And, nothing could be more dramatic than the absence of normal praise and love, so obvious in every one of his other epistles. Paul’s amazement over Satan disguising himself as an angel of light. He was amazed at the glory of Christ, he was amazed at the strategy of Satan, and he is amazed at the desertion of the gospel by these Galatians.
Now the Galatian’s process is not complete, but they have started to go in the wrong direction. If some of them do that, 1 John 2:18-19 says, “They went out from us, because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would have remained with us. But they went out from us that we might know that they were never of us.” False believers would defect, because they never did belong.
But what about true believers? Look at Galatians 3:2, “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” What happens when a person is saved, when a person believes the gospel and is justified and converted? God gives that believer His Holy Spirit, right? So Paul is talking about people who have received the Holy Spirit. He is writing to believers.
Did you receive the Holy Spirit because you were circumcised? Did you receive the Holy Spirit because you went through some ritual, some ceremony, by keeping the Sabbath, followed through with some Old Testament feast?” No, you know you received Him, because your spirit witnesses with God’s Spirit that you are a child of God. So you know you received the Spirit by the hearing of faith.
In other words, “You were saved by faith, you received the Spirit by faith, and now you’re going to turn to works, as if that necessarily perfects you?” They are believers. The danger is they will give into Satan’s reinterpretation of the gospel, and consequently, they will be like Ephesians 4:14, “They will be like children tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of false doctrine.”
And that is precisely where the evangelical church is today. It isn’t that people in those churches aren’t saved, it is that they were saved by grace through faith alone. But they have been led down the path to tolerate false gospels that add words to faith, add works to faith, add baptism to faith, add certain rituals to faith, and add morality to faith to qualify for the grace of God.
Hey, can’t we all unite with the Roman Catholic Church? No, that’s a false gospel that says you can be saved by baptism as an infant, and that you can be saved by a ritual or by becoming a member of a church, or through the prayers of a priest or a saint. That’s a false gospel. Roman Catholicism today and Greek orthodoxy is like being a modern Pharisee and Judaizer of a different kind. ,
Faith is the reality of an effectual call. That is the call to salvation. That’s the call of Romans 8:30 that “Whom God predestined, He called. Whom He called, He justified. Whom He justified, He glorified.” That’s not just an open call you can take or leave. That is a saving call. 2 Thessalonians 2 says, “We are called by faith.” 2 Timothy 1:8-9, “We are called not by works.”
Secondly, Paul’s wisdom regarding the false teachers’ deception. Verse 7, “That different gospel is really not another.” The Galatians were being taught salvation by grace plus works, by faith plus works. If you add anything to it, you have distorted it. Paul says in Galatians 5:2, “if you become circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.” You have just canceled your salvation.”
Galatia 5:3, “And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.” Can you keep the whole law perfectly, because if you don’t keep the whole law perfectly, you are cursed. If you add anything, Christ becomes of no effect to you. You have taken on the responsibility for your own salvation through your own work.
Thirdly, Paul’s warning regarding God’s anger. In Verses 8-9 Paul is using a hypothetical situation to make the point. Why do people believe a false gospel? Because of the appearance of the people who propagate it. They look religious, they sound religious, and they act religious. Paul says, “Anyone who perverts the gospel is damned: anyone.” If the message deviates from the gospel of grace, then they are cursed.
So what are the lessons for us? Don’t nullify the work of Christ. Don’t make Christ’s death of no effect. Don’t think that somebody’s going to be saved by works. You put any work into the gospel of grace and you have undone it. Christ’s work was sufficient; He did it all. We cannot allow the truth to be reduced and we cannot allow it to be expanded, right? Let us pray.