There’s no messing around as Paul begins his letter to the churches of Galatia. No pleasantries. No “how you doin’?” No “here’s how I’m doin’.” But he gets straight to the point. I’m blown away. You are deserters. Doomed to destruction be anyone, man or angel, who messes with the gospel. Pretty strong language. Talk about going on the offensive. But that’s what it demanded. When it came to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul was pretty intolerant.
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–not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble 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 the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 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 1:6-9 ESV)
Not much tolerance these days for intolerance. And while that might be okay for a lot of things, not so good when it comes to the gospel. Paul wasn’t ready to show a lot of grace to those who came in distorting the good news of grace. He wasn’t ready to cut a lot of slack to those who proclaimed a “Jesus plus” salvation. Jesus plus circumcision . . . Jesus plus the law . . . Jesus plus any human efforts of righteousness. Let those who would preach such “good news,” says Paul, let them be anathema . . . let them be accursed.
And for those who would follow such “good news,” to them Paul says, You’re traitors. You’ve turned away. You’ve transferred your allegiance from God and His unmerited, abundant grace to yourselves and your pitiful, flesh-bound acts of self-righteousness.
No middle ground, says Paul. No breadth of acceptability. It is “Jesus plus nothing” or it is nothing at all. It is the good news of Christ and the cross or it is, in fact, bad news.
Their’s was a gospel devised by man . . . Paul’s was a revelation from Christ Himself (v.11-12). At the heart of their distorted gospel was the approval of men (v.10). At the heart of Paul’s, the glory of God (v. 5). They would proclaim what men and women must do in order to merit the favor of God. Paul would proclaim what Christ had already done so that the favor of God might be freely shown to men and women who, of themselves, lacked any merit.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Galatians 1:3-5 ESV)
Christ gave Himself for our sins . . . period. The finished work of the cross, and nothing more, is able to deliver us from the present evil age. It is according to the will of God and God alone . . . man brings nothing to the table but faith — and that faith is not our own doing; “it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
This is the good news. This is the gospel, the power of salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1:16). The salvation which has dealt with the penalty of sin — past, present, and future . . . the salvation which, even now, leads us in victory over the power of sin . . . and the salvation, yet to be revealed, which will deliver us from the very presence of sin. It’s this gospel and no other. His work and none other. His glory . . . and His alone.
How we need to be intolerant when it comes to the gospel.