Blown away. That’s what was Paul was. Astonished (ESV). Amazed (CSB). Couldn’t believe it (MSG). Shocked (NLT).
But also kind of ticked. No, not just kind of, but really ticked! Reading to call down curses on people. Declaring they should be anathema. Doomed to destruction. Eternally condemned.
So what’s got into Paul? What triggers such shock and awe?
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)
Seems if there’s anything that could get Paul going it was different gospels and deserting Christians.
I know enough about what’s coming in this letter to know that these believers were falling prey to “good news” that said, “You got Jesus? Good. But you need something more!” That tried to convince them, “You’ve believed in the finished work of the cross? Fine place to start. But you’ll need to do some work yourself to be truly saved.” It wasn’t good news at all.
It was a different gospel. A distorted gospel. A contrary gospel. In fact, no gospel at all. For it was a gospel that when followed led people to desert Jesus. To abandon the Savior. To be disloyal to the Master. Good news that made for bad disciples.
Really that big a deal? If I’m accurately picking up what Paul is laying down in these opening verses, apparently.
And as I hover over Paul’s righteous indignation, as I consider his willingness to call brothers and sisters “deserters”, and purveyors of a modified gospel “accursed”, I’m wondering just how easy is it to be led down a distorted gospel path? How close might I come, at any given point, to being drawn to a different gospel and being in danger of becoming a deserting Christian?
I guess the warning signs are when I have an “I’ll need to take it from here, Jesus” sort of attitude. Falling into patterns that would indicate that what was begun in the Spirit really needs to be perfected in the flesh (Gal. 3:3). Or finding myself in a place where I feel like I need Jesus along with something else before I really believe that I’m a beloved child of God. Where my identity and sufficiency are found in “Jesus+” rather than in Christ alone.
Paul doesn’t leave much wiggle room here. To turn to a different gospel — anything that in anyway misdirects our hope for a full salvation in anything else but the Person and finished work of God’s Son — is to be a deserter of Jesus.
Father, keep me from even entertaining such a different gospels.
By your grace. For Your glory.
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm. . . .
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
— Keith Getty / Stuart Townend © Capitol Christian Music Group