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Echo Evangelique

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Deception of the False Gospel

Text: Gal. 1:6-10

Key Concepts:

  • Paul’s amazement at the Galatian desertion
  • Paul’s advice to those who are being deceived
  • Paul’s alert to impending destruction

The desertion of the Galatian church, their moving away from the Gospel of Christ, caused Paul to forego any fancy introduction to this epistle. Compared to his other letters, where he writes proper introductions, this one skipped his usual pattern of warmth, greeting, prayer, thanksgiving to God, and further predictable elements. Instead, Paul bluntly expresses his dismay that they had “ so quickly [deserted] the one who called [them] to live in the grace of Christ and [turned] to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6-7, NIV). The Gospel which Paul had taught these believers was somehow promptly set aside in favor of false teachings. The severity of this heresy is underscored by the urgency in Paul’s tone. He used stinging words to diagnose the disease of the church. He indicts false teachers for spreading another gospel. He then pronounced a sentence that is unequivocal, “let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal. 1:8, NIV). Paul knew that the danger the Galatians faced, as a congregation, could have devastating consequences.

Paul’s amazement at the Galatian desertion

Paul evidently treats the Galatians differently. He is astonished that they had deviated from the Gospel. His amazement bears a sense of sadness,  shock, and bitter disappointment. The matter is personal, not because it is about Paul. He is shocked that they had turned away from God, the one who called them to His grace.  Paul is even more astonished that they were straying “so quickly” (Gal. 1:6, NIV).  They were setting aside the Gospel that declares that we are saved by grace alone, though faith alone, in Christ alone in favor of heresy. Paul pronounced an eternal separation from God as a curse upon them (Rom. 9:3). This same curse was uttered by Lord Jesus Himself ”Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41, NKJV). Satan wants to hold back those who belong to his kingdom of darkness. He wants to confuse those who are not his. He wants to deceive us. He wants to distort the Gospel, so that those who are lost in sin can never get out. It is his personal mission to help people believe in lies that cannot save. Paul is not worried about being politically correct. He is direct, confrontational, and explicit. He is not preaching tolerance and relative truths. Paul would be offensive to the post-modern mind, but he is doing what the Holy Spirit intends.  It is absolutely necessary, for the salvation of souls is at stake. Indeed, salvation can only take place when the true Gospel of Christ is preached.

Paul’s advice to those who are being deceived  

There are many contributors to people deserting grace. Sometimes it’s proliferation of false teachers, sometimes its fanatical attachment to vain traditions, sometimes it’s pride, insecurity, guilt, or desire to be accepted. But Paul is addressing a type of legalism --an improper use of the Law. He is writing to Jews who believed in Christ but felt they had to obey the Law.  They thought they needed to get circumcised, observe the Sabbath, follow rituals, in addition to believing in Christ. Sometimes the greatest threat to the Gospel comes from among us. Anything that is added or taken away from the Gospel, changes its message and is therefore no longer the Gospel. Paul knowing how exclusive the Gospel is, taught the Galatians that adding circumcision denied them the benefit of having Christ. The false gospel is no longer about legalism alone, today there is the man-centered gospel which caters to love of self. It is the kind of gospel that tickles the emotions but leaves the conscience untouched, unchanged. There is also the prosperity gospel, the word of faith movement, which makes use of God; whereas, Christianity asserts that God makes use of us. Prosperity theology sees the Holy Spirit as a power to plug into whenever one wants. Paul would speak of the gospel of permissive grace which encourages the abuse of grace, and the use of freedom in Christ as a license to do whatever one wants. The gospel of social justice is also another false gospel. It replaces the Cross of Christ with charity towards mankind. Social concerns replace the finished work of Christ who died for our sins and rose again for our justification. We are commanded to live radically like Christ, committing ourselves to meet the needs of others, mind, body, and soul. However, we must serve with a redemptive mindset, always seeking to build bridges that lead to eternal life. We need Gospel driven actions that serve the true needs of people.

Paul’s alert to impending destruction

“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” (Gal. 1:8, NKJV). This is Paul’s warning to us about being impressed by appearance and reputation.  The false prophets often look very appealing, sound religious and are eloquent; they may even appear nice and kind. However, if the message they preach is not consistent with the Word of God- the Bible, they are accursed. If you follow in their footsteps, you share in that curse as well. A Gospel that does not change you, cannot save you. the false teachers that peddle false gospels are perishing unchanged and unsaved.  Paul writes as he does because he cares about the eternal welfare of the Galatian believers. He cares enough to dare to tell them the truth. Paul risked his friendship with them in order to save the Galatians from eternal destruction. He obviously cared more about the approval of God than man (Gal. 1:10).  

In conclusion …

Believers take heed and be forewarned that even well taught Christians can unwittingly follow false doctrines. If those who sat under Paul’s teaching can be deceived, the same can happen to any of us. Furthermore, standing for the truth demands that we expose error when truth is at stake. There’s room for minor disagreements, but when it comes the basic truth of the Gospel, there is no room for compromise. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That is worth dying for. If we are ready to march because someone violates human rights, because of the color of our skin, we should be more willing to do so against those who infringe on the truth of the Gospel that saved us. Abuse of any form is wrong, but false teachings and false gospels do violence to the soul. Moreover, not anyone who claims to be a Christian is telling the truth. Jesus warned us against people who claim to work miracles. Be careful of those who seek to put a price on grace; God’s favor is not for sale. We’ve already been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1). God still pronounces a curse on those who add to the simplicity of the Gospel of grace that is given for free. There is only one Gospel, one Savior, one way to salvation (Acts 4:12). Whoever preaches another gospel, who calls the  Bible a myth, who declares that Jesus is one of many ways to God, who says all religions are equal, who says Jesus was only a good teacher, is accursed. We must cling to the Cross as our only hope for salvation. God is satisfied by what His Son has done. He loved enough to die for us. We must trust Him as our Lord and Savior. May God deliver us from the fear of man, so that we may never be ashamed of the Gospel we are called to preach and to believe.

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