“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, 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. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-10
Anyone who has ever been a parent or a teacher has dealt with children that seem to change their mind and completely forget what has just occurred. You go into your child’s room and tell them to put their clothes on to get ready for school, and then come back five minutes later to see your kid on the floor playing with their toys.
In your head you wonder, “Did I actually ask them to get dressed? Maybe I’m losing my mind?” So you ask again, confirming the instructions are getting through with solid eye contact, and walk away.
Five minutes later you return and find your child still laying on the floor playing with their toys, but now they have one sock on and a shirt halfway over their head. Somewhere along the way, the clear instructions you gave were set ablaze by well-designed action figures who supersede your seemingly limitless authority within your own home.
Not just children, but people get distracted. A well-known leadership axiom is “Vision leaks.” Meaning that leaders should consistently reaffirm the vision that the organization holds to so that its members will remember the purpose of why they are members and what they should be doing.
In Galatians chapter one, we read about the church in Galatia that had lost its way. While it didn’t revert to the original Jewish teachings, it added them into the gospel of Christ syncretizing it into a new religion. This, as Paul conveys, is no gospel at all.
Galatians is easily the most angry letter that Paul delivers, and with good reason. While some would focus on the grace that should be found in Christ, Paul is furious with the Galatians because of that very reason. Christ’s grace isn’t cheap; it has cost Christ His life and great suffering, and getting that message to the Galatians has cost Paul personally.
I received a gift from my grandparents on my birthday one year. My grandfather was retired from working at a mill, and my grandmother was retired from being a teacher’s assistant, so they didn’t have that great of an income. I unwrapped my present and in my excitement I completely forgot to thank them and went downstairs to play with it. Moments later my father “reminded me” that I had been disrespectful to them and I promptly went upstairs and apologized to them. I didn’t appreciate the cost.
Paul has realized that the Galatians don’t appreciate the cost. They didn’t get that the good news is that Jesus accomplished through great suffering a payment that they could never make; He obtained salvation for them. Paul’s tone in this letter is appropriately expressing the ungrateful attitude of the Galatians who have been swayed from the good news.
Paul is “astonished” that the Galatians have moved from the gospel to this new faith plus works understanding. They had missed the grace of Christ and looked to this “new teaching” for the work needed to be done.
There are so many wonderful things about being in a relationship with Christ. No fear of death, no condemnation, no shame and no guilt are just some to name a few. While a Christian has works, they do not need them. Salvation has been accomplished through the atoning work of Christ and the believer rests in His work.
Just like in a healthy marriage the husband doesn’t do things for the wife because he has to, he does them because he wants to; he is motivated by his love for her. A Christian knows that they don’t have to do anything for God (Acts 17:25), but that they want to do things for God because of His great love for them.
Paul reaffirms that the Galatians should not be working for the approval of man, especially if they already have the approval of Christ through the cross.
The main issue the Galatians are having is that they have not decided to follow Jesus. A disciple of Jesus would know that when they decided to follow Jesus there is no turning back because of future events or new teachings. Jesus even speaks to this in Luke 14:25-33,
“‘Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not bale to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’’”
The gospel has cost too much. Christ has paid it fully. The believer does not go back; there is nowhere else to go (Philippians 3:8; John 6:68). If the Galatians had asked questions, if they had doubts, they could have gone to Paul. Instead they were blown to and fro by legalistic teaching and they strayed from the gospel of Christ.
Today, believers must be on watch to see where we have added to the gospel and in so doing attempted to make the complete work of Christ lacking. We must be on guard to see where we stray from the gospel and the assurance that the cross atones for our sin. Believers should rest in Jesus’ sufficient work and stay the course in obedient service to our King because of His great love.