February 20 I Thursday
“ I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel––which is really no gospel at all.” —Galatians 1:6-7
Typically Paul’s letters to the churches would begin with a courteous greeting, then he builds the readers up a bit before addressing the challenges. But in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he deviated from this format. After Paul’s greetings, he used some of the strongest language we will find in the New Testament and dives right into the challenges. He says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). In Paul’s statement, he uses a military term when he said, “you are so quickly deserting.” In the Roman army, if someone left the army and went to the other side, they were called “a deserter.” In other words, Paul is saying, “You have left the gospel of Jesus Christ and have gone to the dark side. You are no longer in the kingdom of light; you are in the kingdom of darkness. You have deserted Christ.”
But what was the other gospel that was being presented? There were some Judaizers who advocated that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice gives us forgiveness of sins, but we also need to be circumcised and obedient to the Mosaic Law so that we can secure our salvation. This was confusing the gospel and perverting Paul’s teachings, where he proclaimed, “Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39).
This is one of the primary tactics of Satan. He wants to divert people away from the gospel and he is happy to do it through sinful or religious behaviour. He will use confusion and perversion so people desert the Word of God altogether. The late English Anglican priest and theologian John Stott once wrote, “Indeed, the church’s greatest troublemakers (now as then) are not those outside who oppose, ridicule, and persecute it, but those inside who try to change the gospel.”
Paul, therefore, speaks with great force and emphasis to the Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!...I say again: if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8-9). Paul repeats this warning twice.
There is no other gospel. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith––and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). May we cling to this gospel truth.
Prayer: Almighty God, thank You that my salvation does not hinge on what I do but what You have done. Help me to always cling to this gospel truth. Praise You!