Galatians 1:1-10

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

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.

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.

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.

Understanding And Applying the Text

After Paul left Galatia the Judaizers moved in. This was why Paul wrote to the Galatians. The Judaizers perverted the Gospel. According to the Judaizers, justification did not come through faith alone. Justification required both faith in Christ plus obedience to the Law of Moses. This was the charge the reformer had against Rome. The Judaizers claimed they were teaching the true Gospel. While teaching the same heresy, Rome claims to teach the true gospel. The Judiazer were correcting Paul’s incomplete understanding of the Gospel. Plus, they taught Paul was not a true apostle. They claimed they were trained by the true apostles. So they were apostles themselves. They were descendants of Abraham and true ministers of Christ. They claimed they were able to perform miracles. Paul had turned to Christ much later than they had. So, their understanding we more complete and mature than Paul’s understanding. They claimed Paul had not seen Christ. But they had. And of course, Paul had persecuted the Church. For all these reasons the Judaizers led the Galatians astray.

Paul devotes the first two chapters of Galatians to his defense and to the defense of his office and Gospel. He wastes no time getting to his defense. In verse 1, he states in clear terms he was an apostle appointed by Christ. Men did not appoint Paul as an apostle. The gospel permeated Paul’s whole being. He cannot get past the salutation without proclaiming God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the heart and soul of the Gospel which Paul proclaimed.

Paul opens with a greeting that proclaims grace and peace to the recipients. It is through God’s grace that our sins are forgiven. It is by the law that our conscience and sin torment us. But it is the forgiveness of Christ that gives us peace. The contrast here is stark. The law which brings only condemnation. The Gospel brings peace. It is this Gospel of the grace of God the Galatians had forsaken for the Law of Moses,

Paul refers to the present world as evil. Even when we are at our best we are at our worst. There is no good in us. It is Christ who gave himself so that we may be delivered from this age. We cannot deliver ourselves because there is nothing good in us. We rebel against God. It is only because of the grace and mercy of the Father that Christ gave Himself as an atonement for our sins.

Paul starts his defense in his greeting. He states justification is by the will of God. We are not delivered by our will or works. It is God’s love and mercy that delivers us. Only when we understand this will we understand the mercy of God. We deserve justice but we receive mercy. He loved us as wretched sinners so much that He gave us His only-begotten Son to die for us.

Paul is astonished at how quickly the Galatians have abandoned the Gospel. Paul finds it beyond belief. The Galatians traded the sweetness of Christ for the bitterness of the law. But Paul’s anger is not towards the Galatians. Rather Paul directs his anger towards the false teachers.

Paul had taught the Galatians the truth. Paul accentuates that point. They had been called by grace to Christ. But they substituted another gospel. Though Paul is quick to point out there is no other gospel.

Anything that adds to, or subtracts from the grace of God is another Gospel. It is not Christianity. Anything that denies the death burial and resurrection of Christ is non-Christian. Anything that denies Christ died for the remission of sins is not Christianity. It may claim to be Christian but it is not. Anything that denies the sufficiency of Christ is not Christianity. Everyone who teaches a works-based righteousness teaches heresy.

It did not seem fair. to the false teachers. How could God give gentiles, former idol worshipers, the same grace He gave the Jews? The gentiles had not nothing to deserve it. They had not earned the right. They had not suffered like the Jews. They had not even tried to keep th Mosaic Law. It was not fait. It was not right. And we know God is a just God. The Jews had kept the law. They were God’s covenant people. These Gentiles were not entitled to the same grace as Israel. Jesus addresses this issue in Matthew 20 with the parable about the laborers in the vineyard. The laborers who worked only an hour received the same pay as those who worked all day. When those who worked all day complained, the master said, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:15) God’s grace is not for those who deserve it. Why? None of us deserve it. Praise God for His grace!

Why would Paul call the Galatian churches, churches? The Galatians had denied the grace of Christ for the Law of Moses. The answer is this: Although the Galatians had fallen away from the correct doctrine. Not all the Galatians had become perverted. There were some who clung to the right view of the Word and the Sacraments. These means of grace cannot be contaminated. They remain divine regardless of men’s opinion. Wherever we find the means of grace, there is the Holy Church, even though Satan reigns there.

Paul maintains there is no other Gospel other than the one he preached to the Galatians. The Gospel he preached was not his own invention. It was the good news from God Himself. And God revealed it in the scripture. No wonder Paul pronounces a curse on anyone who proclaims a different Gospel. This curse was no mere, off-the-cuff, statement. Paul was emphatic. Anyone, including himself that proclaims a different Gospel is cursed. Anyone who adds requirements for salvation to faith in Jesus Christ is cursed. Their credentials do not matter. If they twist the gospel into another form they are under God’s condemnation.

Paul is not seeking approval from anyone except God. It would have been easy for Paul to have said, “Well you still have the Gospel basics. You just added some things to it.” Once you add to the Gospel it is no longer the Gospel. Paul was unwilling to find a way they could all agree.

If Paul was not seeking popularity. He did not care if others approved. If he did, he would not be seeking approval from God.

There is no other Gospel than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is so easy and tempting to allow ourselves to add to the Gospel of Christ. You can’t smoke and be a Christian. You can drink, dance or go to movies. We cannot believe Christ did all that needed to be done. Christ did not do 99% and you need to do the last 1%. It is Christ and Christ alone.

It is difficult for us to believe that we can be the recipients of God’s unmerited favor. We try to explain it. It must be because of something we did or will do. Why would God give us His grace? We try to make it so that we are responsible for at least part of our salvation. God would not give such great forgiveness unless we had done something to deserve it. The reason others have not received it is they either way not or would not. In other words, we deserved it and they did not.

But that is another Gospel. Salvation is by God’s grace alone. We add nothing to it. And if we try, we deny His great grace.

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