"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. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be under God's curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be under God's curse!" Galatians 1:6-9.
Euangellion! Gospel! Good news! What was the good news that Paul brought to the people of the province of Galatia - and everywhere else he went, and why was it good news?
The pagan world worshipped many gods, all of them capricious, unpredictable and malevolent. To the Gentiles Paul announced that the one true God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, because of His great love, sent His one and only Son, Jesus, into the world. Jesus lived as a perfect human being and was put to death as a sinner to pay the debt of sin and to redeem mankind from the penalty of sin and to reconcile them to God.
To the Jew Paul preached that Jesus was the Messiah whose coming and life were foretold in detail by the prophets. He came to fulfil the Law of Moses, which God's people failed to obey and incurred an unpayable debt. Jesus paid the debt in full, redeeming them from the curse of the broken law and restoring them to fellowship with God.
Good news! Of course it was good news because both Jew and Gentile were no longer bound by a multitude of laws, rituals and prohibitions. Instead they were enabled by the Holy Spirit to love God and their fellow men which completely fulfilled the Law. Their standing with God did not depend on their performance but on God's grace which came to them through Christ.
Paul must surely have enlightened his hearers of the grace of God that released them from a self-help religion that did not work anyway, and called them into rest in the finished work of Jesus. How on earth, then, did these Galatian believers become entangled in a system that insisted that they keep the Jewish Law in order to be accepted by God?
Paul expressed surprise and astonishment that they were so fickle that they turned from the gospel he had preached to them to "another gospel" which was actually bad news. How could having to keep the law be good news? It was a step backwards from freedom to bondage, from God's grace that brought rest to self-effort when they would never know if they had done enough.
They were not abandoning a belief system as much as deserting the very Person who had bought their forgiveness of sin and set them free from guilt, shame and fear. The good news is about Jesus. In Him is bound up everything we need to be true sons and daughters of God. When God gave us His Son, He gave us everything; forgiveness, salvation, righteousness, life, hope, love, joy, peace, meaning, purpose, a new nature, and a new standing in God. Abandon Jesus for "another gospel" and you lose everything including the hope of eternal life.
"What were you thinking?" Paul demanded to know. "Were these so-called "teachers" so persuasive that you fell for their ploy?" Paul was so adamant that the gospel he preached was the real good news that he even invoked the name of God in his curse on the perpetrators of this false teaching. Not once but twice he denounced them and called down a curse on them for what they were doing - eternal damnation for spreading lies. Now that's pretty strong, isn't it?
This was much more than a belief system to which Paul called people to subscribe. This was a matter of life and death - determining the eternal destiny of the people who had been persuaded to heed the false teaching and who had turned from Christ to follow their way. It was imperative that Paul explain the implications of what they had done and call them back to Jesus Christ who was their only hope.
Belief is much more than giving assent to information about God - it involves entrusting oneself to Him and submitting to His way. To "believe" in Jesus without embracing Him as Lord is worthless and futile. Faith in Him gives access to everything He is and does and reproduces His life in the believer. Only He and His way gives us access to the Father.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.