Messages of mere men who claim Divine revelation abound today. These modern day “prophets” are part of many faiths both well-known and not, and those who follow them are many and varied. Chances are, you know someone who is part of one of these religions which include the church of Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses and many “Pentecostal” or “Full Gospel” churches. Teaching doctrines of man as those of God is not a new problem, though. In Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7, Jesus charges the Pharisees with this and gives it as part of the reason their worship is in vain. Paul deals with this issue with the Galatians and he does it in no uncertain terms. Let’s look more closely at what Paul has to say. We’ll be in Galatians 1:6-10.
Galatians is an epistle unlike Paul’s other letters right from the start. A typical Pauline letter starts with a salutation, moves to a brief greeting, then an account of what Paul prays for the recipients. Generally speaking, only after giving some kind of praise does the reprimand occur. Not so with the letter to the Galatians. Paul gives his greeting and jumps right in. “I am amazed,” he says. “Amazed” here is the same Greek word used in Matthew 8:27 to describe the disciples’ reaction after Jesus calms the storm. It’s also used in Matthew 9:33 when the crowds say “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” Paul is beyond himself that the Galatians are abandoning God, deserting Him for a different gospel. He says it isn’t even a true gospel. “Gospel” is a word that means “good news.” Something that is caused from trouble, and is a distortion of Christ’s good news cannot be good news—it cannot be a gospel. What they are leaving God for is nothing good (as can be said for anything we leave God for). This distortion, this troubling, was no accident. Paul says “there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (1:7, emphasis added). This word is the same as Jesus quotes in Matthew 9:13 when He speaks of God’s desire for mercy above sacrifice. Those who are twisting the gospel are doing so purposefully. We cannot be naïve; there are those who want to distort the gospel. Yes, there are those who distort it from ignorance, from misunderstanding, from honest hearts. But there are also those who want to distort it, who are purposely dishonest and make an effort to disturb.
Paul goes on to say that anyone who delivers another gospel should be accursed. He goes so far as to say that even an angel does not have the authority to give any gospel but the one that has already been given. Those groups who have additional books, additional revelation must often hear this passage as objection to their extra-Biblical sources and rightly so. Their common defense is that their extra teachings and doctrines are not “another” or “contrary.” This word, though, rendered “contrary” in the NASU, is a very common word. It is a word that can also be translated “other than” or “more than.” Paul is saying that anything more than what they have been given by his preaching, more than what they have already received is not right. As the saying goes, “If it says more than the Bible, it says too much. If it says less than the Bible, then it does not say enough. If it says the same thing as the Bible, then it is not necessary.” Paul gives his rebuke with a condemnation. He says that the one by whom this extra message comes should be accursed. This is no light punishment, either. In Romans 9:3, Paul uses this word and expands on it to say it means “separated from Christ.” It is to be lost eternally. Such a strong statement, yet giving it once is not enough: Paul repeats the same warning and condemnation in verse 9.
This rebuke cannot sit well with the Galatians, and it does not sit well with our religious friends, either. It is especially ill-received by those whose faith is wound up in modern-day or “latter day” revelation. Nevertheless, Paul gives the warning fearlessly, and so must we. Paul goes on in verse 10 and explains himself. “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Do we shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God because our friends may not like what God has to say in His word? Do we seek their favor over God’s? May it never be! We cannot be servants of Christ and yet seek to please man. We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). May we stand with Paul and join with him in innocence: “Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26, 27 ESV). Let us love our friends enough to share the truth no matter the consequences. Let us love God enough to be His true servants, and His alone.