As I (excitedly!!!) open the short book of Galatians, I find the apostle Paul defending himself, defending the gospel, and defending his brothers and sisters. I get the idea that he wasn’t someone who was going to look the other way and whistle when he witnessed harmful practices or foolish false teaching – especially not within his beloved churches.
Here, it seems that some sought to discredit everything Paul said and did. Wouldn’t want the truth to get out about their lies and injury towards the people of God, right? So Paul comes on the scene, firstly, in his own defense.
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
6 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— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 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. 9 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.
10 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 1:1-10
Here’s my humble paraphrase:
“Paul – an apostle. This is who I am. This is who God made me. I did not make myself. I do not preach because I need a hobby. I do not write these letters because I have nothing better to do. I have been called by God and he has given me this task. Like I always say, woe to me if I do not do it.
Grace. Oh, hearers, it is only by his grace that I am what I am. His grace was not ineffective! The grace that changed me – an undeserving, prideful murderer to a faithful teacher and encourager of the church – let that same grace be upon you. Grace and peace to you who are none other than my beloved brothers and sisters.
Oh, and by the way, you’ll need it. We live in an incredibly evil time. Just ask your very innocent, very crucified leader. But don’t worry, friends. I’m here to help you. Jesus died for both you and me. He died to deliver us from every dark day; every preying evil. And prey it does. That is why I’m praying for all of you.
Now, about that heresy you’re accepting. Can we talk? Cause I’m surprised you don’t see any problem with it. Wait, no, I’m astonished. Yeah, it’s that bad. It is extremely false. It is not gospel truth. In fact, it’s the antithesis of the true gospel. The culture you are being so easily influenced by is lying to you and you’re buying in. It is distorting the very gospel you must believe in order to be saved! Distorted gospel = no gospel. No gospel = no salvation. You get me? I’m reeeeal-ly worried about you.
If I preach untruth to you, curse me. If an angel teaches untruth to you, curse them. No one gets away with heresy. Do not let them. Yes, it’s that serious. Do not believe the lies you are being fed by popular cultural authorities. Though none go with you and no one approves, stand firm in the one true faith. Even if everyone approves and applauds, if it contradicts Christ, hurl it into the theological trash heap of untruth. Turn away from these heresies and stand up to these bullies who seek to intimidate, dominate, and silence the only hope you have of heaven.
No, they will not be happy that I’m telling you this. They will be infuriated, in fact. But I care nothing for the opinions of those who hate me for telling the truth for one simple reason – because I care everything for the true gospel and for all of you. But I do pray that they, too, would listen. I serve Christ, not men. I preach for the approval of only one.
Please listen to me. You are in great danger. The world and it’s barbs seek to break your beliefs and boil you for breakfast. Yeah, it’s that severe.”
Notice Paul’s tone. He’s firm but humble. He wasn’t flexing his apostleship muscles and ordering his brothers around. No. He wasn’t mad at his brothers and sisters for being deceived. How could he be? Paul was simply seriously concerned. He was begging them, albeit boldly, not to buy into the bull. How could he be true to them, true to God, and true to his task apart from expressing his severe uneasiness and vexation at what he knew they were entertaining?
He could not. He would not. Therefore, he writes unashamed in full view of all who may be deceived as well as the antagonists who seek to deceive them. Paul does not waver in order to people please or prove popular. He values his friends and his Father far to fondly for anything that foolish.
Likewise, our culture, too, begs us to imbibe in that which bemoans basic biblical beliefs. Whether they urge us to err either by being in bondage to the law or by believing living under grace gives us a green light to grieve the Holy Ghost without guilt, we, too, can certainly be easily bewitched.
Therefore, be on guard. Beware. Believe Jesus’ blood is the only banner upon which we can bank.