Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
This is the second message in a series of studies by pastor Murray McClellan.
It is our prayer that you are blessed through his labors in God’s Word.
The Apostle’s Warning (1:6-10)
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”
After reminding the Galatians briefly of the wonderful grace of God, through which we have peace with God – that great deliverance by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself – Paul expresses his amazement that they would turn to another gospel. The truth of the matter was that they were deserting God Himself … “I marvel that you are turning away so soon FROM HIM who called you in the grace of Christ.” This is not just a simple doctrinal change in some small viewpoint; for to desert the one true gospel is to desert God!
Paul is not surprised by the false teachers. They are simply doing the will of their father. Though masquerading as ministers of light, false teachers are children, not of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but of their father the devil – the father of lies and damning deception. (See 2 Cor. 11:13-15 and John 8:44) Let false teachers be accursed, Paul says – even as Pharaoh was raised up and set apart for destruction (Rom. 9:17-23). Some of Satan’s most dangerous and destructive work is done through false teachers, especially those that proclaim to “believe in Jesus”. A bowl of candies laced with arsenic, sitting on your coffee table, is far more dangerous than a bowl of the pasty white stuff alone.
These “blind” teachers claim to speak for God and claim to proclaim the way to acceptance with God and blessing from God. Though these Judaizers, who were plaguing the churches in Galatia, claimed to be Christians, they added to the pure grace of the gospel, and, in so doing, nullified grace. Paul wrote in Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.”
Today, as then, we must stand for and proclaim truth – the sanctifying truth of the holy, God-breathed Scriptures. Many are peddling another Jesus and preaching another gospel than that which is recorded for us by Paul and the other apostles. It is to be expected that our enemy would attack the very foundation of our stronghold – the gospel of grace. This is an attack on the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s shock then is not that the false teachers would come in and peddle their inferior and defective wares as the real thing, but that the Galatians who heard the gospel of grace and professed to receive it, would so soon turn away to a gospel – not of grace but of works righteousness (which in my mind is not good news at all, but rather disturbing bad news!). Such a system of salvation (one that is based on works and self-righteousness) can result in only death and condemnation for sinners such as we all are (See 2 Cor. 3:7-9). “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight.” (Rom. 3:20) You might impress men, but God judges on a whole different standard and basis – seeing the very motives and intents of our heart.
Many people take in things they are taught without being fully aware of all it means or entails. For example, when I was a “3 1/2 point Calvinist”, I really did not see how inconsistent I was. In my mind, Christ redeemed all men. He atoned for all their sins. When I was asked why some would be in hell, I cried out, “Unbelief!” I did not recognize that unbelief, too, is a sin. If unbelief was not atoned for then we would all be in a fix! I saw that for me to be truly consistent, I must hold to either universal salvation or a particular redemption. Only the latter is consistent with the whole counsel of God’s Word.
I think in a similar way, these Galatians were “taken in” by these false teachers and they did not clearly think through all the implications of the issue. They were told that they needed to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. Since this was in fact God’s law, they may have felt that this seemed reasonable. However, they did not truly see that what they were doing in such an addition, was denying God and the fulfillment of the law in Christ. Later, in the epistle to the Galatians, Paul clearly brought home his point. “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5:2-4) They did not seem to recognize that by this “addition”, they were totally perverting and destroying the gospel of grace – their only hope of salvation from the curse. The truth was that the “gospel” of the Judaizers was a totally different message.
Paul, in writing this letter, was trying to open up to the Galatians the full implications of adding circumcision or any other work or ceremony, to the work of Christ. To do that, is to proclaim that Jesus’ Person or work is lacking. It is saying that Jesus is not sufficient alone to save sinners. It is saying that He “opened the door” but it is up to you, through your own righteousness and effort to enter the gate. What kind of message is this for men who, by their very nature, are sinners? It is certainly not “good news”.
Oh, how they needed to hear Psalm 24:3-5:
“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord.”
Are my hands clean enough? Is my heart perfectly pure? Have I never lifted my soul to an idol – putting anything above the Lord? How about you? Have you consistently with every fiber of your being, loved the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength? For it is this one alone who “shall receive blessing from the Lord.”
No wonder the gates of glory “hang down their heads” – for there is no hope of opening that any may come in to the holy place and enter into the joy of the Lord. Walls are designed to separate those inside from those outside. Gates are designed for people to pass through so that communion may take place between those inside and those outside. These gates would never achieve their purpose – for no one outside is worthy to enter. But wait … “lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!” (Ps. 24:7) There is One who may ascend into the hill of the Lord!
There is One who may stand in His holy place! And He has clean hands and a pure heart – for He alone of the sons of men has loved God with all His heart and all His soul and all His mind and all His strength – all the time, every moment. He alone, of the sons of men, has never lifted up His soul to an idol. He glorified and well pleased His heavenly Father. He alone has never sworn deceitfully, for He is the Truth. He is worthy to receive blessing from the Lord! All those, through the gospel of grace and peace, found in Him, are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. This King of glory – the Lord Jesus Christ – is our salvation, and He has become for us “righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Oh, good news! Good news!
You foolish “Galatians” (whether back in Paul’s day, or in our own day), why would you turn from “DONE” to “DO”?
If the gospel in which you have placed your trust is anything other than “DONE”, you are accursed. Anyone preaching salvation and blessing by “DO” is not a messenger of God – but an apostle of Satan – and deserves to be accursed.
But Paul preaches the gospel of “Done!” He is a bondservant of Christ, whose heart is not set out to please men. It is the same gospel that Paul preaches that I love! That gospel that proclaims an all-sufficient Savior; that gospel that proclaims in Christ, a completely finished work of redemption; that gospel that proclaims an unchangeable priesthood in which Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him (Heb. 7:24-26).
Oh, such a High Priest is fitting for such saved sinners as we are. And this sinless High Priest willingly chose to love us and give Himself for us! The only turning to do, in light of the truth, is to turn from any gospel that looks to self-righteousness and turn to Him who calls you in the grace of Christ, “who gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age.” (Gal. 1:4) “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us … that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the nations in Christ Jesus.” (See Gal. 3:10-14)
The message is not, “Do your best.” It is “He, by one offering, has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14) The gospel of “DO” may be pleasing to the ego of prideful, self-righteous men, but it can never save. There is no rest in “DO”, but, oh, what a sabbath rest there is in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, “who gave Himself for our sins.” He alone satisfies God and can bring us with Him into glory where we are “accepted in the Beloved.”
Let us support only those who preach the truth. If anyone preaches any other gospel – let him be accursed. Anyone – no matter who it is. Let it not be us. Let us clearly preach the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us proclaim His Person and His wonderful works. Let us point sinners unto Him. He alone can save!
Murray is the lead church planter and Bible teacher at Grace Fellowship Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He and his wife Cheryl have labored in the Gospel for many years despite the many discouragements along the way. Our brother is associated with “InDepth Studies”, the Acts 29 network of church planters, and more recently the uniquely Canadian C2C church planting network. In new covenant circles Murray is a long time contributor to new covenant thought and discussion.