After a brief introduction and greetings, Paul raises the issue that is troubling him, and that is the fact that someone is troubling the Galatians. Not only this, but they are not being troubled on some secondary issue. The gospel itself is at stake.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you that that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal. 1:6-10).
We are accustomed in Christian circles to speak of God’s amazing grace. But something else that is amazing is how quickly Christians can drift away from this amazing grace. Call it amazing drift. And Paul marvels at it—how readily the Galatians were unsettled! How quickly they were removed from the Father, the one who had called them into the grace of Christ (v. 6). And when they began to be removed from the true gospel, they went to the only alternative, which was a false gospel.
Of course, another gospel cannot really be another gospel—there cannot be more than one of them (v. 7). And this means that this new and improved gospel is actually a turning aside from the gospel; it is perversion. Moreover, such perversions are no accident. When there is perversion, there is a pervert. “Someone” was troubling the Galatians.
The benchmark against which everything else was to be measured was the gospel that had been preached to the Galatians at the first. Paul says this in two ways—”that which we have preached unto you” (v. 8) and “that ye have received” (v. 9). This primitive gospel outranks everyone, whether the emissary is apostolic or angelic. It certainly outranked the false brothers who were troubling the Galatians.
The false teachers were doubly damned. So adamant is Paul about this that he repeats his grave anathema twice, and he does this deliberately for emphasis. There is even an indication that Paul may have said this before, when he was with the Galatians. The gospel is not something that men have the authority to alter or improve, or adjust to fit with the times. Anyone who attempts this falls under the divine curse. An angel or an apostle who sets himself against the gospel will be condemned under the reign of the gospel. This is not the kind of difference that allows for dialog with alternative perspectives, or provides any basis for a search for common ground.
With this attitude, it was plain that if Paul was wanting to be a man-pleaser, he was in the wrong line of work. Who was Paul trying to persuade? Was he trying to persuade men or God? Who was he trying to please, men or God? He makes it very plain that if he wanted to be a man-pleaser, he made the wrong choice in becoming a servant of Christ (v. 10). The two do not abide together, and cannot. But let it be said at the same time that there are carnal ways to displease men, and let us even emphasize it. But the point that has to be made from this text is that anyone who wishes to be a faithful servant of Christ will incur the enmity of men. Moreover, when that enmity is incurred, the adversary will not say that it is because of faithfulness to Christ. The claim against Paul was that he got his apostleship from men, that he set aside the law of Moses, that he did lots of things he shouldn’t have done. The verbal weapons employed against God’s servants are not the reason for the war. Too many Christians forget that the devil lies.
So what do we discover here? What words of encouragement can we take away from this? We have been privileged to have drawn the fire of the enemy. We have risen to the dignity of needing to be opposed. We have the great honor of needing to be lied about. From all this, we must take solace and encouragement. But, like the Hebrews, we have not yet resisted to the shedding of blood. We are discovering that the parade after boot camp and engagement with the enemy are two different things. We are discovering that it is one thing to come home on leave and have all the girls admire your uniform, and quite another to enter into the chaos and confusion of battle.