Summary: Paul’s Gospel was given to him by God. Therefore it is worth defending. The gospel is Truth - God’s Truth
Compromise is a tricky thing isn’t it? You’re never quite sure whether you’re going too far or not far enough. The trouble is it’s so important in today’s world. JFK once said "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate." Negotiation, compromise, finding the middle ground are the essence of diplomacy aren’t they? We saw a great example recently, when that US spy plane was intercepted by a Chinese fighter plane. The Chinese plane crashed, killing its pilot and the US plane was forced down in Chinese territory. And do you remember the work the spin doctors had to do to come up with a statement that would satisfy the honour of both sides? The issue of truth at that point didn’t really come into it, did it? What mattered was finding a politically acceptable compromise.
Of course it’s not only in politics that we find ourselves having to negotiate over truth. Even in religious debate we’re expected to show tolerance and restraint. There’s no room for hard-liners or rigid beliefs even in the discussion of religion. Peter Jensen got into trouble the other day for daring to suggest that the Prime Minister might be able to know what God would want him to do about Aboriginal reconciliation. The response from the Prime Minister’s office to that suggestion was that what Peter Jensen was suggesting was out of step with the majority of the community. How dare an archbishop-elect suggest there might be some higher standard than that of the majority! No. we live in a pluralist society, so we must be ready to compromise, even with what might be the truth. //
"Even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!"
We cringe a little when we hear those words don’t we? Paul is so politically incorrect! How can he be so sure of himself that he’d even call down a curse on those who oppose him? Or was he just having a bad day? Perhaps he’d had a fight with his wife and now he was taking it out on his opponents.
Well, let me suggest that Paul isn’t simply being narrow minded. He isn’t being arrogant in maintaining that he’s right and they’re wrong. Rather he’s standing up for an important principle that we’ve almost lost in our pluralist, post-modern environment: he standing up for the principle of truth, Truth with a capital T. He saying there is such a thing as truth and that Truth is not negotiable. You see, you can negotiate about a spy plane that lands in foreign territory, you can negotiate about the right of Australian tourists to attend a political meeting in Indonesia, you can negotiate about remedies for global warming. In fact you can negotiate about almost anything in the political arena and so you should. But we mustn’t think we can negotiate about the Truth. As we go through this series on Galatians we’ll begin to see, I hope, why this is so.
But let’s first consider the situation in Galatia to which Paul is writing. Galatia is the area of central Asia Minor, what’s now Turkey, where Paul first preached the Gospel. It covered places like Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium. You may remember that when they first went there, they began in the synagogues where some of the Jews were converted, but when the Jewish leaders rejected them they then turned to the Gentiles. So here was a group of Churches with a mixed population, Jews and Gentiles, and things were obviously not going well. It’s interesting to note that when Paul writes his other letters to Churches he always begins with praise or thanks to God for their faith and service. But not here. Here he’s only just finished his opening remarks when he launches into a passionate rebuke:
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel." It seems that they’re being led astray by a group of teachers who are pushing a different message to Paul and it sounds like they’re in real danger of falling for it.
Now some people might think that Paul is worried about them deserting him, as though he were the one he’s referring to in v6. But it isn’t himself he’s talking about. It’s God. Look at the summary of the gospel that Paul gives in vs3&4. He summarises the gospel like this:
Christ gave himself for our sins
Christ gave himself to set us free from the present evil age