Summary: In these four verses that we are going to consider tonight the apostle Paul gives us four principles concerning the word of God, or the gospel.
An Unchanging Message for an Ever Changing World
Pm Service October 25th 2009
One of the most frequently used phrases in Christian circles is "the gospel." Amazingly few adults know what this term means. It could either refer to its literal translation, "good news;" or to the perspective that salvation is available only through the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ and a person’s acceptance of Christ as their savior.
Less than four out of ten adults (37%) knew this; 34% had other, inaccurate perceptions of the meaning of the term; three out of ten adults did not offer a guess. Even among born again Christians, only 60% correctly identified at least one meaning of this expression.
In the past thirty years there has been a proliferation of “new gospels” in the United States. Some such of the “new age” belief systems are rooted in eastern mysticism, such as Hinduism. Others are based more on pop-psychology than they are on the gospel. But whatever their origin they are misdirecting men and women away from the only truth that can save you from the penalty of sin.
The core of this letter is that the people at Galatia have been turned from the life changing truth of God’s word.
In these four verses that we are going to consider tonight the apostle Paul gives us four principles concerning the word of God, or the gospel.
I. The Gospel Needs No Additions
Vs. 6-7 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
These false teachers are not opening denying the gospel message. They only wanted to improve the gospel by adding to it; requirements, new ceremonies and new standards. It is as if they are saying, “We believe in Jesus Christ – but we have something wonderful to add to what you already believe!” What is at least implied is that the faith that these believers have is not sufficient, some -thing more is needed.
What they viewed as a different gospel was actually a distorted gospel. The word translated “distort” means to transform into something of an opposite character.
Paul says that this new gospel or “good news,” is in reality not the gospel or “good news” at all. It is a counterfeit.
II. Distorting the Gospel Is Serious Business
Vs. 8-9 “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
In verse eight Paul invokes a curse on anyone, himself included, who distorts the gospel,
Paul is saying that the real problem of another gospel is not only that it is a bad idea, and not only that it lacks power because it is a fake, but that it is dangerous. In our sensitive English translation we lose some of the heat of this verse in the original language. He says in verse eight, “If anyone comes with another gospel let him be damned.” And in verse nine he continues the thought by saying, “And if you believe it you will be damned too!”
This is not a curse word, it is using the word in its proper sense – that is these individuals will be damned, separated from God and eternally punished. Those who distort the gospel message are rejecting the authority of Christ and are therefore cursed. Paul is not talking about church discipline, his language is far too strong for that. He is invoking God’s final damnation and wrath on people who distort the gospel.
I fear that those who followed David Koresh in a compound in Waco, Texas to their fiery deaths in 1993; and the followers of Marshall Applewhite’s (Heaven’s Gate Cult) who in 1997 took their own lives in twisted attempt to connect with extra-terrestrial visitors who were hidden in the wake of the Hale-Bopp comet, will not find themselves excused because of their sincerity. And those who led them into that error will bear a greater judgment.
One modern distortion of the gospel is preached in order to fit Christianity in a materialistic society. The message of this gospel is which we can call “the gospel of success” or “the prosperity Gospel,” is based on the premise that God wants to bless you therefore you can only expect good things from him if you follow him.
The problem with this gospel is that it ignores the fact that in Christian life there is sorrow, there is suffering, there is death. The key of the gospel of Jesus is not the avoidance of life events, but the possibility to overcome them.