Summary: To add anything to the gospel of the grace of God is to deny the efficacy of the Cross of Jesus.


Galatians 1:1-12.

From the outset, the tone of the Apostle Paul’s letter to “the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2b) is one of disappointment. The opening signature “Paul, an apostle” is immediately followed by a negative assertion - “not from men nor through man”; and a positive assertion - “but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1). This raises a flag on the fact that Paul’s apostleship has been under attack: which is why it is only after he has thus asserted his credentials that he then mentions “the brethren who are with me” (Galatians 1:2a).

The oneness of the Father and the Son in the commissioning of Paul is immediately apparent. In contrast to the “from men” and “through man”, there is just one preposition for “THROUGH Jesus Christ, and God the Father” (Galatians 1:1). Elsewhere we see that Paul is “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (e.g. Ephesians 1:1); and that he was commissioned as the Apostle to the Gentiles by none other than the risen Lord Jesus (cf. Acts 26:12-18).

The blessing which follows, again under one preposition, is “Grace to you and peace FROM God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:3). The gospel is God’s free favour bestowed upon undeserving men (Ephesians 2:8). The very essence of the gospel is ‘peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1).

Again we see the co-operation of the Father and the Son in this endeavour. Jesus “gave Himself for our sins (on the Cross), that He might deliver us from this present evil age (the word is AEON not ‘world’)”. All this is “according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Galatians 1:4-5).

The gist of what Paul is saying in Galatians 1:6-7 is:

6. “I wonder that you all are so quickly transferring your allegiance from the God who called you in the grace of Christ to ‘another’ gospel,

7. which is not an ‘other’ (not a valid alternative at all); but there are some who trouble you, and desire to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

Notice the synonymity of ‘the grace of Christ’, and ‘the gospel of Christ’ (cf. Acts 20:24). The good news is exactly this: that we are saved solely and entirely by the grace of God (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9). The brothers in Jerusalem, the apostles and the elders (including the Apostle Peter, and James the Lord’s brother) also addressed this problem of adding to the gospel as ‘trouble’ (Acts 15:24).

This transfer of allegiance is like a soldier deserting from the army. Or a political ‘turncoat’ changing allegiance mid-term and joining a different, even an opposing, party. Or perhaps a philosopher changing his point of view.

The true ‘gospel’ is here defined as ‘God calling us in the grace of Christ.’ The tragedy is that the Galatians were turning away from this God, this call, this grace, this Christ to “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6).

These ‘troublers’, these ‘perverters of the gospel of Christ’ (Galatians 1:7) wished to impose male circumcision upon Christian converts, and the keeping of the whole Law of Moses. This implies that the finished work of Christ is not sufficient for our salvation: yet Jesus both perfectly kept the Law on our behalf, and also fulfilled within Himself all the promises, the types, and the prophecies which are contained in the whole of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17). ‘For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes’ (Romans 10:4).

The curse, or “anathema” is pronounced twice because of its seriousness (Galatians 1:8-9). It speaks of something devoted to destruction (cf. Joshua 7:1). If anyone at all preaches any other gospel (including Paul himself, or even an angel from heaven), he is thus ‘eternally condemned’!

The Apostle Paul indicates here that he is not a man-pleaser, but a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10). Paul thus speaks in all seriousness, not for his own honour but out of zeal for the Lord (cf. Romans 9:1-3). The Apostle John also warns against anyone who brings anything other than the Apostolic message: ‘receive him not into your homes; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds’ (2 John 1:10-11).

The gospel which was preached by Paul was “not according to men. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). This forms a bookend with the beginning of today’s passage: “Not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:1). Paul elaborates on this assertion throughout the rest of the chapter.

We must be careful not to add anything to the gospel of the grace of God (cf. Revelation 22:18-19).

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