Summary: What aspect of the Gospel differentiates it from every philosophy or doctrinal statement of mankind? It is that it comes directly from God. It is otherworldly. It is entirely divine in origin.
“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.” Vs 11
Preacher and Bible commentator, John Stott, said this in his exposition of Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
“To tamper with the gospel is to trouble the church… Indeed the church’s greatest troublemakers (now as then) are not those outside who oppose, ridicule and persecute it, but those inside who try to change the gospel… Conversely, the only way to be a good churchman is to be a good gospel-man. The best way to serve the church is to believe and to preach the gospel.” Stott, John R.W. The Message of Galatians, “The Bible Speaks Today” Downers Grove, Ill; Inter-Varsity Press, 1968
Whether he meant for it to be or not, Stott in this paragraph has stated in essence the purpose and content of the entire letter to the Galatians.
With the same aggressive tenacity with which Paul once tried to destroy the church (vs 13, 23) he, after his conversion and in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, defended the Gospel and protected the church and this entire letter serves that end.
The Galatians had begun well. Upon first hearing the good news of the death and resurrection of Christ for their sin and their eternal life they received the news and as Paul says in chapter 3 they began their walk in and by the Spirit.
But the Judaizers came in later with a ‘new’ gospel, which was not an altogether different gospel but a perversion of the true gospel, and having listened and been drawn away by these men the Galatians were now seeking to continue (again, from chapter 3) in the flesh; that is, according to the works of the flesh by the keeping of the Mosaic Law. Let’s look closer.
PAUL’S REBUKE – The Galatians’ Error
Paul’s dedication to the purity of the Gospel message is exceeded in determination only by that of Christ to go in obedience to the Father to the cross and die.
The Apostle’s zeal is evidenced in the first 5 verses of this letter which comprise the salutation. He identifies himself by name and indicates that the letter also comes from those in ministry with him – which is important to note because of the corrective nature of the letter – and he is careful right at the outset of his address to the churches of the Galatian region to do two things; reestablish his apostolic authority (vs 1) and reiterate the very message they have allowed to be perverted among them.
Now I had a friend who knows more than I confirm to me that in the Greek these first five verses of Galatians 1 make up one sentence. This is not necessarily a point of deep significance for our study but I tell you this to give you a sense of how anxious Paul was to reestablish this information in their thinking and then get right to the point of his letter.
In brief, he gets the greeting said, and his next sentence is one of rebuke.
As my friend put it, not to make Paul out to be a raving lunatic but to draw a mental picture of his ire against the enemies of the Gospel, “…Paul (is) basically standing on the pulpit and hollering from Gal 1:6 on. … The Jewish mother in him has gone ballistic and you know his audience is plastered to the back of their seats by the jet stream of his stormy anger and disappointment.”
Paul was amazed. He was astounded. The word Paul used in verse 6 is the same that the Gospel writers used to describe the reaction of the onlookers when Jesus performed certain miracles, such as when He calmed the storm in Luke 8 and delivered a mute man from demon possession in Luke 11.
Paul was amazed, but not in the good way of the witnesses of Jesus’ miracles. He was amazed that having heard the Good News and having believed it unto salvation, and having known that joy and peace and having received the Holy Spirit of God, they listened to the teaching of a perverted ‘gospel’ and departed from truth.
They were Greeks! The people of the churches of the Galatian region were Gentiles to begin with. The Law had never been anything to them before. The Law that was given to the Jews as a tutor to lead to Christ had never been a part of their existence. So having been completed by grace, how absurd, to think to add to completion by Law!
This news coming to Paul must have made him look for a chair if he wasn’t already sitting. This is not just a matter of someone or some group of people needing their doctrine tweaked a bit so they more fully understand some fine point of teaching they had not quite grasped.