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An Exploration of Galatians: Deserting the Gospel
Galatians 1:6-7; 1 John 3:13 - Do not desert the true Gospel!
“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
Galatians 1:6-7 NASB1995
Paul wastes no time in this letter getting to the point. If you go read the other epistles attributed to him to the various churches, he always has a paragraph or two of thanksgiving for what is steadfast and admirable at that church. Not the Galatians, however! The issue is of such dire concern to Paul (and it should be to us, too) that he jumps into the fire immediately after his short greeting.
Paul is “amazed” that the Galatians are so quickly deserting Him (Jesus) who called them by the Grace of Christ for a different gospel. “I am amazed” is from the Greek word θαυμάζω or thaumazo, according to the Blue Letter Bible lexicon. In this case, it means to wonder, wonder at, or marvel. The word can also mean “admire”, but Paul does not admire what has happened to those churches. He is amazed, like we would be amazed or wonder at the reasons for an act of war or a major crime. The same word, thaumazo, is used in 1 John 3:13 for “surprised”:
“Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.”
1 John 3:13 NASB1995
This different gospel that has been brought to the churches in Galatia turns them away from the grace of Christ. As we shall find out exploring Galatians, this distorted or false doctrine was brought by Judaizers, Jews who were Christian but advocated that any Gentile believers must first adopt and follow the Levitical laws of Judaism before becoming believers in Christ. As you will see later in my devotionals on this epistle, one of the Judaizers is Peter himself, leading to a conflict between Paul and Peter! This burden put on the converts is a man-made doctrine that conflicts with the true Gospel message of Jesus.
Paul is anxious to stop this false doctrine. He uses the word “deserting” from the Greek word μετατίθημι or metatithemi, which means transferring or changing away from something. Precept Austin has this discussion about this word:
Metatithemi is in the present tense which indicates that when Paul wrote this letter, the Galatians were in the process of defecting. Defection was in progress. There was still time to arrest this desertion before it destroyed the churches in Galatia which was another reason Paul hastened to send this letter on its way. The middle voice which gives us a reflexive sense and means to transfer oneself - in other words they initiated the act of desertion and participated in the act of deserting. They were in effect in the process of removing themselves from the Gospel of grace. Paul is putting the blame for deserting on the converts themselves! Paul had explained God's grace to them, so they should have known better than to fall for the graceless teachings of the Judaizers!
Paul goes on to say that someone is disturbing them and wants to distort the Gospel of Christ. Distort in the Greek is μεταστρέφω or metastrepho, which can also mean transmute, corrupt, pervert, or turn. In some translations, the word “pervert” is used (KJV, NIV, RSV, among others). Embracing legalism (or other man-made conditions on God’s grace through Jesus) means rejecting God, according to Paul’s reasoning. God does the calling of believers to salvation and it is through grace, not merit.
False doctrine is a fatal trap that turns one away from the truth of Jesus. Leviticus is not “false doctrine” but the OT laws from God to His people were fulfilled by the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord and our repentance and faith in Him. We are justified and the Holy Spirit transforms us to obedience through our sanctification. From the marvelous Gotquestions.org, here is how false doctrine is invading our churches today (links go to BibleRef or Gotquestions.org):
False doctrine is that which opposes some fundamental truth or that which is necessary for salvation. The following are some examples of false doctrine:
• The erasing of hell. The Bible describes hell as a real place of eternal torment, the destination for every unregenerate soul (Revelation 20:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:8). A denial of hell directly contradicts Jesus’ own words (Matthew 10:28; 25:46) and is therefore a false doctrine.
• The idea that there are “many paths to God.” This philosophy has become popular recently under the guise of tolerance. This false doctrine claims that, since God is love, He will accept any religious effort as long as the practitioner is sincere. Such relativism flies in the face of the entire Bible and effectively eliminates any need for the Son of God to take on flesh and be crucified for us (Jeremiah 12:17; John 3:15–18). It also contradicts Jesus’ direct words that He is the only way to God (John 14:6).
• Any teaching that redefines the person of Jesus Christ. Doctrine that denies the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, His sinless nature, His actual death, or His physical resurrection is false doctrine. A group’s errant Christology readily identifies it as a sect or cult that may claim to be Christian but is actually teaching false doctrine. Even many mainline denominations have begun the rapid slide into apostasy by declaring that they no longer hold to a literal interpretation of Scripture or the deity of Christ. First John 4:1–3 makes it clear that a denial of biblical Christology is “anti-Christ.” Jesus described false teachers within the church as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15).
• Teaching that adds human religious works to Christ’s finished work on the cross as necessary ingredients for salvation. This teaching may pay lip service to salvation by faith alone but insists that a religious ritual (such as water baptism) is salvific. Some groups even legislate hairstyles, clothing options, and food consumption. Romans 11:6 warns against attempts to mix grace with works. Ephesians 2:8–9 says we are saved by the grace of God, through faith, and nothing we do can add to or take away from it. Galatians 1:6–9 pronounces a curse on anyone who changes the good news of salvation by grace.
• The teaching that presents grace as a license to sin. Sometimes called “easy-believism,” this false doctrine implies that all one must do for right standing with God is to believe the facts about Jesus, pray a prayer at some point, and then resume control of one’s life with the assurance of heaven at the end. Paul dealt with this thinking in Romans 6. In Matthew 7:21–23, Jesus warned those who adopt this doctrine that they did not know Him at all. Second Corinthians 5:17 states that those who are “in Christ” become “new creatures.” That transformation, in response to a believer’s faith in Christ, changes the outward behaviors. To know and love Christ is to obey Him (Luke 6:46).
My next devotional examines 1 Galatians: 8-9, where Paul pronounces a curse on anyone teaching a distorted Gospel, including the angels of heaven themselves.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord: I thank you, again and again, for your grace and the forgiveness of my sins. Help me to be discerning about false doctrine and to learn as much as I can from the examples in the epistle of Galatians. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, founder of Precept Austin, can be found Here
Gotquestions.org was accessed on 10/30/2023 to review “false doctrine”.
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 10/30/2023 to review the lexicon for Galatians 1:6-7.