Galatiansby Khan Hui Neon
Choices and alternatives. These are what people value today. So, the question may be asked: Is there more than one way to be saved? Can we contribute to our salvation?
Paul usually began his letters by praising his readers' faith or diligence, but not in this letter to the Galatians. Instead, right after his introductory remarks (Galatians 1:1-5), he launches into a stinging rebuke of their actions. His rebuke bristles with frustration. In place of the usual thanksgiving we find at the beginning of his other letters, there are strong words of condemnation (vv. 8-9). In verse 6, an astonished Paul asks, ″How could you do this? Why are you turning to another gospel?″
Without mincing his words, he declares that anyone who preaches a different gospel-even if he were an angel-deserves nothing less than eternal condemnation (v. 8). There is only one gospel-from God-and it is not negotiable.
Why was Paul so disquieted? It is because of what was happening in the Galatian churches: false teachers were perverting the gospel by teaching that circumcision was necessary for salvation, and the believers were listening to them.
The false teachers, known as Judaizers, were teaching that believers needed to practise certain rituals in order to be recognised as God's people, as required under Mosaic law. But in demanding this, the Judaizers were adding to the gospel, or preaching a ″different gospel″ (v. 6). In effect, they were saying that God's work in Christ was insufficient, and that man's effort was also needed for salvation. This was such a serious heresy that Paul invokes the worst punishment for the false teachers behind it: ″If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God's curse!″ (v. 9).
Are Paul's words still relevant today? Perhaps you have been told that trusting in Jesus alone is not enough, and that your salvation needs to be confirmed or supplemented by a specific deed, by adhering to some rules, by undergoing a special experience, or by carrying out some sacramental ritual.
Each of these additions may be good, in and of themselves. But none of them are requirements for salvation. To treat them as such would be to undermine the sufficiency of Christ's work on the cross. No matter how helpful they are, or how persuasive or authoritative the people who told you about them are, nothing should be allowed to change the gospel.
The gospel is all about ″the grace of Christ″ (v. 6). Grace means unearned favour; salvation is something that we cannot do anything to earn. Choices and alternatives? That is pandering to human whims and fancies, at least where the gospel is concerned. Let's follow Paul's example (v. 10) and serve God only by holding to and consistently preaching a law-free gospel.
When it comes to the gospel, why is it so important to distinguish between what is good and what is essential?
What could be chipping away at your confidence that the gospel is sufficient for your salvation? What can you learn from today's passage regarding this?