No Other Gospel
I. A Quick but Pertinent Greeting (verses 1, 12)
A. Who Is Paul? For the purpose of this letter, Paul identifies himself as an “apostle.” The office of apostle was given to the church by Christ in the fulness of his authority as the conqueror of death and as exalted to the place of preeminence with the Father: “And he himself gave some to be apostles.” (Ephesians 4:11). The apostles received revelation concerning the new covenant, the person and work of Christ, final judgment, heaven, and hell; their word was inspired, authoritative, and final. It is important for the Galatians to see Paul as an apostle and not merely as a religious theoretician.
B. Who Commissioned Paul?
- Paul’s commission was not of human origin and he did not answer to any human authority for his message. Unlike the false teachers, he did not have to please any religious court of human origin. Human authority and human opinion in matters of gospel truth were of no consequence to Paul for he had absolute confidence in the origin and the authority of the gospel he preached.
- His apostolic position was assigned to him specifically by Jesus Christ in accordance with purpose of God the Father. The irrevocable character of his call is assured in that Jesus is raised from the dead and this was done by the glory and according to the purpose of the Father (Romans 6:4). For similar statements of Paul’s unwavering confidence in his apostleship as an extension of the purpose of God as expressed in the resurrection of Christ, see Romans 1:1-6).
C. Who else is aware of this letter? As is often the case, Paul wrote the letter in the presence of other brothers (1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Philippians 4:21; Colossians 4:10-14). He had nothing to hide and the things that he wrote to the churches were for the spiritual good of all people.
D. To whom does he send this letter? This was sent to some of the churches which Paul and Barnabas had established in their ministry in Acts 14.
II. An Intense and Pertinent Benediction (Verses 3-5)
A. Paul points them to the covenantal blessings of grace and peace.
- The covenant of grace concerns the particular purpose of God to save sinners by his operations of grace through the work of his Son. This is an eternal covenant with particular individuals made through and included in Christ as the one through whose gracious condescension they will be saved: “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
- Isaiah 54:10 speaks of the arrangement for salvation as a covenant of peace “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, by my kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace be removed.”
- This refers particularly to the aspect of reconciliation that is a vital element of the atoning work of Christ: “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now he has reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, blameless, and above reproach in his sight” (Colossians 1:21, 22)
- Also it refers to the abolishing of the separation that the ceremonial law made between Jew and Gentile so that those who did not have the “covenants of promise” and were “far off” have been “brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation” (Ephesians 2:12-14).
- It is precisely the “wall of separation” in the ceremonial law that the false teachers Paul opposes are seeking to reconstruct in arguing for the necessity of circumcision.
B. What was the part of the Son in the covenant? In this covenant of grace and peace, what did the Son pledge to do for the people given to him?
- He gave himself. His death was voluntary. This gift to sinners was resident within the secret and eternal counsels of God. For eternity the Son finds his unchanging joy by his submission to the provision of the covenant of redemption manifest in the covenants of grace and the covenant of peace, according to which he laid down his life. “Therefore, my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my Father” (John 10:17, 18).
- He gave himself for our sins. His death was substitutionary. He died in the stead of the people that the Father had given him—“I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). “For their sakes I sanctify myself [set myself apart as a sacrifice] that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John17:19).
C. What is the significance of the “Will of our God and Father?”
- As there is only a single will in the one true God, there is also a particular way in which that will is eternally known and expressed by each person of the Trinity.
- The Father has a will for the Son and is conscious of the Son’s obedience to that will.
- The Son knows the Father’s will and, as the Son, wills the same thing in a manner fitting for the Son, so that he carries out the divine will as the Son of obedience.
- The Son did not gain redemption only according to his own will and then induce the Father to save the people for whom he died, but he died for them in accordance with the Father’s desire to save them.
D. How does this arrangement result in the manifestation of his glory “forevermore?”
- As the Father is glorified for the manifestation of his attributes in this eternal covenant, so is each person of the triune God glorified in relation to the completion of the provisions of this covenant.
- The glory of this manifestation truly is infinite, and each person of the godhead shares in this infinite glory.
- If one may use the language about eternity, it “originates” in the electing prerogative of the Father and each person demonstrates infinite love according to the particular operations of each in this covenant of grace.
- This is the very purpose of creation—the full manifestation of the divine attributes. Redemption displays holiness, righteousness justice, immutability, patience, lovingkindness, mercy, and eventually, as the redeemed shall see, all the other attributes of God.
III. A Confrontive and Pertinent Engagement with the Issue.
A. What constitutes the amazement of Paul? (verse 6)
- This departure of perception concerning what was involved in gospel truth happened so quickly. Paul and Barnabas had been with them, taught them thoroughly and with powerful clarity (see 3:1) and with a display of apostolic gifts (see 3:5). What sort of persuasion would make them forget the power and clarity of that time of ministry?
- Their shift takes them away from the one true God, that is, “him who called you.’ If they find another message more compelling, they are leaving the one true God, for it is he himself who gives the call to salvation through the gospel.
- Their new persuasion reflects on their evaluation of the worthiness of Christ himself—“departing him who called you by the grace of Christ”—for the sake of a teaching that undercuts the all-sufficiency of Christ (2:16; 3:13, 14, 24-26). God the Father saves sinners through no one but Christ, for he only is qualified to save and he only has done the saving work.
- That particular aspect of Christ’s work is called “grace.” Paul here refers to the aspect of its freeness, for all the work of meriting eternal life has been done by Christ. He is not referring to the gracious change of heart brought about by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, for none can fall from that, but he argues that they are substituting a salvation partly produced by Christ and partly by their own obedience. They have forsaken the teaching of grace. He refers to this again in 5:4; “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Instead of receiving and maintaining a teaching of grace, they receive a teaching of ceremonial works.
- The content promulgated by these other teachers as the gospel is demonstrably not what Paul taught. It is a “different gospel:’ Either they are right and Paul is wrong, or Paul is right and they are wrong; there is no way of synthesizing these two messages.
B. Some teachers distort the gospel. (Verse 7)
- Though he called this delusion a different “gospel”, he reminded the Galatians that the gospel is exclusive of any other way of being justified before God. “Another” gospel is “No” gospel.
- For the sake of their personal gain, these teachers are disturbing the churches of Galatia. They follow in the wake of Paul and seek to undo his message, for they themselves have not grasped the offense of the Cross. Christ crucified is to the Jews a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:22, 23). That God would grant salvation even to those who have not obeyed, at least to some external measure, the ceremonial law is inconceivable to these agitators.
C. Distortion of the gospel is a damning proposition (Verses 8, 9). Paul gives a breathtaking explosion of confidence in the absolute truthfulness of the gospel that he preached to them.
- First, he includes himself as a possible gospel felon should he shift his message and preach something different from what already he had preached. He knew that he was under the inspiration and revelatory work of the Spirt in that preaching and should he now turned to a different scheme of redemption this new message of his should be rejected.
- Second, he entertained the startling idea that an angel from heaven, not a fallen angel already assigned to hell, might appear to seek to correct Paul’s message with something claiming to come from the throne of God himself. Paul warns them not to be deceived by this. The only saving message that is present among men is “what we have preached to you.” That is the message that they had received, and that alone is the saving truth of the gospel.
- Paul pronounces an anathema on any being at all who would change what he preached. Any such perversion of truth is really from hell and is spoken by those whose proper abode is hell. If they so deceive as to minimize Christ in his saving work, if they want to insert human conformity to mere types and shadows as sharing the glory of salvation with Christ, then they themselves are yet in their sins, and are yet under condemnation and bound for an eternal home of unrelenting wrath from God. That they seek to lead others with them makes them doubly-damned.
D. Paul does not seek men’s approval but only to acquit himself as a faithful steward. While they accuse Paul of courting popularity by easing the requirements for the Gentiles in letting them side-step the ceremonial law, Paul looked upon them as avoiding persecution “for the cross of Christ” (6:12). Paul, however, did not care for the opinion of men in this matter, but only the truth of the gospel. He asked them, therefore, if his language seemed like the language of a man-pleaser. The only way he could do any good for man was to tell the truth. The only way he could be faithful to his calling was to tell the truth. The only way he could honor God was to tell the truth. The only way for sin to be forgiven and eternal life to be granted was to preach this truth, his gospel.
IV. Why Paul is so adamantly sure of his position.
A. His gospel was not a thing he was taught by man. (Verses 11, 12a) Paul expressed confidence throughout his ministry that his preaching did not arise from any human philosophy or moral system. He wrote to the Thessalonians, “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2: 4).
B. It came through a revelation of Jesus Christ, from Christ and about Christ.
- Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6).
- Christ shone in his heart “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
- His message after this confrontation from Christ was about Jesus as the Christ (Acts 9:20-22).
- The revelation included a revelation of Christ to Paul (verse 16) in which he saw the glory of Christ’s person, the necessity and fullness of his atoning work, and the glory of his resurrection, ascension, and coming again in glory. All of these marvelous details about Christ and his lordship and his relation to our salvation, resurrection, judgment and eternal future were included in this revelation of Christ to Paul (read 1 Corinthians 2:6-13; Ephesians 3:1-7). These verses give specific information about the fullness and glory of the revelation Paul received. Some revelations given to him had such overwhelming glory that imparting their content in words was impossible (2 Corinthians 12:1-6).
V. Historical evidence of his apostleship
A. His radical change of perspective (Verses 13, 14, 23, 24). He was a zealous and learned persecutor of the church and became a preacher, promoter, and sufferer for the message that he had opposed and hated.
B. The immediacy of his views on the gospel. He proves that he did not receive this message from the other apostles, but had direct apostolic revelation as his only instructor in these matters of Christ and his cross (Verses 16-22).
C. If we surrender the certainty, clarity, sufficiency, and finality of Paul’s gospel we surrender the truth and eternal life.