Paul uses some very strong language in Galatians chapter one. He says if anyone preaches another gospel (a false gospel), let him be accursed (damned to Hell) (1:8-9). Believing a false gospel and never trusting the true gospel does lead to Hell. While Paul is harsh, he is honest. It’s worth noting that he writes with passion because this is not a small issue.
He even goes out of his way to say even if “we or an angel” speak a false gospel, let them be accursed (1:8). Coincidentally at least two religions (Islam and Mormonism) are based on accounts of angels visiting “prophets” to say that the gospel Paul preached was all wrong and shared their version of the gospel. We remember that from our reading just a few days ago that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
The false gospel and “work” of the Law at stake here was circumcision. The Jewish council had already ruled that converts to Christianity need not be circumcised to be saved (Recorded in Acts 15 which Paul recounts here in Galatians 2:1-10). Some people had come in behind Paul with the false doctrine of salvation by circumcision. All through Galatians, as we will see tomorrow, Paul defends the gospel against this heresy.
Side Note: Context is important. We read the phrase “works of the Law” (2:16) through western eyes and all we hear is the word, “works.” We don’t always take time to understand the “work of the Law” as used here, was related to Jewish rituals, specifically circumcision (5:1-6). If we aren’t careful, we create a false dichotomy between works (in general) and faith. The specific issue at stake is that we cannot be saved by keeping the ceremonial law, but we can only be saved by faith. This is the way Abraham was saved (3:6). True faith manifests itself in good (not ceremonial) works (Ephesians 2:10, James 2:14). As we will see near the end of chapter three in Galatians, the ceremonial law served the purpose of pointing us to Jesus for salvation (3:24-25).
I realize I’m a little wordy. To put it simpler: We are saved from our bad works (sin), unto good works (the fruit of the Spirit), by the work of Jesus (Substitutionary Atonement), that we receive through faith (Believing God). The rituals of Judaism (such as circumcision) pointed to our sin, but didn’t cover or remove our sin. To go back to Jewish rituals denies the power of the cross to forgive our sin, to reconcile us to God and fill us with His Spirit.
FATHER, We are grateful for salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. We ask that we would live in the full power of our salvation. Keep us from idols and false gospels that would attempt to lure us away from hope we have found in you. I pray that you are glorified in our lives this week. Thank you for the grace to shepherd and lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.
What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.