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11 September 2019

Proclaiming "Another Gospel" - (Galatians 1:6-12)

Paul preaches to Gentiles - www.clipart.christiansunite.com
This paragraph marks the start of the body of the letter proper and an extended section that ends in Galatians 4:11. It can be summarized as a long rebuke of the Galatian assemblies.
Unique is the severity of Paul’s words and tone. Rather than give thanks to God or praise the Galatians, his normal practice, he begins with rebuke, astonishment, and a curse formula; all to stress the depth of his concern.
(Galatians 1:6-12) - “I marvel that, thus quickly ye are moving away from him that called you in the favour of Christ, unto a different glad-message — Which is not another, only there are some that are troubling you and wishing to change the glad-message of the Christ.  But even if we or a messenger out of heaven announce a glad-message aside from that which we announced unto you, accursed let him be! As we have said before, even now again, I say: If anyone is announcing unto you a glad-message aside from that which ye accepted, accursed let him be! For am I, even now, persuading men or God? Or am I seeking to please men? If I had been still pleasing men, Christ’s servant had I not been! For I make known unto you, brethren, as to the glad-message which was announced by me, that it is not after man; For neither from man did I accept it nor was taught [it] — but through a revealing of Jesus Christ
Paul’s concern is not about how individuals become Christians; at issue is how believers continue on to maturity in the faith and avoid apostasy (e.g., “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting from the one who called you” – cp. Galatians 5:13-26). Certain individuals introduced teachings that could easily produce apostasy; the basis of the Christian faith is at stake in the house churches of Galatia.
The Apostle Paul expresses his great astonishment that the Galatians are “so quickly” deserting their original call.  This indicates a relatively short period of time between their initial conversion and this change of direction.  The term, “so quickly,” emphasizes the depth of his surprise at how easily they are abandoning the gospel as preached to them.
The Greek verb for “deserting” is metatithémi. In the Greek active voice, it means to “transfer” or “alter” from one condition to another.  In the middle voice, as here, the sense becomes “desert, abandon, apostatize.”  The book of Jude uses this same verb for men who were perverting the gospel (Jude 4, “admission has been secretly gained by some who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly persons who are perverting the grace of our God into licentiousness”). The term carries strong overtones of apostasy (cp. Galatians 3:1-5, 4:9-15, 5:4-7).
So quickly deserting from the one who called you.” The statement contains a verbal allusion to Exodus 32:8 from the story of the Israelites building a golden calf when Moses appeared to delay his return from Mount Sinai. Yahweh commanded Moses, “Get thee down, for thy people whom thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them” (cp. Deuteronomy 9:16).  Paul’s allusion is deliberate; it illustrates the danger the Galatians now face from their present course.
Paul’s concern is that the Galatians are deserting the grace of God for “a different gospel,” wittingly or not. The Greek adjective for “different” in verse 7 is heteros, but when he repeats the warning, he uses a different adjective, allos.  Heteros and allos are somewhat synonymous but when used in combination heteros means “different” and allos “another.”  In other words, they are deserting the grace of God for a “different gospel” that is not, in fact, “another” gospel at all but something quite different. The Galatians are considering something that is not “good news,” at all.
Paul refers to those who are “troubling” the Galatians (tarassō).  This is the same Greek word used in Acts 15:24, 17:8 and 17:13 for Jewish Christians who argued for the necessity of keeping the Mosaic Law and, thereby, “troubled” other congregations.  Paul will use this same verb in Galatians 5:10 to refer to the agitators at Galatia (“but the one who is troubling you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is”). He may intend to echo the story of Achar or Achan, “the one who troubled Israel” (Joshua 7:1-5, 1 Chronicles 2:7).
The agitators are attempting “to alter the gospel of Christ.” This translates the Greek verb metastrephō, “to alter, turn around, turn after.” Paul’s opponents preach not just “another Jesus” but, instead, a gospel that differs fundamentally in content from the one preached by Paul to the congregations of Galatia. 
The Apostle warns against heeding any gospel message that differs in content from the one the Galatians already received, even if Paul himself, or an angel from heaven, proclaims it. The message matters, not the messenger.
That Paul can so reason suggest the underlying issue is not so much a dispute about Paul’s authority but, rather, about the content of the Gospel.  The reference to an angel of God theoretically delivering a false gospel anticipates the discussion about how the Law of Moses was delivered to Israel by angels (Galatians 3:19). While not stated in the Pentateuch, by the first century, a common Jewish tradition claimed that Moses received the Law on Sinai from angels.
For emphasis, Paul twice pronounces a curse formula on his opponents.  “Accursed” translates the Greek noun anathema (cp. Romans 9:3, 1 Corinthians 12:3, 16:22). The same word was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for the Hebrew word hérem or “ban,” the setting aside of something for destruction (cp. Leviticus 27:28-29, Deuteronomy 7:26, 13:17, Joshua 6:17-18).
Paul is not cursing his opponents but calling on God to do so (i.e., “let him be accursed”). He repeats the curse formula for emphasis but, also, to demonstrate that Paul is not engaged in mere rhetoric; he is deadly serious, and his words prove the depths of his concern about this false teaching spreading in among the churches of Galatia.
Paul asks two rhetorical questions: “For now am I persuading men or God?  Or am I seeking to please men?” The adverb “now” is emphatic in the Greek clause. Considering what he just said, is he trying to persuade men or God?  The implied answer to the first question is “God”; that He would curse the agitators who are disseminating a false gospel.
The expected answer to the second question is “no” (i.e., “Am I seeking to please men?”).  This is made clear by the clause, “If yet I were pleasing man, I would not be Christ's bondservant.” The harshness of his language communicates just how serious this new situation is.  Unstated is the opposite side of the coin: Paul is seeking instead to please God.
Those who work to please men cannot be “Christ's bondservant.” While Paul is attempting to persuade others, he will not become a man-pleaser in order to do so. Possibly, he is answering indirectly a charge made by his opponents that he is a man-pleaser.  The severity of his language and his willingness to call down Divine curses demonstrates that he is no man-pleaser.
In the following section, Paul recounts key events in his life after his conversion to demonstrate that his gospel and authority are not derived from any human agency. In preparation, he solemnly affirms the Divine origin and character of his gospel, a proposition he will prove by arguments in Galatians 1:13-2:14.
Paul received the gospel through “a revelation of Jesus Christ.” “Revelation” or apokalypsis means, “revelation, disclosure, revealing, uncovering” (cp. Revelation 1:1). He is referring to the revelation he received from Jesus on the Damascus Road. The content of this revelation included his commission to proclaim to the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:1-16, 22:21, 26:17-20, Romans 1:5, 11:13).
Paul was the chief apostle and architect of the Gentile mission, a “mystery” foretold in enigmatic fashion in the Hebrew scriptures but fully disclosed by revelation in Jesus Christ (Romans 16:25-26, Ephesians 3:2-10).
The long rebuke that begins in this paragraph continues until Galatians 4:11. Noteworthy is the severity of Paul’s language; arguably, the sternest language of any of his surviving letters.  Rather than begin with prayer and praise, Paul launches immediately into a critique of the Galatians and an attack on his opponents who are “troubling” the Galatians.
On their present course, the Galatians are “deserting” the grace of Christ and embracing a “different gospel,” one that is not, in fact, “good news.” The agitators are “altering” the true gospel, whether they understand this or not.  Anyone who does so places himself under the curse of God set aside for eventual destruction.  This language describes apostasy, for anyone who follows this course risks abandoning the grace of God.

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