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11 September 2019

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

Paul preaches to Gentiles -
The second paragraph marks the start of the body of this letter and an extended section that does not end until Galatians 4:11. It can be summarized as a long rebuke of the Galatian assemblies with warnings that their present course leads inevitably to apostasy. Thus, the sternness of Paul’s language; rather than offer thanksgiving or compliment the Galatians for their faithfulness, he opens with a rebuke, astonishment, and a curse formula, all to stress the depth of his concern and the severe danger posed to the churches of Galatia by the false teachings of “certain men from Jerusalem.”
(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
The immediate question is not about how individuals become Christians but how believers continue on to maturity in the faith and to avoid apostasy (e.g., “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting from the one who called you” – cp. Galatians 5:13-26). The teachings introduced into the churches of Galatia by certain Jews from Jerusalem could cause apostasy since the very basis of the Christian faith is at stake.
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 new situation.  The term, “so quickly,” emphasizes the depth of his surprise at how easily they are abandoning the gospel he preached to them.
The Greek verb rendered “deserting” is metatithémi. In the 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 the 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 3:1-54:9-155:4-7).
So quickly deserting from the one who called you.” The statement contains a verbal allusion to Exodus 32:8 when the Israelites built a golden calf after Moses appeared to delay his return from Mount Sinai. Yahweh commanded Moses, “Get 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).  The allusion is deliberate; it illustrates the danger the Galatians now face on their present course.
The concern is that the Galatians are deserting the grace of God for “a different gospel,” intentionally or not. The Greek adjective for “different” is heteros, but when Paul 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 very different. The Galatians are considering something that is not at all “good news.”
Paul refers to those who are “troubling” the Galatians (tarassō).  This is the same Greek word found in Acts 15:2417:8 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 present agitators (“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 7:1-51 Chronicles 2:7).
The agitators are attempting “to alter the gospel of Christ.” This translates the 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. He warns against heeding any gospel message that differs in content from the one the Galatians have already received, even if Paul or an angel from heaven proclaims it.
That Paul can so reason suggests the underlying issue is not really a dispute about his apostolic authority but, instead, over the content of the Gospel.  The reference to an angel of God 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 was that Moses received the Law from angels.
For emphasis, Paul twice pronounces a curse formula on his opponents.  “Accursed” translates the Greek noun anathema (cp. Romans 9:31 Corinthians 12:316:22). 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 27:28-29Deuteronomy 7:2613:17Joshua 6:17-18).
Paul is not cursing his opponents but calling 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.
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 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 was a man-pleaser.  The severity of his language and his willingness to call down Divine curses demonstrates that he is no such thing.
In the following section, Paul will recount 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 now 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 9:1-1622:2126:17-20Romans 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 16:25-26Ephesians 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. 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 for eventual destruction.  This language describes apostasy, for anyone who follows this course risks abandoning the grace of God and everything for which Jesus died.

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