Sunday, 24 February 2008

1v6-9 No different gospels

The Galatians are deserting God and turning to another gospel. But Paul is adamant that there is no other gospel. That is to say, there are lots of messages proporting to be good news but none is 'gospel'. None is in the same league as 'the gospel'. Rather what they're being fed is gospel-perverted. Gospel-distorted. Gospel treated as playdough and remoulded into something else. Outright different message is easy to spot, heretics playing with playdough are more subtle.

One of the things often used to authenticate one of these is who it comes from. Surely the teaching is ok if it comes from [insert credible name here]. But Paul says it doesn't matter who preaches a message could be an angel, could be an apostle. Content is key. But Paul says it doesn't matter who preaches a message could be an angel, could be an apostle. Content is key.

Moreover the punishment suitable for the playdough preacher is to be accursed. Anathema. Peter will find himself in this situation as he leads others astray in 2v11. Why such a big deal?
1. Because to be a preacher of a false gospel is to be a believer in a false gospel, which is to depart from God and oppose his cross-won favour. Therefore, cursed by God.
2. Because to advocate a perversion of the gospel is to reject God and become an idolator. No crime is more serious.

Does that mean any error should be immediately condemned? Considering the message of the New Testament there is some degree of nuance to how to approach things. Notice the difference between Paul vs. Peter (ch1), Paul vs. False Teachers (ch5) and Paul vs. Galatians (the whole letter). Peter is confronted and corrected for straying into hypocrisy out of fear. The false teachers fall foul of the sharpness of Paul's words as he wishes the knife would slip. The Galatians have their error exposed but are appealed to patiently and passionately and persistently to win them back to the gospel. Similar differentiation is evident in the rest of the New Testament.

The seriousness of Paul's approach shows the weight of the issue at hand. Departure from the gospel is atonishing, and later bewildering. And it's curse-worthy because remaining with the gospel is to remain in the glorious favour of God.

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