Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Galatians Commentary Continued
07/11/2007 - James Whiteexcept there are those who are troubling you Nowhere will Paul directly address the false teachers who are troubling the Galatians. He addresses only the believers, and refers to these others in the third person. In fact, it seems clear that Paul desired no friendly contact or ecumenical discussions with the teachers in Galatia. He was not going to come over and have a little chat about the issues that separated them. It is highly doubtful that he would have sat down to dinner with them. He could have no fellowship with them, for they were not his brethren (see below). Paul asserts that these teachers are troubling the Galatian believers. The Greek term tarasso means to shake violently back and forth, hence, to trouble. While the Christians themselves most probably did not sense this shaking, their very foundations were being torn apart without their knowledge. It is rare that Christians can be moved from the faith when they know what is coming and what is happening to them. There are many instances where believers have withstood incredible persecution without denying their faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, if they can be fooled, tricked, into abandoning the faith, they can be defeated.
and are wishing to change the Gospel of Christ Paul teaches that these troublemakers have a personal desire to change or to pervert the Gospel of Christ. He does not allow any suggestion that they are truly seeking to do the will of God and have simply strayed from the truth. Rather, they specifically (and maliciously) desire to change the Gospel of Christ. These are not brethren who are misguided; in fact, in 2:4 he will call those with whom he had had an earlier contact pseudoadelphoi, false brethren. They are not believers, they are not Christians. Instead, they have as the desire of their hearts to change the Gospel of Christ. What does this mean? The term translated change is metastrepsai. The term most probably means not only to change one thing to something else but to change something into its opposite. If this is so, then Paul is alleging that the teaching of those who were troubling the believers is not simply something that is far enough out of line with the truth to be disqualified, but that it is opposite the truth. It is not a slight imperfection, but a radical change, a complete twisting of the reality. That the gospel of the Judaizers in Galatia is opposite the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is brought out clearly in 2:21.
the Gospel of Christ is a phrase that appears frequently in Paul's letters. It is used in Romans 15:19, 1 Corinthians 9:12, 2 Corinthians 2:12, 9:13, Philippians 1:27, and 1 Thessalonians 3:2. Some of the other descriptions of the Gospel given by Paul include, the Gospel of God (Romans 1:1, 15:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:8,9), the Gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24), the Gospel of His Son (Romans 1:9), the Gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4), the Gospel of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13), the Gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15), the Gospel of our Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:8), the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God (1 Timothy 1:11) and frequently simply my Gospel (2 Timothy 2:8). Christ is the subject of the Gospel--His work is the substance. The Gospel does not exist separately from Christ, nor Christ from the Gospel. The term itself simply means good news, but for Paul and all the Christian writers of the New Testament, the term came to have a concrete, technical meaning, referring to the finished and completed action of salvation in the person of Jesus Christ. As Paul summed it up in 1 Corinthians 15, the Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That this work of God in Christ is absolutely free, absolutely disconnected from any concept of merit on the part of man, will be demonstrated later in this letter.
But even if we or an angel from heaven Here Paul introduces one of two sentences that make up verses 8 and 9. This sentence is a 3rd class conditional sentence, giving a highly improbable (yet possible) situation. Paul is basically saying, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, were to do this...". It is a hypothetical situation.
were to preach to you [a gospel] The verbal term euaggelizo, which literally means to preach/proclaim good news, normally demands that the noun gospel be supplied, as it has been here.
other than that which we preached to you The translation of the Greek preposition para is somewhat of a compromise. The word itself can admit of two different meanings when used with an accusative (as it is here): first, "beyond" or "more than" in the sense of preaching a gospel that goes beyond or contains more than the message they have already received; or, it can mean "against" as in "contrary to." This would result in this message being "other than" in the sense of being contrary to the Gospel. J.B. Lightfoot commented,
The context is the best guide to the meaning of the preposition. St. Paul is here asserting the oneness, the integrity of his Gospel. It will not brook any rival. It will not suffer any foreign admixture. The idea of contrariety therefore is alien to the general bearing of the passage, though independently of the context the preposition might well have this meaning (pg. 77).Actually, both meanings can be seen in the term, and both fit here--we need not make a dogmatic decision between the nuances of para. The reason is evident: Paul has already asserted that there is no gospel other than the one, true message of Christ. All others are not really gospels at all. He has asserted that the Galatian teachers are wishing to change the Gospel of Christ. And how did they do this? The rest of the letter will demonstrate that they have added the works of man to the free grace of God. Therefore, they have not only gone beyond the truth (and hence into error), but the resultant message is contrary to the truth as well. Both possible meanings of para can be seen to fit with Paul's intention.
which we preached to you The tense indicates that Paul is referring to a point in the past where the Gospel message was delivered to the Galatian people. There has been no change in Paul's teaching, nor could there ever be. The Gospel of Christ is unchanging and unchangeable.
let him be anathema. Paul places this in the imperative. The term anathema finds its origin in the Hebrew term herem , which meant devoted to destruction (Joshua 7:1). When Achan took that which was under the ban from Jericho, God's wrath was kindled against the children of Israel, and Achan paid with his life (and the lives of his family as well). That which was herem was devoted to destruction, and hence hateful to God. The term then refers to the very curse of God, bringing the wrath of God. Paul went so far as to say that he could wish to be accursed from Christ if this would bring about the salvation of the Jewish people (Romans 9:3, though the form of the grammar indicates that this is not a possibility).
Those who would preach a gospel other than the Gospel of Christ, Paul says, are under the curse of God. This is not merely the displeasure of a man, or a human censure of such an activity--Paul here speaks of the very wrath of the Almighty. Why? Why such an incredibly strong statement? Surely Paul knew what kind of reaction this statement would receive when it was read in each of the churches in Galatia! The teachers who were present might stand up indignantly and walk out, or begin to shout and yell, protesting their innocence. Yet, despite the obvious problems this could cause, Paul placed these teachers under the anathema of God. Why?
The Gospel of Christ is also called the Gospel of God. It is God's way of bringing salvation to men. God the Son has come in human flesh to give His life a ransom for many. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. For reasons only God knows, He has chosen to bring men into the proper relationship with Himself through the Gospel, and by no other means! In the Gospel the love of God is seen, as well as His justice, His power, and His mercy. The Gospel is important to God. Therefore, it is not something to be treated lightly or with disrespect. Without question God is far more concerned with the purity of the Gospel than He was with the touching of the Ark of the Covenant, yet, when Uzzah broke God's law and touched the Ark, God struck him dead (1Chronicles 13:7-10). The same is to be said concerning Aaron's sons, for when they offered strange fire upon the altar in disobedience to God's revealed way of worship (Leviticus 10:1-3), God struck them dead on the spot. If God is so concerned with proper worship, will He not be even more concerned with the truth of the Gospel of His Son?
To preach another Gospel is to blaspheme God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. To preach another Gospel is to call God a liar, and His testimony to His Son, untrue. To preach another Gospel is to deprive God of the glory that is His in His sovereign, free and unconditional salvation of the elect.
But, beyond even this, to preach another Gospel is to show the greatest hatred for those to whom you deliver this message of death. Why? Only the true Gospel saves, only the Gospel of Christ is the power of God. A false gospel cannot save, it cannot redeem. To ensnare someone in a false gospel is to commit eternal murder. Ironically, many today preach a false gospel simply out of a desire not to offend anyone. They water down the strong teaching of God's wrath or mans sinfulness out of a concern (so they say) to be at peace with people, to not drive them away. Do they not know that by so doing they are condemning the very people they claim to wish to save? God's truth does not need mans additions--God is well aware of the fact that man is offended by His claims to sovereignty and rulership. It will be no excuse at the judgment day to say I just didn't want to offend. "You have offended Me!" will come the answer, and what do you think is more important?
As we said before I say now again Commentators are split over whether this phrase refers to the immediately preceding verse, or whether it refers instead to the time of Paul's previous ministry amongst the churches of Galatia. Either could be correct, and neither would materially effect the meaning. This second sentence differs from the preceding verse in that rather than presenting a hypothetical case, here Paul gives a direct command.
if anyone is preaching [a gospel] other than that which you have received Here Paul presents a 1st class conditional sentence, meaning that the condition (someone preaching another gospel) is fulfilled--this is actually taking place. It pictures the current condition in the churches of Galatia. He directly states that the gospel of these other teachers is other than that which he himself preached to them. Note as well that in verse 8 he speaks of the Gospel that was preached by he and his colleagues to the Galatians; here he specifically asserts that they had received that Gospel.
let him be anathema. As he has just indicated that he is speaking of the teachers there in the churches, here he places them under the same curse of God as above. Surely there could be no turning back after this kind of statement.