Commentary on Galatians, 1:6-9


Galatians 1:6-9

“6 I marvel that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel,
7 which is not another, only there are some who trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”

Sometime after receiving the true gospel of Jesus Christ, Judaizers came into their midst teaching a Jewish-Christian type of gospel. They insisted that in order to be saved, one must add circumcision and works of the law to faith in Christ. Tragically, they believed what they were teaching, and were now trusting in a false gospel. Understandably, Paul was very alarmed by this, and deeply concerned for their salvation. 

“turning away”  (Gr. metatithemi – 3346)

NAS NT Greek Lexicon:  

To transfer
To transpose (two things, one of which is put in place of another)
To change
To fall away or desert from one person or thing to another.

Vincent’s:  

“A.V. misses the sense of the middle voice, removing or transferring  yourselves, and also the force of the continuous present, are removing or going over, indicating an apostasy not consummated but in progress. The verb is used in Class. of altering a treaty, changing an opinion, desertion from an army.”

Paul “marveled” or was amazed that the Galatian Christians were so quickly “turning away” from or deserting Christ. How were they deserting Him? By turning away from the true gospel and trusting in a false one. Paul equates turning away from from the true gospel in favor of a “perverted” gospel, to turning away from Christ Himself. 

There shouldn’t be any debate about this. We must allow Paul to mean what he says here. The churches of Galatia were in the process of turning away from true saving faith. I say “in the process of,” because in the Greek, this phrase is in the continuous present, which means that it’s in progress. I believe what Paul was referring to, was not the process of an individual (you’ve either turned away or you haven’t), but of the churches of Galatia as a whole. Meaning, that individual Christians, one after another, were turning away from the true message of Christ. 

Based on what Paul says in Gal 5:4, if those Christians who had forsaken the true gospel for a false one, had died trusting in this perverted gospel, they would have been forever lost. You can’t trust in a false gospel and be saved. Those who teach that it’s not possible for a true believer to abandon the truth of Christianity for a false religion, are in opposition to what Paul is revealing to us here. Very clearly, these Galatian Christians were turning away from the truth for the false, one after another. Therefore, can a Christian “lose their salvation,” or more accurately, “abandon true faith?” If we’re honest with the text, there can be no doubt about it.

“a different gospel, which is not another”

The Judaizers weren’t teaching a gospel message that completely excluded Christ, as if teaching a completely different religion. What they were doing was “perverting” or “distorting” the true gospel. They were adding to the pure message of Christ. Anytime we add or take away from the gospel that was delivered to us by Christ and the Apostles, it amounts to a false gospel.

I believe we have a similar problem in the Church today. First, we have some who actually equate Calvinism to the gospel of Jesus Christ. To them if we don’t believe in the theology of Calvinism, we cannot be saved. Those who teach this have a very limited understanding of the doctrine of salvation. Like the Judaizers of Paul’s day, they are perverting the true gospel, and stirring up the same kind of trouble.

Perhaps an even bigger problem today, is the slimmed down version of the gospel of Christ. The gospel that is delivered from the pulpits of many churches today is so shallow, that you have to wonder if there is enough truth presented for one to get saved. The gospel that’s presented today is along the lines of, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Pray and receive Christ now, and He will give you real purpose for living.”

Another serious distortion of the gospel of Christ, is in regard to the Lordship of Christ. There are many who teach that the gospel is all about Christ the Savior, and has nothing to do with Him as Lord. They teach that one can receive Christ as Savior, and then live any way they want to. That’s a perverted gospel. Jesus is who He is. We cannot separate Christ the Savior from Christ the LordFurthermore, it was Christ the Lord who hung on that cross, who became the Savior of the world. 

Many people have the idea that Lordship salvation is a works-based salvation, but they misunderstand the meaning. It’s not about the doing of obedience to His authority, but a recognition of His authority and the proper response of the heart to His authority, which results in a new direction of life. When someone comes to faith in Christ, it’s with the understanding that they are surrendering their will to the will of Christ. It’s a matter of recognizing Him as Lord and King, and giving Him the honor that is due Him. Our faith has to have the proper object, and that object is Christ in all His glory. He is both Savior and Lord, and we must bow down to Him in recognition of both.

A careful study of the gospel message that Christ and the Apostle Paul preached, reveals a much different message. The heart of the gospel of Christ is, of course, His death and resurrection. But the gospel is actually more than that. It’s really about His whole life. We have four books of the Bible that begin with: “The Gospel According to…” The gospel of Christ is about who He is, the life He lived, what He came to do, and about all that we have to look forward to in Him. 

We can never give too much information about Jesus, but we most surely can give too little. The more truth we give to a person, the more understanding he or she will have about Jesus and the Christian life. I think there are many people who “pray and receive Christ,” who really don’t understand the message, nor what they’re actually doing. I believe the common result are false conversions. 

The more truth we give, the more the Holy Spirit has to work with in providing the needed understanding. If an unsaved person sits in church Sunday after Sunday over a long period of time, and the Word of God is being faithfully taught, verse by verse, then by the time that person is ready to trust Christ as his or her Lord and Savior, they will know exactly what they’re doing, and that will ensure true conversions. 

“8 But though we, or an angel from Heaven, should preach to you any gospel other than that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.
9 As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preach to you any gospel other than that which you received, let him be accursed.”

“accursed”  (Gr. anathema – 331)

Doomed to destruction or eternal condemnation.

Paul couldn’t have used a stronger or more descriptive word in reference to those Judaizers. And he repeats it. He was in effect pronouncing judgment upon them. It’s important that we understand why. He couldn’t have and wouldn’t have done that with true believers. They were teaching a false gospel because they were themselves believing in a false gospel. Furthermore, they were leading true Christians down that same path of hell. They were leading them away from the truth that saves, to a gospel that has no power to save.

If Paul wasn’t genuinely concerned about the salvation of the Christians of Galatia, I don’t believe he would have come out in such sharp condemnation toward these false teachers. Those who believe that true, born-again Christians, can never fall out of saving grace with God, have to ignore or explain away what was occurring in the churches of Galatia at this time. They have to force meaning to Paul’s words that are clearly contrary to what he’s saying in this book.

We all agree that a false gospel has no power to save. What these Galatian Christians were embracing at the time of Paul’s writing, was a false gospel. They began with true faith in a true gospel, resulting in a true salvation. But by this time, many had turned away from that in favor of a perverted gospel. So how then does trusting in a false gospel now have any more power to save than it did before? There simply isn’t any reasonable argument that these Christians, who had turned away from the truth to embrace the false, were still secure in their salvation. Nor does such an argument explain the concern that Paul certainly had for them.

For a fuller treatment of this passage within the context of Gal 5:4, click on the link below:

Severed and Fallen….Galatians 5:4