I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 1:6-7 (NIV)
Read: Galatians 1
Consider: When Paul writes to the believers in Galatia, he expresses his surprise not at the strength of their faith, but at how quickly they have turned aside from the truth.
The Greek word θαυμάζω translated as ‘astonished’ in the NIV and the ESV, is rendered as ‘marvel’ in the NKJV. Although these translations give an indication of the strength of feeling Paul had about the Galatian believers turning away from the truth of the gospel, it is as if Paul is saying that he is ‘taken aback’ or ‘dumbstruck’ that so soon after believing they are being led astray. Of course, this is the time when many Christians are led into error, just because their knowledge of the Bible is weak. Plausible arguments can sound very convincing because they may contain an element of truth, but yet fail to tell the whole truth.
We have to be careful of those who claim to have discovered a new truth that no-one else has seen in Scripture before. In the 21st century we have seen some eminent theologians reinterpret Scripture in the light of modern society and its accepted norms. This has led to them setting aside parts of the Bible in favour of a more ‘enlightened’ view. But is this anything new, or is it just another facet of how the devil will seek to confuse believers?
The Letter to the Galatians (believers in the region of Galatia) was probably written about 20 years after Jesus’s death and resurrection (i.e. about 50-55AD). Paul, writing from Ephesus, isn’t concerned that the believers are rejecting Paul, but that they are rejecting Christ. Instead of salvation by grace, they were adopting the message of salvation by works. This message was probably that of the corruption of the gospel by those who wanted the new believers to fulfil the requirements of the Judaic Law (e.g. by the men being circumcised).
Take time to read the whole of Galatians and you will see how Paul develops the argument for the truth of the gospel of salvation by grace alone and how he refutes the ‘gospel’ of salvation by works.
Coming to ourselves, how can we avoid error? We need to test everything against the authority of Scripture and to be careful when anyone wants to add something in addition to grace as the means of salvation. If you think you wouldn’t add anything to the gospel, then remember that the Galatians probably didn’t think they would either. Falling into error generally doesn’t happen overnight, but can come about gradually, a little at a time. So beware!
Pray: Father, protect us from any false notions we might have that could lead us to add to the gospel of salvation by grace alone. Amen