by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 4 October 31, 2010 Dayton, Texas
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
1901 ASV Translation:
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.
9 As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.
I. The "Curse" Placed Upon Those Who Proclaim "Any Other Gospel".
A. The core term used here is transliterated into English as "anathema" (a term with which many are familiar as an indication of absolute abhorrence). It is used only six times in the New Testament, but those uses are instructive. Perhaps the most telling is Paul's use in 1 Corinthians 16:22 where he "anathematizes" anyone who "loves not the Lord Jesus Christ". When we tie that text to our current text we come away with an interesting conclusion: no one who "loves the Lord Jesus Christ" preaches "any other Gospel" and contrariwise no one who preaches any other Gospel loves the Lord Jesus Christ. The outcome in both cases is the same: a profoundly potent "curse" which imposes the penalty of the "Second Death" upon the one who brings this curse upon himself/herself. This is clearly the case from any sober consideration of Romans 9:3 where Paul volunteers to be "accursed" in order to bring his kinsmen to Christ. This is very far more than simply being willing to be put to physical death as a preacher of the Gospel; it is a willingness to be the redemptive sacrifice just as was that of Moses in Exodus 32:32. Thus, "to be accursed" means to be assigned to Eternal Death.
B. In light of Paul's Gospel, it is interesting that, though he strongly opposes any hint of participation in Eternal Life by virtue of any particular "behavior", he does not hesitate to wish the ultimate participation of Eternal Death upon those who engage in this particular behavior -- preaching any other Gospel.
II. This, without dispute, means that we absolutely must be clear on the essence of Paul's Gospel.
A. Since the Galatians were not being told, "Jesus is not the Christ", by the false teachers; since the Galatians were not being told, "Jesus did not die for your sins", by the false teachers; since the Galatians were not being told, "Jesus did not rise on the third day", by the false teachers, it is of the utmost necessity that we understand what the particular concept in Paul's Gospel was that was being contradicted by the false teachers.
B. In a nutshell, what the false teachers were teaching that was "contrary to the truth of the Gospel" was this: for the Person and works of Christ to be applied to one's person, one must "believe" with the kind of "faith" that commits to "obedience". Submitting oneself to the necessity of obeying the divine imperatives, Paul says, brings about "accursedness".
1. Does this mean, then, that Paul's Gospel permits the application of the Person and works of Christ to the disobedient? In a word, it has to mean this for one reason: if it does not mean this, no one can have the Person and works of Christ applied to himself/herself because no one ever ceases to be disobedient. The Bible does not teach that "believers" become "sinless" at the point of "faith in the true Gospel". And, it actually teaches that, if the "gospel" that is "believed" contains the demand for obedience in its essence, the person so "believing" will be driven by that demand to sin. Paul insists that being subject to "demand/performance" automatically leads to the performance of sin(s) (Romans 7:5, 7, and 23).
2. Does this mean, then, that Paul's Gospel permits the application of the Person and works of Christ to those who "intend to be disobedient" going in? In other words, can a person "believe" the Gospel while retaining the intention to continue in some form(s) of disobedience? For example, can a person who regularly engages in sinful forms of sexual behavior "believe" in the Gospel while intending to continue such engagement? Can a pimp "believe" the Gospel while intending to continue to pimp? Can a whore "believe" the Gospel while intending to continue to "make a living" by selling her body? Can a spousebeater "believe" the Gospel while intending to continue abusing his/her spouse? Can a promoter of a false form of religion "believe" the Gospel while intending to continue in the promotion of that false religion? Can a hater of God "believe" the Gospel while intending to continue to hate God? At issue here is the attitude of the person to whom the Gospel is presented, not the personal determination to live sinlessly. Clearly, this is not possible. The promise of the Gospel is not essentially "justification"; the promise of the Gospel is Eternal Life (1 John 2:25) and "justification" is simply one of the necessary elements that make the experience of Eternal Life possible. "Justification" apart from its connection to Eternal Life is simply a "fire-escape". Therefore, "justification by faith" involves a "faith" that involves "intentionality" going in. What, therefore, must the intention of the "believer" be going in? Because the promise is Eternal Life, the intentiongoing inmust be to enter into Eternal Life.
3. The Gospel according to Paul had twin elements: repentance (Acts 26:19-20) and faith (Acts 16:31). The "repentance" side of the coin had to do with the person's attitudegoing in and the "faith" side of the coin had to do with the person's yielding to the truths of the Gospel going in. If a person wishes to be reconciled to God (this is a statement of intention), he/she can be by believing in the sufficiency of the death of Christ as declared by His resurrection from the dead (this is the "faith" that saves).
III. The Level of Clarity Which the Apostle Requires.
A. He assigns those who preach a message that is contrary to the one he preached to Eternal Death.
B. He says that it makes no difference if the one doing such preaching is "we" or "an angel from heaven"; the condemnation stands.
1. With the "we", Paul actually suggests that he, and those with him, might be conceived of as coming to a point where the Gospel that he once preached was no longer considered by him and his "brethren" to be true. The only way this could happen would be if he thought of himself as "growing in the knowledge of the Truth" so that he might be required to jettison some concepts as he grew in his understanding. He pronounces an eternal curse upon anyone who does that -- even if the one so doing is himself. This means that, as an apostle, he had the correct understanding before he began to preach. In this, apostles were different from all other "believers". The rest of us do have a serious need to grow in our understanding and we may well "believe" something early on that turns out to be wrong as we grow in our understanding. However, since he is holding the Galatians' feet to the fire over "departing from God", there is a strong implication that no one "believes" the essential elements of the Gospel erroneously, even at the beginning. In other words, the Gospel has to be correctly understood at the beginning and cannot change over time, even for non-apostles. His statement also indicates this: anyone who "formerly" preached the Gospel and later preaches another Gospel is under his "curse". The implications for "faith" from this statement are significant, the chiefest of which is that "faith", once exercised, does not change.
2. With the "or an angel from heaven", Paul emphasizes just how accurate his preaching has been. It is one thing to insist that even if the false preaching was being done by an angel from heaven, that angel would be qualifying himself for Eternal Death; it is another thing to think that men would be able to withstand the deception if it was, in fact, an angel from heaven. The Galatians had not been able to withstand the deception of the false human teachers. What would have been their situation if it had been a band of angels who declared Paul was wrong?
3. The repetition of the pronouncement of the curse in verse nine indicates the strength of the apostle's opposition to the deception. But, it also indicates how insistent is the apostle that those who "believe" do so "with both feet". What I mean is this: for Paul, "faith" in the Gospel is not something one sticks his/her toe in in order to test the waters; rather, it is a "jumping in with both feet" so that there is no "recovery" if, in fact, the waters are deception running amuck.
a. How can Paul be so demanding? It is a very difficult thing to be so sure of a matter that one jumps in with both feet knowing full well that people have been doing that for centuries and been dead wrong.
b. The reason Paul can be so demanding is that he has no confidence at all in the idea that men "believe" because they have been "educated" into it. "Education" has to be a kind of "a little here, a little there, oops, back up, now I've got it" thing. But "faith" cannot be that way.
c. This observation, then, must stand: as long as someone is "afraid" to jump in with both feet because "this might not be true", he/she has not been persuaded by God and cannot be "believing".