Paul has some pretty strong words for whoever was preaching this different gospel to the Galatians. He says, in v8, “let him be accursed”. I’m not comfortable saying that sort of thing about anyone, but Paul says it about a preacher that other Christians enjoy listening to. If I’m honest, part of what led me to starting a series of studies in Galatians was that I thought it would be a good opportunity to bang on about one of my favourite topics: the importance of being absolutely clear that we’re justified by grace alone, no works allowed. But when I got to this point, I found that Paul takes it further than I’m comfortable with. I mean, I try to be patient with people and tolerate their mistakes as much as possible. Is it really necessary to say “if anyone distorts the gospel a bit by adding a few good works for us to do, let him be accursed”?
Well, in case we were tempted to think a slightly distorted gospel isn’t that bad, that we should still listen to what a gospel-distorting preacher says as long as there’s some truth in it, Paul repeats himself in v9: “As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
Any message that contradicts Paul’s message about us receiving grace and God receiving glory must not be tolerated.
Even if we or an angel from heaven
We don’t know much about these people who were preaching a different gospel to the Galatians, but they were managing to persuade people to turn from the gospel that Paul had taught them to a subtly different gospel.
Paul doesn’t care how respectable a preacher is, or how good a religious pedigree they have, he says “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
The preacher is going to be held responsible for preaching a different gospel, but Paul also holds the listeners responsible for going along with this different gospel and deserting him who called them in the grace of Christ.
Paul expected the Galatians to notice when someone preached a different gospel to the one he’d preached to them, and he expected them to reject it.
Not that Paul was concerned about them turning away from him, but he was astonished that they were deserting Christ.
We’re not just talking about people exchanging one set of beliefs for another set of beliefs in some abstract philosophical concepts; these people were deserting the person who gave himself for their sins.