Galatians 1:6-9

Sermon preached on October 3, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

How do you know if you can trust someone who is telling you about God, about the way of salvation? Who can you trust? Who can you believe? Lots of people claim to be from God. They claim to have the truth of God.

I knew a guy one time at the prison who claimed to be from God. He told everyone that he was God's messenger. In the morning he would stand facing the rising sun and spread his arms out. If my memory is right he claimed that did something to him, like giving him spiritual energy and brought him closer to God and His revelation. He was telling people what to do, claiming to be a prophet. Should you believe someone like that?

Shortly before my brother died of cancer in 2003 two ladies from his church came to see him and claimed to have a message from God for him. They quoted Ezekiel 16:6–7 to him and applied it to him. It reads,

"Then I passed by and saw you
kicking about in your blood,
and as you lay there in your blood
I said to you, 'Live!'"

They told him that he was going to get better. He asked me what I thought about it. How should I have answered him?

Many years ago two young people who were Mormons showed up at my door. After I invited them in one of the first verses they quoted to me was verses 6 & 7 of our text. It says,

"I am astonished that
you are so quickly deserting
the one who called you
by the grace of Christ
and are turning to a different gospel—
which is really no gospel at all."

They said that the Christian church had departed from the faith in Paul's time and that it was only when Joseph Smith received new revelation in the 1800's that the true gospel was recovered. Should I have believed them?

The Roman Catholic church today teaches that the Pope in Rome is infallible. They will tell you that you need to obey him because there's a direct line of succession from Peter to the current Pope. The implication is that he has Peter's authority, God's authority and that you can trust him implicitly. Many people today buy into that and follow what the church tells them in matters of belief and practice. Should they? Is direct succession from Peter enough?

Just before this letter was written some false teachers had come to the church in Galatia and they telling the Galatians that in order to be saved, they not only had to have faith in Jesus, but they also had to follow some Jewish customs, like circumcision. They taught that circumcision was necessary for salvation. These teachers also attacked the authority of the apostle Paul. Sadly, many of the Galatian Christians followed them. Paul could hardly believe it. He was astonished that they fell away from the faith so quickly.

How do you know who to believe? Paul gives us the answer to this in Galatians. He shows us that there is one solid, unchangeable and infallible foundation. Paul wrote, (Galatians 1:6–9)

"I am astonished that you are so quickly
deserting the one who called you
by 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.
But even if we or an angel from heaven
should preach a gospel
other than the one we preached to you,
let him be eternally condemned!
As we have already said,
so now I say again:
If anybody is preaching to you a gospel
other than what you accepted,
let him be eternally condemned!"

The great principle we see in our text is that

the gospel is settled. It has been delivered to the church once and for all and all things can be measured by it.

The content of the gospel was given to the world in the preaching and teaching of Jesus and the apostles He sent out. That gospel had no defect to it. It was (and is) perfect, pointing men to Jesus Christ and showing them how to be saved by Him. Philip Ryken writes, (Galatians, p. 22)

"The good news of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, is the only gospel there is."

As such it is unchangeable. As the apostle Peter put it in 1 Peter 1:24–25,

"'All men are like grass,
and all their glory
is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord stands forever.'
And this is the word
that was preached to you."

In the time of Jesus and the apostles, the gospel was, as William Jenkyn writes, (Jude, p. 66)

"firmly and irrevocably delivered."

The gospel is settled. Paul shows us this in our text. In verse 8 refers the gospel as,

"the one we preached to you,".

And in verse 9 as the,

"gospel you accepted".

Paul tells the Galatians that they can compare any other so called gospel to this one. The gospel has a certain context that is unchangeable. It has been given to the church once and for all to show the only way of salvation.

We see the same principle in Jude 1:3. Jude urges Christians,

"to contend for the faith
that was once for all
entrusted to the saints."

The gospel as delivered by Jesus through His apostles was delivered once and for all. It is unchangeable.

This is also implied in Paul's words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7. Paul wrote,

"I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith."

He kept the faith. He did not deny it. He had not departed from it. He held fast to the doctrine that was once delivered to the saints.

In sum, the apostle Paul was telling the Galatian Christians was that the gospel that he had preached to them, the teaching he gave them—was the true gospel of Jesus Christ to which every teacher and every doctrine, should be compared. If the teaching was different, it was to be rejected because it was shown to be a false gospel. The teaching of the troublemakers in Galatia failed that test. What they preached was much different from what Paul had delivered to them. It was a different gospel, no gospel at all.

The devil wants to hide the true gospel. He wants to deceive people. He presents false gospels and tells people that they are the way to God. Martin Luther said, (Lectures on Galatians)

"there is a clear and present danger that the devil may take away from us the pure doctrine of faith and may substitute for it the doctrines of works and of human traditions."

That is what was happening in the churches in Galatia.

The great application from this is that

in matters of theology, you are not to follow anyone blindly, but you are to compare their teaching to the faith once delivered to the saints.

You'll remember how Luke commended the people of Berea in Acts 17:11. Paul and Silas arrived there from Thessalonica and started preaching in the Jewish synagogue. Luke wrote,

"Now the Bereans were
of more noble character
than the Thessalonians,
for they received the message
with great eagerness
and examined the Scriptures every day
to see if what Paul said was true."

They didn't blindly accept what Paul said. Now they might not have known that he was an apostle, someone who was directly commissioned by Jesus Christ to preach the good news.

Some folks today will tell you that you can trust certain people. For example, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Pope is infallible in certain teachings. They say that when the Pope speaks
ex cathedra, in the papal chair, in his official capacity as the head of the church.

The problem with papal infallibility is that it doesn't mesh with what the Bible says. Look at our text. In verses 8 & 9 Paul wrote,

"But even if we or an angel from heaven
should preach a gospel
other than the one
we preached to you,
let him be eternally condemned!
As we have already said,
so now I say again:
If anybody is preaching to you a gospel
other than what you accepted,
let him be eternally condemned!"

Note well that in verse 8, Paul included himself, an apostle in someone they should reject if he preached a different gospel. He said, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel different other than the one we preached to you…"

The truth that we see here is that the office of an apostle, even though it was a high and exalted one, did not exempt one's teaching from comparison from the faith once delivered to the saints. Paul was telling the Galatians that they were to judge even his teaching with the content of the true gospel, and that if it was found to be different, to reject it.

But Paul even went further than that, he said that even if an angel from heaven should preach a different gospel, let him be accursed.

An angel from heaven! This shows us the importance of the faith once delivered to the saints.

The sight of an angel from heaven would be glorious. We would all fall on the floor and be in awe because the angel would be so glorious. We probably wouldn't be able to gaze fully on him but would have to get furtive glances. He would be able to astound us with the miracles that he would be able to do. We would be in awe, in fear and trembling.

Yet, what does Paul tell us to do if that were to happen? He tells us to check the angel's teaching against the gospel once delivered to the saints. In 2 Corinthians 11:14 Paul told us that,

"Satan himself masquerades
as an angel of light."

He goes on to tell us that it is not surprising if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.

We know from the book of Revelation that Satan and his servants can do great miracles. They will do great wonders and deceive many people. In Revelation 13 we read about the beast out of the sea who astonished the whole world lead them astray. We also read about the beast out of the earth. We read, (Revelation 13:13–14)

"And he performed
great and miraculous signs,
even causing fire to come down
from heaven to earth in full view of men.
Because of the signs he was given power
to do on behalf of the first beast,
he deceived the inhabitants of the earth."

So this means that you are not to follow anyone blindly. You are to be like the Bereans and test everything against the Scriptures. You are not to blindly believe anyone, me, Doug, any of the popular Christian leaders today— D.A. Carson, John Piper, Charles Stanley, John McArthur, any of the TV preachers—no one. It doesn't matter if someone claims to speak directly from God. In Revelation 2:20 Jesus was displeased with the church at Thyatira. He said,

"I have this against you:
You tolerate that woman Jezebel,
who calls herself a prophetess.
By her teaching she misleads
my servants into sexual immorality
and the eating of food sacrificed to idols."

It doesn't matter if it's someone you've known a long time and trusted. In Acts 20:28–31 Paul said to the Ephesian elders,

"Keep watch over yourselves
and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit
has made you overseers.
Be shepherds of the church of God,
which he bought with his own blood.
I know that after I leave,
savage wolves will come in among you
and will not spare the flock.
Even from your own number
men will arise and distort the truth
in order to draw away disciples after them.
So be on your guard!"

False teachers sometimes come from within the church. They do not want the glory of Christ, but they want to be leaders and have people applaud them.

So, the guy at the prison, who claimed to be prophet, was he from God? No, he was promoting himself and not Christ. His was a different gospel. Those two ladies who came to see my brother and told him he was going to be healed—the best I can say about them is that they were well-meaning. But they were totally wrong. God didn't speak through them. Their prophecy proved to be false. The Mormons who came to my door—they came with a different gospel—a religion that is very different than what Paul expounded in Galatians and his other letters. The Pope being infallible—all of you have to do to see that he is not is compared the papal declarations with the gospel Paul preached. They are very different.

Today there are new challenges to the faith once delivered to the saints. Some of these come from within the church and they don't directly deny the Scriptures, but they seek to turn them upside down. There's the
New Perspective on Paul school. They will tell you that Luther and the Reformers completely misunderstood Galatians and Romans, that they were completely wrong on justification. They will tell you that Galatians is not about how sinners can be righteous before God, but rather about Jewish-Gentile relations. They will tell you that the Pharisees weren't self-righteous legalists but that the Judaism of New Testament times Paul's day was a religion of grace. They seem to be ignoring much of the New Testament (like the Parable of the Tax Collector in the Temple and Jesus' teaching about the Pharisees and teachers of the law) and giving too much weight to certain extra-biblical sources. The New Perspective on Paul is a perversion of the gospel. It's another gospel.

Christians, appreciate the pure doctrine of the gospel. It's very sad when brilliant men go astray in their theology. So often it's in the pursuit of something new. Carl Truman writes,

"students whose first desire is to be teachers are more likely to try to catch whatever is the latest trendy wave. Orthodoxy is always doomed to seem uncreative and pedestrian in the wider arena; if the aim is to be a teacher, to be the big shot, then it is more likely that orthodoxy will be less appealing in the long run – though there are those for whom orthodoxy too is simply a means to being a celebrity."

Risking The Truth: Handling Error in the Church. by Martin Downes. From Interview with Carl Truman, Sin in high Places. Chapter 2. p. 32

William Cunningham writes, (The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, p. 296)

"In theology there is, of course, no room for originality properly so called, for its whole materials are contained in the actual statements of God's word; and he is the greatest and best theologian, who has most accurately apprehended the meaning of the statements of Scripture,—who by comparing and combining them, has most fully and correctly brought out the whole mind of God on all the topics on which the Scriptures give us information,—who classifies and digests the truths of Scripture in the way best fitted to commend them to the apprehension and acceptance of men,—and who can most clearly and forcibly bring out their scriptural evidence, and most skillfully and effectively defend them against the assaults of adversaries."

You are to test everything by the Scriptures, by the faith once delivered to the saints. We are to contend for the faith, know it, defend it, love it. As the writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 4:14,

"Let us hold firmly
to the faith we profess."

For those of you who are not Christians, what you should understand from this is that

you're wide open for someone to lead you to hell.

False teachers are everywhere. False ideas abound. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:13,

"For wide is the gate and broad
is the road that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it."

You can't even trust your own ideas, your own inclinations. They can lead you to destruction.

You need the true gospel. You need to hear it, you need to believe it. You need to go to Jesus, the only One who can save you. He died for sinners. He took the curse of the law. He suffered and died and rose again so that whoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life. Go to Him today.