I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7)
Martin Luther insisted that mastery of the message of Galatians was basic to understanding the Christian faith. In these days of doctrinal deviation within the church and the cancerous cults outside the church, it is imperative that the gospel be clearly declared and defended. Paul's theme is “the gospel of grace.” Salvation is the free gift of God to all who trust in Jesus. Therefore, this message is as vital for the twenty-first century as it was in the first.
The way the false teachers in Galatia had sought to destroy the message was to discredit the messenger. Paul, the humble servant, would rather have declared the Savior, than defend himself, but felt it necessary lest his message be undermined (v.1).
Paul’s position was appointed by God. When he spoke he did not speak with the authority of humans, but of heaven, for God—not man—was the origin of his message. Paul was attacked because he was not part of the original twelve. Yet, remember his call on the road to Damascus? He emphasizes the resurrection, for it was the risen Lord Who appeared to him.
He was an apostle of grace. It is a term denoting someone sent on behalf of another. It was used of a messenger with credentials—like an ambassador. Paul had a special ministry to Gentiles and a sincere burden for the church. While none of us are apostles like Paul, we are sent to represent Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:18-20).
Who was Paul’s audience (v.2)? Galatia is the area of modern day Turkey. There were populous towns along the trade routes of the region that lent to a bent toward materialism. The people were noted for fickleness and a love of new things. They were prone to any ritualistic type of religion. In addressing them, Paul dispenses with his customary compliments. He doesn't call them saints as he typically did. This shows the seriousness of the message.
Paul offers a prayer for them (v.3-5). His theme was grace, so it was natural he pray they receive it. Paul points them back to Calvary. This was Christ’s voluntary, vicarious, and victorious sacrifice—never to be repeated! Religion says do; Christ says done! The crucifixion satisfied all the demands of the law. Because salvation is God’s work, He receives the glory. Religion appeals to man’s ego instead. That is its subtle seduction.
Paul doesn’t beat around the bush. He is alarmed and doesn’t mince words (v.6-9). He is shocked that they have so quickly abandoned truth for a counterfeit. The language used here is of a soldier deserting the army. They had deserted their fortress of grace and gone over to the enemy. The crisis for this church was not persecution by the culture from outside so much as perversion by the counterfeits from inside.
Every purported message from God must be held up to the plumb line of Scripture. Deletion or addition is demonic and deserves condemnation. "We believe in Jesus, but have something to add!" That is the message of Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Adventism, and others. We must speak forcefully against this as Paul did. They are attacking the Gospel and we cannot be mush-mouths. It is a matter of life and death—really of heaven and hell.