Saturday, July 18, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 1, verses 8 & 9

Galatians 1:8 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! 9 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!

Paul is trying to bring the issue into perspective. Ostensibly, the Judiazing heresy had been brought in by outsiders. (Just to be clear -- when we speak of the "Judiazers" we are referring to Christians (or those claiming to be Christians) who were ethnically Jewish in the Galatian churches pushing for the concept that if a person wanted to truly be right with God --to truly be a Christian, or to "be saved" -- you had to obey the Law of Moses and be circumcised). Paul makes it clear that personality and loyalty do not define truth. Supernatural power does not define truth. The essence of the Gospel cannot be altered. Even if he himself came to the Galatians – the very man who introduced Christ to them and had invested everything in and of himself into the concept of them coming to know Jesus – even if Paul himself were to “say so,” it does not and cannot change the truth. And even if what appeared to be an Angel from heaven appeared – a miraculous manifestation – and it would convey a different truth – don’t listen! (Mormons should take note, as well as the folks sucked into the deception foisted by preachers like Todd Bentley) The truth of the Gospel CANNOT be altered. I also find it interesting that Paul puts the blame on the deceiver here – “Let him be eternally condemned” – (and in v. 9 as well). Not that there isn’t fault on the part of the person who accepts deception (e.g. see v. 6, and later on in the book), but the greater blame rests with those who deceive. And Paul is not bashful about this – eternal condemnation is pretty heavy – not very “P.C.,” eh? But sometimes, even in our own circle of believers, we are willing to tolerate deviations in the purity of truth so as not to “rock the boat.” Is it a “gospel other that the one we preached?” There is a fine line here, but I suppose if we read deeply here (between the lines, so to speak), Paul is saying that loyalty or devotion to a leader, church, group, denomination or culture is wrong, if that leader or group has compromised the essence of the Gospel. This is not an issue of authority. We don’t just walk away from a leader in this position (this is why, I think, that Paul lays the condemnation on the leader, and not those under his authority), but it is a warning to us that people in authority CAN deceive us. The mentioning of the “angel” is a warning that supernatural manifestations and power can also deceive. We are warned here to be careful – don’t blindly accept, don’t just take things at face value.

Verse 9: Here, Paul reverses polarity. In verse 8, he emphasized the gospel “we preached,” focusing on the responsibility of the speaker. Here, the focus in on “what you accepted,” if the message being preached contradicts the truth you already have accepted, let that preacher be condemned! In v. 8, the focus in on the messenger. In v. 9, the focus is on the content of the message, but defined by the listener’s own experience. That is, by the listener’s discernment. Perhaps Paul is laying some blame on the listener here. Its as if he’s saying, “Hey, you already know what the truth is!” On the other hand, he is asking them to define truth by what hey have received from God in the past, and what proved to be true in the first place. In a way, he’s saying that Eternal Truth is self evident! You can put it to the test, and discover its truth. The Galatians had done this, and have lived it.. A red flag should go up for us, therefore, if someone presents a message that contradicts that experience and that evidence.

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