Recent research “estimates that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors.” That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. The fatal errors include everything from surgery-related mistakes to mix-ups with medications.
Just as medical errors can be a matter of physical life and death, the truth of the gospel is also a matter of spiritual life and death. That’s why Paul’s tone in today’s reading is so scolding and severe. Instead of the words of praise and encouragement that typically open other letters, here he rebuked the church for “deserting” Christ and “turning to a different gospel” (v. 6). He was absolutely “astonished” or stunned at their fickleness. As commentator Douglas Moo put it: “He has neither the time nor the inclination to thank God for the Galatians when their very identity as Christians hangs in the balance.”
A specific group of people was to blame for the “confusion.” We’ll see later that “some people” referred to in verse 7 are Judaizers, who were teaching the new Christians in Galatia that they must keep the Mosaic Law in addition to trusting in Christ. They and anyone who preach a false gospel, however, are “under God’s curse” (vv. 8–9). The Greek word is anathema, a term means accursed, denounced, detested, or damned.
Today our culture has elevated the value of tolerance and accepting different opinions, and we may feel Paul’s rhetoric is over the top. But to abandon God’s grace and “pervert the gospel of Christ” is the very opposite of good news and of God’s will and calling for believers (v. 7). Paul’s passion in defense of the gospel is a model for us to follow. We must be willing to discern and stand for God’s truth.
Apply the Word
Some today want to replace the grace of God with the gods of self-esteem, positive feelings, or fulfilling relationships. They look for political or social views, or consumerism and a prosperity gospel. But these are all counterfeits! Only the true gospel “is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).