Galatians 1:6-9: A Curse Instead of a Blessing

Galatians 1:6‑9  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
“I marvel that thus readily you are being changed over [or deserting, or revolting] from the One having called you in Christ’s grace, unto a different good news, which is not another [of the same kind].” ch. 1:6, 7.
V.5 ends the “greeting.” As we have seen, in Paul’s other epistles, a word of thanksgiving or praise generally follows to the assembly to which he is writing. But there is no such word here. Paul does not call the Galatians “saints.” It is the only epistle of Paul in which this word does not appear. He does not call them “faithful brethren” (Col. 1:22To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:2)) or “holy brethren” as he does other Christians; but again and again he calls them “brothers,” showing forth the burning love that filled his heart as he wrote these severe and stern rebukes. We have seen Paul praise even the Corinthians, bad as they were, but there is not a word of praise for the Galatians. May God help you and me, dear brethren, to understand more clearly how terrible it is in the sight of God to turn from Christ to the law, or to add the law or anything else to our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Instead of a thanksgiving we find an indignant exclamation of surprise. “I marvel that thus readily [or, thus hastily], you are being changed over [are deserting, are revolting] from the One having called you in Christ’s grace, unto a different good news, which is not another.” There are two words used here, both translated “another” in the English. The first means “another of a different kind.” The second means “another of the same kind.” They had deserted “the good news of the grace of God” (Acts 20:2424But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)) and were changing over to a different “good news,” even to the law and to circumcision. But it is not “good news” to tell me to keep the law. This is not “another good news.” It is not “good news” at all. If I am groaning under a mighty debt, it is “good news” if my friend tells me that he has paid every cent of it for me and that I am free; but it is not “good news” at all to tell me of another debt that I know very well I never can pay. And he who is circumcised “is a debtor to do the whole law” (ch. 5:3).
The Galatians had deserted the One who had called them in Christ’s grace. This word translated “desert from” or “revolt from” has the meaning of “a deserter,” or a soldier who leaves the army for which he is fighting and who goes over to the enemy. It has the meaning of “a turncoat.”
There are many men today who tell you they preach “another good news.” Do not believe them. It may be different, but it is not “another good news.” There is only one “good news” sent to us by God, and that is “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:33For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (1 Corinthians 15:3)). Everything else that calls itself “good news” is false. It is counterfeit. It is not THE “good news” at all. Paul reminds them that it is God Himself who had called them, and He called them “in grace,” not “in law” or “to law.” They had quite forgotten their calling. If it is not God Himself who has called them, and if it is not in grace alone, then it is not the true “good news” but only a false imitation, for there “is not another.”
“Only there are certain ones disturbing you, and wishing to pervert the good news of the Christ.” ch. 1:7.
You will notice from the two verses we have lately quoted that the false teachers were at that time in Galatia trying to pervert the “good news.” They were trying, but had not yet succeeded. They were disturbing the Galatian Christians. This is the same word as in John 14:11Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (John 14:1), “Let not your heart be troubled [or disturbed]: ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” If we have true faith in Christ, then we need never be disturbed. The storms of life may beat upon us, the servants of the enemy may bring their false teaching, but through it all, if our eyes are on Christ, we need never be disturbed. “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:11Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (John 14:1)). Trust in Me, and you will never be disturbed. Trust in Me, and nobody can ever “shake your allegiance.” (The word has also this meaning.) We find this word “disturb” again in ch. 5:10 —“But the one disturbing you [the one shaking your allegiance] shall bear the judgment, whoever he may be.”
It is a terrible thing to disturb God’s people. They are like a flock of sheep, feeding in the good pastures of the Word of God. But, alas, there are many today who, instead of feeding the sheep, are disturbing them. There are those who pass for good shepherds of God’s flock, who are very often preaching the law, like the false teachers at Galatia, instead of feeding the sheep with the true grace of God. There are many who would not preach the Ten Commandments, either for salvation or as a “rule of life,” but who are continually telling the saints of God, “Touch not! Taste not! Handle not!” (Col. 2:2121(Touch not; taste not; handle not; (Colossians 2:21)). “We have such-and-such a rule”; “you must not do this; you must not do that.” The principle is the same. It is law instead of grace, and it disturbs the flock and does not feed them. Those who disturb God’s sheep will have to bear God’s judgment, whoever they may be, for this is the work of the enemy.
These enemies of the true gospel were wishing to pervert, to reverse, to change to the opposite, the true good news sent by God. If anyone tells me I must keep the law for salvation or as a “rule of life,” this is not “good news.” It is just the opposite. It is very, very bad news, for I never can keep the law, and I must perish. This was the wicked work these false teachers were doing among the assemblies of Galatia. They were perverting the good news.
“But even if we, or an angel out of heaven should announce good news to you beside [or beyond, or contrary to] what we announced as good news to you, cursed be he! As we have said before, and now also again I say, If any one announces to you good news beside what you received, Cursed be he!” ch. 1:8-9.
What a most awfully solemn word! Instead of a blessing, a twice-repeated curse! How these words should make every one of us stop and think! If I have the happy privilege and the solemn responsibility of announcing God’s good news, how earnestly I should seek to see to it that what I announce is in very truth God’s good news and not my own thoughts or ideas. Otherwise it may be that that solemn word may come to me: “Cursed be he!” Sad to say, there are tens of thousands today who preach the law, without the least idea that they are putting themselves under this terrible curse. But so it is. It would seem as though the one who was specially doing this wicked work in Galatia may have been a man of distinction. The words that Paul uses, “Even if we, or an angel out of heaven, should announce good news to you beside what we preached, cursed be he!” would seem to indicate he was a great man. Also his remark in ch. 5:10, “whoever he may be,” (Esther 4:1111All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. (Esther 4:11)) would seem to give us the same meaning. Today there are men who hold high positions in the churches of men, who have many degrees after their names, but they are cursed of God because they preach a different good news, which is not another.
Only a few days ago I saw a letter from a friend who has been disturbed by such a false good news. She says in her letter, “It is Christianity with something added.” That is exactly what these false teachers brought to the Galatians. “Christianity with something added.” “Cursed be he!” says the Apostle. These are the words of the Holy Spirit: the very words of God. Words could not be more strong or more solemn. This is what God says to all who teach the law: “Cursed be he!” There are many such teachers, and their teaching is very popular. Beware! “Cursed be he!”
But, you say, surely if an angel from heaven brings me this good news, then I can believe it! No, not even if an angel brings it! Even the angel is cursed. Remember that Satan himself is changed into an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11:1414And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14).) The angel that preaches the law is really Satan changed into an angel of light, and “cursed be he!” But, you say, they are such good men, such nice people, and so earnest: surely they must be right. Will you believe Satan or God? That is the question. If you choose to believe Satan (as Eve did), then you also will be cursed.
Notice that little word “beside,” or “beyond”—“good news beside the good news which we brought to you.” There is no good news beside the good news. God does not allow any rival good news. And God will not allow any mixture with His good news; nor will He allow anything to be added beside the good news that He has given to us. You cannot have the gospel of God and the law added to, or mixed with, it. God’s good news stands alone.
Although words could not be stronger or more solemn than God’s curse on those bringing a different good news, yet now, to add force to these words, the Apostle solemnly repeats them. And he reminds the Galatians that “we have told you before these very things.” He does not mean he has just told them (v.8), but that on his last visit to them he saw this danger and warned them most solemnly. He saw this evil teaching beginning to come in among them and he told them then. Anyone bringing good news beside what you received, cursed be he! He had told them before, and now he repeats it twice: “Cursed be he!” “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:1212And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)).
The Apostle had warned the Galatian Christians, but alas, they did not heed his warning. They gave heed instead to the false teachers, and they deserted Christ for the law.
You also have been warned. God Himself is warning you by this book. Will you follow the Galatians and take no heed to such solemn warnings? Or, will you hear and return to your allegiance and loyalty to Christ—and to Christ alone?
“Grace is the sweetest sound
That ever reached our ears;
When conscience charged and justice frowned,
’Twas grace removed our fears.”