I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:6-9)

For years, many have noted that Paul’s letter to the Galatians began differently than his letters to other congregations. Typically, no matter how bad a congregation’s problems, Paul began his letters with encouragement. For example, even though the Corinthian congregation had enormous problems, Paul encouraged them. Read 1 Corinthians 1:4-9.

But not to the congregations in Galatia! Why was Paul so upset with them?

No one had a deeper personal appreciation of what God did in Jesus Christ than did Paul. Prior to his conversion, we would have called Paul “a mean man.” His convictions were sincere, but they made him vicious. His convictions made him destructive, not helpful. He was merciless to Jewish men and women who believed in Jesus Christ. He protected the robes of those who killed Stephen, and he thought they did the proper thing by killing Stephen (Acts 7:58, 8:1). He dragged Christian men and women from their homes to imprison them (Acts 8:3). He used force in attempts to get Christian Jews to blaspheme (Acts 26:11). He even described himself as hostile (see Acts 26:9; Galatians 1:13-14; and 1 Timothy 1:13, 14).

Then he discovered his error concerning Jesus (Acts 9:1-9). The result: he became what he despised, was forgiven of murder and abuse of harmless Christians, and became a great missionary among gentiles (read again 1 Timothy 1:12-16).

Why? Why did God forgive Paul for such horrible acts? Among the reasons for such forgiveness is the reason Paul listed in 1 Timothy 1:16. He demonstrated that God’s mercy and forgiveness exceed any form of human failure if (a) a person sees his [or her] error, (b) turns against his [or her] error, and (c) redirects his [or her] behavior.

Then why was Paul so upset with the Galatian congregations? They did not realize what an incredible thing God did for them in Jesus’ death and resurrection! Jesus Christ is God’s good news! For congregations to act like there was a “good news from God” that rivaled what God did in Jesus was unthinkable!

Paul personally knew what God did in Jesus Christ. He did “the unthinkable” and later received forgiveness. He understood that the Galatian congregations existed because of what God did in Christ. He understood that those gentiles could be Christians because of God’s actions in Jesus. To say there was another gospel was unthinkable! Therefore, there was no encouragement because there was no appreciation of God’s acts in Jesus.

Do you appreciate what God did for you in Jesus? Does your behavior show it?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 25 September 2008

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