COMMENTARY ON GALATIANS
Gal 1:6“ I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”. . . . . . . . . . Galatians 1:6-7
SO SOON REMOVED
Paul divulged to the Corinthians that one of the areas of suffering that he experienced was the daily “care of all the churches,” or “the daily pressure . . . of concern for all the churches” NASB (2 Cor 11:28). The Amplified Bible reads, “the daily [inescapable pressure] of my care and anxiety for all the churches!” Boiled down to its essence, this concern was caused by the spiritual understanding and insight that Paul had concerning the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. This discernment caused him to be especially sensitive about defections from the faith, failing to grow up in Christ, and believers being subjected to corrupt messages. Of course, the person who is lacking in the comprehension of the various involvements of salvation can really not have the kind of concern Paul had. When the truth is not seen clearly, neither is error. Also, the people of God are vulnerable to the precise degree of their ignorance of the truth. If their attention is turned from the truth, or the salvation of God, for any reason, is neglected, they at once become a prey to the ravenous wolves that roam about on the religious landscape. The understanding of this circumstance brings much profit to the reader of this book, for there are a certain sternness and candor in it that cannot be denied. The very manner of Paul’s letter to the Galatians exposes much of the falsity that is being perpetrated in the Christian world. Paul will not be tolerant of doctrinal error. He will attack bastions of spiritual ignorance that had reared their ugly heads. His diagnosis of the condition of the Galatians will be declared plainly. The implications of their errors will be articulated. How their approach to Divine acceptance has impacted on their identity with God will be said with great pungency. Paul does not do this to be rude, any more than a mother who cries out for her toddler to get out of the street is inconsiderate and abrasive. In this text, Paul will state what has happened in Galatia, and what has caused it. His words are serious, and the tone of them is arresting. They are an expression of godly concern, and confirm that salvation is not a state into which one is locked by repeating a few words, or going through what is required to be initially saved. These people were in a state that should have caused fear and trembling.
MARVELING AT SUCH A RAPID DEPARTURE
Gal 1:6a “ I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him . . .”
I MARVEL. Other versions read, “I am amazed,” NASB “I am astonished,” NIV “I am surprised,” BBE “I am astounded,” CJB “I wonder,” DARBY “I am shocked,” NLT and “I am surprised and astonished.” AMPLIFIED
The word “marvel” is translated from a word that means to be stunned, astonished, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, and dismayed. It also carries the idea of being appalled and outraged. This reaction has been caused by an absolutely unreasonable condition – one that defied any kind of justification. There is no acceptable excuse for the condition Paul will now address. He does not ask them to explain their condition, for any explanation will not be received. What Paul is going to deal with contradicts the nature and intent of God’s great salvation, betrays an unacceptable frame of mind, and a certain gullibility that is in no way acceptable. The condition of the Galatian churches emitted a kind of noxious spiritual odor that was offensive to Paul. It was the exact opposite of the “sweet savor of Christ” (2 Cor 2:15).
This is the kind of marveling that Jesus did when He was in “His own country,” where He was raised. It is written, “He marveled because of their unbelief” (Mk 6:6). It is the kind of reaction the Lord had to Israel: “And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor” (Isa 59:16). Considering the amount of revelation that had been given to Israel, and the fact that the Son of God was raised in Nazareth, the very existence of such great unbelief was abrasive to the Lord. It defied all logic, and there was no need to speak in defense of such a people. That is the sort of thing that is reflected in Paul’s words.
SO SOON. Other versions read, “so quickly,” NASB “so promptly,” NJB “are already,” IE “so readily.” WEYMOUTH The condition of which Paul will speak had happened quickly – so promptly that it caused him to marvel. The Galatians had been exposed to extensive preaching and teaching. Paul had Barnabas had traveled “throughout . . . the region of Galatia,” establishing the churches in the faith (Acts 16:5-6). Later, Paul had gone “over all the country of Galatia . . . strengthening the disciples” (Acts 18:23). They had participated with other churches in the gathering of a special offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1). Those ministries covered a period of over two years (50-52 A.D.). That was sufficient time for the brethren there to have been firmly established. However, a condition had arisen within a very brief time, in spite of all of the investments that had been made in them.
REMOVED FROM HIM. Other versions read, “turning away from Him,” NKJV “deserting Him,” NASB “deserting the One,” NIV “turned away from,” BBE “remove yourselves,” CJB “forsaking,” NAB “leaving,” WEYMOUTH “shifting your ground and deserting,” MONTGOMERY and “turning renegade and deserting.” AMPLIFIED The word translated “removed” has the following meaning: “to fall away or desert from one person or thing to another,” THAYER “to effect a change of location in space, with the implication that the two locations are significantly different - 'to move from one place to another, to change one's location, to depart, departure,” LOUW-NIDA and “changing one's loyalty as a follower; turn from, desert, become apostate.” FRIBERG
The “Him” of reference is God Himself, and the charge is that the Galatians had left Him, deserted Him, and exchanged Him for some lesser approach to religion. They had defected, abandoned the Savior, and exchanged Him for something and someone else. That is the charge against the Galatians, and it is an obviously serious one. Phillips version reads, “you have so quickly transferred your allegiance from Him.” We are speaking here of a commitment to, and reliance upon, the Lord Jesus. When they were baptized into Christ, they had given their allegiance to Christ Himself, and commenced living for Him. They relied on Him for the resources required to serve the Lord and keep themselves pure. But now, they had changed that allegiance to something else. Paul does not say that their devotion had simply cooled, but traces the reason of their defection to its immediate cause – they had given themselves to something else. In so doing, they had deserted God, abandoned Him, left Him, and removed themselves from Him. They had deliberated moved from God the Father to something else. They had turned renegade against Him, turned away from Him, and taken their loyalty away from Him. That is the meaning of this expression.
This is what the letter to the Hebrews calls “departing from the living God” (Heb 3:12), and “drawing back” (Heb 10:38). David would call it “wickedly departing from my God” (Psa 18:21). Isaiah refers to it as “removing their heart far from” God (Isa 29:13).
This departure was not an obvious return to the world, and to fleshly indulgences. The Galatians had maintained a religious form, kept their churches visibly in tact, and continued to wear the name of the Lord and profess allegiance to Him. However, they had, in fact abandoned the Lord, and were now depending on other resources to maintain their religious lives. They did not know what they had done, for sin so dulls the mind that a proper assessment of one’s condition becomes impossible. However, Paul knew, and spoke about it.
CALLED INTO THE GRACE OF CHRIST
1:6b “ . . . that called you into the grace of Christ . . .” Other versions read, “called you by the grace,” NASB “called you in the grace,” NRSV “whose word came to you in the grace of Christ,” BBE and “Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ.” AMPLIFIED
Keep in mind, this is speaking of abandoning God Himself – the One who “called” us. It is He that has called us “to be saints” (Rom 1:7), called us “unto the fellowship of His Son” (1 Cor 1:9). He has “called us unto holiness” (1 Thess 4:7), “called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim 1:9), and “called us unto His eternal glory” (1 Pet 5:10). He has called us “unto His kingdom and glory,” (1 Thess 2:12), and “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9).
Here all of those marvelous objectives are summarized in the expression “into the grace of Christ.” He is the locus where all of those marvelous benefits are commenced and maintained. None of them – not a single one of them – can possibly be realized outside of Christ Jesus. I mean, outside of a fellowship with Christ (1 Cor 1:9), and abiding in Christ (John 15:4,7). It involves remaining where we have been seated together with Him “in heavenly places” (Eph 1:6). Concerning the ones whom God has effectively called, He has given them over to Christ (John 6:39; 8:37; Heb 2:13). The call of God, and everything associated with it – fellowship, holiness, eternal glory, and His kingdom – can ONLY be realized in Christ. Furthermore, the throne upon which Jesus is seated is appropriately called, “the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16). Concerning its prophesied regal nature, that throne is “the throne of David” (Isa 9:7; Acts 2:30).
God has “called us” into an economy of grace that is being administered exclusively by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is therefore referred to as “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:11; Rom 16:20,24; 1 Cor 16:23; 2 Cor 8:9; 13:14; Gal 6:18; Phil 4:23; 1 Thess 5:28; 2 Thess 3:18; Phile 1:25; Rev 22:21). It is declared that this grace is “exceeding abundant with faith and love” (1 Tim 1:14), which cannot possibly be realized in another location.
It is not possible to present a proper depiction of Jesus Christ without making known the grace that He is administering. That is the same grace that is also referred to as “the grace of God” – an expression that is used twenty-three times in Scripture (Lk 2:40; Acts 11:23; 13:43; 14:26; 15:40; Acts 20:24; Rom 5:15; 1 Cor 1:4; 3:10; 15:10; 2 Cor 1:12; 6:1; 8:1; 9:14; Gal 2:21; Eph 3:2,7; Col 1:6; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9; 12:25; 1 Pet 4:10; 5:12).
Let it be clear what Paul is saying. In removing themselves from God, they had moved themselves from Jesus Christ, and from the grace He is administering. In turning their attention to something else, they had turned their gaze away from the Lord – the very gaze through which we are “changed from glory unto glory” (2 Cor 3:18). A person cannot turn away from God without turning away from everything pertaining to life and godliness. When God is forfeited, all of the benefits He gives are also forfeited. I understand that this is jarring to certain ways of thinking in the Christian community, but it must be said anyway, for it is the truth. It is inconceivable that Paul would write in this manner if what had taken place in Galatia was not spiritually catastrophic.
God “called us into the grace of Christ” – into the grace that comes “from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:2). Being called into that grace involves the awareness of it, dependence upon it, and the realization, of the benefits brought by it. I do not know that any person can support the notion that grace continues to sustain and fortify those who know nothing about it. That is precisely why so very much is said about grace in the epistles (114 times), bringing a kind of spiritual intelligence fo the people.
Now, with all of that in mind, ponder the assessment Paul has made of the Galatian churches: “I am surprised and astonished that you are so quickly turning renegade and deserting Him Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ (the Messiah).” AMPLIFIED Is there anything casual about his words? Is it even possible to think of them as nothing more than an opinion? How serious is it to remove oneself from God, to desert Him, leave Him, or forsake Him? What would lead any person to think such a thing is incidental, or that it has no impact upon how God views a person.
It is no wonder that Paul was stunned by the defection of the Galatians. Think what had been accomplished by God in their conversion. They had been quickened, or made alive (Eph 2:1,5; Col 2:13), raised up and made to sit together with Christ (Eph 2:6), and reconciled to God (Col 1:21). They had been forgiven of all their trespasses (Col 2:13), made accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6), and washed (1 Cor 6:11). They had been delivered from the condemning Law (Rom 7:6), delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God’s Son (Col 1:13). They were given access to God and His grace through Christ (Rom 5:2; Eph 3:12), and were enabled to approach the throne of God with boldness (Heb 4:16). Yet, with all of those advantages, common to every person who is in Christ, they had abandoned God, forsaken Him, and deserted Him. Just how serious is something like that?
ANOTHER GOSPEL, WHICH IS NOT REALLY ANOTHER
1:6c “ . . . unto another gospel: 7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”
Paul now identifies what has been embraced by the Galatians. While the particulars are not specified, the effects of abandoning God to embrace something or someone else is known by the results that it produces.
ANOTHER GOSPEL. Other versions read, “a different gospel,” NKJV and “a different [even an opposition] gospel.” AMPLIFIED The defection of the Galatians has not been to a life of immorality, where all restraints are thrown off, and uncontrolled profligacy is indulged freely. He is not speaking of leaving God for drunkenness, fornication, or some other form of outward immoral indulgence. We are plainly told that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5).
Here, Paul speaks of leaving God for “another Gospel,” or a “different gospel.” It is a core message that is at a variance with the Gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). It is a powerless gospel that cannot effect a change in the people. It is a message through which God does not, and will not, work. It is a different kind of gospel, established on different kinds of principles, and offering differing kinds of benefits. It is a gospel in which the primary note of grace cannot be heard. It is a gospel in which Jesus Christ Himself is neither prominent nor necessary.
How is it possible to read something like this and deduce that the message that is being preached is of little consequence – that men have been given the liberty to develop their own message, which is designed to meet what they perceive to be the needs of the people? Paul also charged the Corinthians with receiving and adhering to “another gospel” (2 Cor 11:4).
“Another gospel” is supposedly good news, or glad tidings. This text is not speaking of “another law,” or “another commandment.” It is speaking of a core message of hope that is false to its essence. It is a word that offers hope, but cannot deliver what it promises.
WHICH IS NOT ANOTHER. Other versions read, “which is really not another,” NASB ‘which is really no gospel at all,” NIV “not that there is another gospel,” NRSV “which is not good news at all,” CJB and “Not that there is [or could be] any other [genuine Gospel].” AMPLIFIED
Just as surely as there are only one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all (Eph 4:4-6), so there is only one Gospel. That is, there is only one liberating word, one message that is good news indeed, and one word of glad tidings that factually announces what is available to men, and how they can be blessed. The Gospel of the Kingdom is not that you can be rich, or have the things you desire in this world, or realize your dreams for this world. It is not that you can have a happy home, or be successful in your occupation, or be free from disease and trouble while tabernacling in the flesh. It is not that you can be a better man or woman, or secret ways to come into Divine favor. Those are not gospel. They are “different” – of a differing order. God has not authored them, and grace is not in them. Any claims that they have helped people are fabrications, and are not the truth.
To say it another way, you have to desert God Himself, and thrust the Gospel from you, to believe these false gospels. Even if a kind of innocence attends the embrace of these gospels, the true gospel is still forfeited. Neither the heart nor the mind can contain the lie and the truth at the same time. They cannot coexist, or be in harmony, in the individual.
TROUBLING INFLUENCES. Those who deliver these other gospels are actually troubling the people – agitating the waters of life. Other versions read, “disturb you,” NASB “throwing you into confusion,” NIV and “confusing you.” That is, they are making it more difficult to believe, and are putting a distance between the people and the promises of God. Jesus preaches peace (Eph 2:17), but they preach confusion. The notes of their message are discordant, and do not harmonize with the Gospel of Christ.
Maybe the state of the modern church has been caused by the message it is hearing. Those who major on problem resolution have really only increased the problems. The difficulties they profess to be addressing are not going away.
PERVERTING THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. Other versions read, “distort,” NASB “make changes,” BBE “twist,” NLT and “turn the good news upside down.” WILLIAMS The word “pervert” means to “corrupt,” THAYER “turn into something else,” FRIBERG and “to cause a change of state, with emphasis upon the difference in the resulting state.” LOUW-NIDA This is not something the perpetrators actually do, but what they “would” do – “want” NASB to do, or “trying to” to, NIV or “desiring to make.” BBE Peter refers to this as wresting, or twisting, the Scriptures, affirming that they bring destruction upon themselves by doing so (2 Pet 3:16).
Today, the church is being exceedingly troubled by false messages. The pace of this trouble is increasing exponentially with all manner of erroneous emphases are being hurled at the people. In view of this text of Scripture, no believer can afford to approach this condition casually.