“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;” – Gal. 1:6
Paul bluntly said to the Galatians that they were deserting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God alone is the source of all truth and the giver of all good things. But the Galatians turned from His Gospel. No matter how much then declared their belief, or went to church, or gave in the plate, they could not deny the truth that they deserted the Gospel. By turning to a distorted Gospel, they deserted Jesus Christ.
Faithfulness comes down to faithful preaching. Three times in verses 8 and 9, Paul speaks of the preaching. He says that anyone that preaches contrary to what Paul preached, that person is judged as a false teacher. Paul says such ones, “are disturbing you and want to distort the Gospel” (Gal. 1:7). The Galatians were not listening to sound preaching which caused them to desert Christ.
When you preach the truth, you will sometimes stand alone and you can count on encountering resistance. The answer for the Galatians was to recognize that the popular message wasn’t the right one. They needed to seek out the preaching that was pleasing to God. Paul said in verse 10, “am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” The preaching of Paul stood in contrast to the preaching of those who were distorting the Gospel. Paul didn’t try to please man with his message. The truth is pleasing to men who love and seek the truth. But there are many who do want truth as much as they want to be appeased. To recognize the difference required that the Galatians be discerning about who they listened to. Would they listen to Paul, the one who first taught them the Gospel, or would they listen to those who were teaching something different? It would have been appropriate for them to challenge the false teachers, saying, “that’s not what Paul taught.” People who love Jesus Christ have to be aware that not every preacher is on God’s side. There are many preachers and teachers who think their mission is to preach pleasing messages. They preach about the grace and forgiveness of God, just what everyone wants to hear. But they don’t always get it right on exactly who will and who will not receive it. They tell funny, sensitive, and interesting stories to engage people so that the audience feels good about where they are. What they do is different from the good feeling you get from hearing the Gospel, repenting, and turning to God. It is natural to be filled with joy when hearing the Gospel, but man-pleasers make people feel good when they have not repented.
In Galatians, the man-pleasers were making the legalist preachers feel good. Man-pleasing preaching diminished the the power of faith in Christ and emphasized turning back to the Moses.
“3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” – Gal. 5:3,4
In the Galatian church, the influence of the Jews who were reverting back to the Law of Moses was a big issue. The Judaizers were preaching dietary laws, keeping of the Sabbaths, the necessity of circumcision, et al. The false teachers may have been sincere, but they were sincerely wrong. They were preaching these things to please the prevailing religious opinions of men who did not accept or understand the Gospel and the power of the Cross. In order to please the Jewish influences, they in effect tried to make Jews out of Gentiles. Even Peter, Barnabas, and James fell into this error and had to be corrected by the Apostles Paul (Galatians 2).
In Galatians, to preach to please God meant going against the Judaizers who were diminishing the power of Christ’s sacrifice and grace. Paul said, “brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted?“. Paul understood what the false teachers did not that justification was by faith and not by works of the law. Some were perverting a most essential tenet of Christianity.
Is the Gospel being distorted today? As much as ever, the Liar is at work. We may not have people telling us we need to be circumcized or keep the Sabbath to be saved, but Satan has other ways to turn the church away from the Gospel. Satan is satisfied to create religious people who follow a distorted Gospel. A distorted Gospel is one that says Jesus is one of many ways, not the only way, to get to heaven. The Gospel is distorted when preachers intimate that everyone is saved if they just say “Lord, Lord, I accept you into my heart.” The Gospel is to be obeyed, not just professed (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pt. 4:16,17. Preaching that God will save everyone who claims to believe in Jesus is a myth. Preaching that God will make you wealthy if you only have faith is a lie. Preaching that salvation is by “faith alone” is a misrepresetation of the facts (Jas. 2:14,16,24,26). Preaching that water baptism is not necessary is to call Jesus a liar (Mk. 16:15,16). The Gospel is being distorted in so many ways.
Preaching the Gospel isn’t always going to be popular and it won’t satisfy the majority of people. And just as in Paul’s day, the religious elite can’t be trusted to preach the pure, unadulterated truth that pleases God. Just as in their day, many religious elite exist who need power, numbers, and they will moderate their message to please as many men as possible.