Other than profanity, we may not openly call down curses on people much today. Some of what we say may actually be cursing, but we have learned to make it sound nicer these days. Still, curses do exist, often having been pronounced by God (like the curses placed on Adam, Eve, the serpent, and on the ground in Genesis 3:14-19).
Let’s take a look at one of these today. By way of background, in Galatians 1:6-7, Paul refers to “a different gospel”:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 1:6-7 NIV
Now, what was this “different gospel”? It appears that the problem facing the Galatians was the teaching of the Judaizers, who promoted the idea that – in order to become a Christian – you had to become Jewish first. Now, there was a prescribed process by which someone could convert to the Jewish faith, so that concept wasn’t new, but the problem was that this requirement – whether to become circumcised or to follow other laws of the Old Testament – had been added to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes the opposite of truth is not outright lies, but rather distortions of the truth. A simple word inserted into a sentence, or a key statement left out, can make something entirely different. Following Jesus was good, but when false teachers (whether the Pharisees, the Judaizers, or legalists today) add in their own requirements, the message is no longer “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.
Having said that, a word study of the Greek suggests that this “different” gospel is fundamentally different from the real thing [ref. Boles, cited at the end of this article]. It might have started by people adding Jewish rules to the Christian faith, but by bringing in a works-based message, it was (or had become) an entirely different thing from the gospel of God’s grace.
In regards to what it means to “pervert the gospel of Christ”, a commentator [Boles] says, “When something is already perfect, the change can only be destructive.” Similarly, the Lookout [also cited below] says, “The gospel that came from heaven cannot be improved.”
Paul makes his point even clearer in verses 8-9:
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Galatians 1:8-9 NIV
Paul is not being vindictive or petty, here. He is merely stating a fact: delivering messages that are contradictory to God’s message deserves a curse. After all, in Matthew 18:6-7 (see also Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:1-2), we are reminded of what Jesus said, when He described what awaited those who caused certain little ones to stumble.
This idea of a curse here is anathema, which is the same word used for things (and people) that were to be utterly destroyed during the conquest of Canaan, for instance [Boles]. I’m not saying that it is our place to personally destroy people who teach false doctrine (although maybe we should destroy their false messages; consider 2 Corinthians 10:5), but false teachers should expect no less than God’s wrath, and if we can’t restore them to the truth, we should definitely separate ourselves from them, and separate them from the fellowship of God’s family. (Ideally, their separation from the church will bring them back to repentance – see 2 Timothy 2:25-26.) This “broken gospel” wasn’t going to save anyone [Boles], and – even today – must be kept away from those needing to be saved by the truth.
God’s truth is the truth (and Jesus is the Truth), so it doesn’t matter who may bring a different message: any claim that contradicts the truth is – by definition – wrong. This includes other [evil] spirits who are trying to deceive us, as well as people trying to be helpful by adding rules to the Christian walk (although we are welcome – as individuals – to select our own boundaries with God’s help, in order to help us stay on the narrow path).
It has been pointed out [Boles] that the truth of something has nothing to do with the person stating it, but everything to do with the inherent truth of the statement itself: [quoting Burton] “ ‘It is the message, not the messenger, that ultimately matters. The gospel preached by Paul is not the true gospel because it is Paul who preaches it; it is the true gospel because the risen Christ gave it to Paul to preach.’ ”
Be careful of anything that is added to or removed from the gospel of Jesus Christ. What might seem like a simple bit of good advice can become something that isn’t the good news of Jesus at all.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for August 1, 2021
- The Lookout, August 1, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Galatians & Ephesians, by Kenneth L. Boles. College Press Publishing Company, © 1993, p.32-60.