Writing to the church at Galatia, the apostle Paul declares most solemnly:
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8 ESV)
Paul makes absolutely no concession to those who hold a different viewpoint from him or from the other apostles. He yields not even an inch of ground to anyone who distorts or varies the gospel message. Indeed, he declares that if he, or anyone else—human or angelic—should preach a gospel other than that already proclaimed by the apostles, then that person or angel will be accursed—or eternally condemned. He will remain forever under the wrath and curse of God. (2 Cor. 11:13-15; cf. 1 Cor. 16:22)
The word used in verse 8 for ‘accursed’. (Gk., anathema) is a word that means, ‘devoted to God’ i.e., for utter destruction.) Paul, however, is not using the word ‘accursed’ or ‘anathema’ as an expression of anger (although the apostle must have been justifiably angry with the false teachers). Rather, he is asserting that such false teachers—whether men or angels—fall under the immediate and singular wrath and curse of God.
(Ultimately, every such false teacher of God’s Word faces eternal destruction in the lake of fire. However, we should note that ‘destruction’ does not imply ‘annihilation’ or cessation of existence. Punishment and torment in the lake of fire endures for eternity.)
In the light of Paul’s severe warning in verse 8, it is evident that God absolutely forbids his people from tolerating or encouraging those who proclaim a false gospel. Accepting, condoning or tolerating false teaching involves us in outright unfaithfulness to God. (Titus 3:9-11). This is the message the apostle Paul is attempting to convey to these Galatian believers. However, in case they thought that the apostle was being unduly harsh or critical in his assessment of the situation, the apostle reiterates what he has just said:
As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:9 ESV)
Paul’s words are uncompromising. However, we must bear in mind that what Paul was saying or writing here, he was saying or writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. His words, therefore, are not the expressions of his own personal thoughts, ideas or opinions. They are the words of God himself. (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). Since, however, the Spirit of God directed Paul to write in such uncompromising language, it must be obvious to everyone just how seriously God judges those who alter, distort or pervert the truths of his Word.
False teaching must not be tolerated. God’s Word makes this abundantly clear. If anyone proclaims a gospel (so-called) different from that set forth in the Word of God by the Lord Jesus and his apostles, then that person places himself under God’s wrath and curse. (Rev. 22:18-19).
[Excerpt from Expository Notes: Galatians (chapter 1 verses 8-9). To read or download the full version of these Notes, click on the NT Commentaries menu tab above.]Follow @gordon_lyons