Galatians 1:6-10; What Does It Mean To “Preach Another Gospel”?

“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! For 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. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”– Galatians 1:6-12

What does it mean to preach another Gospel? What is the Gospel?

Here are a couple exegetical notes:

John Calvin

Accordingly he enjoins them to regard as devils those who shall dare to bring forward a gospel different from his, — meaning by another gospel, one to which the inventions of other men are added; for the doctrine of the false apostles was not entirely contrary, or even different, from that of Paul, but corrupted by false additions.

To what poor subterfuges do the Papists resort, in order to escape from the Apostle’s declaration! First, they tell us, that we have not in our possession the whole of Paul’s preaching, and cannot know what it contained, unless the Galatians who heard it shall be raised from the dead, in order to appear as witnesses. Next, they assert, that it is not every kind of addition which is forbidden, but that other gospels only are condemned. What Paul’s doctrine was, so far as it concerns us to know, may be learned with sufficient clearness from his writings. Of this gospel, it is plain, the whole of Popery is a dreadful perversion. And from the nature of the case, we remark in conclusion, it is manifest that any spurious doctrine whatever is at variance with Paul’s preaching; so that these cavils will avail them nothing.

Martin Luther

This passage adduces further evidence that the false apostles defamed Paul as an imperfect apostle and a weak and erroneous preacher. They condemn Paul, Paul condemns them. Such warfare of condemnation is always going on in the church. The papists and the fanatics hate us, condemn our doctrine, and want to kill us. We in turn hate and condemn their cursed doctrine. In the meanwhile the people are uncertain whom to follow and which way to turn, for it is not given to everybody to judge these matters. But the truth will win out. So much is certain, we persecute no man, neither does our doctrine trouble men. On the contrary, we have the testimony of many good men who thank God on their knees for the consolation that our doctrine has brought them. Like Paul, we are not to blame that the churches have trouble. The fault lies with the Anabaptists and other fanatics.

Every teacher of work-righteousness is a trouble-maker. Has it never occurred to you that the pope, cardinals, bishops, monks, and that the whole synagogue of Satan are trouble-makers? The truth is, they are worse than false apostles. The false apostles taught that in addition to faith in Christ the works of the Law of God were necessary unto salvation. But the papists omit faith altogether and teach self-devised traditions and works that are not commanded of God, indeed are contrary to the Word of God, and for these traditions they demand preferred attention and obedience.

Who are the Anabaptist’s and Papists of our day? Are Luther and Calvin just hotheads that lived in a different era? Do we have the courage to call a spade a spade as the Reformers, the Puritans, the Dutch did? What is our response to these words from the Synod of Dordt:

Therefore this Synod of Dordt in the name of the Lord pleads with all who devoutly call on the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to form their judgment about the faith of the Reformed churches, not on the basis of false accusations gathered from here or there, or even on the basis of the personal statements of a number of ancient and modern authorities–statements which are also often either quoted out of context or misquoted and twisted to convey a different meaning–but on the basis of the churches’ own official confessions and of the present explanation of the orthodox teaching which has been endorsed by the unanimous consent of the members of the whole Synod, one and all.

Moreover, the Synod earnestly warns the false accusers themselves to consider how heavy a judgment of God awaits those who give false testimony against so many churches and their confessions, trouble the consciences of the weak, and seek to prejudice the minds of many against the fellowship of true believers.

Finally, this Synod urges all fellow ministers in the gospel of Christ to deal with this teaching in a godly and reverent manner, in the academic institutions as well as in the churches; to do so, both in their speaking and writing, with a view to the glory of God’s name, holiness of life, and the comfort of anxious souls; to think and also speak with Scripture according to the analogy of faith; and, finally, to refrain from all those ways of speaking which go beyond the bounds set for us by the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures and which could give impertinent sophists a just occasion to scoff at the teaching of the Reformed churches or even to bring false accusations against it.

May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of his Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.

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3 thoughts on “Galatians 1:6-10; What Does It Mean To “Preach Another Gospel”?

  1. A helpful side note to holy vehemence and explanation of a right disposition against false teachers and teaching.
    Calvin concerning Matthew 23.

    “He breaks out into still stronger language of condemnation, and he does so not so much on their account, as for the purpose of withdrawing the common people and simple-minded men from their sect. For though we see frequently in Scripture the judgment of God pronounced against the reprobate, so as to render them the more inexcusable, yet in their person the children of God receive a useful warning, not to involve themselves in the snares of the same crimes, but to guard against falling into similar destruction. Certainly, when the scribes, after overturning the worship of God and corrupting the doctrine of godliness, would endure no correction, and with desperate madness, to their own destruction and that of the whole nation, opposed the redemption which was offered to them, it was proper that they should be held up to the hatred and detestation of all. And yet Christ did not so much consider what they deserved, as what would be useful to the uneducated and ignorant; for he intended, towards the close of his life, to leave a solemn testimony, that no man might, except knowingly and willingly, be deceived by persons.

    We know how powerfully a foolish reverence for false teachers hinders simple people from getting clear of their erroneous views. The Jews were at that time deeply imbued with false doctrine, and had even imbibed from their earliest years many superstitions. While it was hard and difficult in itself to bring them back to the right path, the chief obstacle lay in the foolish opinion which they had formed about the false teachers, whom they regarded as the lawful prelates of the Church, the rulers of divine worship, and the pillars of religion. Besides, they were so strongly fascinated, that they could scarcely be drawn away from those teachers but by violent fear. It is not therefore for the purpose of cursing the scribes that Christ pronounces against them the dreadful vengeance of God, but to withdraw others from their impostures. In like manner, we are compelled at the present day to thunder loudly against the Popish clergy, for no other reason than that those who are tractable, and not quite desperate, may direct their minds to their salvation, and, moved by the judgment of God, may break the deadly snares of superstitions by which they are held captive.

    Hence we may infer how cruel is the mildness of those who dislike our vehemence. They are displeased to see harshness and severity used towards the wolves, which are constantly, with open mouth, tearing and devouring the sheep; and yet they see the poor sheep deceived by a vain disguise, freely throwing themselves into the jaws of the wolves, unless the pastor who desires to save them, and endeavors to rescue them from destruction, drive them away with a loud voice. We must therefore follow out the design of Christ, by copying out his example in severe threatenings against wicked despisers, and in boldly exclaiming against them, that those who are capable of being cured may be led by the fear of destruction to withdraw from them. For though we gain nothing by addressing the enemies of the truth, yet they must be summoned to the judgment-seat of God, and others must be warned, that they may know that the same destruction awaits themselves, if they do not speedily withdraw from a wicked league with them. so base and wicked.”

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