“8 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. 9 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.”
Last week, we began considering how to make sense of the severe language that we sometimes encounter in Scripture. We noted in particular how Galatians 1:8-9 constitutes one of the most severe statements in the NT.
The question to answer is: What are we to make of statements like Galatians 1:8-9? How are we to understand such severe language?
There are several important lessons to be learned from Paul’s severe language in Galatians 1:8-9.
First, we learn from this passage how little the gospel is actually understood.
Increasingly, focused, doctrinal teaching and preaching is little valued among believers and churches today. As a result, when a Bible teacher comes along and confronts doctrinal error (e.g, exposing The Shack), his devotion to the truth is mistaken for intolerance, hate speech, lack of love, divisiveness or pride.
However, Leon Morris makes the following observation concerning Paul’s words in Galatians 1:8-9, “denunciation of error is an index of devotion to the truth. He who cannot curse cannot bless…Only the person who has a firm grasp of the truth can discern what is erroneous,” (Galatians, p. 45).
The widespread acceptance and praise of a book like The Shack among professing, Bible-believing Christians is quite telling. The lack of discernment in regard to a work such at this reveals how little the gospel is actually understood. If believers and churches do not feel as deeply about the distortion of the gospel as Paul did, perhaps the problem is that they have not understood the gospel as clearly as Paul.
Mark this: When the doctrine of hell and God’s judgment is qualified, downplayed or abandoned, so to will be Christ and His gospel.
“We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ.”
You cannot and will not be able to make sense of Paul’s severe denunciation of the Judaizers and their false gospel without possessing a firm grasp of the true gospel. Only by understanding the glorious truth of the genuine gospel will a person begin understand the severe condemnation of all false gospels.
The famous British author, Dorothy Sayers, speaking against the danger of abandoning the doctrine of hell and judgment wrote,
“There seems to be a kind of conspiracy, especially among middle-aged writers of vaguely liberal tendency, to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of Hell comes from. One finds frequent references to the “cruel and abominable mediaeval doctrine of hell,” or “the childish and grotesque mediaeval imagery of physical fire and worms.”…
But the case is quite otherwise; let us face the facts. The doctrine of hell is not “mediaeval”: it is Christ’s. It is not a device of “mediaeval priestcraft” for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ’s deliberate judgment on sin. The imagery of the undying worm and the unquenchable fire derives, not from “mediaeval superstition,” but originally from the Prophet Isaiah, and it was Christ who emphatically used it…It confronts us in the oldest and least “edited” of the gospels: it is explicit in many of the most familiar parables and implicit in many more: it bulks far larger in the teaching than one realizes, until one reads the Evangelists [gospels] through instead of picking out the most comfortable texts: one cannot get rid of it without tearing the New Testament to tatters. We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ,” (quoted by John Piper in “Dorothy Sayers on Why Hell Is a Non-Negotiable,” DG Website, Dorothy Sayers, A Matter of Eternity, ed. Rosamond Kent Sprague [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973], p. 86; emphasis mine).