The study of Galatians is of critical importance. Not only do we learn of a departure from the Gospel in ancient days, but we see that there is similar error being proclaimed today. Many Christians have accepted this divergence from the Gospel, not knowing the gravity of their error. It’s important for us to understand what the Galatians’ error was, so that we can recognize similar false teaching today for what it is—a departure from the Gospel, by which we are saved.
Paul is confronting Judaizers, legalists that promoted adherence to the Mosaic covenant as vital to Christianity. Paul refutes this “other gospel” for several reasons:
• It finds the finished work of Christ inadequate to sanctify us in a sinful world.
• It nullifies grace.
• It’s man-made and man-pleasing.
• It seeks to put us under bondage by compelling us to keep the Mosaic Law.
• It implies that those who fail to live under the Law are second class citizens.
• It forgets that divine power is manifested through God’s Spirit, given through faith, and that salvation is a matter of God’s promise, not our effort.
The Judaizer mentality is common among religious fundamentalists today, who suspect anything that is too easy. This mindset distrusts anything that appears to be too tolerant and not sufficiently difficult and demanding. The underlying assumption is the more demanding the duty, the more painful the process, the higher the price of piety, the more likely it is to be of God. But Christ’s salvation is founded upon grace.
The danger of a fundamentalist mindset is that it questions the grace—God’s unmerited favor—upon which salvation and sanctification rest. Paul not only preached grace, he practiced it, and in so doing, brought about a strong reaction from the Judaizers, who questioned both his message and his motives.
If Paul was working to please people—the accusation of the Judaizers—then he could not be interested in pleasing God. Paul insists that nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead he affirms that what he learned about the Gospel, he learned apart from people. Paul’s conversion was initiated by God. God set him apart for the express purpose of preaching Christ to the non-Jews. God revealed His Son in Paul, not just “to” him.
Paul’s conversion took place within him, through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, revives the spiritually dead (John 3:8; Ephesians 2:5; Titus 3:5). This is how he is able to discern the true Gospel from the “other gospel” of the Judaizers.