- Locate the Passage
1:6-10 follows Paul’s greeting and stresses the absolute uniqueness of the gospel of Christ.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository/hortatory.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
The heart of this text is the two-fold pronouncement of a curse upon anyone preaching a gospel contrary to the one the Galatian believers received from Paul (verses 8-9). In essence, this strong language is Paul’s affirmation of the absolute uniqueness of the gospel of Christ.
This affirmation is preceded by Paul’s expression of amazement at the movement of Galatian believers away from the true gospel (verse 6) and his assessment of the situation in the churches of Galatia. The Judaizers are troubling believers and distorting the gospel (verse 7).
Finally, Paul’s affirmation is followed by a strong assertion (verse 10) in which Paul rejects the accusation of being a man-pleaser and identifies himself as Christ’s bondservant.
- Exegete the Passage
In verse 6, Paul records his amazement/astonishment (thaumazo). He is, as we might say, “blown away” by the behavior of his spiritual children in the Galatian region. From his perspective, the Galatian believers, having been influenced by the teaching of the Judaizers, are in the process of defecting from or deserting the gospel. Note the present-tense usage of the term “deserting.” This implies a process that has begun but is not final. Paul’s aim is to arrest this process. Finally, Paul indicates that his readers are turning to a different (heteron) gospel.
With verse 7, Paul clarifies his earlier reference to a “different” gospel by declaring that there is not another (allo) gospel other than the one he received from the Lord. Then, he makes a succinct assessment of the actions of the Judaizers. They “agitate” and want to pervert/distort (metastrepsai) the gospel of Christ.
Verses 8-9 bring us to the heart of this text and Paul’s argument. In the Galatian churches the essence of the gospel was at stake. Paul affirms with powerful words that the gospel is not to be trifled with or changed. It needs no updates, adjustments or improvements. Observe that in verse 8, Paul puts himself and the angels of heaven under the authority of the unchanging message of the gospel. The “if” clause in this verse employs ean with the subjunctive. This would suggest a very hypothetical perspective. Thus, it would be very “iffy” and unlikely. Paul goes on to write that if we (including himself) or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary or “differently” (par’), let him be accursed (anathema). This strong term means “devoted to God for destruction.” Interestingly, in verse 9, Paul repeats the same strong admonition. However, he does so with a different conditional construction. Here, his use of ei and the indicative communicates a condition less “iffy” than in the preceding verse. Thus, the idea conveyed is that if any preaches a contrary gospel (and indeed the Judaizer is), let him be accursed.
In verse 10, we find Paul making a powerful assertion. Apparently, the Judaizers had charged him with making the gospel too “easy” and being a man-pleaser. Paul responds with the assertion that man-pleasing and Christ-serving are mutually exclusive.
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon
A resulting structure for the sermon might look like this:
- Paul expresses his astonishment (6)
- Paul offers an assessment of the situation (7)
- Paul affirms the absolute uniqueness of the gospel of Christ (8-9)
- Paul asserts his status as Christ’s servant and defender of the one true gospel
Application emphases from this text might include:
- Assess your loyalty to the gospel of Christ.
- Affirm your confidence in the gospel of Christ.
- Align your ambition with the gospel of Christ.