I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel:…
After the usual apostolic greeting, Paul proceeds, not to congratulate or compliment the Galatians in any way, but to reprimand them for turning away from the gospel to ritualism. Their idea of salvation through becoming Jews was subversive of the gospel of grace, and so the apostle shows himself intolerant of the false doctrine which was so mischievous. So sure is he of his position that he does not hesitate to denounce with the curse of God any, be they men or angels, who would preach a different gospel from that gospel of Christ's self-sacrifice which he preached. Moreover, if they imagined that to be popular he would trifle with principle, he gave them to understand that he would never, to propitiate public opinion, violate in the least degree his obligation as the slave of Christ.
I. IT IS MARVELLOUS HOW ATTRACTIVE RITUALISM IS TO FICKLE MINDS. (Ver. 6.) Now, by ritualism we mean a plan of salvation by rites and ceremonies. The principle is the same whether the rites and ceremonies are Jewish or mediaeval. It is a substitute for the gospel of grace. Now, Paul marvelled that these Celts in Asia so speedily turned away from the gospel of grace to a gospel of ritual. He wondered at their fickleness. And yet, when we consider the sensationalism which underlies every ritualistic system, we can understand the hold it has upon those constitutionally fickle. Whatever is showy, palpable, and helpful to self-esteem and pride secures the homage of shallow minds. But the sad aspect of this tendency is that it removes souls from God. Every rite and ceremony which is interposed as essential between man and God creates a sense of distance between those whom the gospel would bring nigh. Instead of ritualism tending to intensify communion with God, it can only intensify the superstitious feeling which puts souls at a distance from him.
II. RITUALISM IS A PERVERSION OF THE GOSPEL. (Ver. 7.) For Paul would not admit that the ritualism imported by the Judaizers into Galatia was another gospel; in his view it was no gospel, but a perversion of it. For if I am told I can be saved only by becoming a Jew, by being circumcised, and keeping the Old Testament ritual, and that I cannot be saved by faith alone, I am deprived of the glad tidings which Christ's gospel gives, and projected upon a path of real self-righteousness. It is the same with modern ritualism. Salvation by ceremonies is the antithesis of salvation by grace. It is a perversion of God's good news to man and must result in disappointment.
III. WE OUGHT, LIKE PAUL, TO BE S0 SURE OF THE GOSPEL WE PROCLAIM AS TO BE INTOLERANT OF ANY OTHER. (Ver. 8.) Paul had got such a grasp of the gospel of grace, the self-sacrifice of Christ was so sure and so sufficient a foundation for man's hope, that he could not tolerate any other message. Even should he himself change his views in the course of years and come to Galatia with another gospel, or should an angel from heaven with an aureole of light proclaim another gospel than the one Paul had at first proclaimed, then is the apostle ready to call down upon his perverted self or the perverted angel the curse of God. Now, this intolerant side of truth really springs from the sure grasp we have of it. It is inseparable from intense conviction. Of course, it is quite distinct from the intolerance which dictates persecution. Paul would not persecute; but he would leave the perverts in the hands of God that he might deal with them. Persecution is devoting men to the curse of men; the true intolerance contents itself with leaving the offenders in the hands of a holy and just God.
IV. THE BEING WHO MISLEADS HIS FELLOWS ABOUT SALVATION DESERVES THE CURSE OF GOD. (Ver. 9.) Paul has not been rashly betrayed into intolerance of spirit. He had expressed himself to the same effect on a previous occasion, probably during his second visit to Galatia (Acts 18:23). He is now prepared to stick to his anathema. He feels in his heart of hearts that the person who trifles with the eternal interests of others and proclaims a false method of salvation deserves the Divine curse. The gospel Paul had preached was the gospel of free grace. No simpler terms of pardon and acceptance can be imagined than are offered in the gospel; it is only devil's work which those persons manage to perform who complicate salvation with rites and ceremonies, making it less easy than God intends. Having regard, then, to the eternal interests at stake, it must be admitted that the deceiver of souls deserves the curse of Heaven. How solemn a responsibility it is to guide men to God! How clear and unmistakable should the plan of salvation be made! How deep the guilt and how dire the doom of those who pervert the gospel!
V. THE SLAVE OF CHRIST WILL NOT BE THE SLAVE OF PUBLIC OPINION. (Ver. 10.) Paul was undoubtedly a man of great breadth of view and sympathy. It was a principle with him to please his neighbour for his good to edification (Romans 15:2). He was ready to become all things to all men in the hope of saving some (1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Corinthians 10:33). And the Judaizers thought that this pleasing of men on Paul's part would lead him to accept of their ritualism and give up his gospel if their policy was once thoroughly popular. In short, their notion was that Paul was so enamoured of popularity that he would bow to public opinion at all hazards. Now, this is what he repudiates in this last verse. "Do I now," he asks, "win over to myself men or God? Or am I seeking to be an object of man's good will? No; and there is a decisive reason against any such efforts. If I were still pleasing men, if I had not resigned the hope of human favour and of human approval, I should not be the slave of Christ." This leads us into the wide subject of our attitude towards public opinion. Now, our danger undoubtedly is in over-estimating it. Our safety lies in being slaves to Christ. His opinion is to be our one simple concern, and public opinion may coincide with or differ from his, but we must hold firmly by our obligations to the one Master, and all other things will range themselves rightly around us. The uncompromising slave of Christ will be found to be after all the most considerate servant of men. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: