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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 8
Verse 8. But though we. That is, we the apostles. Probably he refers particularly to himself, as the plural is often used by Paul when speaking of himself. He alludes here, possibly, to a charge which was brought against him by the false teachers in Galatia, that he had changed his views since he came among them, and now preached differently from what he did then. See the Introduction. They endeavoured probably to fortify their own opinions in regard to the obligations of the Mosaic law, by affirming, that though Paul when he was among them had maintained that the observance of the law was not necessary to salvation, yet that he had changed his views, and now held the same doctrine on the subject which they did. What they relied on in support of this opinion is unknown. It is certain, however, that Paul did, on some occasions, (See Barnes "Ac 21:21-26,) comply with the Jewish rites; and it is not improbable that they were acquainted with that fact, and interpreted it as proving that he had changed his sentiments on the subject. At all events, it would make their allegation plausible that Paul was now in favour of the observance of the Jewish rites, and that if he had ever taught differently, he must new have changed his opinion. Paul, therefore, begins the discussion by denying this in the most solemn manner. He affirms that the gospel which he had at first preached to them was the true gospel. It contained the great doctrines of salvation. It was to be regarded by them as a fixed and settled point, that there was no other way of salvation but by the merits of the Saviour. No matter who taught anything else; no matter though it be alleged that he had changed his mind; no matter even though he should preach another gospel; and no matter though an angel from heaven should declare any other mode of salvation, it was to be held as a fixed and settled position, that the true gospel had been preached to them at first. We are not to suppose that Paul admitted that he had changed his mind, or that the inferences of the false teachers there were well-founded; but we are to understand this as affirming, in the most solemn manner, that the true gospel, and the only method of salvation, had been preached among them at first.
Or an angel from heaven. This is a very strong rhetorical mode of expression. It is not to be supposed that an angel from heaven would preach any other than the true gospel. But Paul wishes to put the strongest possible case, and to affirm, in the strongest manner possible, that the true gospel had been preached to them. The great system of salvation had been taught; and no other was to be admitted—no matter who preached it, no matter what the character or rank of the preacher, and no matter with what imposing claims he came. It follows from this, that the mere rank, character, talent, eloquence, or piety of a preacher, does not of necessity give his doctrine a claim to our belief, or prove that his gospel is true. Great talents maybe prostituted; and great sanctity of manner, and even holiness of character, may be in error; and no matter what may be the rank, and talents, and eloquence, and piety of the preacher, if he does not accord with the gospel which was first preached, he is to be held accursed.
Any gospel that differs from that which was first preached to you; any system of doctrines which goes to deny the necessity of simple dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
It is not improperly here rendered "accursed," or "devoted to destruction." The object of Paul is to express the greatest possible abhorrence of any other doctrine than that which he had himself preached. So great was his detestation of it, that, says Luther, "he casteth out very flames of fire; and his zeal is so fervent, that he beginneth almost to curse the angels." It follows from this,
(1.) that any other doctrine than that which is proclaimed in the Bible on the subject of justification, is to be rejected and treated with abhorrence, no matter what the.rank, talent, or eloquence of him who defends it.
(2.) That we are not to patronize or countenance such preachers. No matter what their zeal, or their apparent sincerity, or their apparent sanctity, or their apparent success, or their real boldness in rebuking vice, we are to withdraw from them. "Cease, my son," said Solomon, "to hear the instruction that causes to err from the words of knowledge," Pr 19:27. Especially are we to withdraw wholly from that instruction which goes to deny the great doctrines of salvation—that pure gospel which the Lord Jesus and the apostle taught. If Paul would regard even an angel as doomed to destruction, and as held accursed, should he preach any other doctrine, assuredly ice should not be found to lend our countenance to it, nor should we patronize it by attending on such a ministry. Who would desire to attend on the ministry of even an angel, if he was to be held accursed? How much less the ministry of a man preaching the same doctrine! It does not follow from this, however, that we are to treat others with severity of language, or with the language of cursing. They must answer to God. We are to withdraw from their teaching; we are to regard the doctrines with abhorrence; and we are not to lend our countenance to them. To their own Master they stand or fall; but what must be the doom of a teacher whom an inspired man has said should be regarded as "ACCURSED!" It may be added, how responsible is the ministerial office! How fearful the account which the ministers of religion must render! How much prayer, and study, and effort are needed that they may be able to understand the true gospel, and that they may not be led into error, or lead others into error!
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