A message to those who pervert the gospel

Paul’s message to those who pervert the gospel was clear. They could go to hell. Twice he wrote, “Let him be eternally condemned!” Galatians 2:8-9. That was Jesus’ view too. “You snakes! You vipers!” he yelled in Matthew 23:33, “How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

And who was he yelling at? “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees,” verse 2 – the spiritual leaders and preachers, whose job it was to learn the gospel and preach it accurately, “BUT you were not willing,” verse 37. Instead, verse 4, “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

The same thing was happening in Paul’s day. People “who were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel,” Galatians 2:14, were trying to “make us slaves (1:14),” by trying to force new Christians “to follow Jewish customs (2:14).” It was exactly the same problem Jesus confronted the Pharisees and preachers of his day with. Instead of lifting burdens off people, these so-called preachers “who seemed to be leaders,” Galatians 2:2, were loading all kinds of religious rituals and customs ON people, burdens that had nothing to do with the gospel.

Adding burdens, therefore, is a telling sign of a false preacher at work, because the gospel isn’t about making life more burdensome, it’s about freeing us from our burdens. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus cried, “and I will give you rest….for my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Matthew 11:28, 30. And as Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

But slavery to what, exactly? Well, in context, verse 4, it’s slavery to the idea that we have to justify ourselves before God – by how good we are or by how much effort we put into our Christianity (3:3). But, Paul cries, “if righteousness could be gained through the law” – or by any effort on our part – then “Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21. Christ didn’t die to put the burden of our salvation – or righteousness, or justification – on our backs. He died to take all those burdens on himself, because God wants our salvation to be entirely his doing. That way it’s guaranteed to be successful!

To those who were confusing and perverting that message, Paul had this to say: “The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be,” Galatians 5:10. And what penalty did he, like Jesus, have in mind for such people? “Let them rot in hell.”

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