When “Something” is Worse Than “Nothing At All”
Robert Wurtz II
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6–9 KJV)
How often have we heard the saying, “Well, it’s better than nothing?” What about the sibling notion, “Well, at least they are doing something.” From a Biblical perspective one might say, “Well, nevertheless, Christ is preached.” These sayings are certainly valid in proper contexts; however, what are we to make of them when it’s the Gospel itself that is in view and at risk?
Galatians is the only epistle that Paul wrote with his own hand. Typically he employed an amanuensis to do the writing — as he did the dictating. Men like Tertius (Romans 16:22), Tichicus or Onesimus (Colossians 4:18) wrote the epistles, and Paul would write the salutation at the beginning and end (see 1 Corinthians 16:21, 2 Thess. 3:17). However, in Galatians 6:11 we don’t have the signature of an amanuensis; we have the words, “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!” Undoubtedly Paul’s eyesight did not allow him to write in normal sized characters. It must have looked like a first grader had written those words. Why the sudden change of process? Why no amanuensis?
The situation at Galatia was too urgent. He had to get the letter off to the people and right now. When they beheld his writing they must have been horrified. What could possibly be so serious that a man half-blind would take the time to write out with his own hand a letter such as this. Their alarm would not have been unfounded. They had hardly passed the salutation when they were confronted by the sentence, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. The word accursed comes from the Greek anathema and means Divine disfavor. It is the opposite of grace and peace. Paul uses the word again in 1 Corinthians 16:22 where we read, If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come! (NKJV) These sayings strike most Christians as harsh, but that is more of the result of the world’s influence on them than anything else. God is who He is and His word is what it is — not as He is or His word is as seen through the lens of God’s enemies. Comprehending Paul’s use of anathema will go a long way in restoring a proper reverence to God and the Gospel. Otherwise, the offenders will be accursed.
A Gospel of the Flesh
The enemy doesn’t seem to care what kind of fleshly means he uses, so long as he can get Christians to employ the flesh instead of continuing in the Spirit. What did Paul say? “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3 NKJV) This is any means of perfection and maturity in Christ other than walking in the Spirit. Some prefer coming under the Law to walking in the Spirit. It is the flesh. Others are living in sin and abusing grace (trying to) and that is also flesh. Flesh is flesh is flesh is flesh; and it comes in many flavors. Again, the enemy doesn’t care what version of flesh you choose — so long as he can stop you beginning in and continuing in the Spirit.
The consequence for those who teach these type of things is that they are accursed. Whether they realize it now or not — they… are… accursed. It will be evident in the Judgment if they don’t turn from their ways. Why? Because people who take it upon themselves to pervert the Gospel deserve to be without grace. If they didn’t, God would not have inspired Paul to pronounce a curse on them. Are we nicer than God? Paul said it, “Let them be accursed.” The word let in the Greek is in the present imperative.
It would seem to me that ministers and teachers would examine what they are preaching and teaching against what Paul has preached to make sure they are not cursed. None are exempt from the possibility of cursing. Not even angels. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Paul preached repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ until the end of his ministry. They who would pervert the Gospel and turn grace into lasciviousness will not admit this. However, we have it in Paul’s own words. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 26:20 emphasis added) From here folks were to be baptized in water and receive the Holy Spirit. This “receiving of the Holy Spirit” is what Paul describes as “having begun in the Spirit…”
Let us keep our minds on what Paul said, “If anyone preaches any other Gospel than what we have preached to you — let them be accursed.” I can’t feel safe preaching the Gospel according to Martin Luther, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, Bill Bright, Billy Graham, Joel Osteen or (insert favorite preacher here ________): I have to preach the Gospel that Paul preached; that is, if I am to avoid the curse pronounced in Galatians 1. We cannot look to men, we must look to God’s word. Nevertheless, multitudes are willing to risk being cursed and all the while proclaiming to be blessed. How many today are preaching grace, but are really under a curse? Any Gospel that does not result in a Christian receiving the Spirit by the hearing of faith and continuing on walking in that Spirit that they began in… is not Paul’s Gospel. There are a great many names we can apply, but Paul’s would not be one of them.
Going back under the Mosiac Law is a curse waiting to happen. Bringing in the world’s hair-brained schemes to supplement the Gospel is as much madness as when Sarah tried to help God by giving her husband Abraham an Egyptian slave woman to have relations with. Paul called Ishmael a child born after the flesh. The Gospel is being preached “after the flesh” every time someone tries to freshen it up with worldly – secular – God-hating contributions. What fellowship has light with darkness? Certainly it was serious enough for Paul to rush off a letter written with his own handwriting. I suppose if that didn’t get their attention — nothing would.
When “Something” is Worse Than “Nothing At All”