But though we, or an angel - That Gospel which I have already preached to you is the only true Gospel; were I to preach any other, I should incur the curse of God. If your false teachers pretend, as many in early times did, that they received their accounts by the ministry of an angel, let them be accursed; separate them from your company, and have no religious communion with them. Leave them to that God who will show his displeasure against all who corrupt, all who add to, and all who take from the word of his revelation.
Let all those who, from the fickleness of their own minds, are ready to favor the reveries of every pretended prophet and prophetess who starts up, consider the awful words of the apostle. As, in the law, the receiver of stolen goods is as bad as the thief; so the encouragers of such pretended revelations are as bad, in the sight of God, as those impostors themselves. What says the word of God to them? Let them be accursed. Reader, lay these things to heart.
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 endeavored 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 the note at Acts 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 favor of the observance of the Jewish rites, and that if he had ever taught differently, he must now 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 bad 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 may be 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.
Preach any other gospel - See the note at Galatians 1:6. 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.
Let him be accursed - Greek ἀνάθεμα anathēma(anathema). On the meaning of this word, see the notes at 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22, note. 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 what 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 patronise 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; Proverbs 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 we should not be found to lend our countenance to it, nor should we patronise 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.
Under the rule of the Roman Church the people were sunken in poverty and ground down by oppression. They were destitute of the Scriptures; and having a religion of mere signs and ceremonies, which conveyed no light to the mind, they were returning to the superstitious beliefs and pagan practices of their heathen ancestors. The nation was divided into contending factions, whose perpetual strife increased the misery of all. The king determined upon a reformation in the state and the church, and he welcomed these able assistants in the battle against Rome. GC 243.1
In the presence of the monarch and the leading men of Sweden, Olaf Petri with great ability defended the doctrines of the reformed faith against the Romish champions. He declared that the teachings of the Fathers are to be received only when in accordance with the Scriptures; that the essential doctrines of the faith are presented in the Bible in a clear and simple manner, so that all men may understand them. Christ said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me” (John 7:16); and Paul declared that should he preach any other gospel than that which he had received, he would be accursed (Galatians 1:8). “How, then,” said the Reformer, “shall others presume to enact dogmas at their pleasure, and impose them as things necessary to salvation?”—Wylie, b. 10, ch. 4. He showed that the decrees of the church are of no authority when in opposition to the commands of God, and maintained the great Protestant principle that “the Bible and the Bible only” is the rule of faith and practice. GC 243.2
This contest, though conducted upon a stage comparatively obscure, serves to show us “the sort of men that formed the rank and file of the army of the Reformers. They were not illiterate, sectarian, noisy controversialists—far from it; they were men who had studied the word of God, and knew well how to wield the weapons with which the armory of the Bible supplied them. In respect of erudition they were ahead of their age. When we confine our attention to such brilliant centers as Wittenberg and Zurich, and to such illustrious names as those of Luther and Melanchthon, of Zwingli and Oecolampadius, we are apt to be told, these were the leaders of the movement, and we should naturally expect in them prodigious power and vast acquisitions; but the subordinates were not like these. Well, we turn to the obscure theater of Sweden, and the humble names of Olaf and Laurentius Petri—from the masters to the disciples—what do we find? ... Scholars and theologians; men who have thoroughly mastered the whole system of gospel truth, and who win an easy victory over the sophists of the schools and the dignitaries of Rome.”—Ibid., b. 10, ch. 4. GC 243.3Read in context »
And see the storms and tempests. Satan is working in the atmosphere; he is poisoning the atmosphere, and here we are dependent upon God for our lives—our present and eternal life. And being in the position that we are, we need to be wide awake, wholly devoted, wholly converted, wholly consecrated to God. But we seem to sit as though we were paralyzed. God of heaven, wake us up!—Manuscript 1, 1890. 2SM 52.1Read in context »
This chapter is based on the Epistle to the Galatians.
While tarrying at Corinth, Paul had cause for serious apprehension concerning some of the churches already established. Through the influence of false teachers who had arisen among the believers in Jerusalem, division, heresy, and sensualism were rapidly gaining ground among the believers in Galatia. These false teachers were mingling Jewish traditions with the truths of the gospel. Ignoring the decision of the general council at Jerusalem, they urged upon the Gentile converts the observance of the ceremonial law. AA 383.1Read in context »
God's Word the Standard—It is not enough for a man to think himself safe in following the dictates of his conscience.... The question to be settled is, Is the conscience in harmony with the Word of God? If not, it cannot safely be followed, for it will deceive. The conscience must be enlightened by God. Time must be given to a study of the Scriptures and to prayer. Thus the mind will be stablished, strengthened, and settled.—Letter 21, 1901. (Our High Calling, 143.) 1MCP 324.1
Is Conscience Changing your Life?—You may have a conscience and that conscience may bring conviction to you, but the question is, Is that conviction a working agent? Does that conviction reach your heart and the doings of the inner man? Is there a purification of the soul temple of its defilement? That is what we want, because it is a time such as it was in the days of the children of Israel; and if there are any sins upon you, do not stop till they are corrected and put away.—Manuscript 13, 1894. 1MCP 324.2
Influence of Truth on the Conscience and on the Heart—The psalmist says, “The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130). When truth is working only upon the conscience, it creates much uneasiness; but when truth is invited into the heart, the whole being is brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. Even the thoughts are captured, for the mind of Christ works where the will is submitted to the will of God. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). He whom the Lord makes free is free indeed, and he cannot be brought into servile bondage to sin.—Manuscript 67, 1894. 1MCP 324.3Read in context »