Paul did not learn the Gospel from books or in some classroom. He received it by revelation directly from God (Gal 1:12) and was confirmed by the apostles (Gal 1:18; Gal 2:2). He so identified his life with the Life of the Gospel that he named it “my Gospel” – a challenge to every born again believer to make the Gospel just that personal in their life:
Romans 16:25 (ESV)
Now to Him who is able to *strengthen you according to MY GOSPEL and the preaching of Jesus Christ…
In that verse, the word “strengthen” can also be translated as “establish, fix, settle, make stable, make firm.” Paul knew the power of the amazing Gospel. He said, “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).
However, Paul was extremely protective of “his” Gospel! He explained that those who preach any other twisted version of the Gospel would be “anathema” which is a strong Greek word meaning “cursed by God”:
Galatians 1:8-9 (ESV) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed (“anathema”). As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (“anathema”).
Why was Paul so angered? These Galatians were gentiles (non-Jews) and had marvelously received the Gospel and experienced God’s grace. But there was a particular group of Jewish Christians that were telling these Galatians that it was necessary to keep certain laws if they wanted to be saved. Paul says:
Galatians 2:21 (ESV)
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Consider this example. A close friend who truly loves you spends much of their life’s savings to buy you a brand new, top-of-the-line Mercedes Benz. You know that car’s cost and their sacrifice, so you beg your friend to please let you pay for part of it. At first, your friend refuses, but upon your insistence, he finally agrees to let you give him $1.00 for the car. Imagine your friend’s utter disappointment when he hears you have been driving around town, boasting that you bought a Mercedes Benz from your friend for only $1.00! You just reduced your friend’s sacrificial love down to $1.00. What a travesty!
That is precisely what these legalistic Jewish Christians were trying to get the Galatian believers to do.
No wonder Paul was so upset! He loved his Savior, and it angered him to think that anyone would add laws and works to the Gospel to reduce to nothing God’s ultimate and high-cost sacrifice of love for us. God’s love is 100% free. If we add works, laws, and man-made rules to the Gospel, we cheapen God’s love and nullify all Jesus came to do!
Paul then delivered this strong rebuke to these Galatian Christians:
Galatians 3:1 (ESV) O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?
The Gospel is the Good News that Jesus Christ came to die and rise again to pay our sin debt in full so that we can come to God; be washed and cleansed by Jesus’ Blood; be saved by His amazing grace, and experience the new birth into God’s family! It’s FULLY BY GRACE and NOT OF WORKS so that no one can ever boast (Eph 2:8-9). The Gospel also provides all we need to be established and strengthened by God’s love and power so that we might be transformed into all God called us to be.
Let’s never be fooled or “bewitched” by any other twisted version of the Gospel! In fact, let’s get so deep into the Gospel of Jesus Christ and allow the Gospel to get so deep into us that the words “my Gospel” will fit as easily in our lips as they did for the Apostle Paul: