We turn today to how Paul understands the word “gospel” and I will begin with Galatians, since I think it is the earliest letter of Paul’s. The moment we enter into Paul’s use of “gospel” we also enter into a web of thoughts. I will do my best to stick to what the text says in its context but it may involve pulling in other Pauline texts to make sense of what Paul says.
We begin with Galatians 1:6-10:
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting
the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a
different gospel- 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some
people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the
gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should
preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be
eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If
anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let
him be eternally condemned! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of
men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to
please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
The Galatians are abandoning — or in danger of abandoning — the
gospel of Paul for “a different [kind of] gospel.” Paul says this
“gospel” to which they are turning is not really a gospel at all. Why?
They are turning to a faith + works response to God and Paul says in
this letter that if you “add works” to “faith” you “subtract”
salvation, justification, Christ, and grace.
2. The opponents of
Paul are perverting the gospel when they add to the gospel. The gospel
is Christ and Spirit and not Moses and Law.
3. Paul condemns those who preach a gospel other than the gospel of faith in Jesus Christ.