“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9)
If the authentic gospel message is good news, the alternative peddled by those who sought to influence the first-century churches of Galatia was just the opposite. Those teachings represented bad news because they distorted the genuine gospel of Christ.
In fact, those teachings were so dangerous that the warning of Galatians 1:8 is repeated again in Galatians 1:9: “As we said before, so I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel different from or contrary to that which you received [from us], let him be accursed (anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment)!” (AMPC).
This was clearly designed to shock the original audience for this message into the realization that their decision to entertain these false teachers was very wrong. At a point where a first-century author would normally exchange pleasantries with the recipients of a letter, these words must have fallen like hammer blows upon the members of the Galatian congregations.
If we were to rephrase this message in a modern-day form, we might do so in the following manner: “I don’t care if an ‘angel from heaven’ comes down and preaches to you- if the message differs from the gospel you received, forget it!” Another source takes a more analytical approach in commenting on this passage…
“Quite simply, nothing, or no one, had the authority to override the truth of the gospel (including Paul himself or even angels, v. 8). Paul’s concern is to place the issue of authority and the discussion of apostolic origins into a proper perspective. Ultimately it is not the preacher to whom one gives allegiance, but to that which is preached. There is only one gospel. Anything else is perverted and false.” (1)
So these verses remind us of the need to ensure that no one inflicts spiritual injury upon us with a distorted message of salvation. However, the intensity of these verses also provide us with a preview of what is to come. If the language of this passage seems surprising in its bluntness, we may wish to prepare for a shockingly graphic word-picture that will follow later in this epistle.
(1) McClelland, S. E. (1995). Galatians. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 1004). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.