"If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Gal 1:6-9)This text is interpreted to mean that unless someone is preaching the one true faith in its entirety then they are preaching "another Gospel". It's argued, for example, that trinitarianism is "another Gospel". So too is heaven-going at death. Some Christadelphians go even further and accuse other Christadelphians of preaching "another Gospel" if they hold different views on the atonement, the nature of Christ, resurrectional responsibility, inspiration, divorce and remarriage, the extent of the Kingdom, or even the identity of Gog and Magog!
What did Paul mean when he wrote about those preaching "another Gospel"?
The best way to get an overview of Galatians is to read it through in one sitting, preferably in a modern version. The Message is excellent for this purpose, and it won't take long at all to read the whole letter. If you read Galatians this way you will notice that Paul is very single-minded and that he really has just one objective in writing this letter. There was only one issue that he wanted to deal with in this letter and he gets straight to the point in the opening verses.
Paul doesn't leave us in any doubt as to the problem: certain teachers from Jerusalem had visited the churches in Galatia and attempted to bring them under some of the rules and regulations of Judaism. Paul is very outspoken in his opposition to this "Judaizing" of Christianity and makes it very clear indeed that the Gospel he preached, and through which the Galatians were converted, was a message of freedom in Christ. He tells them again that we are saved by grace, and not through the keeping of any rules or regulations. He explains that any human efforts to please God and gain salvation through rituals, law-keeping and 'legalism' of any kind will end in failure. No less than seven times he emphasises the importance of grace.
In contrasting the false teachings of the Judaisers with the message he preached, Paul says "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (5:4). To abandon the Gospel of grace is "apostacy" - a fall from grace. He says that if righteousness could be gained any other way than by grace then "Christ died for nothing!" (2:20-21).
Right from the start of this letter Paul makes it clear that this is about grace versus legalism. He says that the Gospel of Christ which they first heard and embraced was about "the grace of Christ" but that now they were deserting this Gospel of grace and "are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all" (1:5-7).
So its really quite plain here that the "other Gospel" which was being preached was about legalism, rule-keeping and attempting to gain righteousness through "works of the law".
This explains why Paul says that "if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed". Later he said that "all who rely on observing the law are under a curse" (3:10). Legalism brings a curse on those who try to live by rule-keeping.
In earlier posts in this series I noted that many of these "wrested Scriptures" are used by the very people the texts are speaking about and given another meaning contrary to the one that was intended and turned against the believers. Paul wrote: "some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves" (2:4). Not surprisingly then this passage in Galatians 1:6-9 is also often used by legalists in their attempts to rob believers of their freedom in Christ and to bring them into bondage to a doctrinal creed, a style of worship, a manner of dressing, an organisational structure, or some other man-made way of practicing religion.