Above is one of my favorite works of Rembrandt. It is a portrait of Paul and Peter in conversation, some suggest they are debating. Of course, Paul had to confront his fellow Apostle concerning the matter of the gospel.
Further, Paul wrote to the Galatians as a defense and clarification of the gospel. The gospel is faith in Christ and His work on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. It has been the tendency of sinful man to add to this gospel, in the case of the Galatians they were adding circumcision to Christ which amounted to a different gospel, which was no gospel at all. Paul wrote-
Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 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. 9 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.
The challenge for every generation of Christ's church is to guard the gospel by God's sustaining grace. There are three ways to guard the gospel as evidenced by this passage:
1. With Clarity. We must know the gospel clearly and be able to express it succinctly and accurately. Very simply, Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins. We must believe this. It's not Christ plus something else, it's trust in Christ alone for salvation. Trust in my work or the work of man leads to hell, only Christ's merit applied to me or you by faith can save. We must be clear on what the gospel is and proclaim it consistently and lucidly.
2. With Correction. As we strive to proclaim the gospel clearly, it will be necessary to correct well-meaning brothers and sisters who are sliding toward adding something to Christ for salvation. In the above passage Paul writes, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him." This statement is in the present tense meaning they were in the process of deserting God. There was still the opportunity to reclaim them from a total shift of trust from Christ to Christ plus circumcision (which is actually trust in man's work). We should not assume that every person who is confused on a clear gospel message is a heretic or lost, but rather we should work to bring clarity to that dear brother or sister's thinking.
3. With Condemnation. People don't like the word "condemnation" these days. It sounds so judgmental. Well, it is! Judgments are necessary. Paul doesn't shy away from using a judgmental, condemning term when referring to those who were propagating a false gospel. It's one thing for a brother or sister to be confused and in need of clarification and correction. It's quite another for a supposed minister of God (man or angel) to be promoting a false gospel. For such individuals, apart from God granting repentance, there will be eternal condemnation. There is no way to soften Paul's declaration as he writes in verse 8- "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." To be sure there was no misunderstanding, Paul repeats his point in verse 9 again calling those who preach a false gospel "accursed". Accursed comes from the word anathema. It means dedicated to destruction. Accursed means to be damned.
Guarding the gospel is not an option for the Church of Jesus Christ, it is our sacred trust. Too much is at stake to be weak on this matter. We must stand with Paul who wrote to the Romans (and to us):
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.