“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel…“
The introduction to the book of Galatians covers the first ten verses. The occasion (reason for the letter) of the epistle runs from verse 6 through verse 10. This section carries a denunciation of the Galatians for leaving the true gospel for a false gospel. It is conspicuous by the lack of any expression of gratitude toward the readers. Doctrinal deviation deserves no thanks.
Paul moves abruptly into the problem at the church in Galatia. What a transition from praising the glory of God in the previous verse to this statement of shock about the Galatians’ defection from the gospel of grace!
“Marvel” means to wonder. Paul is astonished and surprised that the Galatians would abandon the gospel of grace. He says, in effect, “I am shocked that you are so unstable that you would move away from the gospel of grace so quickly.” This beginning of the body of the epistle makes it very clear that the Galatians deserve severe rebuke. Very few people today express shock about anything–even defection from the gospel.
“And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching” (Mark 6:6).
that you are turning away
“Turning away” carries the idea of to change places, put in another place, to remove a person or thing from one place to another, to transpose. This is a military term used for deserting from the army. The Galatians changed from the gospel of grace to the gospel of works. They became renegades from the true gospel and capitulated to another gospel.
The present tense indicates that the defection of the Galatians from the gospel of grace is not yet complete. They were still in the process of shifting to another gospel. They were transposing the gospel from grace to legalism. They were altering the gospel itself, thus deserting or turning apostate from the true gospel. This changes the nature of the gospel into a works gospel. Jude used this same word to address the opposite of legalism; some people turned the grace of God into license.
“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).
People always have a tendency to change the gospel into something significantly different from its original design by God.
“Soon” means quickly. The Galatians moved away from the true gospel in a very brief interval between the time Paul gave them the gospel and when the legalizers came to Galatia. It took only a short time for them to abandon their earlier convictions. They were rash in embracing false doctrine and moving into legalism. They failed to give due study to the issue. False teachers can easily seduce ignorant Christians because of their instability.
Instability in the truth of the gospel makes one vulnerable to false doctrine.
There is such a thing as a true gospel and a false gospel. In our day of tolerance, there is a tendency to adapt the gospel to the trends of culture. However, if someone claims that he has the true gospel, he sounds like a bigot, or at the very least, a very narrow-minded person in an age where people want to accommodate the truth of the gospel to prevailing trends of society. Often this is due to a gross lack of knowledge of Scripture.
The gospel is as narrow as the multiplication table. Two times two equals four, and there are no exceptions. We cannot have two gospels. It is incomprehensible that evangelicals today would hold to a gospel of works, distorting the gospel of grace. This cancer threatens the essence of Christianity. Issues of heaven and hell are at stake.