In response to the aforementioned legalism, Paul now gives his detractors both barrels, so to speak.
”I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel– not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell! Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!”
Paul seems incredulous at the speed with which the churches in Galatia seem to be deserting the one who called [them] by grace. Notice with me that Paul is not upset because they have turned away from a “religion” but that they have turned away from a person, the one who called them by the grace of Christ. Christianity is inherently personal. We love and serve and follow a living God. We are not slaves of a system of rules and regulations, here referred to as another gospel. The legalistic, works-based worldview was something Paul laboured greatly to eradicate amongst this Jesus-following community, so we can understand his frustration that the Galatians seemed to be deserting the risen Lord in favour of rules and regulations. He makes this pretty clear in vv.8-9, doesn’t he?
In refutation of this idea that Paul had come to Galatia and preached a people-pleasing, Gentile-attracting message of inclusion in the Kingdom alongside the Jews Paul quite clearly says
“Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!”
Simply, if he were trying to please people would he have thrown out the curses of vv.8-9?
For you and for me, we would do well to see just how passionately Paul reacts to the news that this newly-formed community of Jesus followers was deserting and turning away from the truth of the One God redeeming by grace alone through faith alone backward toward a complex system of rules and regulations. We know, don’t we, that the complex system of rules and regulations will never allow us to work ourselves to God. If it did, if we could use it to earn our way into His Divine favour and into right relationship with Him, there would simply have been no reason for Jesus to have come and do what He did. Just let that sink in. If the old way worked, Jesus would not have needed to come.
But, we know that He did. We know that He was long-promised and anticipated. We know that He was long-prophesied. We know that He came. We know that the One true God redeems and rescues and restores by grace along through faith alone. Please, don’t fall back into old ways of people pleasing, rule following, and box ticking in an attempt to work and earn your way to God. It’s a pointless and futile exercise. Put all the effort that takes into following the one way to redemption and rescue, into following Jesus.