Reading Section 2: You Changed to What? 1.6-10

➡ Average Reading Time: 16 minutes


The material in the following chapters of this draft is being proofed.
The chapters are NOT finished. I invite you to read them and leave comments about what you liked, didn’t like, didn’t understand, etc.


Where We Are Going?

Reading the Storyline: New International Version (2011)
Reading the Storyline: Interpretative Paraphrase
Observing the Storyline (Gal. 1.6-10)
Interpreting the Storyline
Changed Position (1.6-7)
A Double Curse (1-8-9)
Pleasing Men, Huh? (1.10)
So What?
Living into the Story

Reading the Storyline: New International Version (2011)

Free At Last

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Reading the Storyline: Interpretative Paraphrase

I am really amazed at your reprehensible actions that so quickly after my interactions with you that you have lost your minds and have gone AWOL from the Creator of the world and his story that I shared with you to a completely different story. There is only one “good news” story to live into but you have chosen a perverted one, which the trouble makers among you have shared.

Their story has caused you to be unsettled in being a Jesus follower. Let’s get this straight, if we, or an angel from heaven, should come proclaiming another story different than the one we already proclaimed to you, well, let them be given over to the judgments of the Creator. Let me say it once more differently: if anyone is still there in your churches presently proclaiming to you a different story than the one we delivered to you, let him be given over to the judgments of the Creator.

So, does that sound like I am just trying to get folks to like me and approve of me by suggesting some “easy” ways to be a part of the Creator’s new creation? Wake up and smell what is being shoveled on you. Does this sound to you like I am trying to please the folks or for that matter seek the favor God? If I were just trying to please everyone, I would have to stop being a servant of the Messiah.

Observing the Storyline (Gal. 1.6-10)

After the deeply theological opening of the letter sent to the ecclesiae in Galatia, Paul rebuked the Galatians’ desertion to a perverted story. The folks who deserted are placed under a double curse. With an impassioned speech he suggested that anyone who believed that he was not a true missionary was only an agitator who was seeking human approval and was just wrong in their conclusion.

Interpreting the Storyline

Changed Position (1.6-7)

Why do we have the letter to the Galatians? Simply, the Galatian ecclesiae started living in a different story given to them by the agitators rather than the one that was given to them by Paul. The story-change brought to light a critical matter: they were disregarding the storyline they had been adopted into for a storyline that insisted on additives that would be detrimental to following Jesus.

Paul quickly expressed, with some emotional intensity, his condemnation for the ecclesiae in Galatia in his opening volley to them. The literary convention used here is found only among the harshest of ancient letters. Paul’s readers would not doubt that he was disturbed with them. You know when you hear a really upset person give vent to their emotions and someone responds, “Why don’t you really tell us what you think!” Well, that was what Paul was essentially doing.

In his opening words, Paul may also have been alluding to the ancient code that messengers who distorted the contents of a message were subject to legal penalties (Jer. 23.16) for whom distortion was punished by the penalty of death (Deut. 13.5; 18.20). He is not only amazed at how quickly they had changed their lives to live in another story, but also by their lack of trust in him and the story that he had brought them. In his opinion, the Galatian ecclesiae had betrayed him and in so doing they had betrayed Yahweh.

Paul was amazed at how quickly the change in their story had taken place. It had only been a short time since he had been with them before he had heard of their defection to a different story. The move that the Galatians had taken was not a matter of just some minor differences in the story; this new Jesus-plus-Moses-gospel was a completely different and devastating story for the Galatian ecclesiae to live in. Later in this letter (Gal. 5.4), Paul will tell his readers that accepting this Jesus-plus-Moses-gospel would cause them to be alienated from Christ. Living in this alien story would lead them to fall away from the grace of God.

So, Paul sounds the alarm: the Galatians were “deserting the one who called you” (TNIV). Paul chooses to write the word metatithesthe, which was the word used for military desertion. Going AOL was not just an intellectual move of holding on to additives to the genuine story, it was deserting Yahweh who had been made known through Jesus. In short, it was abandoning their relationship with Yahweh, which would essentially put them back to where they were before they began living into the story of Jesus that Paul had shared with them. To abandon the story of Yahweh was to live totally in the present evil age as if the age to come had not arrived in the words and works of Jesus. To abandon was to go back to the “good old days” of Moses while rejecting the new Creation that had come in Jesus.

The move that the Galatians were making to a “different gospel” (Jesus-plus-Moses) was really according to Paul, “no gospel at all.” To describe the desertion, Paul uses two different terms to refer to the bogus story of the Jewish agitators. He may be making a play on words. The word translated in the TNIV as “different” (heteros) can be defined as a complete difference in kind from one thing to another, rather than a difference between related things. He concludes by telling his readers that the different story was “not another” (allo) gospel. He means by this to say that the perverted story delivered by the Jewish missionaries had no relationship to the true story that he had brought. It was fully another kind of story, therefore, it was false.

One could translate this: You have turned to a different kind of gospel, not another gospel of the same kind, but a false gospel. The Contemporary English Version (CEV) translates it: You have believed another message when there is only one true message. So Paul told the Galatians that any other storyline that was offered to them was not a legitimate storyline. In the present ChurchWorld, theological ideas like predestination, the rapture of the church, saying a sinner’s prayer and annihilationism to name a few are additives and should be dismissed out of hand as arrant nonsense.

The gospel Paul had preached, that acceptance by Yahweh came only through Jesus, was the only legitimate story. When the gospel of grace through Christ is supplemented with a system of additives, Moses in the case of the Galatian ecclesiae, or any other additives in our day, the result is not a more fully mature story; it is a gross perversion and a different story that leads to a different result in life.

It is evident that some had followed Paul with this errent story and they had attempted and succeeded in turning the heads of the Galatians into confusion by perverting the story that Paul had delivered to them into a Jesus-plus-Moses-story.

A Double Curse (1-8-9)

Heresy is a strong word, often just thrown around by someone who thinks they are completely right and that anyone who disagrees is not just wrong but is labeled a heretic.

Was Paul labeling of these troublemakers as heretical since the easy definition of heresy is: an opinion or a doctrine at variance with established religious beliefs, correct? Was Paul’s story the established correct story. Some would surely say, “yes.” Remember, the story that Paul was telling was different than the story of the Jewish agitators was telling. It was different than their own understanding of the centrality of Moses. It was just different.

So, why for the Galatians wasn’t Paul’s story the heresy instead of the troublemakers? Our lens to read Paul’s story comes from years of acceptance of Paul and his story. It is difficult at best to put ourselves back in that timeframe and sense the tension of the day when the Galatians were faced with two different stories, each teller proclaiming the rightness of their particular story.

But, alas, there are tensions in today’s ecclesiae when sorting out Paul’s story from the many “Paul stories” that are told today, i.e., Reformed Theology taught by the late R.C. Sproul (d. 2017) and many local ecclesia and the New Perspective idea taught by scholars like the late James D. G. Dunn (d. 2020) and Tom Wright based on the work of E. P. Sanders’ pioneering 1977 work Paul and Palestinian Judaism. Side Note: I wonder what the conversation is like now in life after death between Sproul and Dunn.

Remember, the story Paul was telling was not just Paul’s story. He was not the sole creator of it. He had been teaching in the ecclesiae at Antioch for years and when the Holy Spirit set he and Barnabas apart to deliver the story to others outside of Syria, the Antioch ecclesiae agreed that this was the correct way to proceed. In short, one may say that Paul had the backing of the Antioch ecclesiae, while the troublemakers seemed to have the backing of the Jerusalem ecclesiae. But, we must also throw into the mix that Paul had been in Jerusalem and there was some tacit agreement that the story he was telling was true to the story of Yahweh which had climaxed in Jesus.

So, when the troublemakers take him own after he had left the Galatians to go back to Antioch, he spared no words to condemn them. The words of Paul are strong and potent. They are not words that most of us today would choose to use when condemning another. We have been somewhat sanitized by what we have been told is acceptable speech. But, not so with Paul. He invoked a curse on anyone (including himself) who would stoop to distort the gospel story he had shared.

We can tell how serious Paul was by the words he chose to use in his curse (anathema) statements. The terms that Paul used reflect a vehemence with which he opposed these Jewish agitators. The word is anathema which suggests the concept of “eternal damnation.” This word was used to describe the dedication of an object in a pagan temple to be destroyed. The anathematizing of his opponents appear to be larger than a specific group of individuals from Jerusalem. He is stating in specific words that “anyone” who espouses a false view of the work of Jesus on the cross is not just mistaken, they are lost. There are no sources, not even Paul himself nor an angel, who had the authority to override the truth of the story of the gospel.

There were some Jewish mystics during this period of time that claimed revelation that came through angelic beings (this was especially true in apocalyptic writings). These same kinds of claims often are the foundation for groups like Mormons and the Latter Rain movement. As an example, William Branham, whose hands run deep into the Latter Rain movement claimed authority because of the visit of an angel not very much different than the angelic appearance to the founder of Mormonism. There is nothing new under the sun as the wise one in the Old Testament recorded.

Oaths and curses were familiar in all ancient religions as they were in their everyday life. Paul’s use of the phrase “than what you accepted” may be a technical term for passing on sacred traditions (parelabete) in such a way that it is guaranteed that it is authentic. The same language is used by the ancient rabbis for handing on their sacred traditions. Paul used this language for the tradition of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11.23).

Paul is stating firmly in his opening sentences that the story that he delivered was the story that was derived to him from the Lord and that it was authentic. The concern Paul had was to place authority in its proper place. It is ultimately not the preacher to whom one gives allegiance, but to that which is proclaimed, i.e., the story. For Paul, there was only one gospel story. Any other so-called gospel story was false and eternally destructive.

Pleasing Men, Huh? (1.10)

Shock jocks are all around us. We can hear them every day on the radio. They use a form of communication that is not usually acceptable in proper communication. These individuals communicate this way to get attention for what they want to communicate. The “shock” communication is usually not the story they want to deliver, it is the “attention getter” to find ears to listen to the story they want to deliver.

Paul used strong language that would have shocked his Galatian readers/listeners and it seems that Paul meant to do just that. His motive was not to please everyone but to please Yahweh. He played to an audience of one. If for some other motive he found himself preaching the gospel story, he would no longer be a servant of Jesus. The fact that he had placed a curse on these Jewish missionaries should have convinced his Galatian readers that his desire was not to be pleasing to hearers to get their ear and finally their belief. He shocked them to get their ear, not the other way around.

Paul’s letters were ad hoc (occasional letters prompted by problems in his ecclesial outposts to which he responded). Reading his letters is somewhat like listening to one side of a phone conversation. To understand what he was saying, it is often necessary to reconstruct from his responses what he was responding to. In the sentence under consideration, Paul asked his readers a series of rhetorical questions each of which intends to be answered in the negative. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or “of” God? Or, am I trying to please men? (No! I am not trying to please men.) These questions provide a window into the accusations that were being made by the Jewish missionaries who wanted to discredit Paul, thus discrediting his story.
This can be a bit technical but the grammar (Greek) of the sentence we are observing here, (Gal. 1.10), uses a term (gar) as a connective to a previous thought. (Hang in there! I know this sounds somewhat technical.) This connective indicates that his questions are prompted by his previous pronouncement of anathema. Thus, the questions are a response to these agitators. His anathemas were designed to show that it was not some popular benefit among the Galatians that he was seeking, but faithfulness to the gospel given to him by Yahweh to proclaim. His goal was not pleasing humankind, but being a servant of Jesus.

So What?

Most Bible readers reflect and meditate on fragments, if not just words of Scripture, instead of larger chunks or stories. Getting applications from small fragments devoid of their context can lead to hurtful, not helpful lifestyle changes, not to mention that a fragment is not a story.
We must understand that Paul faced different problems in the first century than we face today. He was a first-century Jewish man living in Second Temple Jewish thought. His problem was that some folks had come to and converted some the Galatian ecclesiae and were trying to distort the story he had preached by adding Moses into the mix. Some think that this group was missionaries sent by Jerusalem, if so their goal could be that those living back in Jerusalem could feel more comfortable socially with these new converts. When we seek to think about living within the text of this passage of Scripture, we must note its differences as well as its similarities to our own time and place. The social context of the Jewish-Christian missionaries within a local ecclesia is a potential clue for discovery.

We need to understand what Paul meant by “which is really no gospel at all” and what ideas today, like those of the troublemakers in Galatia, may alter the gospel story we have received. Sometimes the gospel we received today is another story. We tend to move quickly from one-time frame (the first century) to our current time frame (the twenty-first century) and think only in terms of heresies that distort the gospel by supplementing it with some form of rule. In doing so we may miss the heart of Paul to the Galatians, which is not on what is added (in their case Moses), but on the centrality of Jesus to the gospel and, as we will see later, the importance of the Holy Spirit in the gospel.

The specific sort of distortion that is added to the gospel is much less important, but not unimportant than what happens to Jesus and the Holy Spirit when additives are produced. What one must look for are practices or ideas presented by people that supplant the sufficiency of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit played out in our lives. They are around. They may even be in the gospel story that we have believed and shared.

Everybody, including Paul, likes to be liked, but sometimes that just isn’t going to be the case. The following two stories from my own story point out some of this tension.

Story 1: Rejected by Local Churches

After I graduated from college in Southern California, Donna and I traveled for about eighteen months teaching short ten-day stints in local churches within the denomination in which we were then participating. During a youth camp in the mountains outside of San Bernardino, California,

I met a young traveling minister, not unlike myself, who shared with me a rather shocking report. He told me that I was only going to last in this short ten-day traveling ministry from “church” to “church” for about a year and a half and the pastors of those churches I was teaching in would just simply run me off the “field” as it was called because they would not want their flock to hear what I had to say. He gave me that insight after he had heard me teach during one of the teaching sessions during the youth camp. I thought he was just kidding, but prophetic or not, it happened a few months later.

Story #2: Rejected by a Local Church

When we left the traveling ministry, Donna and I settled in a small bedroom community in Southern California. The church community had called us to become their lead pastors. It was the beginning of the Charismatic movement in the ‘70s and the folks who were attending this “church” were all from other “churches” in the community that they had left or had been asked to leave, because of their interest and participation with the Charismatic movement. Pastor’s simply gave them the left-boot of fellowship and they all congregated in this one small little “church,” which soon mushroomed to over 400 people. Everyone brought some kind of luggage to the “church” they had attended or from the conferences, they had attended and everyone wanted something different from the “church” they had all started attending. Most of what they brought was Charismatic additives to the gospel.

Here’s my take, having lived through this story. Under the previous pastor, the church was treated to topical sermon after topical sermon for their Sunday consumption. I took on that preaching route for a couple of months and then begin to take the “church” through a chapter-by-chapter study of the story in the book of Acts. This was all new to them. They didn’t get it and kept complaining that there were lots of other verses in the Bible that I should preach from and not just those found in the book of Acts.

On occasion, I would share with individuals who questioned this method of teaching that I had planned out the passages from Acts far in advance of the Sunday they were going to be taught, commonly called a preaching calendar, that it amazed me to see how the next set of biblical texts in Acts shared on a specific Sunday addressed a problem that was occurring in the “church” during that week. It was uncanny. I was young. It was my first pastorate. I was unaware of the power structure in that church. I simply told the story of Act Sunday after Sunday until the “church” rose up and in one fell swoop sent Donna and me packing, just seven days before Jason, our first child was born.

In the days following that trauma, I was ready to call it quits. Who in their right mind wanted to put up with such petty people? I surely didn’t. I thought this situation would be temporary so I could just tough it out. But, it turned into years before I found my way back into the pastorate. Did I do things wrong in that situation, probably so? Did the church react wrongly, probably so?

Two small responses to this story were helpful to me. First, Donna and I were traveling north out of Los Angeles on I-5 toward Bakersfield one Sunday afternoon. A car passed us and waved for us to pull over. I recognized the driver and passenger, a husband and wife who had been congregants of the “church” who sent us packing. We stopped on the side of this very busy Interstate with cars whizzing by at breakneck speeds. They quickly greeted us, apologized for the place we were talking, and then asked for forgiveness for their part in our exodus from that “church.” I asked them if they could summarize what the problem(s) may have been to cause such a violent reaction. Their answer was short and sweet. “It was just simply too hot in the kitchen. We didn’t want to hear what you were saying. We just wanted it to be the way it was before you came teaching us to live a different way.” I thanked them and we returned to our cars and pull carefully into the speeding traffic.

Second, some friends of mine had offered me a small room in their “church” facility to use as a study. It was in a neighboring town to the town where my exodus from the “church” had occurred. By that time, I was in seminary. The office space was small and had no windows, so I left the door to the hallway open all the time. At the end of the hall was a preschool whose director was the wife of one of the families who had been so upset with me and called for my exile.

She walked by my office two or three times a day, never looking in. I often thought that she surely must have been feeling uncomfortable that I was there. However, one day she stopped and knocked on the open door. I was a bit surprised that she was just standing there apparently wanting to say something. It was a very awkward moment. Finally, she broke the silence. “Winn,” she began, “I want to ask your forgiveness for the part my husband and I played in you leaving our ‘church.’” I smiled and responded, “I forgive you.” What else could or should one say. She continued to stand there so I ask the same question that I asked the couple on I-5 on that sunny Sunday afternoon.

I thought for a moment it was déjà vu. She said, “It was simply too hot in the kitchen and we didn’t want to hear what you had to say.” I wondered how this might have happened. Had a group of couples got together and settled on a script to give me if I asked this question. Had the first couple told of their I-5 experience and shared their response with other couples in the “church.” Was I going to see more couples appearing in my near future asking forgiveness?

So, I asked if she and her husband had recently seen the couple form the I-5 experience. The answer was no, they had not. As a matter of fact, they had not seen that couple for months because they had left the “church” only a few weeks after we were sent packing. Did I feel vindicated? Yes! But, while rejection may come in many different colors or flavors, it still feels like rejection, because it is.

What’s the Point

So, what the point here? I am surely not putting myself in the same league with Paul and the rejection that he must have suffered at the hands of the Galatians. But, my story has some similarities. I simply refused to tell them a different story, i.e., the one they wanted to live in with all its charismatic chaotic behavior (read additives) supported by sermons made up of “verses” with no apparent glue of context. That refusal turned into a rejection of what I was saying and in turn a rejection of me and my budding family. I had always wanted to send a “curse” their way, but in our culture, it was not acceptable. Instead, I went on despite their rejection to learn more and more about this story that I was telling them and continued to tell it to anyone who would listen.

Living into the Story

  • What stories do you have in your life where you were asked to change from one story to another. How did that work out for you?
  • How does your community react to rejection?
  • What in this culture would be equivalent to Paul’s anathema on the Galatians?

End of Session

Other Books by Winn Griffin

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)