8 Let God's curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.9 I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.
10 Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant. ~ Galatians 1:6-10; NLT
We have all been taken in by wrong information at one point in our lives. Consider the “frog in the kettle” illustration that has been passed around (George Barna even used it as a title for one of his books). It is said that if a frog is placed in a kettle of boiling water it will immediately jump out, but if you place a frog in a kettle of cold water and slowly bring the water to boil that the frog will swim around and be boiled to death. The reasoning for this is because frogs are cold-blooded animals so its temperature is the same as its surroundings.
The reality is that it is not true. According to Dr. Victor Hutchison, a Research Professor Emeritus from the University of Oklahoma's Department of Zoology:
The legend is entirely incorrect! The 'critical thermal maxima' of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so. (www.snopes.com; Frog Boil)
In this age of information it might even be easier to be misled than ever before. We have so much information coming at us, and many times it seems to be good information, that it becomes hard to discern the good from the bad and the truth from the lies. Sometimes believing wrong information is no big deal, but when it comes to our faith believing the wrong thing can takes us very far away from where we wanted to go.
Many of the books in the New Testament were written to combat false teaching. Peter in 2 Peter 2:1-3 wrote:
1 But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves.2 Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.3 In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.
Christ Followers have always been at risk to following for the lies and half-truths of false teaching. I think this is partially due to the fact that we generally see people, especially teachers, as trustworthy. We find it hard to believe that they would intentionally mislead us.
The Apostle Paul wrote the book of Galatians to combat false teaching that was taking place in the church of Galatia. Teacher had come into this fellowship of believers and claimed that Christians were still bound by many of the same Old Testament laws that the Jews were formally held to. Rules such as circumcision, Sabbath keeping, and clean and unclean foods. As a result many of the Christians in Galatia were trusting more in the law for their salvation than there were in Jesus.
Paul was absolutely amazed that people were deserting the faith. In Jesus they had discovered God’s law, His love, and His promise in eternal life. It was by grace through faith they had received these things, but now they were trying to keep a law and find righteousness by their own good works. They had traded in the Gospel for something that was not gospel at all.
How have we traded in the Gospel for something different? We may not insist on the keeping the Old Jewish Law, but we have come up with a list of rules that every “Christian” should follow. “Don’t drink, smoke, cuss, and chew or go with girls who do.” We have to be careful that we don’t make our salvation dependant on what we have done, the rules we have kept, or the disciplines we have implemented into our lives, but rather we keep on trusting in Jesus and His sacrifice and resurrection.
Paul also denounced these false teachers and the apostasy they were causing. He writes: Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including myself, who preaches any other message than the one we told you about (verse 8, NLT). Paul isn’t playing games. This is a serious matter because people’s eternity was at stake. He made it very clear that the foundation of their faith was the very basic gospel that he had first proclaimed to them. The message Paul preached was that through faith in Jesus Christ they could have eternal life in heaven with God. It was a Gospel of love and grace not of law.
We have the great responsibility of not believing everything we are taught. God doesn’t want us to simply believe everything a preacher or teacher says. Paul told the Galatians that they shouldn’t follow him if he began teaching a different message. They were told hold him accountable for what he taught. This requires us to have a firm foundation to our faith. It means we should question things that our teachers and preachers say. If we do not we will remain vulnerable to false teachings.
Finally Paul declared his allegiance. Paul wasn’t preaching to impress people or get rich. If he was then he would tell the people wanted they wanted to hear. Instead he was trying to please God and so he preached the truth as it was given to him by Christ Jesus.
One way to test the teachings of people is to examine their lives. When we are part of a local congregation and are taught by the same people or person on a regular basis it is important that we discover what their lives are like. How do the live? Can they be identified as Christ Followers away from the church? A person who has declared their allegiance to Jesus will do his or her best to teach and preach the Truth of God’s Word.
We are going to be fooled. There are going to be times when we just don’t have all the facts or the right information. While at times this can funny when it comes to our faith it is deadly serious. We need to be willing to study on our own so we can have a firm foundation on which to build our faith. We need to be willing to question things that our teachers and preachers say and check to see if the line up with the teaching of Scripture. We also need to see if the regular teachers we have in our lives bear the fruit of a life lived for Jesus. Doing these things will go a long way in helping us not to be fooled.
(Outline adapted from Sermons Seeds.org)