Paul had a genuine love for the Christians in the churches of Galatia. There was a spiritual threat among them. False teaching was perverting the gospel that had called them to the grace of God (Gal. 1:6-9). They would fall from grace if they succumbed to the error (Gal. 2:4-5; 5:4). Many people say doctrine (what we teach and believe) does not matter. Yet, so real was the danger of yielding to the false teaching of binding the law of Moses onto Gentiles to be saved that Paul told the Galatians he was “afraid for you” and that he had “doubts about you” (Gal. 4:11, 20). Paul’s preemptive strike asking if he had become their enemy by telling them the truth must have pierced their hearts. When people reject the truth, they often target the messenger as the enemy. “Killing” the messenger is not new. Hardened hearts shift the blame away from themselves and use character assassination to deflect responsibility because they cannot answer the truth (cf. Stephen, Acts 6:8-14; 7:51-60). Like Paul, let us speak God’s truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Additionally, let truth convict us and convert us instead of attacking the one who loves us enough to tell us the truth.
15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15–18, NKJV)
It would be fantastic if every person who preaches Christ did so with the pure motives of goodwill and love. Yet, the apostle knew some preached Christ with impure motives. The ugly motives of envy, strife, rivalry, and pretense arose in some preachers as Paul defended the gospel. (Preachers of the gospel are not immune to wicked motives.) When the effect of their evil motives increased his affliction, Paul did not let that distract from the truth of the gospel. Instead, he rejoiced that people were hearing about Christ. Paul separated the motive of the messenger and the gospel message. We need to do that, too. Do not follow men; follow Christ. Even when the messenger’s motives are flawed, receive and rejoice in the truth of the gospel. The preacher with evil intentions will answer to God for his motives. We will answer to God for whether we accepted and followed the gospel we heard.
10 “Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 11 This was the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” 12 And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away. (Mark 12:10–12, NKJV)
Shooting the messenger because his message is unacceptable is nothing new. It blames the blameless, whether due to rage (as when Stephen was stoned for the gospel he preached, Acts 7:57-60), or, as in today’s passage, as an attempt to escape personal accountability. The chief priests and Pharisees perceived Jesus was talking about them, and they were correct (Matthew 21:45). They were ready to destroy Jesus. Only their fear of the crowd momentarily delayed their objective. Soon, they would persuade the multitude to cry, “Crucify Him!” How do you react when the word of God exposes your sin: With contempt? With resentment? With rage? Or, do you react with faith, humility and a repentant obedience? When people were told they had murdered the Son of God, some were pierced to the heart, repented and were baptized for the remission of their sins, while others killed the messenger (Stephen), and remained lost in their sins (Acts 2:37-41; 7:52-54). Don’t get angry at the messenger when he tells you the gospel truth (Galatians 4:16). Instead, believe it, repent, and obey the Lord. He will save you.