Let's look at the verse in question.
Galatians 1:9 “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
First off I would like to clarify what “that ye have received” means. Please remember that the epistles were literal letters written to literal churches, people etc. Paul or someone he taught delivered the gospel to these churches so he could be confident to say that the gospel they had received was the true gospel. This does not apply directly to everyone today because some have received a gospel, but it is not the same gospel that Paul preached.
Now let us look at the phrase “let him be accursed.” Some of the modern versions will translate this phrase as “condemned to hell”. The problem with this is instead of translating it for you, they have interpreted it for you and have done so incorrectly. The best way to interpret any scripture is by letting the Bible interpret itself. Let’s look at the uses of the different forms of the word “accursed”.
- The Serpent (Genesis 3:14)
- The Ground (Genesis 3:17)
- Cain (Genesis 4:11)
- Canaan (Genesis 9:25)
- The Anger of Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:7)
- The Man that rebuilds Jericho (Joshua 6:26)
- Jezebel (2 Kings 9:34)
- He that is hanged on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:23)
- The City of Jericho (Joshua 6:17)
- The Things Consecrated unto the Lord (Joshua 6:18)
- The Children of Israel (Joshua 7:12)
- The Apostle Paul wished of Himself (Romans 9:3)
- No man by the Spirit calls Jesus accursed (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Now that we have seen these occurrences in scripture, let us plug in a couple of definitions for “let him be accursed”. If it means “condemned to hell,” then we must say that the ground in Genesis 3:17, the anger of Simeon and Levi in Genesis 49:7, anyone hung on tree (Deuteronomy 21:23, the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:17), and the children of Israel (Joshua 7:12) are all condemned to hell. This does not fit with the rest of scripture.
Another problem with the idea of those preaching another gospel being condemned to hell is that our gospel is very plain that salvation is only by grace through faith and that there are no works involved (Ephesians 2:8-9). There are many who preach that you can only be saved by grace but you must live it in order to keep your salvation. Let’s apply the verse to this person. They got saved “by grace through faith”, yet someone taught them that they could lose their salvation and so they began preaching this to others. This is not the true gospel so according to the interpretation given by most this person would now be condemned to hell for preaching a false gospel but if they can now lose it then they were preaching the right gospel in the first place. This just goes to show that this interpretation does not work.
Deuteronomy 21:23 will give us a key for interpreting the usage and purpose of someone being accursed.
Deuteronomy 21:23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
The person that was hung on the tree was accursed so that the land would not be defiled. What does this mean? It means that the children of Israel were to put this man out of the congregation (death in the Old Testament) so as to not defile the land for those who were innocent. This applies very well in context with what Paul is saying in Galatians. If you have someone in the church that is preaching a false gospel, then it is very likely that there will be some young believers who will be led astray. So what were they to do? They were to “let him be accursed” or remove him from the congregation so that the rest were not defiled by his false teaching. In the New Testament we are not to kill those who do not preach sound doctrine, but we are to remove them from our church before they corrupt others.
God desires purity in the church and that includes purity in doctrine. The local assemblies are not to be defiled by someone preaching another gospel even if it is a twist on the truth.