In Galatians chapter 1 Paul writes of his astonishment “that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (1:6). He goes on to say “if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received let him be accursed” (verse 9), and “the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel … I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (verses 11,12).
Why were people trying to change it? In the second chapter he writes of “false brothers secretly brought in – who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery” (verse 4). He means slavery to keep the law with its priesthood system and rules, like keeping the Sabbath, circumcision and tithing. These false brothers wanted every Gentile convert to observe these things, which would have corrupted the gospel and destroyed what Christ died to achieve.
Paul was astonished that this was happening so soon – and we are similarly astonished in our reading in Numbers today that Moses very soon has a fresh problem with the people. This time it is not among the tribes; the bad report of the 10 spies had been dealt with. This time it is among the Levites, the priests.
Korah, Dathan and Abiram challenge Moses saying, “Why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (16:3). Moses responds, “Is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do service in the tabernacle?” (verse 9).
All too often the desire for pride of place is the root cause of problems so, despite all the evidence of the divine presence, this folly is committed and they are destroyed because of it. It reminded us of the proverb, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (11:2).
In humility let us make sure we believe and teach the same gospel as Paul; it is more needed today than ever as our world falls apart – “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). Are you putting your anchor to good use?