Friday, November 29, 2019

No Other Gospel

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” 
(Galatians 1:8-9 ESV)

Here, in the United States, we live in a very diverse society. Although most of us have a Christian heritage, many other religions and belief systems are held to and practiced. People hold widely varying views and worship a multitude of gods.

And we are called by society to accept those who believe differently than we do. We are called by society to acknowledge their beliefs and practices as equal to our own. We are called to acknowledge their scriptures to be just as holy as our own. We are called to acknowledge that our faith is no more true than that of others.

We’re told, today, that we’re to live our truth and let other people live their truth. We’re told that we’re to do what works for us and that we’re to allow others to do the same. We’re told that we’re to respect the beliefs and practices of others, even when they contradict our own.

In an age of tolerance, in an age of pluralism, and in an age of relative truth, the words of Paul sound harsh. They sound judgmental and unloving. They sound arrogant and condemning.

He is clear that there is only one gospel. He is clear that there is only one means of salvation. And, for this reason, if we follow the philosophy of the world, we stand condemned. For this reason, if we follow the philosophy of the world, we’re siting passively by as people are led into hell.

We are not to receive any other gospel. We are not to accept any other gospel. And we are not to proclaim any other gospel.

Anyone who brings another gospel is accursed. Even if it’s an angel who brings to us another gospel, he is accursed. And if we bring another gospel, we ourselves are accursed.

We are to believe and proclaim only one gospel. We are to believe and proclaim only the gospel brought to us in God’s Word. It is the only truth and the only source of salvation.

To do so is not unloving. In fact, it’s the ultimate expression of love. It’s the ultimate expression of love because it’s through this gospel alone that we’re saved.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. This isn’t a license for us to be a jerk as we hold to our faith and proclaim it. We must love our neighbor as we share with him the message that will save his soul.

Monday, November 11, 2019

To Which Gospel Do We Cling?

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

(Galatians 1:6-7 ESV)

The term “gospel” means “good news.” However, it’s also more specific than this. It refers to the good news of Jesus Christ.

The term “gospel” refers to the salvation that God sent into the world. It refers to Jesus, the Son of God, who suffered and died on the cross, bearing the punishment of our sin. It refers to his resurrection from the grave, by which he defeated the power of death. It refers to the grace that is received through faith in him.

This may seem very basic. It may seem elementary. But I never cease to be amazed at how many people in our society, and even within the church, don’t get it.

Most people in our society believe in heaven. They believe in salvation. But their understanding, when it comes to how this is received, is way off.

Most people believe that heaven, that salvation, is attained by us. They believe that we simply have to be “good” people. They believe that we must do our best to keep the commands of God. And they believe that we must do our best to love other people.

This is true not only in society, but also in the church. Even in the body of Christ, where people confess the Scriptural and the historic Christian faith, they are depending not upon Jesus but themselves. They are trusting in their efforts rather than the accomplished work of Christ.

This is nothing new. This is also what was going on among the Galatians. This group, who had initially received the gospel, brought to them by Paul, was now looking to themselves. They were trusting a message, a false gospel, brought to them by others.

Paul was astonished at how quickly they’d turned away from the gospel. He was amazed that they would turn from the message of grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone to something that depended on their efforts. He was astonished that they would abandon a message that provided the assurance of salvation for one of uncertainty.

He explained to them that there is no other gospel. He told them that all other versions of the gospel were mere distortions. They were falsehoods, they were misrepresentations, of the good news of Jesus brought to them by those who wished to trouble them.

As we face these distortions, today, we must recognize them for what they really are. We must recognize them as false versions of the gospel. And we must reject them. We must reject them in favor of the true gospel, the message of forgiveness and salvation that’s found only in Jesus.

Monday, November 04, 2019

The Means of Deliverance

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
(Galatians 1:3-5 ESV)

There is no question that we are living in an evil age. We watch the news and hear continual reports of war and violence. Throughout the course of our life, we experience hardship and suffering in its various forms. And sooner or later we all experience disease and death.

This is our reality because we live in a world that is corrupted by sin. We are a sinful people living among a sinful people.  And, as a result, we live in a world that suffers the consequences of sin.

It’s safe to say that we all long to be freed from the evil of this age. We long to be set free from the consequences of our wrongdoing. And we have various ideas about how this can happen.

For many of us, this falls into the realm of politics. If we can only find the right formula, if we can only satisfy the needs of the masses, we believe that the effects of sin will go away. If only we can eliminate poverty, give equal access to health care, and provide access to a quality education, there will be no more need for sin or violence.

For others among us, it’s a matter of self-help. If people will only read the right books and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, things will be better. If only they work hard enough, if only they would restrain themselves, the evils of this world would be a thing of the past.

And, while I’m not denying the reality of mental illness, some of us go to the extreme that every act of sin and violence results from a mental health issue. We believe that those who commit mass shootings must be mentally ill. We believe that those who abuse their spouse or children must be mentally ill. We believe that those who steal, who lie, and who are resistant to authority must be mentally ill. And if we can only help these people, the evils of this world will be no more.

Most of our ideas, when it comes to escaping the evils of this present age, have to do with creating a utopia. They have to do with our creation of a heaven on earth. They have to do with our creation of circumstances where acts of evil are prevented and no longer seem necessary.

However, as we look at Paul’s words in the above passage, we find that the solution to the evil of this age has nothing to do with us. We find that it is not we who will provide the escape that we desire. This is found only in Jesus.

Jesus gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age. In saying this, Paul is referring to Jesus’ death on the cross, by which he paid the penalty of our sin, and by which he defeated the power of sin. He’s referring to the fact that Jesus willingly laid down his life that we might be saved.

He did this according to the will of God the Father. In other words, Jesus didn’t do this of his own accord. He did this because he, along with God the Father, desire our salvation.

Although this deliverance was secured by Jesus’ sacrifice, it’s something that we anticipate. It’s not something that we can experience in this world or age. It’s something that we’ll enjoy in the life to come. It’s something we’ll enjoy when Jesus returns, the dead are raised, and the new creation is brought forth.