A different gospel; which is really not another...
Galatians 1 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.
18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.
1 Corinthians 1:20-25 says: Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. In today’s text Paul says: I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! So, it is not a new thing that there are many today who preach a “new” or different gospel. It is not new that there are people who want the gospel to conform to the wisdom or the whims of man, rather than for people to conform to the wisdom and the truth of the gospel. In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul charged his protégé Timothy saying: I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. Surely we can see that the time Paul spoke of has come. Because people will not endure sound doctrine, there are many who will preach a “new” and different gospel that satisfies their itching ears. Paul says: I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! To say they should be accursed may seem harsh and judgmental. Some would say that to believe there is only one truth is intolerant and not inclusive. Consider though what Jesus Himself says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20) It seems that Paul only affirms what Jesus Himself said.
In truth, the gospel is the most inclusive and tolerant message anyone can preach. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. John 3:16 says: God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Romans 10:9 says: If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 says: By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. What could be more inclusive than a free gift to all who believe and confess that Jesus is Lord? What could be more tolerant than a redeemer who died for us while we were sinners? To come to God through Christ and Christ alone makes all people equal. There is no preference by social standing. There is no preference by nationality or race. It is not based on our abilities or accomplishments. It is not even based on our goodness, so that there are no differing degrees of sin which would prevent one from coming to God while allowing another. Romans 3:23-24 says: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. No matter how short we have fallen from the glory of God, we are justified, redeemed, reconciled to God by His grace through the sacrifice of Christ.
One final though regarding what Paul says about the gospel, Paul says: For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Like Paul, we should not strive to please men. We should not compromise, rationalize or trivialize the truth of God’s word by preaching a new or different gospel. But we should recognize that as we share the gospel; as we share the truth of God’s word, if people will receive it, it is not because of our words or our methods, but rather it is through a revelation of Jesus Christ. In truth that’s what the Bible is, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible reveals God’s plan to redeem and restore people and creation from the curse of sin, through Jesus Christ, His Son. We should share the gospel; the unchanging truth of God’s word and we should pray that the Holy Spirit gives a revelation of Christ; that those who hear would also believe.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.