Monday, April 23, 2018
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Galatians 1:6-9 (NIV)
Sometimes students of the Bible will take a passage and paint a wider swath, or one that is narrower than the writer meant. Galatians 1:6-9 is one example. The expression “another” or “different gospel” has been stretched to include anything which the recipients have never heard or done before. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries pulpits charged that women wishing to vote were teaching another gospel. Members, especially preachers who fought in WWI were charged with practicing “another gospel.” Church secretaries, youth ministers, church suppers, and such were considered by some to be “another gospel.” A few years ago, a Baptist friend complained to me that if her church introduced drums, guitars, and such to their piano and organ music, she would attend somewhere else. In her mind her church would be following “another gospel” with the introduction of those additions. The charge has also been made against those who refuse to practice what some believe is the gospel.
It is true that applying that warning by Paul to other things may be allowed if those things are actually “another gospel.” The only problem, Paul did not make that application. Therefore, we should be careful and not go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6 NIV). Paul refers to Judaizing saints who continued to demand that Gentiles must be circumcised if they wanted to be genuine Christians (Acts 15:1,6). Peter was affected by this belief and fear drove him to withdraw from Gentile brethren when some from James traveled to his locale (Galatians 2:11-16). Yet, neither Paul, the other apostles, prophets, nor language speakers condemned Christian Jews for keeping their religious customs (Galatians 2:14 NIV; Acts 21:18-26). An application could be made as a warning to those Christians who charge those brethren they disagree with, as not being “real” Christians!
In the first century, God added racists to the saved (Acts 11:1-3). He added a couple that would lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-10). He added those who continued to harbor their Pharisee beliefs (Acts 15:1, 6). We are added to the saved and are newborns. We still have prejudices, misconceptions, misunderstandings, errors, shortcomings and/or sins, jealousies, incorrect attitudes, and the like which need a lot of work in changing on our part. Try as we might, we will never rid ourselves of that which keeps us imperfect and always in need of Jesus’ blood and the Father’s grace!
Jewish Christians thought Gentiles were irresponsible and continued to be unholy without circumcision. All they wanted to do was correct and circumcise them, so they could go to heaven as they were! They wanted to bind circumcision on the Gentiles, so they could be saved. Isn’t that a “good” thing? Paul condemned it as “another” and/or a “different gospel.”
If our objections to a brother is based upon our comfort zone, we need to be careful. If we base our practices upon what we have always done, we need to be cautious. We may be guilty of doing what Paul was condemning in Galatians 1:6-9 which he illustrated in 2:11-16 and continued to cover in 5:1ff!
How many of us would label another congregation today with preaching “another gospel” it they were like Corinth, Sardis, Ephesus, or even Jerusalem?