Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swift to Swoon from Gospel Grace: A Warning to Hearers and Heralds - Galatians 1:6-9

"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which really is not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed."(Galatians 1:6-9)

Look out folks. Paul ain't playin'!!

He has heralded the grace and peace that are ours in Christ. He has held forth the glorious good news that Christ Jesus gave Himself for our sins. He has trumpeted the hope of deliverance from this present evil age that is granted to all those who trust in our sufficient Savior. And he has humbly stood amazed at how quickly we forget these things that have so radically changed our lives.

Spiritual dementia seems a common plague from time to time for the people of God. Stealthily concealed gospel deception seems a common ploy of the arch-enemy of God. We'll glance at both of these things.

Paul, the preacher who has so clearly stated these glorious gospel truths regarding Christ's gift of grace and peace and deliverance, is about to fire an anathematic dart right at the heart of the prophets of any and all "gospel" messages that depart from the Biblical message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. If you are a wanting to holler out any type of hope based upon your own righteous deeds you might want to reconsider, for - as we will see - the stakes are rather high.

Paul gives us several warnings in these verses. Warnings that we need to heed! So put on your listening caps and hear well his words.

1. We are swift to swoon and fast to fall for a fake and false gospel (vs 6-7)!
Here are these Galatians who have just been given the gift of gifts - grace and peace with God the Father straight from the sacrificial hand of God the Son. Now, after having received such a precious prize, here they are ready to return it at the service desk of stupidity in exchange for their own vain attempts at works righteousness. No wonder Paul is amazed!

Friends, let us learn from their deserting quickness and beware of our own tendency to it. We are all prone to wander. We are all prone to pride. Grace crushes our pride and reminds us daily that we have brought NOTHING to our salvation other than our sin. Our sinful flesh wants a piece of the action. It wants Jesus "plus" something that we've done and that brings us to Paul's second warning to us...

2. Any "gospel" that is not all grace is not at all gospel (vs 6-7).
A graceless gospel is a Christless gospel and a Christless gospel is a false gospel!

Jesus "plus" is not the true gospel and if that is what you are seeking then you are seeking a gospel that is no gospel at all. You are pursuing a "gospel" that will damn you rather than deliver you.

Matthew Henry, commenting on this passage wrote:
"Those who seek to establish any other way to heaven than what the gospel of Christ has revealed will find themselves wretchedly mistaken."
May we heed well the warning.

Luther's comments on this gospel twisting and its demonic source are thought provoking:

"Note the resourcefulness of the devil. Heretics do not advertise their errors. Murderers, adulterers, and thieves disguise themselves. Just so the devil masquerades all his devices and activities. He puts on white to make himself look like an angel of light. He is astoundingly clever to sell his patent poison for the Gospel of Christ. Knowing Satan's guile, Paul sardonically calls the doctrine of the false apostles "another gospel," as if he would say, "You Galatians have now another gospel, while my Gospel is no longer esteemed by you."
Our enemy is cunning and crafty. He seeks to make his pernicious poison ever so close to the merciful medicine that our soul most needs. He pretends to be a friend and fellow follower of our Lord but adds just enough of pride's pestilence to lead us to the land of the lost while all along the way we think we are headed to the realm of the redeemed. Examine the gospel that you are counting on to save you. Is it of Christ the Deliverer or is it of demons and devils?

Luther continues:
"When the devil sees that he cannot hurt the cause of the Gospel by destructive methods, he does it under the guise of correcting and advancing the cause of the Gospel. He would like best of all to persecute us with fire and sword, but this method has availed him little because through the blood of martyrs the church has been watered.
Unable to prevail by force, he engages wicked and ungodly teachers who at first make common cause with us, then claim that they are particularly called to teach the hidden mysteries of the Scriptures to superimpose upon the first principles of Christian doctrine that we teach. This sort of thing brings the Gospel into trouble.May we all cling to the Word of Christ against the wiles of the devil, 'for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.'"

At this juncture falls Paul's third point.

3. The disturbing diffusers of this distored doctrine will be damned (vs 7-9).
Yes, I know - not a very pleasing point. As I said at the start, Paul ain't playin'!

Paul's not playing because there is nothing here to play about.
This is no game - this is the most serious stuff of the soul.
The gospel is the hingepin that all of eternity rests and pivots upon.
If the gospel is distorted then our assumed "deliverance" will in reality be our downfall.

Paul is here giving the greatest and most serious of warnings to those false prophets who would proclaim this different and disturbing "good news" which is in fact the worst of bad news.

The words of this warning drew my thoughts to Christ's words in Matthew 18:6. After speaking of the simplicity of child-like faith - where we humbly receive Christ alone as the hope of heaven - Jesus says:

"...but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble,
it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck,
and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea."

Hmmm - guess Jesus wasn't joking about this either!

I was challenged by Adam Clark's thoughts on this section of Galatians 1. He wrote regarding these false preachers prophecies:
"It is called a gospel, but it differs most essentially from the authentic narratives published in the evangelists. It is not gospel. It is not good tidings, for it loads you again with the burdens from which the genuine Gospel has disencumbered you. Instead of giving you peace, it troubles you; instead of being a useful supplement to the Gospel of Christ, it perverts that Gospel. You have gained nothing but loss and damage and change.
That gospel which Paul had already preached to them is the only true gospel. He says, 'Were I to preach any other, I should incur the curse of God.' If your false teachers pretend, as many in early times did, that they received their accounts by the ministry of an angel, let them be accursed; separate them from your company, and have no religious communion with them. Leave them to that God who will show His displeasure against all who corrupt, all who add to, and all who take from the word of His revelation."

He continues:
"Let all those who, from the fickleness of their own minds, are ready to favor the reveries of every pretended prophet and prophetess who starts up, consider the awful words of the apostle. As, in the law, the receiver of stolen goods is as bad as the thief; so the encouragers of such pretended revelations are as bad, in the sight of God, as those imposters themselves. What says the Word of God to them? Let them be accursed. Reader, lay these things to heart!"
OK, Adam - you've got me laying it to heart.

Friends, we are foolishly fast to go A.W.O.L. and there are many who are goading us so to do. Please beware of any gospel that is not God's gospel of grace which is found fully in the work of Christ and not at all in the works of men. Yes, we are to produce good works as Christians. BUT our works are the FRUIT of our salvation and not the ROOT. Christ alone is the Root and any gospel that seeks to add to that sole salvific Root is no gospel and will lead us to hell rather than to heaven.

Take heed lest you be decieved and rest solely upon Christ "who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age."

In the gospel of His glorious grace,

"Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy law's demands;
could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling;
naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless look to Thee for grace;
foul, I to the Fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die."
(From "Rock of Ages" - Augustus Toplady - 1776)

"None other Lamb; none other name, none other hope in heav'n or earth or sea,
none other hiding place from guilt and shame, none beside Thee!"
(Christina G. Rossetti - 1894)

"Thy works, not mine, O Christ, speak gladness to this heart;
they tell me all is done; they bid my fear depart.
Thy pains, not mine, O Christ, upon the shameful tree,
have paid the law's full price and purchased peace for me.
Thy cross, not mine, O Christ, has borne this awful load
of sins that none in heav'n or earth could bear but God.
Thy righteousness, O Christ, alone can cover me:
no righteousness avails save that which is of Thee.
To whom, save Thee, who canst alone for sin atone, Lord, shall I flee?
(Horatius Bonar - 1857)

No comments:

Post a Comment