6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – 7not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
There are many modern gospels in the world in which we live. Many are obvious, insidious corruptions of the truth of the gospel. Often, false gospels bear an additional moniker at the beginning such as, “prosperity gospel,” “poverty gospel,” or “justice gospel.” These gospels obviously make Jesus secondary to another issue and contort the word of God to proclaim something other than Christ as ultimate. Anytime a word proceeds gospel, it is reducing the majesty of the gospel itself. These can be quickly identified and rejected soundly.
Some false gospels are less obvious. These are ones that espouse a Jesus plus something for salvation. Paul is dealing with this kind of false gospel in Galatians. The believers in Galatia were being instructed that they needed Jesus plus the law. Some Jewish brothers had arrived and were trying to blend Judaism with Christianity, insisting that Christians needed to adhere to the law of Moses in order to be saved from the wrath of God. Yet the gospel requires no law, no works to merit salvation, no extraneous duty laid upon vessels of mercy. The gospel of Jesus Christ is that He has done the work for you. You have only to trust in His righteousness for your salvation. Repent from sin and believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and God resurrected Him from the dead that you might have life!
Knowing that the gospel is a message of grace alone, it is only natural that Paul would be “astonished” (v.6). Indeed, why would anyone desert the one true God “who called [to them] in the grace of Christ”(v.6)? Notice the assumption in Paul’s language: believers are “called… in grace!” The very calling to faith has been an act of grace and is accomplished by Christ. The gospel is given freely to believers by the grace of Jesus Christ alone! Oh, dear believer, it is not your righteous behavior that grants you the grace of Christ, but it is the work and love of Christ! Not only is your own work not sufficient, but your own motivation is also insufficient to draw you to the gospel. In Romans 3:10-20 Paul explains the reality that no one actually seeks after God and even the base desire of humanity is one that denies the glory of God. So, if someone has been transformed by the gospel of Jesus, then it is astonishing that such a person would revert to so wretched a state.
The adversary cannot truly invent a different gospel. The work of the enemy is one of contortion of truth, not creation. No one can create out of nothing but God. Likewise, no one can bring salvation from death except God! He brings life from the dead and light out of darkness. He transforms the souls of men, redeeming the unredeemable. No, the adversary cannot create a new gospel, he must distort the truth and deceive the hearer. His tactics have not changed from Genesis 3. He still asks, “has God really said..?” (Gen. 3:1). He still adds a simple word to the consequence saying, “you shall NOT surely die” (Gen. 3:4). False gospels are dangerous because of one word misstated or one truth slightly slanted from the plumb-line. They distort the Word of God by simple and slight adjustment.
This is why it is so important for the believer to study the Word of God with great attention to what it says. The Word of God means what it says. It ought not to be dismissed or restated to mean something else. The Bible must be taken for what it says. I can remember a Sunday School class in which the teacher quoted Jesus and then stated, “that doesn’t mean what it says.” I have heard other preachers say such things as, “if this passage meant what it says, then we would have a serious problem.” In casual discussion with other theologically minded people I have been told, “I cannot accept what the Bible says about that because of my understanding of Jesus.” This is the way the gospel becomes distorted. The Bible means what it says. If you cannot accept what the Bible says, then you are beginning to believe a false gospel. Repent, believe the Bible.
Here are three recommended habits for developing a healthy understanding of the gospel.
- Do a “quiet time” or devotional daily. If you will simply read a little of the Bible each day, you will begin to see SOME growth in your life. Devotions are not intended for deep study, they are intended for setting your mind to follow after God. As you read, you will find that the message of the gospel becomes normative in your thought processes.
- Do a deep study once a week. People usually object to this one on two bases. So let’s address these.
- You have time for this. Don’t lie to yourself and say, “I do not have time to study the Bible in depth!” Do you have a regular show you watch? Do you have a regular activity that takes 30 minutes? You have time.
- Some people argue that they don’t have an understanding of how to do deep study. Well, go ask your pastor to help. In western churches, we have more resources than any other time or place in history. Buy good books and read good blogs that can help! (I recommend Precept Ministries International’s study materials for learning how to study your bible. You can find them here).
Get some material to help, set aside some time and get to work. Deep study is a delight to the heart of a Christian! Take some time each week and delight yourself in God’s word! In doing so you will develop a deep and mature understanding of the gospel.
- Attend and be involved in a church community. God designed the gospel to be lived out on this earth. You need other people to do that. One of the greatest and easiest ways to grow in your faith is to attend church and Bible studies. That’s right, attend. Attendance is the key. You cannot be successfully involved in a church community if you do not attend. Make the effort and attend. Otherwise, you will find your heart drifting away from the community of faith, no matter how dedicated they are to meet your needs outside of regularly scheduled gatherings. Attend a church community and do so faithfully. As you attend and intertwine your life with the lives of others, you will find that some people frustrate you, some bless you, some drive you insane, and some people are just kind of there. This is a tool for your growth, do not abandon the plate because you don’t like the vegetables. It is good for you, suck it up and keep going, eat the whole plate of food.