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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The One True Gospel

By Mike Ratliff

Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:23-24 ESV)

I will be 59 years old later this year. I have been a Christian for about 25 years, but I grew up in a “Christian” home going to church every Sunday until I grew up and went my own way. I know that Christians are commanded to be forgiving, kind, and gentle with others. However, we are also commanded to stand firm and withstand false teachers and their doctrines. When I began writing and blogging as an extension of my teaching ministry, I soon experienced a very rude awakening. When I wrote about things that were experiential and not tied to any specific doctrines no one seemed to care, but the closer I came to that dividing line that separates God’s Truth from everything else, the attacks of every sort seemed to descend on me from every direction. The more precise I came in laying out what is true from that which is not true, the angrier many of my so-called brethren became. It seems the way to ‘get along’ in the visible church is to accept the default form of Christianity and never, even if you have irrefutable Biblical truth to the contrary, teach against it. The one who does that is labeled as divisive as well as an enemy of Christian unity. But this stance is all one-sided. We are divisive for publishing God’s pure doctrines, but those who hold to man-made doctrines are allowed to say anything they want about us. It is as if they have free speech, but we do not.

I read an article today by Martin Luther titled Avoiding the Doctrines of Men. He experienced exactly the same thing in the 16th Century as the Protestant Reformation took hold across Europe. He published truth exposited from God’s Word the right way, that is, exegetically. His enemies attacked everything he wrote and said, but their arguments were based on man-made philosophies and the doctrines of men, which were based entirely in pure biblical eisegesis. Reading the attack followed by the biblical refutation of each charge was just like listening to Dr. James White dismantle the arguments of Roman Catholic Apologists in our time who insist that Paul clearly taught about Purgatory in his epistles. Nothing has changed in that God’s Truth is still The Truth and the doctrines of men are still of Satan.

The EC, i.e. Emergence Christianity, is going full bore into Christian Liberalism 2.0 led by Brian McLaren. One of the main tenets of this “New Kind of Christianity” is a denial of the Christian Orthodox doctrine of the Atonement. This doctrine is of God, not man. It proclaims that personal peace follows upon grace, mediated to mankind from the Father through Jesus, the Anointed Servant. God’s love for the world was demonstrated by the death of His only Son, who on the cross provided an atonement for human sin according to the purpose of God. In the Hebrew sacrificial tradition, the life of an animal could be substituted for that of a sinner, enabling him to be forgiven and reconciled to God in fellowship. By dying for the elect, Christ broke the power of sin and made it possible for individuals to know forgiveness instead of having to suffer death for their iniquity. By this act of divine grace, the believer is restored to fellowship with the Father. The standards of the world’s thought and conduct are rejected in favor of an obedient and holy life dominated by the sovereignty of God and Christian love one for another.

The EC’s stance on the mission of Christ is not the Atonement, but as an example to be followed in remaking the world into a better place. It is a “different gospel.” What should our response be to this? The context of the book of Galatians indicates that a different gospel from the one Paul preached had penetrated the church in Galatia. In Galatians 1:6-7, We find his description of this.

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)

6θαυμαζω οτι ουτως ταχεως μετατιθεσθε απο του καλεσαντος υμας εν χαριτι χριστου εις ετερον ευαγγελιον  7ο ουκ εστιν αλλο ει μη τινες εισιν οι ταρασσοντες υμας και θελοντες μεταστρεψαι το ευαγγελιον του χριστου (Galatians 1:6-7 WHNU)

Paul called the false gospel , ετερον ευαγγελιον, or “another gospel.” The Greek word Paul used here for “another,” ετερον, means ‘qualitatively different.’ That means it is not the same thing at all. However, in v7 where Paul says, “not that there is another one…” he uses another word for “another,” αλλο. Αλλο means “another of the same kind.” In other words, the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can be declared in different ways by different people, but to remain the true Gospel, its truth can never be altered. Those who had penetrated the Galatian church were preaching ετερον ευαγγελιον, another gospel that was not based in God’s truth.

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)

8αλλα και εαν ημεις η αγγελος εξ ουρανου ευαγγελισηται [υμιν] παρ ο ευηγγελισαμεθα υμιν αναθεμα εστω  9ως προειρηκαμεν και αρτι παλιν λεγω ει τις υμας ευαγγελιζεται παρ ο παρελαβετε αναθεμα εστω (Galatians 1:8-9 WHNU)

But (αλλα) even (και) if (εαν) we (ημεις) or (η) messenger (αγγελος) from (εξ) heaven (ουρανου) should announce good message (ευαγγελισηται) to you ([υμιν]) beyond (παρ) which (ο) good message we announced (ευηγγελισαμεθα) to you (υμιν), curse (αναθεμα) let be (εστω)! As (ως) we have said before (προειρηκαμεν) and (και) now (αρτι) again (παλιν) I say (λεγω); if (ει) anyone (τις) to you (υμας) announces good message (ευαγγελιζεται) beyond (παρ) what (ο) you took along (παρελαβετε), curse (αναθεμα) let be (εστω)! (Galatians 1:8-9 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

Paul is telling the Galatians and us, inspired by God, that if anyone preaches a gospel message, ευηγγελισαμεθα, which differs in the slightest degree from God’s truth revealed through Christ and the Apostles then αναθεμα εστω. The term, αναθεμα εστω, literally says in Greek, “let him be anathema.” Αναθεμα refers to devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell (cf. Romans 9:3; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 16:22). Paul is telling the Church that if anyone attempts to change the Gospel message from the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to anything else then they are to be devoted to destruction because of their damning heresy. They are teaching a “gospel” message that does not save and so must be opposed and exposed.

Therefore, when professing Christians proclaim ετερον ευαγγελιον as the ευαγγελιον then we must take action. We must tell the truth to all who will hear. We must expose them as we lead those who listen to turn from these people about whom we proclaim to all, “αναθεμα εστω!”

Soli Deo Gloria!

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