GALATIANS 1:8-9: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!” CSB
OBSERVATION: Am I following a “different gospel?” Is it possible for the average believer to be deceived to the point that they are following a gospel that is actually leading them away from the very grace of God it purports to offer?
This was Paul’s concern for the Galatians. He was not writing to a church that had been in existence for decades. He was writing to a church he had started. It was a church that was very much in its infancy. They had received the gospel of Jesus Christ that was preached by Paul with joy and faith. However, the church was being infiltrated with those who were already trying to pervert the gospel and lead these new believers away from the truth.
Paul’s statement is very bold – “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!” Why was Paul so strong in his warning and rebuke? Paul knew that any gospel, other than the one he had preached, would lead the Galatians back into slavery to sin, and would keep them from the very grace that he had proclaimed to them in Jesus Christ. It would also keep those who did not know Christ from entering into eternal life.
How does one know whether or not they are following the true gospel? There are two determining factors. Every teacher, and every message must be weighed by these factors. They are,
Who is Jesus and what is grace?
Any gospel of Jesus Christ that does not acknowledge Him as God in human flesh, and bodily risen from the dead, is a false gospel! Jesus is not simply a great teacher, an elevated angel, one of many gods, or a created being. Jesus Christ is the third member of the trinity, the eternal logos of God (John 1:1), the Word made flesh, the creator of all things! He is not a god, He is God! Any other view of Jesus Christ is proclaiming a false gospel. If you have the wrong Jesus you have the wrong gospel. The only Jesus that can save is the one proclaimed in Scripture!
- “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty…Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was one like the Son of Man, dressed in a robe and with a golden sash wrapped around his chest. The hair of his head was white as wool — white as snow — and his eyes like a fiery flame. His feet were like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace, and his voice like the sound of cascading waters. He had seven stars in his right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from his mouth, and his face was shining like the sun at full strength.” Revelation 1:8, 12-16 CSB
The second test is to understand the definition of grace. If a gospel proclaims a grace that is insufficient to save through faith alone, it is a false gospel. If you need to have Jesus and something else in order to be saved, it is a gospel of works that can never set one free. This is very subtle. This is one of the easiest pitfalls and most widely used deceptions. If someone proclaims you need Jesus and (fill in the blank), they are proclaiming a false gospel. Our salvation does not depend upon our works, our denomination, our version of the Bible, our view or eschatology, or anything else. Our salvation rests fully upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified!
- “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 CSB
- “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 CSB
There is also a flip side to the misunderstanding of grace. A gospel that preaches that grace is license to continue our life in sin is also a false gospel. Although our salvation is fully by grace through faith, our life in Christ is to be marked by grace working itself out in our ongoing transformation. God did not give us His grace so that we could continue in sin and bondage. He gave us His grace so that we could be saved and set free to live a new life in the Spirit. Paul makes this clear in the tenth verse of Ephesians 2, and also in his letter to Galatians.
- “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 CSB
- “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Galatians 1:3-5 CSB
It does not have to be a cult that is proclaiming a false gospel. The church of Galatia was being infiltrated by false teachers who were posing as true believers, but proclaiming a gospel that denied that Jesus came in the flesh, and that Jesus alone was sufficient for salvation. This message and error is still prevalent today. Simply because someone uses Christian lingo, or exercises spiritual gifts, does not mean they are proclaiming the true gospel. The key is to understand their definition of who Jesus is, and what grace is. If it differs from what Paul has proclaimed – it is a false gospel!
As believers we are very quick to identify the enemy when he is dressed in horns. However, the subtlest attack is when he comes as an angel of light. Yet, he will never proclaim that Jesus is God and Lord. And he will never proclaim that grace through faith in Jesus Christ is sufficient. The enemy will pervert the image of Christ and the call and meaning of grace in our life every time. For he knows that the proclamation of Jesus as God and Lord, and the pure call of grace through faith, leads one to the Cross of Jesus Christ where he was vanquished!
Lord, give me the strength to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to this and the next generation. Help me to be uphold the truth that Jesus Christ is both God and Lord, and that salvation only comes by grace through faith, not of works, lest any man may boast! And, help me to share the truth that the grace given was for our transformation, not for an excuse to live a life of self seeking and indulgence. Today, help me to live through You by grace through faith!
In Jesus Name!