Don’t Believe the Hype – There is NO Other Gospel
Have you put your heart and soul into something at work, expecting your boss to show up and congratulate you, but instead he says, “what in the world are you doing?”
I’ll never forget my first full contact scrimmage after transferring to Liberty University from Virginia Tech. I have never been good at memorizing things. When I played Defense, I typically played a position called Free Safety. I generally had no issue memorizing the pass coverages because the names were typically direct indicators of what you were supposed to do. A cover three is a three deep zone, a cover two is a two deep zone, a cover four is a four deep zone and something like a cover six is a combination coverage of a cover four approachononesidethefieldandacovertwoontheother. AftergoingtocollegeasaFree Safety, I got switched over to the offensive side of the ball to play a hybrid receiver positionknown as a “H” back (when I was at VT it was actually called a “Q”). However, switching to the offensive side of the ball exposed my inability to memorize things very well. Both at Virginia Tech and at Liberty University the names of formations and the name of offensive passplaysrarelyhadanydirectindicatorforwhatyouweresupposedtodo! Making matters worse, the offense at Liberty was run by a bunch of former NFL coaches, and as such, it was totally different from anything I learned at Virginia Tech.
So, there I was in my first week at Liberty, in my first full contact game scenario scrimmage getting reps on the starting offense against the starting defense. Not long into the scrimmage we ended up in a third and long situation, and the offensive coordinator calls a formation and play that I assume my role is to run a deep stop route and settle in an open space. I will never forget it. It was a trips right formation, and I was the inside receiver. The ball was snapped and I made a quick move to get rid of the Outside Linebacker that tried to jam me up, identified the Free Safety, accelerated up field slightly stemming my route towards the seam in the zone, pushed hard and fast to 15 yards, slammed on the breaks, planted my outside foot, flipped my hips, and came right back towards the Quarterback being sure to slow down so I could settle in the soft space that had opened up in the zone. I’ll never forget the eyes of the QB looking at me with an odd look when I first came out of my break, but I continued to drift ever so slightly away from where I knew the Free Safety was lurking. Suddenly the QB’s head snapped back my direction and he threw the ball at me like it was shot out of a cannon. With my eyes completely locked in on the ball, I instantly started closing on it, extending my arms out to grab it, and then suddenly my body and soul separated. The Free Safety had come flying across the field and hit me right in the ear hole of my helmet. These days a player would be ejected from the game for making such a hit, but back then, you got a sticker from your coach to put on your helmet! I have no real recollection of catching the ball, only the life within me being knocked slap out of me. I cut a complete flip before hitting the ground. The sudden stop of my then 200 plus pounds crashing into the ground knocked the wind right out of me. But, after the momentary loss of sight and sound caused by the collision passed, I realized I had held on to the ball all the way through the catch! I stood up and with the little bit of air I had left in my lungs I handed the ball to the Free Safety and told him, “nice hit.” I then ran back to the huddle where my new teammates were high fiving me and slapping me on the helmet and butt, and congratulating me for getting our offense a first down and making an amazing catch to do it! Here I was, in my first week of practice, in my first scrimmage, and I had just instantly earned the respect of my teammates. There wouldn’t be any doubters now! This Virginia Tech Hokie had just planted his flag as a Liberty Flame! I was on cloud nine, that is, until I saw the Offensive Coordinator walking towards me. Contrasting with the pumped- up attitude of my teammates, he had a stern look on his face and then threw his hands up in the air in disgust and said, “Great catch Rammell, but you ran the wrong route! Learn the playbook or you’ll find yourself on the bench watching.”
In similar fashion, the believers in Galatia had received news about Jesus Christ from Paul and Barnabas during their first missionary journey (read Acts 13 and 14). With all kinds of excitement they repented, believed in Jesus, received the Holy Spirit and were experiencing God doing things that only He could get the credit for doing! The level of excitement and joy was ecstatic. Not long after Paul and Barnabas left, some very talented preachers came to town with information they said was vital for truly experiencing all God had for them. It was information they said you really couldn’t know God without, and they taught it in such a way it made perfect sense. The means of receiving God’s grace was not simply tofaithfully love and trust Him, but you also needed to do certain religious practices and traditions, especially those in the Jewish law. These were the true means of receiving the grace of Jesus Christ that Paul taught them all about; he just forgot to tell them that they needed to do some religious things and follow some laws to receive and grow in the grace of Christ.
Now, understand this, the believers in Galatia loved Paul. Paul had an incredible ministry with them as he and Barnabas traveled through Galatia. There is no doubt that the believers in those churches would see him as a spiritual father. Paul and Barnabas are the reason they know Jesus! So, imagine the scene as news of a letter addressed to them from Paul had arrived! Imagine as they all gathered around to hear it read, getting as quiet as possible. Mothers were holding their babies closely while subtly bouncing them to keep them from crying and causing a distraction. Little children were told to go outside and play. Everyone was dialed in and almost frozen by the anticipation of what they were going to hear written in that letter.
As we saw last week, it opens with the formality one would expect.
1 Paul, an apostle--not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead-- 2 and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
They then heard a standard greeting and proclamation of faith that they likely heard Paul say when he was with them,
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will
of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
So far, the words in this letter seemed uneventful. They may have even first read them like you and I read the outside of a letter we receive in the mail. You look to see where it came from, and that it is indeed written to you; then you quickly rip it open and pull the letter out hoping its beneficial information, encouragement or money, rather than a bill or a worthless marketing piece to get you to buy something you don’t actually need or even want!
So far in this letter I can imagine that everyone was standing there with the assumption that Paul has heard of their newly “matured faith” and that he is now writing to congratulate them! In their mind, the teachers who showed up after Paul and Barnabas have come in and grown their faith into something more rich, deep and distinguishable. Therefore, they likely thought this letter was coming to them because of how excited Paul was that they were learning to follow all the laws and religious traditions of Judaism. They were likely certain Paul was about to congratulate them on how pious and righteous they were for living and dressing like a Jew, eating like a Jew, celebrating Jewish feasts and holidays, honoring the sabbath, and working hard to learn and obey all the other laws in the Law of Moses.
But, like the time I ran the wrong route at Liberty, they instead heard, “what in the world are you doing!” Paul writes,
6 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-- 7 not that there is another one,
but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 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. 9 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. (1:6-9)
Paul goes straight from the kindness of “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3) to a sarcastic rebuke when he states, 6 I am astonished
Hendriksen and Kistemaker wrote,
"What we find here is no satisfaction but stupefaction: overwhelming amazement, painful perplexity. "
Henry Alford noted the significance of the mildness of the word Paul chose in “astonished.” He wrote, "Still, like many such mild words, it carries to the guilty conscience even sharper rebuke than a harsher one would."
Instead of putting fuel in their ego, Paul just stuck a knife in it!
In essence then, he offers a second introduction to the letter. The first one was a very short and formal one that established the foundation of the letter, but the second one was an introduction to the purpose of the letter which was clearly not to congratulate them but rather rebuke and correct them!
Specifically, this second introduction in Galatians asserts three truths about the sinful reality of altering the Gospel of Jesus.
Proposition: Galatians 1:6-9 asserts three truths about the sinful reality of altering the Gospel of Jesus.
The first truth about the sinful reality of altering the Gospel is that,
(1) Turning away from the Gospel of Jesus is abandoning GOD! (1:6)
6 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
It baffled Paul how soon after his departure that the believers in these towns turned to something that clearly wasn’t what He preached! It truly makes no sense to him whatsoever why, after hearing of the sufficiency of Christ’s death, the victory of His resurrection, and the Covenant that God has made with us in Christ (all this being the Gospel), that anybody would ever want to believe in anything different; but especially that soon afterward!
Now it’s important to note that they are in the process of deserting and turning. Paul writes this in the present tense rather than the perfect, indicating not only is this an ongoing thing, but also that it’s not a done deal. They can repent and turn back!
But here’s what I really want you to see in verse six. Turning to a different gospel necessarily means you are deserting or abandoning God! Look at the verse again. Paul writes,
There are two points of emphasis here. The first and most obvious is that they are turning from GOD!
But Paul doesn’t just say they are turning from God, but particularly from the God who CALLED them in the grace of Christ. The entire reason they are children of God is because God decided to CALL them, that is, not only choose them, but then reach out and call them into the covenant with Him that is only accessed and experienced because of the gracious gift of Christ and His work on the cross!
Think about that for a second. Imagine if my son got killed for something you did. He was totally innocent, but nonetheless he ended up getting killed because of you. Then imagine how blown away you would be if later you got a call from me telling you that I had filled out the paperwork for you to receive all the inheritance he would have got from me when I died! You are the reason my son died an unjust death but then, because of no work done by you, you got his inheritance. All you have to do is accept it!
That is exactly what Paul is communicating here. He is saying, God picked you to give you everything He is and has by His grace of all that Christ did, but you would rather ignore that and do things that you think better deserve it! You would rather do something to try and get to Him instead of being blown away by what He did for Him to get to you!
And here is where the rubber hits the road. If God’s plan on coming to you isn’t good enough for you (The Gospel), if you would rather replace it with some kind of plan to get to Him, then just know, you not only abandoned His plan, but you also abandoned HIM! If you are willing to lay aside the fact that He called you to Himself because of what Christ did, to instead trust in some other “gospel” on how to get to God, or how to more effectively get God to you, than you need to know that you are actually leaving God!
“6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ"
The second truth about the sinful reality of altering the Gospel is that,
(2) Altering the Gospel is abandoning the Gospel! (1:7b)
“--7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
So, in verse six Paul just said they were abandoning God and turning to a different gospel. But then we get a double dash (an em dash) and he writes,
“--7 not that there is another one,
So, is there another Gospel to turn to or not? Are they turning to another gospel or are they turning to something that is not the Gospel? Interestingly, Paul uses two different Greek words that both mean “different” or “another” but in a different way.
K.S. Wuest writes, "Hetros (ἑτερος) means another of a different kind, allos (ἀλλος), another of the same kind."
Therefore, when Paul writes, 6 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, he is pointing out that they are leaving God to turn to something that is fundamentally a different (heteros) in every way. Notice “gospel” is lower case here to emphasize that the “heteros,” is fundamentally not the same thing; it is of a totally different kind. The gospel they are choosing is not eating a green apple instead of a red apple, so that they can say they are still eating an apple; but rather, the gospel they are choosing is essentially them putting down the apple and picking up a horseshoe and claiming that eating a metal horseshoe is the same thing as eating an apple! “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but eating a horseshoe will get you sent to the hospital and a dentist! A horseshoe is not of the same kind as an apple; it’s totally different in every way!
But here in verse seven Paul drives things a little deeper and offers a rebuttal to what might be a hypothetical question. Is it possible to have a “green apple” type of gospel? Is it possible to have Gospel, that is it’s in every way the Gospel, just slightly different; like a green apple is to a red apple. They are both apples, just different kinds of apples. To this Paul says no! There is no other type of Gospel in the same kind. There are no alternatives. There are no such things as green apples when it comes to the Gospel, there’s just red ones! “7 not that there is another one,”
Now why is this important? Well, it’s because there are those who “want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
1. The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says of the word translated “distort,”
Note: " to cause a change of state, with emphasis upon the difference in the resulting state-- 'to change toto turn into, to cause to be different from, to transform"
The word “distort” in the original Greek is a compound word. It’s a combination of the word “beyond” (meta) and the word for “to twist, turn, bend” 5 (stréphō). Put together then, Paul is saying these men who are teaching you this stuff want to go beyond twisting or turning or bending the Gospel; but rather entirely change it!
They may claim to be offering a different (allos) apple that tastes better and is better for you, but you need to know there is no better gospel, because there is no such thing as an alternate gospel of the same kind. As such, while it seems they may only be slightly twisting, turning and bending it to make it better, what they are actually doing is totally changing it, because you can’t twist, turn and bend the gospel; you can only offer a different one!
There is no such thing as a Gospel of a similar kind. If you change the Gospel in any way, which includes adding something to it or taking something away from it, no matter if you claim you are creating a better Gospel of the same kind (making a new kind of apple), you are in fact creating a different Gospel!
Therefore, Paul is saying there are some, who are currently in your midst right now, that are creating a real problem for you because they are in the process of convincing you guys of something that they claim is a better kind of Gospel, when in fact, it’s a total perversion of the Gospel and as such it is no longer the Gospel!
When you add to “by grace through faith,” take away from “by grace through faith,” or redefine “by grace through faith” then you no longer have the Gospel of Jesus. It’s not a different version of the same Gospel, but rather something that is totally different because any change to it is a total perversion of it! You and I are not chosen by God, saved by God, loved by God, or even matured by God, because of any kind of works; if we are, then it’s no longer GRACE, and thus a gospel of a different kind! Its why Paul wrote,
6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6)
The third truth about the sinful reality of altering the Gospel is that we should,
Treat those who alter the Gospel as those who are lost and under the judgment of God. (1:8-9)
8 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. 9 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.
Hearing from an angel would be a pretty convincing experience, but Paul says don’t believe it if it’s different; even if he came back and said something different!
There will always be persuasive voices, who, ironically in the name of Jesus, claim to have something better than what Jesus taught! In every generation there have been people, who sounded as convincing as you would imagine an angel standing in front of you would be, who have offered Christians a new and improved message from God; that is, a new and improved “gospel.” Two of the most popular ones are Muhammad and Joseph Smith, both of whom claimed they got their gospel from an angel!
“Jibril – The bringer of good news. He is mentioned in both the Qur’an and the Hadith. The Angel Jibril revealed Allah’s words in the form of the Qur’an to Muhammad on the Night of Power. Because of this, he is also known as the Angel of Revelation, as he played a vital role in communicating Islam to humanity.”
“Moroni, according to the teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an angel or resurrected being who appeared to Joseph Smith on September 21, 1823, to inform him that he had been chosen to restore God’s church on earth. Four years later Smith purportedly received plates of gold from Moroni, who, as the last of the ancient prophets, had buried them in a hill called Cumorah (near Palmyra, New York) some 14 centuries earlier. On those plates were written history and teachings about ancient American prophets and peoples; it was that knowledge that Smith recorded in
the Book of Mormon (see Mormon, Book of), which became accepted as a holy scripture by the Mormon church.”7
But here’s the kicker in these two verses. The word translated as “accursed” is the Greek word anathema.
The Faithlife study Bible writes, "The Greek word used here, anathema, refers to putting someone under god's judgment"
K.S. Wuest adds a little more context in his commentary when he writes, "It is a word used... of a person or thing set apart and devoted to destruction, ... Hence on a spiritual sense it denotes one who is alienated from God by sin."
Paul is saying, no matter if it’s me, somebody else, or an angel; if anybody claims something that in any way alters the Gospel he preached, which is the Gospel Jesus Himself preached, then treat them as if they are an unrepented sinner – because they are!
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, (Romans 3:20)
A person who teaches or trusts in anything other than the Grace of God in Jesus Christ through faith is trusting themselves to something that cannot be justified in God’s sight! They are literally accursed already, therefore, being they are under God’s judgement, and as such separated from Him, you should treat themand their “gospel” the same way! It’s not Christian and shouldn’t be called as such. Mormonism is not Christian, it is a false gospel, and there is no hope of salvation in it. For a Mormon to have eternal life he must therefore repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ taught by the actual Jesus, to His actual Apostles, not the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith.
In the same way, the teachings of Muhamad are not the Gospel of Jesus in any way, fashion, shape or form, and as such, there is no hope of salvation in them. Those who trust in the teaching of Islam, according to the Bible stand accursed until they repent of their belief in the false gospel given to Muhamad by an angel, and instead believe in and follow Jesus.
This doesn’t mean we should in anyway act violently towards Muslims, Mormons, or any other person who believes something contrary to the Gospel of Jesus, but it does mean we don’t agree they are going to heaven, and as such live our lives in a way that invites them to listen and believe in the Gospel of Jesus!
And let me be clear, I’m 100% for coexisting on the planet with those that don’t follow Jesus, as a matter of fact, I love being close friends with those who don’t follow Jesus. The Bible commands us to do so! However, in that sincere friendship, my prayer and desire are for them to repent and believe in the Gospel of Jesus!
Challenge: What version of the Gospel are you trusting in?
"the Galatians were a very fickle people. They seem very soon to have left the godpel to have adulterated it, and to have fallen into Ritualism, into Sacramentarianism, into salvation by works, and all the errors into which people usually fall when they go away from the gospel."
Todd Wilson wrote,
"When we're scared or hurting, discouraged or disillusioned, we're often more open to considering something in addition to the gospel that we first received. We may have found Jesus sufficient up to this point. But given the way things are now, we wonder if it's time to look elsewhere."
The following are five examples of some of the common alternate gospels that leave you “accursed” all while claiming to be blessed!
- Religious traditionalism – the false gospel that participating in certain religious rituals enables you to receive and grow in God’s grace and favor.
Note: Many refer to these traditions or rituals as “means of grace.” Oddly, there are numerous denominations of the Christian faith who claim to profess a solid belief in justification and sanctification by grace through faith alone, but then manipulate the teachings of massive amounts of Scripture’s, including entire books of the Bible like Galatians, in order to falsely claim their religious traditions are more than outward expressions of their faith, but are instead God ordained “works” whereby they receive and grow in His grace.
2. Religious moralism – the false gospel that if you do the right things, especially certain right things; and don’t do to many of the wrong things, especially certain wrong things; then you will receive and grow in God’s grace and favor.
A. The sad result of religious moralism is an almost comical circus of debates over which things are right and which things are wrong, especially which things are really wrong! When you read the Sermon on the Mount and see Jesus saying stuff like, 27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28), it should make you realize that religious moralism is an utterly ridiculous proposition!
B. Furthermore, those who proclaim the prosperity gospel fit in this category. It was the same false gospel being preached at Job in the book of Job. If you do everything right then everything goes right, consequently if everything is going bad it’s because you either have not done enough good to earn God’s favor, or you have done so much bad that God is now judging you. In religious moralism Scriptures about God’s judgment on sin, and God’s covenant with Israel that promised prosperity as a nation if they obeyed His laws and promised judgment if they didn’t, are totally twisted, took out of context, and misapplied.
3. Religious liberalism – the false gospel that you can believe whatever you want to believe and as such define sin however you want to define it. This false gospel frees you to sin with no regrets because it says sin is no longer an offense to God.
4. Religious intellectualism – the false gospel that knowledge equals godliness and as such the more you know about the Bible the more you receive and grow in God’s grace and favor.
Now let me be VERY clear. The Bible is an absolute necessity to know and follow God.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16- 17)
However, being a bookworm not only doesn’t save you, it also doesn’t mean you’re going to be a strong and faithful follower ofChrist! TheJewishScribes, who knew the Scriptures more than anybody, were at the center of those who called for the crucifixion of Jesus! You can know everything there is to know about the Bible but still choose to not live by grace through faith in Him. You love knowledge, not Jesus; and just because its knowledge about Jesus doesn’t change the fact that your faith is in knowledge as opposed to Him.
This is not an excuse to not read and study your Bible, but it should be noted that the printing press wasn’t invented until the 15th century! The Gospel was changing lives 1,500 years after the birth of Christ before words could be mass produced. In addition, it wasn’t until modern times that most people could even read a book. The idea that spiritual maturity is dependent upon intellect is not only a false gospel, but it also defies common sense.
Now, on the other hand, this is also why the church gathered so frequently. Most people couldn’t read, much less afford a scroll, so they gathered together regularly and frequently to listen to the reading and teaching of God’s Word. The truth of Christ, the Gospel, will set you free; but you can’t be set free by what you don’t know.
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:14-15)
You may not be able to read, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn God’s Word and meditate on it to be transformed by it!
Note: I could insert all kinds of church names in that blank. I could have put Venture religion. If you buy into the false Gospel of church religion, you could literally turn Venture into your religion all while I snort and stomp every Sunday about how church is not your access to God – Jesus is! Church is meant to feed you, support you, inspire you, and help you live by grace through faith; not be your grace through faith! The Bible commands the church to love one another, to be committed to gathering, to use our gifts to serve one another, and to labor together to spread the Gospel. So, understand that loving going to church, being in Bible studies and serving the church is normal, good, and right for people who love Jesus. But you can also love all those things and have no love for Jesus; especially if you are involved in a church that works hard to do those well! You can very much love church and not Jesus. The answer is not to change the church into something you don’t like, nor run from the church; the answer is to repent!
Discussion Guide for this sermon.