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 (Galatians 1:6).
In every generation, the gospel — the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners by grace alone through faith alone for justification before God has always been under attack. Recently, I met with a group of friends and from Galatians 1:6-10, I admonished them to go back to their churches and start listening well if the gospel is being preached on their churches’ pulpit.
Now a church that doesn’t preach the gospel and salvation by grace is not worth the name church.
Sadly, many believers have stopped listening and reading with discernment, hence, all kinds of errors are passing on for gospel preaching on many pulpits in our country. Among the numerous errors, there are two extremes by which we see the abuse of the gospel: Legalism and Antinomianism. These two are opposites to each other and are all wrong. Legalism is simply seeking justification with God through good works or by keeping the law — (10 commandments, holiness laws, etc)¹. There is also another side to Legalism where we look to the law and good works to maintain our salvation. All these fly in the face of Scripture because “…one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). What Paul means here is that, justification is by faith alone; believing and trusting in Christ’s death alone for salvation.
This naturally raises questions about whether we can live our lives anyhow since we are justified by faith alone. The question usually arises from a misunderstanding of the place of the Law in the Christians life. There are those who insist that because of grace the law of God has no place in the believers’ life. Such position leads us to the next error that confronts the gospel—Antinomianism. Antinomianism teaches that the Law has no place in a Christians’ life. But that is far from the truth. In an online article, The Threefold Use Of The Law, R.C. Sproul wrote on three uses of the law in the Christian’s life. He stated that:
Every Christian wrestles with the question, how does the Old Testament law relate to my life? Is the Old Testament law irrelevant to Christians or is there some sense in which we are still bound by portions of it? As the heresy of antinomianism becomes ever more pervasive in our culture, the need to answer these questions grows increasingly urgent. ²
You see, the preaching of the gospel is the means by which God brings people to salvation and it is of utmost importance it is not misrepresented or watered down. A watered down gospel lacks power to save. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1Corinthians 1:18). But what do we see today? We live in times when the preaching of the gospel has been replaced by human and secular philosophies which has no power to save anyone. The Galatian church to which Paul wrote his letter, were, just like today, invaded by false teachers propagating a false gospel. Paul described them as trouble makers and those who distort the gospel of Christ(v7).
The gospel is central to the salvation of sinners and any false representation of it must be a cause of concern to every believer. We see Paul registering his disapproval of what was going on in the Galatian church in a rather forceful manner: “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”.
Rightly so, Paul was astonished–greatly amazed, surprised–that a people who have been “called…in the grace of Christ” are “quickly” moving away from the gospel; not gradually, not slowly, but quickly, rendered as as hastily (tacheós)³ in the original language. It was a concern to him, that a people who have once believed in the gospel and have been justified by grace through faith alone are now shifting from grace to works salvation. Any departure from the proclamation of the gospel must just as Paul, astonish us who call on the name of the Lord.
The Christian is saved by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) and this truth must remain at the back of our minds throughout our Christian journey. Grace doesn’t only bring us in. Grace keeps us till the end of the journey (Jeremiah 31:3, John 10:27-29). It is important, unlike the Galatians, we keep focus on the grace of God and continue in Him (Colossians 2:6-7, Hebrews 4:14-16). Many believers after they are saved by grace go on to live their lives as if they have works to add to their salvation.
Of course the Christian is saved to do good works. But the Christian is not saved by doing good works.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
In conclusion, just as I admonished my friends to start listening for the preaching of the gospel on their church pulpits, permit me to put the same charge to you my reader. Start listening for gospel preaching on your church pulpit and count how often sinners, guilty of the judgement and wrath of God are called to repentance by pointing them to the death and resurrection of Christ for sinners. Listen also how often believers are admonished to continue in the grace of God.
Anything short of this passes for “a different gospel”. Nothing else will do but gospel preaching and gospel centred ministries.