Why Shouldn’t We Change the Gospel? – Part 4

The gospel was being distorted in Galatia by a group called the Judaizers. Essentially they were teaching that the Gentiles had to accept circumcision alongside the message that Jesus was their Lord and Savior. While it was a small change, it was still a change. A change that made all the difference. Remember the gospel tells us that we can do nothing to earn our own salvation, and here the Galatians were being taught that they had to do something.

There are a number of things we can add to or replace the gospel with, but doing so changes and distorts the gospel so that it’s no longer good news. It is just another form of works based salvation labeled as the gospel. When we change the gospel today, we are essentially committing the same error as the Judaizers in Paul’s day.

But we shouldn’t change the gospel. Why is that?

Why shouldn’t we change the gospel? (vs. 3-8)

As I have already alluded to:

(1) Changing the gospel makes salvation impossible.

If we are forced to rely on our own works, we’ll never experience salvation.

When I was in college, I let my credit card get a little bit out of control. Nothing too crazy, but it wasn’t something I could pay off while I was in college. I just worked part-time at a climbing wall. It was a fun job, but it didn’t pay a lot, so I ended up graduating college with some debt. Now, I didn’t keep that debt for long. After I got my first job out of college, I paid it off quickly.

We often think of salvation like that. Like it’s a debt we have to work off by doing good works. If we do enough good works, God will forgive us and we will experience eternal life. But that’s not how it works. God doesn’t accept our works as payment towards our debt. He only accepts the work of Jesus on our behalf.

Paul makes this clear in Galatians 1 when he says,

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” (Ga 1:3–4)

You see, it was Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf that gave us peace. It was His sacrifice that delivered us. Not our works. That’s the case because that’s how God designed it. Notice that Paul says that this is “according to the will of our God and Father,” Since God doesn’t change, the payment He requires doesn’t change. So, if we change the gospel to a works based system of salvation, we make salvation impossible because God doesn’t accept our work as payment towards our debt.

(2) Changing the gospel leaves us with a disturbed conscience

Starting in the middle of verse 7 Paul says,

“but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” (Ga 1:7b)

The idea here is that changing the gospel doesn’t help us instead it hurts us. Paul tells us that these folks are troubling the Galatians. It troubles them, it troubles us because a works based system produces emotional distress. It makes us uneasy because we don’t know where we stand with God. We know that’s true because when you talk to folks who are caught up in a works based system you hear them more often than not say something to the effect of: “I sure hope I have done enough.” The point being, they don’t know if they have done enough. They just hope they have done enough, which means they are left in limbo, always wondering if they are good enough. That affects us. It affects us emotionally producing a disturbed conscience.

But as Christians we don’t have to worry about where we stand. If we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are God’s children. We will experience salvation instead of eternal damnation. We can be sure of that because Jesus’ work is enough. It has satisfied God’s wrath, so we don’t have to worry. Nor do we have to live with a disturbed conscience, but those who change the gospel do.

(3) Changing the gospel means we aren’t delivered from bondage.

In verse 4, Paul tells us that Jesus

“gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.” (Ga. 1:4)

If we add works to the gospel, that means we don’t understand or believe the gospel. We aren’t trusting in Jesus as our Savior, which means He hasn’t delivered us from bondage. Since we can’t deliver ourselves, we remain in bondage. Satan remains our master and we his slaves.

(4) Changing the gospel means that we are taking worship away from God.

In verse 5, Paul tells us that our salvation should result in God’s glory forever and ever. But if we make salvation a work that we do, we steal God’s worship away from Him. Instead of it being about God’s grace and sacrifice on our behalf, it’s about our work. What we do. Our ability to muster the effort, to crack the code of salvation. When we think like that, we’ll find that we start praising ourselves for what we’ve done, instead of what God has done in our lives. So changing the gospel steals worship away from God.

(5) Changing the gospel means that we will face a curse.

In verse 8 Paul says,

“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.” (Ga 1:8)

The idea here is that those who change the gospel will face a curse, and that curse is eternal damnation.

Conclusion

We must see that changing the gospel isn’t a good idea. It might be tempting because we often think we have to do something in return for what we are given. But that’s not so with the gospel. It’s a gift of God that’s freely given. Nothing is required of us. We should rest in that understanding. If we don’t salvation is impossible, we will most likely experience a disturbed conscience, we will continue to live in bondage, we won’t give God the worship He deserves, and ultimately, we will experience eternal death instead of eternal life.

While change can be good, when it comes to the gospel, it’s not. What we need to do, then, is rest in the biblical gospel, trusting in God’s wisdom for salvation.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you see why changing the gospel is not a good thing?
  2. What are some other reasons we shouldn’t change the gospel?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why shouldn’t we change the gospel? You can listen to it here.

Advertisements

Why Shouldn’t We Change the Gospel? – Part 3

The gospel was being distorted in Galatia by a group called the Judaizers. Essentially they were teaching that the Gentiles had to accept circumcision alongside the message that Jesus was their Lord and Savior. While it was a small change, it was still a change. A change that made all the difference. Remember the gospel tells us that we can do nothing to earn our own salvation, and here the Galatians were being taught that they had to do something.

While it’s a common assumption that we must do something in order to earn our salvation, that’s not, as Paul points out, the gospel. Instead the gospel tells us that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. It is a gift of God that’s freely given to those who don’t deserve it.

There are a number of things we can add to or replace the gospel with, but doing so changes and distorts the gospel so that it’s no longer good news. It is just another form of works based salvation labeled as the gospel. When we change the gospel today, we are essentially committing the same error as the Judaizers in Paul’s day.

But how do we know the gospel hasn’t changed?

How do we know the gospel hasn’t changed? (vs. Ps 33:11; Is 26:4; Jas 1:17; Mal 3:6)

That question is one that is directed at God’s character, His trustworthiness, which is why we must explore who God is in order to find answer.

Let me make a bold statement to start us off. One I will prove in a moment.

We know the gospel hasn’t changed because God Himself hasn’t changed, which means the way He relates to us hasn’t changed.

Scripture testifies to that idea. In Psalms 33:11 we read,

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” (Ps 33:11)

Then Isaiah says,

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Is 26:4)

And in the New Testament James says,

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (Jas 1:17)

These Scriptures tells us that God doesn’t change.

Objection

Before you say, “Of course the Bible would say that God doesn’t change. It is God’s book!” Before you levy that claim against this argument, consider how the Bible was written. To be sure, it wasn’t written in one go by one author. Instead, it was written by a multitude of authors over thousands of years. The fact that they all testify to the unchanging trustworthiness of God tells us that we can trust the idea that God doesn’t change.

Since God doesn’t change, the way we experience salvation doesn’t change. 

God, Himself, in Malachi 3:6 testifies to this when He says,

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Mal 3:6)

God’s statement was good news to the Israelites, and it’s good news to us, because we aren’t always faithful to God. There are times when we sin against God, when we rebel, but God remains faithful. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t forget His promises.

From these ideas we can infer that God doesn’t change the way we experience salvation either. Salvation has never been achieved through our works. It’s always been through Jesus’ work on our behalf. We can be sure that will not change because God doesn’t change.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe God is unchanging?
  2. Have you seen evidence of God’s faithfulness in your life?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why shouldn’t we change the gospel? You can listen to it here.

Why Shouldn’t We Change the Gospel? – Part 2

At times, change can be a good thing. I know it was for me. Over a decade ago, I made a change and moved to the DFW metroplex. Growing up, I never thought I would live in Dallas, but when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I not only took the opportunity because I thought it would help me advance my career faster, but I also made the move because I felt like I needed a fresh start in order to work on my relationship with God.

While attending the University of Georgia I was caught up in the party scene. That scene spilled over into my time in Atlanta because a lot of my friends from college moved to Atlanta when they graduated. I even lived with the same roommate I lived with in college. Having all the same friends meant that it was hard to escape that scene. At times, I tried, but it wasn’t enough. I felt like I needed a fresh start in a new place with new friends. So when the opportunity to move to Dallas presented itself, I took it.

Moving wasn’t the magic bullet I was looking for. You see, if we don’t deal with the underlying sin, things aren’t going to change. We will just end up falling back into what we were doing. That’s what happened to me. But having the mindset of starting afresh caused me to get back into church, where I made new friends. God worked through those relationships to expose the underlying sin and call me back to following Him. And so, for me, changing cities provided to be a good thing.

But change isn’t always for the better. That’s especially true when it comes to the gospel.

How was the gospel changed?

In Galatians 1 starting in verse 6 we read,

“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.” (Ga 1:6–7)

The gospel was being distorted in Galatia by a group called the Judaizers. Essentially they were teaching that the Gentiles had to accept circumcision alongside the message that Jesus was their Lord and Savior. While it was a small change, it was still a change. A change that made all the difference. Remember the gospel tells us that we can do nothing to earn our own salvation, and here the Galatians were being taught that they had to do something.

While it’s a common assumption that we must do something in order to earn our salvation, that’s not, as Paul points out, the gospel. Instead the gospel tells us that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. It is a gift of God that’s freely given to those who don’t deserve it.

While it’s circumcision and possible dietary laws in the Galatian church, it’s something else in another church.

  • Maybe it’s baptism. You have to be baptized to be saved.
  • Maybe it’s that you have to change a certain behavior before you can be saved. Certainly, we should live differently as Christians, but a change in behavior isn’t required in order for us to be saved. Our behavior should and will change, but that change is the product of our salvation not the cause of us.
  • Maybe we would say someone needs to change their political affiliation in order to be a Christian.
  • Maybe we would say that all you need to do is be a good and loving person in order to experience salvation.

There are a number of things we can add to or replace the gospel with, but doing so changes and distorts the gospel so that it’s no longer good news. It is just another form of works based salvation labeled as the gospel. When we change the gospel today, we are essentially committing the same error as the Judaizers in Paul’s day.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe the true gospel?
  2. Have you distorted the good news?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why shouldn’t we change the gospel? You can listen to it here.