Why must the gospel remain the same?

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. Starting afresh can be a good thing. It can kick start the change in our life that we need.

Take the change in the weather we have experienced over the last couple of days. At the beginning of the week I was dressed in layers of clothing with mountains of blankets on me. Yesterday, I was sitting on my back porch with no jacket on. Today is forecasted to be even warmer. The change in the weather is a welcome change. It is definitely for the better.

But as welcome as change can be at times, change isn’t always for the better, especially when it involves our core beliefs. Our core beliefs determine why we do what we do. They undergird our behavior. If we change our core beliefs, our behavior, our actions are going to change. So change, especially change for change’s sake isn’t always for the better. That’s especially true when it comes to the gospel. Why is that?

Why shouldn’t we change the gospel?

(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. 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 the debt off.

We often think of salvation 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.

In Galatians 1:3-4 we read:

“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)

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. 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 we read,

“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. 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.” 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 because it produces a disturbed conscience.

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 and separation from God — All that is good and beautiful. We can be sure of that because Jesus’ work is enough. It has satisfied God’s wrath. So we don’t have to worry. We don’t 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, we learn 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 are his slaves. All we have to look forward to is what this world can offer us because there is no resurrection to eternal life. That is a sad state in which to exist.

(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. 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. Or as one commentator puts it:

To be anathematized then means far more than to be excommunicated. It means nothing less than to suffer the eternal retribution and judgment of God.

 George, Timothy, Galatians, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), xxx, 98–99

Conclusion

Changing the gospel isn’t a good idea. Even though we are experiencing a massive change in our world, we must hold fast to the gospel. It is not something we should change, it must remain the same. We must rest in the unchanging message of the gospel. If we do, we will experience salvation, deliverance from this present evil age in which we find ourselves, we will have something for which to look forward. We will have hope in this dark world.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

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