Another Gospel Which Is Not Another

 •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 9
There is, and there can be, but one gospel; God has given one gospel alone for the salvation of sinners.
Through His infinite grace, and His grace alone, He gave His only-begotten Son to become a man and to die for us. The only source of all was His love: no one suggested it to Him, or persuaded Him thus to have compassion upon sinners. None could feel it divinely but God Himself, none but a divine person could accomplish what was needful. The Father prepared a body for Him, and He, the Son, came to fulfill His will to save. Thanks be to God, the Son has fulfilled the work that was entrusted to Him, and the Holy Ghost has announced this gospel-that the love of God has been manifested in the gift of His Son, and that He, having finished His work, sits as Man at the right hand of God; and with this gospel He leads souls to repentance.
God Himself has not, and cannot, have another gospel. He cannot forget the work of His Son, in which He has found complete satisfaction, in which He has been fully glorified. He cannot set forth another gospel, or add something on man's part, as though the work of Christ were imperfect, and lacked something to complete it. Christ, as Man, sits at God's right hand, because He has accomplished the work of salvation for all believers, having by Himself purged their sins. And when He had sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, the work which saves us was announced to be finished. And then all teaching that requires anything else, that assumes to add something of man to complete it, denies the perfection of the work of Christ, that is to say, denies that He has completed the work of redemption. That the Spirit of God works in the heart to produce in us the sense of our guilt before Him, and our need of the sacrifice of Christ, that we need to be born of God in order to enter into His kingdom, and further that the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the Christian, brings forth the fruits which suit the new life in which we participate through grace-all that is true; but for the work of redemption, for the putting away of sin, and cleansing us from it, for making us divine righteousness in Christ, God will have nothing else but the death of Christ. God has, shown that He has accepted His death, in that He has raised up Christ from among the dead, and has set Him as Man at His right hand in the glory which He had before the world was. He will not allow man to add anything to that work; whatever it might be, it would deny, in so far, the sufficiency of the work of Christ.
These heretics do not say that Christ has not finished the work; nor did the false Judaizing teachers among the Galatians say it. But they insisted that man must on his part add his works, the law, circumcision. They said God had done His part, and now it remained for man to do his. This is always the way of a man who does not know himself, does not own that in himself he is but a miserable lost sinner who ought to have kept the law, who was responsible to do it, but that he has failed, and his flesh is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Man feels his responsibility; but (instead of saying, Alas! I have failed, I am lost and guilty, I cannot satisfy the demands of the law) he seeks to work out a righteousness when it is too late. False teachers who know not the grace of God, or the value of the work of Christ, use the law for self-righteousness. As conscience cannot be pure, satisfied and quiet before God, nor make itself so, men have invented various means which man can accomplish, in order to quiet the conscience, without cleansing it. Thus they do the devil's work, hindering conscience from feeling the depth of that sin to which man has been accustomed, and which reigns in the flesh. This is always done by means of ordinances.1 These man can fulfill; but make the flesh holy he cannot. A new life is received from God in Christ, who came that we might live through Him. But man likes to do his own pleasure and will, not to submit himself in heart to Christ. He feels his responsibility, and in order to quiet his conscience, he accepts these means at the hands of men, who pretend that these human expedients come from God, and have His authority, while they only seek, as the apostle says, to glory in the flesh of those who listen to them, and for their own advantage to hold them under their authority.
Zealous and ardent (if you believe them) for the glory of God, and for the authority of His commandments, they take possession of that authority through the rules they impose upon others, wielding it at pleasure over the conscience, and thus over the man himself; as the Lord Jesus said, “they annul the commandment of God by their tradition.” Thus did the Pharisees, who were so strongly condemned by the Lord. Thus also do those who in this day follow not the word of God, who will not allow Christians to be taught by the word, the scriptures, which are addressed to them by God Himself, and which therefore they are bound to obey; they would not, I say, that others, humbly learning by the help of the Spirit of God, which belongs to all believers, should follow the precepts of that word, and enjoy the blessing which is found in the pure faith there presented to us.
They always place souls under the law, to which they add traditions, which, together with the interpretation of the word of God, they hold in their own hands; and thus they can teach what they like. Let believers remember that if a master-and God is master over every conscience-had given commandments and directions to his servants, or a father to his children, and another prevents those commandments or directions from reaching the servants or children directly, and as they were given, he would hinder the exercise of the master's or father's authority, and moreover would deprive the servants or children of their rights.
Now the whole scriptures are in fact addressed either to the Jewish people, or (if we except three short epistles) to believers who are now sons of God by faith; and no one has the right to prevent those to whom they are written from knowing what revelations have been made to them, and what precepts have been addressed to them. He who does so opposes himself to the authority of God, who has made these revelations and has placed all His own under obligation to obey the precepts contained in them.
God can give gifts for the purpose of helping believers to follow His precepts. Paul was thus helping them in this very epistle; but the true servants of God have never sought to take from His children's hands His word which He has given them, which is their blessing and their light, and by which He Himself speaks to their souls, showing that in His infinite grace He has desired to speak to them, and to communicate to them, amid the darkness of this world, the knowledge of His love and of His will, to show them the path in which they may walk in simplicity, in spite of the enemy of their souls, and enjoy immense happiness-the love of God and the light of His countenance. What unbounded grace, that God should deign in such a world to communicate to us His own thoughts, divine light in the darkness; and how terrible to take away these divine communications, and hide them from the eyes of His own! Alas! man is but too readily disposed to neglect them, yet to take them from souls who desire to have them is iniquity, it is open opposition to the sovereign grace of God which has given them. Those who seek to rule over souls in God's stead take from them the revelation He has made to them. They are then free to preach and teach what is not according to the word of God, and to impose the yoke of the law and traditions, as well as their own authority, upon the necks of man.
The forms of this departure from the truth may differ, but the principle is always the same; that is, the law and human traditions, imposed upon souls, and the authority of men. Here among the Galatians it was openly the Jewish law and Circumcision, by which they were held to observe the whole Jewish system, and to submit to the authority and tradition of the scribes and Pharisees. In this day it is still the law and traditions of men and their clerical authority, and that in place of the direct authority of the word of God.
But it will be said, were there not men appointed of God to teach others? Yes. God has by the Holy Spirit given various gifts, the evangelist, the teacher, and the pastor; and these gifts are exercised through the grace of the Holy Spirit, under the authority of the Lord Jesus. The difference between the various gifts of God and the clergy is this: the gifts which are really of God are exercised by applying the word of God to the conscience, and the word always retains its supreme and absolute authority over the soul. Everything is referred to that authority. The clergy place themselves between the soul and God, as if possessing His authority; the word of God disappears, and does not act directly on the part of God; the soul does not go to God, is not subject immediately to Him, but to man, God's own light does not shine into it, the conscience does not find itself in the holy presence of God, the heart is not irradiated by the beams of His love. Servile fear takes the place of confidence and joy. God is not a Savior and a Father for the heart, but a God of judgment who exacts the last farthing. The grace of God is unknown, the law is unfulfilled, and the heart, full of terror, submits to a poor sinner like itself. Man degrades himself, instead of being at once elevated and humbled by the presence of God, and by communion with Him. If he commits sin, his conscience is quieted by a human being, without being cleansed, and at last, disgusted with everything, he neglects and entirely abandons religion and the fear God.
The gospel of grace to every creature under heaven had been committed especially to Paul by the Lord Himself, as was the gospel among the Jews to Peter, Paul maintained this gospel in its purity as being of God Himself. An angel even had no tight to alter it; and he pronounces an anathema and curse noon any who might have preached a different gospel. How shall we know what he taught? The answer is simple. Read what he has written, which, remark, he addressed to the whole Christian people, even as to those who were forsaking the truth.
The ardent words of the apostle are very remarkable. The Holy Ghost has given us God's own testimony, that if an angel came to teach what the apostle had not taught, he would be under the malediction of God—he would be anathema. It little mattered who he might be, if he contradicted the testimony of God. Paul well knew that he had received it from God Himself, and he who opposed or falsified it opposed the authority of God, and the truth which He in His grace made known.
Let Christians take heed to the solemn words of the apostle. We possess them in this Epistle, as well as in others which he wrote. They are the touchstone for all teaching; and we need to study them in order to know if he who speaks tells us the truth of God. So solemn was this point, so deeply was it felt by the apostle, that he again repeats what he had before said-that whoever should preach any other gospel, than that which the Galatians had received from himself, should be anathema. He did not seek to please men in what he announced, or to satisfy man. If he sought to please men, he would not be the servant of Jesus Christ. It was He, and He alone, whom he ought to seek to please; to abandon the gospel would not be the way to do it.