No Other Gospel

by Mike Ratliff

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:1-4 ESV)

In the recent attacks on John MacArthur and his ministries by some bent on claiming that he is in league with Rick Warren and perhaps isn’t even a Christian, I have learned what it is like to be considered guilty by some using the method of “guilt by association” as sure-proof evidence of one being false. It is very easy to make a case against someone or their ministry if this sort of method of “discernment” is 100% valid in every case. I have seen discussions get started on our discernment blogs that devolve into creating “isms” in which this or that person is categorically assigned by those who have not taken the time to investigate what he or she really teaches or writes about. I doubt that God is pleased with us when we do that. I have received the very same treatment by some who have categorically assigned me to the camp of ‘fundamentalism’ even though I reject much of what that ism stands for and the way they go about doing what they do. 

On the other hand, there are some things in which I will not compromise or budge at all from what the Bible very clearly gives us as a non-negotiable part of our faith. The Gospel is at the top of that list. When I use the word Gospel I am also including within it a paradigm of the things that make up our orthodox faith. That would include our spiritual maturing unto Christlikeness after we are saved by grace through faith. It would include how we serve and worship our Lord and for what purpose. It would include the roles of prayer and meditation and being transformed by the renewal of our minds.

The problem for the visible church in our time is that it is plagued by rampant biblical illiteracy. The Gospel preaching in much of the visible church is not biblical but takes the form of a sales pitch to invite Jesus into your life so you can have a better life. This appeals to the flesh not the spirit. This is not the gospel at all. Couple that with decades of milquetoast bible study and you have a brew that is ripe for deception.

I have a good friend who has contacted me over that last several days about the creeping in of spiritual formation and contemplative prayer into her church through the youth group. I confess that I do not know much about what these things are so I have hesitated tackling this issue. I was counseled by another good friend to do some research on this, but to approach the topic biblically since that is how God works through me. Here is what I discovered today.

I did a web search for the term “Spiritual Formation.” Interestingly, one of the first links I received in the search engine was a link to George Fox Seminary. Their definition of Spiritual Formation is “the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit and grounded in Scripture and a faith community.” That does not sound so bad does it? The problems come in how this is defined and how they go about implementing this in the spiritual life of the believer. Here are the three interrelated processes of becoming Christ-like:

The process of becoming Christ-like involves three interwoven processes:

  1. Orthodoxy Right-thinking about Christ and the Christian faith
  2. Orthopraxy Right-action/piety and devotional living
  3. Orthopathy Right-feeling toward God, self, and others

Again, this sounds rather benign instead of ominous. However, we must consider the fact that this is coming from a Quaker theological perspective that is most certainly not orthodox.

In part of my research today I came across a document written in 1997 titled What is Contemplative Spirituality and Why is it Dangerous. Never forget that Contemplative Spirituality is a synonymous term with Spiritual Formation. Please take your time and read that document. It is very well documented.

What does God’s Word say about any approach to the Gospel that is not Biblical? Does it do so? The book of Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul to specifically address this very thing. Let us look at a short section of chapter one of Galatians (vv6-10).

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. 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. 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. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-10 ESV)

6θαυμαζω οτι ουτως ταχεως μετατιθεσθε απο του καλεσαντος υμας εν χαριτι χριστου εις ετερον ευαγγελιον  7ο ουκ εστιν αλλο ει μη τινες εισιν οι ταρασσοντες υμας και θελοντες μεταστρεψαι το ευαγγελιον του χριστου  8αλλα και εαν ημεις η αγγελος εξ ουρανου ευαγγελισηται [υμιν] παρ ο ευηγγελισαμεθα υμιν αναθεμα εστω  9ως προειρηκαμεν και αρτι παλιν λεγω ει τις υμας ευαγγελιζεται παρ ο παρελαβετε αναθεμα εστω  10αρτι γαρ ανθρωπους πειθω η τον θεον η ζητω ανθρωποις αρεσκειν ει ετι ανθρωποις ηρεσκον χριστου δουλος ουκ αν ημην (Galatians 1:6-10 WHNU)

I marvel that thusly quickly you change from the one having called you in favor of Christ into other good message, what not is other, except some are the ones troubling you and wanting to turn across the good message of the Christ. But even if we or messenger from heaven might tell good message to you from what good message we ourselves told you, curse let be. As we have said before and now again I say; if some you tells good message from what you took along, curse let be. Now for men I persuade or the God? Or I seek men to please? If still men I was pleasing, of Christ slave not I was. (Galatians 1:6-10 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

Heresies are rarely so far from what is genuine that it is blatantly obvious to everyone that they are false. Quakerism rejects the deity of Christ. It is a “changed” gospel. The ones behind much of the ecumenical spiritual formation stuff are Roman Catholic monks who have blended in the Eastern Mysticism with Quakerism to use good terms such as meditation that we use to ponder God’s Word, in a different way that puts the mind into neutral and opens the mind up to the evil spiritual forces of our enemy.

Paul tells us in this passage that those who grasp the real Gospel are χριστου δουλος, the slaves of Christ. They do not determine the content of the Gospel. They obey the one given to them by Christ. We are not to do as the majority of voters in the 2008 USA election did in voting for change for the sake of change. The Gospel is immutable. It never changes because it is based in our God who is immutable.

If the youth group or pastors in your church are speaking of spiritual formation along the lines of the two referenced pages I linked to above then you should be concerned. If you take your concerns to your pastors or elders and are rebuffed and nothing changes then you should be aware that the leadership in your church has been compromised. Those they are teaching are receiving spiritual teaching that is not biblical and is, therefore, of our enemy. I pray that God will give you the wisdom and discernment to see these things and obey Him in what He shows you.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “No Other Gospel

  1. Thank you for this very important commentary, Mike. Spiritual Formation has come into most churches today. It is disguised as man’s achievement of a better spirituality. As you stated; it is solely in God’s Word alone that we grow in Christlikeness until that day we are glorified by Him.

    I would highly recommend our brother; Pastor Bob Dewaay’s 2 articles on this:
    http://www.cicministry.org/commentary/issue91.htm

    and this article regarding the so called “biblical” spiritual disciplines and formation->Donald Whitney’s (think again!):
    http://www.cicministry.org/commentary/issue111.htm

    I pray that the eyes of skepticism/ blindness to these (yet again) man-created practices, be opened to the truth found solely in God’s Word where these “disciplines” are not found.

    Mat. 6:7
    Heb. 4:16

    ‘asking in Jesus precious name, amen.

  2. you have been doing a lot of talking about the Gospel but yet you have never mentioned the predominant MO (mode of operation) used by people to abuse the Gospel.

    Heb 7:18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness
    Heb 7:19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
    Heb 7:20 And inasmuch as it was not without an oath

    Also in Gal 2;14 Paul admonishes Peter for not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel because he required Mosaic law to be “added to” the Gospel.

    The main method continued to be used today to abuse the Gospel is to apply Gods law as an addition to “the finished work of Christ”.

    This outside in approach to scripture is satans method. Satan works bottom up, outside in. He uses the world to influence people outside in.

    God works God down inside out. God changes us via the Holy Spirit by a proper application of Gods word.

    An application of Gods law to the “finished work of Christ” is mans normal perversion of the Gospel. The law then is becomes our greatest guide… but using it as a stamp of approval to “the finished work of Christ” is always wrong…. Its absolute perversion of the Gospel!

    OF course I am sure you know that already.

  3. I didn’t mention it Jon because that is not what this post is about. The book of Galatians, however, does address this and yes I agree that the Law is our instructor and we do not apply it to the finished work of Christ in order to be justified. We are justified according to the perfect righteousness of Christ.

  4. Mike,
    Kurt Gebhards, the former pastor of John Macarthur’s Purpose Driven singles ministry, The Foundry, stated in his online resume that on 3 occasions leaders of Grace Church asked him to enter ministries to be “an agent of change.” This resume with that statement can be viewed here:
    http://www.harvestbiblefellowship.org/Content/10295/156611.pdf

    Given this fact, I pose the following questions:
    1–What is an agent of change?
    2–Can one be a Christian and be an agent of change?
    4–Who specifically asked Gebhards to enter Grace Church to be an agent of change?
    3–Why did Grace Church leaders ask an agent of change to enter their ministries?
    4–How did Grace Church leaders know that Gebhards was an agent of change?
    5–Where did Gebhards receive training to become an agent of change?
    6–Did Gebhards receive change agent training at The Master’s Seminary?
    7–Who teaches change agent training at The Masters Seminary?
    8–Would Christian leaders ask an agent of change to enter their ministries?
    9–Would satanic leaders ask an agent of change to enter their ministries?
    10–Can we assume that John Macarthur asked Gebhards (at least indirectly) to enter his ministries to be an agent of change since he is THE Grace Church leader?
    12–When Macarthur, in the resume linked above, endorsed Gebhards as a fine Christian was Macarthur deliberately lying since Macarthur knows Gebhards is an agent of change?

    Bob Johnson
    http://www.thewatchmanwakes.com

  5. Bob,

    You are doing in this comment exactly what I referred to in this post. You are making John MacArthur guilty by using the guilt by association charge even though you have shown absolutely no proof that what MacArthur meant by using that term is the same thing that Rick Warren means when he uses that term. Where is your proof? Without that your 12 questions are just an empty charge.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. Bob,

    assuming that your facts are correct, how do you know

    1) that MacArthur means by the phrase “change agent” what Warren means by the term “change agent”? The logical fallacy by the way is called amphiboly.
    2) that MacArthur knows that Gebhards is an “agent of the enemy”? Are you saying that in order for one person to endorse another, he must know EVERYTHING about the person including whether he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing? If so, your qualifications would disqualify Jesus, who chose Judas Iscariot even though he would later turn out to be the Son of Perdition.

  7. Bob,

    I completely agree with Mike here! What you write is old hearsay. I commend MacArthur in his stance against Purpose Driven Life. He has boldly spoken out again this and mentioned names affiliated with this false movement.

    Seems there is a root of bitterness here and a “purpose- driven- unmerited- finger pointing”?

    See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled Heb. 12: 15

    “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
    Luke 6:41

    Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

    If you have a perpetual “issue” with Pastor MacArthur, you need to confront him in person.

    In the meantime, slandering a Christlike brother in the Lord is unBiblical and unChristlike.

    It seems Pastor Johnson has addressed this issue before yet the agenda continues.

    Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
    Eph. 3:31

    But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Col. 3:8

    Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander 1 Pet. 2:1

    Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the ACCUSER OF OUR BRETHREN has been *thrown down*, he who accuses them before our God day and night. Rev. 12:10

    Praying that the Lord Jesus causes all focus to be :

    Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore DO NOT be partakers with them;
    or you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; *WALK AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT.* Eph. 5:6-8

    Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Eph. 5:15,16

  8. Mike,

    You want proof that a change agent is the same whether he’s leading Macarthur’s ministry or leading Rick Warren’s? The term change agent has never been used to describe a Christian. The term is only used to describe an agent bringing in a PDC-like change program. The term isn’t biblical. The term comes from social-psychology and it means a facilitator. Furthermore, read the Grace Church expose at http://www.johnmacarthurexposed.com and you will see that indeed The Foundry ministry lead by Gebhards, the agent of change, was a Pupose Driven ministry following Rick Warren’s model. Not only do I know that The Foundry was a PDC, but Dr. Robert Klenck and James Sundquist, both experts on the PDC, have stated The Foundry was a PDC. Macarthur knows very well that a change agent isn’t a Christian. My 12 questions aren’t an “empty charge”, they are legit questions that you can’t or won’t answer. Why don’t you tell me exactly what Macarthur meant when he asked a change agent into his church? By the way, I have been called a liar by those at Grace Church for the last 3 years because I stated that Gebhards was a change agent. They said that this notion was “fall down laughable.” But now that Gebhards recently left GCC and put his resume online, no one at GCC can call me a liar. Because Gebhards admits being a change agent, they must now “spin” this by telling the lie that a change agent isn’t really a change agent and that somehow Gebhards was a “Christian” change agent.

    Denise,

    Macarthur has boldly spoken out against the PDC? He fellowships with and endorses Greg Laurie who is fully on board with the PDC. He endorses Gebhards who is fully on board with Warren’s agenda (and his co-pastor admits this). Why do Macarthur’s ministries now partner with foreign governments?

    You think Macarthur being on board with Warren’s agenda is a “speck?”

    I need to confront Macarthur? Do you know that even Macarthur’s own church members can’t make an appointment to meet with him?

    You think I’m filled with malice and anger and slander, etc. Read the Grace Church report at the link above and tell me where there is an error and I’ll correct it.

  9. Bob,

    You did not give us proof that we asked for. You gave us innuendo and opinion.

    As for Gebhards, here is a small comment that I received today from a good friend about this: I looked at the guy’s resume who’s been with MacArthur; while I wouldn’t want him anywhere near any church I attended, his resume is within contemporary evangelicalism. Daniel and Denise are right in what they said: It’s logical fallacy and quilt-by-association. There’s nothing there that remotely says MacArthur taught and/or endorsed everything in the way the guy takes it. By that I mean, to my eye the guy is way too pragmatic and “leadership” oriented, but that doesn’t mean MacArthur is, or would even approve the other Warrenesque stuff the guy spews.

    So, yes, Gebhards is not someone I would go across the street to listen to. However, if you are trying to make MacArthur guility by association then you will need a lot more to go on than just guilt by association. Do you follow? This sort of logic may be fine to get Biblically illiterate people incensed, but it is not concrete proof of what you are trying to say.

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