The One True Gospel

by Mike Ratliff

Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:23-24 ESV)

I will be 59 years old later this year. I have been a Christian for about 25 years, but I grew up in a “Christian” home going to church every Sunday until I grew up and went my own way. I know that Christians are commanded to be forgiving, kind, and gentle with others. However, we are also commanded to stand firm and withstand false teachers and their doctrines. When I began writing and blogging as an extension of my teaching ministry, I soon experienced a very rude awakening. When I wrote about things that were experiential and not tied to any specific doctrines no one seemed to care, but the closer I came to that dividing line that separates God’s Truth from everything else, the attacks of every sort seemed to descend on me from every direction. The more precise I came in laying out what is true from that which is not true, the angrier many of my so-called brethren became. It seems the way to ‘get along’ in the visible church is to accept the default form of Christianity and never, even if you have irrefutable Biblical truth to the contrary, teach against it. The one who does that is labeled as divisive as well as an enemy of Christian unity. But this stance is all one-sided. We are divisive for publishing God’s pure doctrines, but those who hold to man-made doctrines are allowed to say anything they want about us. It is as if they have free speech, but we do not. 

I read an article today by Martin Luther titled Avoiding the Doctrines of Men. He experienced exactly the same thing in the 16th Century as the Protestant Reformation took hold across Europe. He published truth exposited from God’s Word the right way, that is, exegetically. His enemies attacked everything he wrote and said, but their arguments were based on man-made philosophies and the doctrines of men, which were based entirely in pure biblical eisegesis. Reading the attack followed by the biblical refutation of each charge was just like listening to Dr. James White dismantle the arguments of Roman Catholic Apologists in our time who insist that Paul clearly taught about Purgatory in his epistles. Nothing has changed in that God’s Truth is still The Truth and the doctrines of men are still of Satan.

The EC, i.e. Emergence Christianity, is going full bore into Christian Liberalism 2.0 led by Brian McLaren. One of the main tenets of this “New Kind of Christianity” is a denial of the Christian Orthodox doctrine of the Atonement. This doctrine is of God, not man. It proclaims that personal peace follows upon grace, mediated to mankind from the Father through Jesus, the Anointed Servant. God’s love for the world was demonstrated by the death of His only Son, who on the cross provided an atonement for human sin according to the purpose of God. In the Hebrew sacrificial tradition, the life of an animal could be substituted for that of a sinner, enabling him to be forgiven and reconciled to God in fellowship. By dying for the elect, Christ broke the power of sin and made it possible for individuals to know forgiveness instead of having to suffer death for their iniquity. By this act of divine grace, the believer is restored to fellowship with the Father. The standards of the world’s thought and conduct are rejected in favor of an obedient and holy life dominated by the sovereignty of God and Christian love one for another.

The EC’s stance on the mission of Christ is not the Atonement, but as an example to be followed in remaking the world into a better place. It is a “different gospel.” What should our response be to this? The context of the book of Galatians indicates that a different gospel from the one Paul preached had penetrated the church in Galatia. In Galatians 1:6-7, We find his description of this.

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. (Galatians 1:6-7 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 (Galatians 1:6-7 WHNU)

Paul called the false gospel , ετερον ευαγγελιον, or “another gospel.” The Greek word Paul used here for “another,” ετερον, means ‘qualitatively different.’ That means it is not the same thing at all. However, in v7 where Paul says, “not that there is another one…” he uses another word for “another,” αλλο. Αλλο means “another of the same kind.” In other words, the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can be declared in different ways by different people, but to remain the true Gospel, its truth can never be altered. Those who had penetrated the Galatian church were preaching ετερον ευαγγελιον, another gospel that was not based in God’s truth.

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. (Galatians 1:8-9 ESV)

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 (Galatians 1:8-9 WHNU)

But (αλλα) even (και) if (εαν) we (ημεις) or (η) messenger (αγγελος) from (εξ) heaven (ουρανου) should announce good message (ευαγγελισηται) to you ([υμιν]) beyond (παρ) which (ο) good message we announced (ευηγγελισαμεθα) to you (υμιν), curse (αναθεμα) let be (εστω)! As (ως) we have said before (προειρηκαμεν) and (και) now (αρτι) again (παλιν) I say (λεγω); if (ει) anyone (τις) to you (υμας) announces good message (ευαγγελιζεται) beyond (παρ) what (ο) you took along (παρελαβετε), curse (αναθεμα) let be (εστω)! (Galatians 1:8-9 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

Paul is telling the Galatians and us, inspired by God, that if anyone preaches a gospel message, ευηγγελισαμεθα, which differs in the slightest degree from God’s truth revealed through Christ and the Apostles then αναθεμα εστω. The term, αναθεμα εστω, literally says in Greek, “let him be anathema.” Αναθεμα refers to devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell (cf. Romans 9:3; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 16:22). Paul is telling the Church that if anyone attempts to change the Gospel message from the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to anything else then they are to be devoted to destruction because of their damning heresy. They are teaching a “gospel” message that does not save and so must be opposed and exposed.

Therefore, when professing Christians proclaim ετερον ευαγγελιον as the ευαγγελιον then we must take action. We must tell the truth to all who will hear. We must expose them as we lead those who listen to turn from these people about whom we proclaim to all, “αναθεμα εστω!”

Soli Deo Gloria!

28 thoughts on “The One True Gospel

  1. Amen Mike, they have been incrementally unveiling their rebellion against what the Lord has said about their sin and their need for that atonement for years. They think they can be bolder now that they have the acclaim of men, but God will not obviously be fooled by their wishful thinking.

    And yes, the clearer one writes on these truths, the more angry complacent Christians and false converts seem to get. It’s a joy these days to get a rebuke, but it makes me sad for the church.

  2. Absolutely, Mike. They miss not only the singular method of salvation, but also the entire point of salvation. The things they speak about plainly show they do not have a true knowledge of why they desperately need salvation or why God has chosen to save any.

    Emergent stuff is such a gobbledeegook hodgepodge of emotion-based, scriptureless. mystical blather, it is no wonder that it tickles so many ears. I mean basically, it’s do whatever you think makes you closer to God and makes you a better person. In essence, you get to decide your predicament and its resolution!

    … well, as long as it isn’t Christ’s propitiation of God’s just wrath against sinners and His blood atonement for their iniquities that God may be both just and the Justifier of many sinners.

  3. Mike,
    I’ve been reading your blog daily for a number of years, back to Slice of Laodicea days and think of you as my smarter brother. I turned 59 back in December so in the world this would have been difficult, but spiritually not so.
    Like you, I grew up in a “Christian” home. But unlike my smarter brother, did not get saved but some 15 years ago.
    I didn’t remain long in that church do to moving, however did keep up with bible study, small groups, and serving in various capacities; choir, deacon, board member, teacher, and even preacher. Every church had its problems. Many were over small things like music styles, money issues, etc.
    Only one had a real Problem, and that was doctrine.
    The problem with the Problem was that it wasn’t evident for a long time. Although their statement of faith was a little weak, it was within the realm of orthodoxy, and they did claim to hold to the Apostles’ Creed, yet in practice there was little mention of sin or repentance.
    In retrospect, there were clues here and there, but it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit whacked several of us congregants in the head, all at the same time, at different places, that the truth (lie) was made evident, that
    they really didn’t believe (all of) the bible is true.
    Why am I telling you this? I thought I was over this. That was three years, and three churches ago. Maybe I became a little too discerning? Maybe that’s the point!
    It took it’s toll on everyone. I think false teachings are far more destructive than anything else that can happen to a church. That’s why the apostle Paul pens so much against it and that’s why you and other saints continue to do what you do. Please, don’t ever give up.

    Stay strong in Christ.

    John J.

  4. Hi Mike,
    This part of Galatians is what I have been listening to for the last 3 weeks. Your article confirms how important the issue is of exactly what is the gospel. You mentioned Dr. White…the CD I am listening to is from his website..a study of Galatians.
    Thanking the Lord that He has given us teachers like you who oppose such messages that are unable to save.

  5. Thanks for that comment John. I don’t know about the “smarter” part :-) . In any case, I think we do need to follow the pattern given to us in Scripture in our discernment. I don’t see Paul, Peter, and John getting all upset and divisive over peripheral things, but I do see them drawing the line on doctrine, God’s doctrine, while never tolerating the doctrines of men as having any authority whatsoever. If you are a good student of the Word then you will also notice that Paul understands that the conscience in the believer is vital. We operate in obedience or in disobedience based upon to what our conscience is held captive. This is why we must have our conscience held captive to the Word of God alone not the doctrines of men. When we do that then those things that divide that are simply peripheral things will not be a barrier to our freedom in Christ.

    You also mentioned how vital it is that our doctrines be bound to the Word of God and our understanding of truth must be that what God says is true is Truth and that’s it. If we insist that truth is only what we believe to be the truth then we have elevated ourselves over God and have created Him and our Saviour in our image. No thank you. I have fought some ugly battles in church and I hate it. I do not enjoy it, and I often find myself still becoming angry about those things that happened years ago with people I have not seen since. It is as if I am having to relive those things again. I have asked God why this is so. I think you are right. There are some unresolved issues in me that I have to get right with God so the enemy cannot have any leverage here to attack me and cause my conscience to suffer.

    Thanks again for the comment brother.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. That sounds like an awesome CD Diane. Dr. White is who I often go to as my example of how to correctly do Christian Apologetics. Yes, I thank the Lord for teachers like James White as well.

  7. I’m not alone!! I remember being so excited as a new Christian to be with other Christians, studying doctrine, learning, reading, growing….except that, when it would come to false teachings and false doctrine, instead of taking heed of the sober warnings of Scripture, my new Christian friends would say man-made doctrines like “I’m not touching God’s anointed!” As if anyone who professed Christ and was in leadership could not be questioned. And similar to your experience, I found myself singled out as being divisive, unloving, judgmental, and an enemy to unity. Stand fast- truth really does matter. The proclamation of truth, in and of itself, is always glorifying to God, whether or not anyone believes you or agrees with you.

  8. Hey, Mike!
    How about when one shares the True Gospel of Christ with a church member (who suffers from cancer), without accusation, and then you are prohibited from calling that person again, or even writting a letter or card, because that person became “upset”?
    How should one handle the commotion caused with the family and Pastor by someone becoming “upset” by hearing about the conversion experiences of others?
    This happened to me when I tried to share the joy of people coming to know the Lord as their personal Savior, and resulted in a church ministry faltering.

  9. Kathy,

    The true Gospel is the Dividing Line. What you are experiencing there or have experienced there is a lot more common than most believe. You were obedient my sister. You shared the Gospel. Those who throw dust in the air and become “upset” when the dividing line comes to bear in their lives or that in other’s because they deem that “becoming upset” is somehow wrong. My goodness, that is what the Gospel, the real Gospel, does. Sadly, there is a lot of ‘vested interest’ in so-called ministries by “ministers’ which are outside of what they should really be about. Instead, they are being done according to the doctrines of men and these will always have a problem when the dividing line comes to bear on them. Be encouraged my sister. Never stop being obedient to your Lord.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  10. Another very true post. I really appreciate and admire your dedication to the truth. You are a great encourager to many who look forward to your studies.

  11. looks like i have to agree with mike in order to post here or i will be counted as an heretic.

  12. No passerby, to post here you have to follow the rules which are posted on the masthead. Also, to be counted or not counted as an heretic or apostate involves whether you agree or disagree with the properly exposited Word of God via exegetical techniques instead of eisegetical techniques. Those who are not allowed to comment here are those who refuse to follow the rules of debate within how true Christian brothers should interact. Understood?

    Your comment actually is a straw man argument and I have decided to post it anyway only so I could make this point.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  13. Do you know what is a straw man argument?

    A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.[1] To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.[

    I don’t think I was given the opportunity to elaborate or establish my case before I was censured so hence, I couldn’t have said anything more to justify your name calling.

    Be a gentlemen, agree or disagree(includes whether people play by your rules or not), let people have their say. The final judgment on what has been said is for others to decide.

    To win an argument by insisting people play be your rules is a form of cowardness.

  14. passerby,

    Wow, it’s been a long time since I had someone try this sort of “I am superior to you because I have intellect and you don’t’ type of logic. Yes, I know what a staw man argument is and it is what you are doing right here. Your first comment and this one are both straw man arguments because you are making me out to be some sort of evil person because I won’t let anyone comment here unless they follow the rules. You see, I am neither Post-Modern nor Modern. I am Pre-Modern in my logic. That means that I recognize absolute truth and that all that argues against it is evil. That means that I do not set the rules. God sets the rules. I limited comments here A LONG TIME AGO because there have been tons of people with their own agendas attempt to hijack this forum using post-modern argumentation. They refused to follow the rules I established, therefore, they have no voice here. That’s just the way it is. Go ahead, make your arguments. If you attempt to do so outside of the rules I have setup then you can forget it.

    This is what you do not understand. This blog is my private property. I do not have to allow you to attack what we teach and believe here outside of moderation. I will allow you to comment, but not without that. Some may say this is limiting free speech. Well, the task of dealing with the apostate, the heretics, the atheists WHO REFUSE TO stop using personal attacks and straw man arguments, et cetera even after I warned them to stop became overwhelming. Never, not once has anyone attacked what I teach here OUTSIDE of that sort of methodology. Not once! That is why the rules exist. Go ahead comment away, but you must follow the rules. If you cannot say what you want to say without a personal attack or straw man argument, et cetera then you have no case so why bother.

    I find it very telling that you would be unwilling to comment within those very simple parameters. No ad hominem, no straw man attacks, no personal invectives. Just use simple logic using proper argumentation. If you can’t “make your case” within those parameters then you are arguing from a position that has no basis in fact, but rather, one that is based entirely in your opinion, which is irrelevant to the focus of this blog.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  15. “If you cannot say what you want to say without a personal attack or straw man argument, et cetera then you have no case so why bother.”
    Amen, Mike.
    Not to get involved in a dispute, but anyone trying such tactics elsewhere in life, usually doesn’t get away with it, either.
    Just try that sort of thing at the IRS!

  16. Passerby, my earlier “Amen Mike” was not posted out of some blind devotion! I “amen’d” what Mike had said because what he did say, indeed lines up with scripture. And it was a very timely post.

    And no, I don’t always agree with Mike. (sorry Mike!) Point in question, I feel the word ‘missional’ is too broad to paint the entire “missional movement’ as all questionable. Our church is using that word to describe itself at the moment – but its interpretation of that word, at this time, lines up scripturally with Jesus’s words. But at the same time, the missional push that Mike does post about, has crossed the line against what scripture teaches – and yes, I agree with him there!
    So passerby, can you then please explain to me, what is it in this, Mike’s latest particular exposition of God’s word, do you disagree with? And explain to me, using scripture, why you do not agree?

    Thanks.

  17. Well put Sandra! I agree with you on your concept of missional. I disagree with what it is becoming so I would suggest those who use it, but have not compromised to use another description. In any case, thank you my sister!

  18. Dear Mike,

    The issue of an ever fragmenting Church cannot really be understood outside the context of the original schism between East and West, which stated out as a minor doctrinal disagreement in 325 and ended in a full blown geopolitical schism in 1054.

    Without going into the merits or demerits of the Reformation (the sale of papal indulgences certainly made a mockery of the doctrine of ‘salvation by grace’) making reform very necessary – the question of man’s communion with God is much, much more than the acceptance or rejection of, say, Calvinism.

    To get down to brass tacks. Jesus never commanded us to be right but rather, he commanded us to love one another as He loves us.

    In his paper Limits of the Church Fr. Florovosky acknowledges that the gift of grace cannot be delineated by Church canon. The Holy Spirit does not recognise the denominational divide because it is an invention of man.

    Referring to a conversation between a seeker and a believer in the Eastern Greco-Russian Church in 1831
    Florovsky cites the Metropolitan of Moscow:

    “Mark you, I do not presume to call false any Church which believes that Jesus is the Christ. The Christian Church can only be either purely true, confessing the true and saving divine teaching without the false admixtures and pernicious opinions of men, or not purely true, mixing with the true and saving teaching of faith in Christ the false and pernicious opinions of men…. you expect now that I should give judgment concerning the other half of present Christianity, but I just simply look upon them; in part I see how the Head and Lord of the Church heals the many deep wounds of the old serpent in all the parts and limbs of his Body, applying now gentle, now strong, remedies, even fire and iron, in order to soften hardness, to draw out poison, to clean wounds, to separate out malignant growths, to restore spirit and life in the numbed and half-dead members. In this way I attest my faith that, in the end, the power of God will triumph openly over human weakness, good over evil, unity over division, life over death’ ”

    The Church exists to proclaim Jesus. Be blessed, Christ is in our midst!

  19. Hi Mike, good post for the edification of the body of Christ living scattered all over the Earth!

    Now I know Paul was very clear on NOT just allowing people to teach, or practice ‘misleading’ satements and I’m sure if they had the ability: misleading ‘blogging’
    :)

    Paul said ‘thier mouths must be stopped’…
    Keep up the good work in Christ!

    Titus 1:10-12 (Amplified Bible)
    10For there are many disorderly and unruly men who are idle (vain, empty) and misleading talkers and self-deceivers and deceivers of others. [This is true] especially of those of the circumcision party [who have come over from Judaism].

    11Their mouths must be stopped, for they are mentally distressing and subverting whole families by teaching what they ought not to teach, for the purpose of getting base advantage and disreputable gain.

    12One of their [very] number, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always liars, hurtful beasts, idle and lazy gluttons.

  20. Micah,

    No where have we said that belief and repentance are the same thing as acceptance of Calvinism, nor have we implied as such. I became a Christian by the grace of God through the faith He quickened in me and hence I believed the Gospel, placing my trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. That is how people become Christians, there is no other way.

    Also, Jesus most certainly did command us to obey the commandments of God, which is being right doctrinally. No one can prove exegetically that this is not so. Quoting Fr. Florovosky does not equate to expositing Sacred Scripture. Notice how Fr. Florovosky never went to Scripture, but went to human philosophy. Sorry, but that is not the same thing nor is it on par with it.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  21. Dear Mike,

    All I am saying is that it is always Father who affirms Son. The model of authenticity given to the Church is found in Luke 9:35:

    “A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him”.

    Jesus warns against false Christs who do not have the Father’s seal of approval.

    Be blessed.

  22. Dear Mike,

    If I might also add: The Son has returned to the Father and is like Him in all ways. There is no mistaking the eternal glory!

    The divine life of the Son is manifest in our midst in the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father. To whoever asks, He freely gives.

    All too often there is this tendency to brand Christianity (for want of a better term). This is a distortion of history.

    Be blessed!

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