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. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness. (1 Thessalonians 2:1-5 ESV)
The rebellion against God is alive and well…for now. This rebellion began before the fall of Man into sin (Genesis 3). It began when Lucifer attempted to overthrow God and ascend to the throne himself. Because of this, he lost his place in Heaven and became Satan. When he deceived Eve in the Garden and Adam followed her into sin, they actually became recruits in his continual war against God. All of their descendents were born into this army as children of wrath. After God interceded after the fall, He prophesied that there would be a seed of the woman who would be bruised by the serpent, but He would, in turn, crush his head.
Satan held power over God’s creation, Man, after this. He made it known to God that for Him to pardon the iniquity of Man would violate His Justice, which God would never do. It was as if Satan held some sort of ‘deed,’ which eternally condemned Men to sin and death. However, at the Cross, Christ nailed this ‘deed’ to it and, in turn, crushed Satan’s power and hold over Man. He suffered and died under God’s justice against His elect’s sins. He paid the price. All those whom God elected before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1) were redeemed by the Saviour at the Cross as all of the elect’s sin were imputed to Him. When God saves a person by drawing them to the Son, regenerating him or her, then justifying them as they believe and repent, He imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to their account.
However, the rebellion against God is still going on and it has overrun the visible Church on many fronts. There are many false gospels out there, but they all have one thing in common. They are, in varying degrees, focused on the sovereignty of Man’s Free Will. This is just another part of the rebellion. My friends, my brethren, God is Sovereign and He has never relinquished any of it to His creation. He knows that the Fall of Man caused our race to become spiritually dead and unable to know Him or choose Him. Not one of us deserves salvation. We are all children of wrath. However, those whom He saves from the wrath to come are new creations. They can know Him because they are righteous in His eyes and He makes Himself known to them through the Son, the Holy Spirit, and His Word.
The Gospel is quite simple. However, at its center is something called the Cross, which is an offense to many. It also makes it known to all the hopelessly reprobate state of Man. This is not popular. Therefore, the Free Will version of the gospel removes the offense in order to make it more palatable to people. This is done in order to get them to become part of a local church body. They can attend, but never be confronted by the reality that they are sinners in desperate need of a Saviour. No, instead, they become part of just another works righteousness religious system that is a ‘different gospel.’
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)
This should be obvious to all my brethren. All false gospels have one commonality according this passage. What is it? They all are designed to please man. In other words, they in one way or another encompass the sovereignty of Man’s Free Will. This is just another form of the rebellion against God. These false gospels will always substitute some form of ‘works’ that are required in order to be justified by God. Paul tells us here that those who preach and teach this sort of thing are ‘not servants of Christ.’
Remember, my brethren, those still in the rebellion may indeed want to spend eternity in Heaven with Christ and love the Jesus that they hear about in their religiosity, but they are trusting in their own actions or works to save them. Our Lord gave us a look into the final judgment during His Sermon on the Mount as he spoke of false prophets.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”(Matthew 7:13-23 ESV)
The key to being part of the Kingdom of God is to be known by the Saviour. No one becomes one of His through self-effort, self-righteousness, or any other form of unbelief. No, the only ones who come to the Saviour are those given to the Son by the Father (John 6). These believe, repent, and become part of God’s Kingdom by His grace through the faith of regeneration.
Some reading this are rejoicing right now because you know the Saviour and He knows you. Amen! Yes, rejoice! However, some of you right now are in a state of fear or dread or doubt. You are not sure if you are part of the Kingdom of God and since no one can become part of it through works then you find yourself in this state of perplexity. Well, fear not! If you know you are a sinner and you recognize that there is nothing you can do to save yourself then you are right where God wants you. You are being drawn to the Son in humility. I counsel you right now to fall before the Lord in prayer and plead with Him for your Soul. Believe that He has died for your sins as you confess that you are a sinner to Him. Then forsake those sins as you receive Him as Lord and Saviour. God is working in your heart right now to bring you into His Kingdom.
On the other hand, some reading this are still in unbelief and you resent this message. You are convinced that you are saved because of some choice you made and that you are a Christian and you prove it by your religiosity. Well, I counsel you to repent of this. Until you understand that not one of us can do one thing to save ourselves then you are still part of the rebellion. I take no joy in saying this and I pray that you will repent and come to the Saviour in humility as He draws you to the Son.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Addendum: I originally posted No Other Gospel December 7, 2008. Given the rapid apostatizing of the visible church and the immense willingness in so many professing Christians to see God’s Truth, such as the Gospel, in a post-modern or relativistic light, this message is more needed than ever. – Mike Ratliff