Not So Random Thoughts 4

Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. 6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! 10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. 11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of God, the Gospel of the glory of God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is by grace and the grace that is apart from any works or merit of any kind (my sinful men) at all. This is a basic truth that we must never depart from or encroach upon. This was and is the truth that Paul preached, that Luther preached, and that we must preach. It is possible, however, for people to hold to this in theory and yet in practice encroach upon grace alone in many ways. This is what is going on today in apparently many ways.

People can encroach on the Gospel of grace alone by turning the concept of faith into an act of the human will, and in reality that is nothing more than a human work. Anything that a human being can contribute to salvation is a work. There is nothing we can contribute or add to the Gospel if the Gospel if of Christ alone and grace alone. If the human will can come up with anything of itself or even aided by grace (faith, an attitude, a work of any kind), then that is the human being adding something to the Gospel. We must constantly be on our guard against open additions to the Gospel and, perhaps even more dangerous, little things that are slipped in the back door.

One of the ways that the Gospel is being compromised today is through the teachings on the local church. We are told that you must be a member of the local church if you are saved. This is adding to the Gospel, though indeed people will try to get around it. The Judaizers would not say that circumcision saved you, but they would say that you needed to be circumcised. Their formula was Christ plus circumcision saves you. The people who insist on local church membership (though saying it is important is not the same as MUST being a member) and say that you must do this in order to be saved, are saying what the Judaizers did. Christ plus membership saves. This is a dangerous little addition, but addition it is. It is not Christ plus anything else that determines salvation; it is Christ alone by grace alone. Again, this will be denied and it will be denied strongly. However, the denial of it does not mean it is not really done.

One can say it is important to be a church member, but to say that one must be a member in order to be thought of as a Christian is adding to what a Christian is. In fact, this is quite near to what Roman Catholicism would say. The road back to Rome is perhaps easier to get on than one realizes. When the local church is stressed and pushed on people as so necessary, perhaps even stressing the local church more than Christ, this is a step (or more) toward Rome. One of the great problems with Rome was the stress on the Church. It was the Church that had grace to dispense and it would dispense grace according to how a person treated the Church and respected the Church. It was the Church that protected people from the devil and evil spirits.

When the “Church” or “church” and the leaders are set up with authority and people have to join to be safe and in order to be considered as saved, the “Church” or “church” has taken the place of the sovereign God and of His Christ. If the pastor/elders and the “church” have the power (conceptually) to dispense grace to the people, then that is on the road to Rome. In history it has been the “church” over and over again that has inserted itself between the people and Christ and claimed the right to do so. When the “church” arrives at the point (or anywhere near the point) where it is more important than Christ (in practice), then it has gone way over the line.

We live in a day where people have gotten sick of easy church membership and so they have polarized against that. However, when one practice is unbiblical it is no better to swing the other way and be unbiblical. They say that there have been no demands on people in order to be members and so they stress a harder way. But again, a harder way is not necessarily the biblical way. The real issue is whether people are converted or not. A person who is a “member” of a church that is unconverted will act like a person that people think needs harder discipline. The opposite is true of real believers. They may need a lot of things, but it is God who will keep them faithful and not harsh rules. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is really at the heart of so many things and the Gospel is what instructs many other issues and will keep them balanced. When the Gospel is absent, or twisted even a little, there will be problems in other areas.

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