WHO HATH BELIEVED OUR REPORT? (PART 9)
How could there be sanctification—separation unto God—if one has not been separated from erroneous beliefs concerning the Gospel? Moreover, how could this ever fit with the fact that God sends His Holy Spirit to lead His people into ALL truth and to bring them out of darkness and into God’s kingdom of Light. Christ said, "I am come a Light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness" (Jn. 12:46). Those who believe in the Christ of the Gospel are not in the dark about any part of the Gospel. The saved man is no longer in ignorance of what the doctrines of the Gospel are. A man cannot be justified and therefore have the faith of God until he believes the whole Gospel of God. A man cannot savingly believe one Gospel doctrine and not others. Any unbelief present is proof of the absence of God-given faith. Any unbelief of any Gospel doctrine reveals it is not the Gospel which is being believed in, for that is the only message, the only Gospel, God’s faith is given to believe. Some would argue, ‘But wouldn’t belief of even one or two Gospel doctrines be the evidence one had the faith of God, that one is already justified even though the other doctrines aren’t yet believed?’ What is being assumed here is that one can correctly, biblically, believe in some Gospel doctrines and not others. This is wrong thinking because it is contradictory. One simply cannot rightly believe even one Gospel doctrine and yet deny the others. One cannot evidence the justifying faith of God if one believes in anything that contradicts a Gospel doctrine. You cannot rightly believe that man is dead in sin and dead to God if you do not believe that all of salvation is all of God. You cannot rightly believe that Christ died for His people, atoned for their sins, imputed unto them His righteousness, and took their sin and guilt, if you do not believe that all those for whom He died will be saved. One can understand the individual doctrines of the Gospel and still not see and therefore judge saved and lost by the whole Gospel Message. To savingly believe one Gospel doctrine is to believe all of them. Yes, one can gradually learn more about why this doctrine is true and others not true, but saving faith is evident only when the whole Gospel is believed and all false gospels rejected. The scales may fall off our spiritual eyes gradually, but we will only be able to see when we are given sight by God. As the darkness is lifted one can begin to see dimly, but only when all the darkness is gone and the whole Gospel revealed and believed in can a man be said to have justifying faith. Otherwise one would be justified believing only part of the Gospel and not all of it and it would be impossible to distinguish a saved person from a lost person. What then would be the motivation of knowing the whole Gospel if one was saved believing only part of it? And how would one know there was more to be believed if one felt saved already believing what they believe? If one has the faith of God, what else can one do but believe the Gospel of God. How could a man ever repent of believing lies about God, that is, false gospels, if he still believes a gospel which contains some lies, or not the whole truth? How could God be the God of truth if He saved people based on their believing a gospel that was not the whole truth?
Not a few people ask the following very important question:
‘Just how small an error would it take to pervert the Gospel of God and thus reveal the person who believed it as lost?’
Many ‘pastors’ are at a loss to answer such a question and mentally throw up their hands in despair. But a careful examination of the Scriptures will provide the answer these men fail to give. We have not been told by Paul in Galatians 1, in his warning of those who came preaching another gospel, just how large or how small an error would need to be for a gospel to be called a false gospel. And this is something which some have latched onto as being the loophole that will admit into heaven those who hold to a minimal amount of error when it comes to what the Gospel is, in other words, how God saves. But Paul’s silence here on exactly what it is that constitutes a false gospel reveals more than one might think. Notice that Paul did not qualify his warning with some line about a person’s message being another gospel only if the error they proclaimed reached a certain level or the quantity of errors they believed reached a certain number. A false gospel was not to be judged so when its errors reached a certain point, according to the apostle, but in the fact that it contained any error at all! Paul left his readers with no doubt in their minds, and with nothing else to conclude, that if anyone was to bring a gospel which differed in ANY way, to ANY degree, with what Paul had told them, they were accursed people who believed in an accursed gospel. Such people all clearly evidenced a lack of saving faith. Paul’s succinct statements regarding what the Gospel was and what it was not, shows the simple reasoning of Paul that if what a person presented to the Galatians was not what he had told them, which was to say what God had told him, if they did not agree with Paul’s Gospel or claimed to believe it yet added or took away one jot or tittle from it, it would no longer be what God had told Paul and would therefore qualify as another gospel. The strongest evidence for this, that even the smallest or slightest deviation from the truth, from what God has said in His Gospel, qualifies a person’s gospel as something other than God’s Gospel, and therefore a false gospel, the belief of which cannot save, is found further on in Paul’s letter in the following key verse: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Gal. 5:9). Leaven, as seen in Matthew 16, is symbolical of teaching. "By leaven the Hebrews metaphorically understood whatever had the power of corrupting, whether doctrine, or example or anything else....Leaven is used in making bread. Its use is to pass through the flour, and cause it to ferment or to swell, and become light. It passes secretly, silently, but certainly." Paul warned that only a little leaven is needed to leaven the whole lump. The word little here comes from the Greek word mikros from which we get our word micro, meaning very small. This is conclusive evidence which shows that when it comes to what the Gospel is there can be no margin for error! It confirms that even the slightest error when it comes to what the Gospel is, is enough to brand that message a false gospel. How could it not be so? God is an exact God, He is a precise God, and what He says the Gospel is, is precisely the Gospel a man needs to believe to be saved.
The best and quickest way to understand what a false gospel is, is to begin with the true Gospel. Then, if one is presented with a gospel that includes any differences, by way of change— either adding to it or taking anything away from it—one can easily see it for what it is. The Gospel is made up of various components, doctrines. If even one of these pieces is missing, or if one or more are added to it, one no longer has what God has proclaimed is His Gospel. If you have drawn a picture and someone erases part of it or adds a few things to it, it is no longer the picture which you drew. A false gospel is any gospel that does not say, strictly and entirely, the same thing God’s Gospel says. ANY DEVIATION IS A SURE SIGN THAT IT IS NOT GOD’S GOSPEL! To believe God’s Gospel is to believe exactly, not approximately, what God has said it is. Nothing short of this will evidence saving faith. An approximate understanding of the Gospel does not amount to a saving belief of it. A false christian is a person who does not believe exactly what God’s Gospel says. A false christian is a person who claims to be saved based on what God has not said, or a mixture of God’s Word and man’s ideas. If there is anything different about a gospel, anything in it which differs from that great Gospel of God, it is a gospel that cannot save, and the faith which believes it is not justifying faith, but one which is deficient and therefore not of God. God will not tolerate anyone who believes in anything that differs from His Gospel, and therefore who believes with anything but His faith, for He has commanded that people believe His Gospel and not one which merely resembles it!! God does not stray from His truth, He does not change, so His Message of how He saves cannot change. And so what His people believe that Message to be does not change. His message is not pliant, but dogmatic. God’s Gospel is flawless, so too, the faith which God gives His people to believe His Gospel is indefectible. God’s Gospel does not contain error of any size, and so any message that does contain even the most minute error cannot be God’s Gospel. If it takes away from grace and introduces, or makes room for, the works of a man, it is NOT the Gospel of God. If God did not put error in His Gospel, what makes anyone presume that one can be saved believing a gospel that contains error? No one can savingly believe the Gospel with the faith that is common to all men, so why would God give His people a faith to believe His Gospel which also could not believe it all, in light of the fact that to savingly believe the Gospel one must believe it in its entirety? All those, no matter what their appearance, rank, or reputation, or how respected they are as religious leaders or worshippers, are lost, the Scriptures say, if they do not believe the specific doctrines of that one particular and specific Gospel of God. IT STANDS TO REASON THAT IF GOD HAS A SPECIFIC GOSPEL, WHICH HE HAS, AND IF GOD GIVES A SPECIFIC FAITH, WHICH HE DOES, THEN HIS PEOPLE, ALL HIS PEOPLE, WILL, WITH THAT SPECIFIC FAITH, BELIEVE THAT SPECIFIC GOSPEL AND NO OTHER...AND THEY DO! Friend, those ‘few errors’ that are contained in those more ‘accurate’ gospels are precisely what the Word of God tells us are the identifying mark of false gospels! "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." HOW ELSE COULD A FALSE GOSPEL BE IDENTIFIED BUT BY ITS ERRORS NO MATTER THEIR SIZE!! They are the very thing the Bible tells us to watch out for! Error is that which has strayed from the truth and all who believe it share in its accursedness. How could it not be so? How can anyone legitimately lay claim to being in a saved state while they believed in an erroneous gospel. If error is wrong then how can anyone who believes it be said to be right! To define the seriousness of the situation and how important it is to believe the right doctrines of the right Gospel, and to show that it did not take great error to make a false gospel, Paul’s warning was not ‘A LOT of leaven leaveneth the whole lump’, but that it takes only a little leaven to leaven the whole lump. ‘Pay attention to the tiniest detail of what you believe’ is what the Holy Spirit is saying through Paul, because a little false doctrine turns the whole message into a false gospel.
Some say, ‘But I know a person who is saved and they don’t believe what you believe, at least not all of it'.
I will not spend much time at all on such a foolhardy comment as this, for it is patently obvious that it is steeped in ignorance and naivety, other than to say, by what rule are you judging this person saved? Are you moved by their lifestyle? Is this what has convinced you of their ‘salvation’? That God has saved them because they are righteous and not to make them righteous. That God has saved them by grace, but He has given them a faith to believe that what they do has helped to get them saved or keep them saved. That God has favored them with His grace, whereby He has saved them perfectly but given them a faith that believes imperfectly, or allowed them to continue to believe with the faith which is common to every man by nature, that is never referred to in the Bible as justifying faith, and which has a propensity only for false gospels? One man who subscribes to such foolishness once said to me, concerning two elderly ladies he knew, "You can’t tell me they are not saved". Why not? If what they believe is a false gospel, why can’t I say they are lost? It is what the Scriptures say of them. Are you personally offended because I call those sweet old ladies lost even though I can back such a judgement completely on the word of God? You would be surprised how many people believe someone is saved though they have no foundation in the Scriptures to support their claim. Obviously the man, a Calvinist, believed these ladies were saved, even though they believed in Arminian doctrine, because they were in fact sweet old ladies whom he had grown very fond of and because they would not collectively or individually harm a fly and that they regularly attended ‘church’ and were kind and thoughtful and loving and caring, and despite their years and the regular aches and pains that accompany old age, still helped out at the local op shop and at church bazaars! What kind of nonsense is this to base a person’s salvation on and what an insult it is to God to say that He would save anyone based on their zeal, their sincerity, their harmlessness or for that matter their age, rather than on the love and belief of His Gospel. And what an injustice is served to these old ladies when the true Gospel is not preached to them, but in order not to offend, one tells them they are saved. Those ladies may well be exactly what he said they were, but they cannot be saved despite our warm and fuzzy sentimental thoughts of them, and the lovely image we have of them in our minds, if they do not abide in the doctrine of Christ!! This is not being harsh, it is LOVE IN ACTION!! What greater act of love can there be, short of dying for someone, than to tell them the true Gospel of the True God? I do not say these things because I take some perverted pleasure in saying they are lost or because I want to see these ladies perish, but because I do not want to see them or anyone else perish but to believe in the only Gospel by which God will save a man. Many think that doctrinal issues will be sorted out when we get to heaven. Doctrinal issues are meant to be sorted out here on earth, for Christ has commanded that His Doctrine, His Gospel, be believed because people will perish without it. Scripture says, "...it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement" (Heb. 9:27), not a Bible course in what to believe and what not to believe! The whole idea of believing the Gospel is that it be heard and believed before one’s death, not taught and learned after one’s death. Christ said that those who do not believe the Gospel shall be damned. This means that, far from undergoing a Bible course designed to teach them the Gospel upon their deaths, unbelievers will suffer damnation and be tormented in hell forever!! Others believe that God has mercy on the religiously misguided and disinformed; that the important thing is that they are religious and lead a good and moral life. But how does this fit with the Word of God which says: "...we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..." (Isa. 64:6). The reality we must face up to and deal with is that mercy cannot overrule the Gospel. Love cannot overrule it; grace cannot overrule it; forgiveness cannot overrule it, nor can pity overrule the Gospel, for mercy, love, grace, forgiveness and pity all operate within the context of the Gospel of God and not without it. Just as God’s mercy, love, grace etc., is not to be found outside of Christ, outside of the Covenant God has made with Him, there is nothing but wrath that awaits those whose faith is not in, and within the boundaries of, the Gospel of God. No one can be saved who does not believe the Gospel. This is what Christ says, this is what I say, and this is the rule whereby one can accurately assess whether a person is saved or not. Salvation is not to be judged based on human emotion or sentiment but by the very Gospel of God, which MUST be believed.
Another complaint against this Gospel is one based on the false premise that we make knowledge a condition for salvation:
‘By saying that one must stringently and dogmatically believe the Gospel, therefore know the doctrines of the Gospel, before one can be saved, aren’t you making knowledge a condition for salvation? Aren’t you also creating an elitist group who have made salvation a thing which is out of the reach of those with average intelligence, not dissimilar to the gnostics who claimed to be saved based on their secret knowledge and that those who were not privy to what they knew, were lost?’
First of all, neither I nor anyone else who believes the Gospel, is making anything a condition for salvation. Nor have we come up with some new concept or new law, that one must believe certain doctrines before one can rightly claim to be saved. I am well aware of man’s natural penchant to believe that being saved, or knowing God, is all about some mystical experience or some inner feeling rather than on something as objective as believing with one’s mind the doctrines, or teachings, of God. The jailer who asked Paul "What must I do to be saved?" was told the exact same thing that we are saying: "BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved". So does this mean that one cannot be saved unless they believe the Gospel? Of course they can’t! One would have to be physically blind as well as spiritually blind not to see this!! But this condition is not one that man must meet for he cannot; it is, like all the conditions which must be met for a man to be saved, conditioned on God alone, on His grace. Man cannot meet any condition for he is dead in sin. A man must believe the Gospel to be saved, for in doing so he acknowledges that he cannot save himself, and believes that the only way he can be saved is if he believes, acknowledges, accepts and receives the message of God’s Gospel which says He is the only one who can save and details the way in which He does it. The Gospel is God’s ‘roadmap’ for His people out of the maze of damnation every man is in by nature. If all these directions are not followed, one can never escape the labyrinth of the lost. Man’s believing can only occur by grace through faith, both of these being gifts from God. If there is no grace there can be no faith, and if there is no God-given faith there can be no grace. Man must be made alive by God and given the faith of God so that he will believe. It is God’s work from start to finish. To believe on Christ as Savior, one must believe what God says about Him and this record which God has borne of His Son is revealed in His Gospel alone. Therefore to believe the Gospel is to believe in God’s Son. No matter how many Gospel doctrines are rightly believed, one cannot be saved if one does not believe in the Person and Work of Christ. To believe God’s Gospel is to be saved. No, we are not saying that salvation is conditioned on knowledge, for the Gospel we teach says that all of salvation, from beginning to final glory, is conditioned solely on Christ Jesus the Savior, on Who He is and on what He has done. Knowledge is not so much a condition as it is an evidence of salvation. It is not something which man attains to but that which is given to him by God. What we are saying is that if one is ignorant of what the Gospel teaches about Christ, His Person and His Work, there can be no salvation, for how could it be that God has revealed Himself to a person and yet that person remain in ignorance and darkness concerning His Son? Scripture says of believers that "...the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true..." (1 Jn. 5:20). This understanding and knowing is linked with believing the record that God has given of His Son. "...he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son" (1 Jn. 5:10). So we see by this, he that believes the Gospel has the Son and he that does not believe the Gospel does not have the Son of God, and therefore does not have life (see 1 Jn. 5:11). The reason that knowledge plays such a huge and integral part in salvation is that God reveals Himself through doctrine by which right knowledge of Him is gained, and ignorance of that doctrine means the absence of the knowledge of God. It means the presence of erroneous knowledge or a complete lack of knowledge. One cannot be saved in ignorance, hence the essentiality of knowledge. Absence of the truth means the presence of error. IGNORANCE OF THE TRUTH IS THE MOTHER OF ALL ERROR. Ignorance of the Gospel is no free ticket to heaven, but is the evidence that one has the wrong ticket! An absence of salvation knowledge, which is only revealed by God through His Gospel, means the presence of ignorance concerning His Truth. False gospels can only tell you some facts about Christ. God’s Gospel provides saving knowledge OF Christ. It is not the knowledge of error, nor the ignorance of truth, which saves, but salvation comes through a knowledge of the Truth, which automatically does away with the ignorance that only encourages an abidance in error. None are saved who are in ignorance about Jesus Christ. On the contrary, ignorance of the true Christ is what a person is brought out of when they are called by the Gospel of God (see 1 Pet. 2:9 & Acts 26:18).
And, yes, the Body of Christ is a very special group of people and there is no other like it on earth. No other body of people comes anywhere near this group, for they are separated from the rest of mankind by the Gospel they believe which evidences that they alone are the children of God. Why is this so? By anything they have done? By any condition they have met? Of course not! And no Christian will ever tell you that they are special because of anything to do with themselves, but only because of the grace of God and the God of grace!! God’s people do not boast in themselves for they "know that in (them) dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). Their boast is in God and they glory only in the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for them, and along with the apostle they each say, "...by the grace of God I am what I am..." (1 Cor. 15:10). They are not proud, but humble people, made so because they know they are the children of grace. They are the product of grace and therefore have nothing to boast of in themselves. The only thing which makes these people any different to other people is God Almighty! It is by the grace of God, through something the Bible calls "the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5), that these people are separated from the rest. They are chosen of God to BELIEVE His Gospel and to no longer remain in ignorance of it, of Who He really is and of how He really saves. They no longer live in a world of spiritual fairy tales about who God is and how He saves, for they now know and believe the truth. But none of these people go about boasting that they are the elect of God for they have done nothing to attract God’s attention or to merit His favor. They fully realise that before God showed them favor they were no different to anyone else, dead in sin and deserving of nothing but the wrath of God (see Eph. 2:1-10). That were it not for the grace of God they would still be children of His wrath. But God has chosen them for no other reasons than His grace, will and purpose and they are all mere benefactors of His great mercy. There is no great or superior intelligence required to believe the Gospel, for the Lord Himself reveals Himself to a man and provides the faith with which to believe it! In fact, the Bible says that "...not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise..." (1 Cor. 1:26,27). Therefore, to argue against this Gospel according to the viewpoint which asks: ‘What about those who don’t understand the Gospel?’ is to lodge a senseless protest, for it is God Who gives His chosen understanding and the faith to believe His Gospel. It is not a matter of intellectual assent but a favor from God that a man truly sees Him in the Gospel. The Scripture says that "There is none that understandeth (and therefore) none that seeketh after God" (Rom.3:11). As this could not be referring to those whom God has chosen, who now know Him and believe His Gospel, we see that this is referring to every man by nature. That is, the state of every man without his being given the faith to understand and believe the Gospel. By this we learn a simple rule: without the faith of God none can understand or seek Him, but with the faith of God a man not only can but does understand Him and believes in His glorious Gospel. The believer of the Gospel is not to be seen as some sort of intellectually elite creature who is tuned into some esoteric spiritual knowledge, but one who is simply blessed of God and made to see, understand and believe in Who He is and how He saves. "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee..." (Psa. 65:4), and, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power..." (Psa. 110:3). The difference between the Gnostics, who were "followers of various religious movements in the early Christian centuries which stressed salvation through ‘secret knowledge’ (gnosis)," is that these people viewed "the material creation as evil.": They believed, however, that "Sparks of divinity...have been encapsulated in the bodies of certain individuals destined for salvation. These ‘spiritual’ persons are ignorant of their celestial origins. God sends down to them a redeemer, often a Christ who merely seems to be human, to bring them salvation in the form of gnosis....Since salvation is not dependant upon faith or works but upon the knowledge of one’s ‘spiritual’ nature, some Gnostics indulged in extremely licentious behavior." Now, if anyone thinks this is a fitting description of a true believer, or what we say salvation is all about etc., then I have great pity for them. The Christian man does not see the material creation as evil and he certainly does not believe that sparks of divinity have been encapsulated in certain individuals. Man is dead in sin. This means that he is dead to God and will remain dead to God, for in his natural state man is without God. Without grace, man will forever remain without God. There remains in him no spark of spiritual life but, despite all man’s carnal thoughts to the contrary and his confusing sensual emotions with spiritual awareness, he is spiritually dead to God. No true believer is ignorant of his saved state, that he has been saved by the grace of God through the faith of God and not through a work of his own. The Christian also does not believe that Christ only seemed to be human, but that He was fully human as He was fully God. The Christian in no way believes that because his salvation is not conditioned on what he does, he has license to live as he pleases. Paul addressed this accusation made by those who heard but did not believe his Gospel, when he said "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rom. 6:1,2). The Christian believes that it is very necessary and very important to follow the law of God and live by His rule, but he does not for a moment believe that his salvation is dependant on this obedience nor does his remaining saved depend on his character and conduct. This does not mean that Christians go about and live as they please, it simply means that they do not believe they are saved or remain saved by what they do or how morally reformed they have become. Salvation is dependant on Christ’s obedience and on His actions (see Rom. 5:19). Our works are the result, or fruit, of being saved, not what makes or keeps us saved (see Eph. 2:10). So, in all this we see the stark contrast between what the gnostics believed and what the true believer of God’s Gospel abides in.