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“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.” Gal 1:6-9
“Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith, as set forth in Galatians and more completely in Romans, was forged in the context of a life-and-death struggle with those who would pervert the gospel by minimizing the decisive character of God’s grace in the person and work of His Son.” __Timothy George
I love Carol Ruvolo’s books and especially her “No Other Gospel.” She reminds me of myself, bold and straightforward, which, I know personally, takes courage. Folks do not like to hear about their salvation from a God-centered teaching but rather want to hear about it from their “works-oriented” thinking and “so-called” contribution to it. Carol smacks us right out of that thinking by hitting the subject head on and not mincing words. I like that because it gets my head and heart where they should be, God-centered instead of man-centered and out of my comfort zone.
Most of us have studied the Book of Galatians probably many times. It is one that should be, as I have said before, “often-read” and “much studied” so that our minds and feet are well-settled in how we got where we are theologically. I especially like Carol’s message of “finding true freedom” in the message of Galatians. One who has been in bondage to false doctrine, wrong thinking or just plain believing the lie of Arminian theology, knows how truly freeing this is and why it is so important in how we live and worship as Christians. I love this statement, “grace plus is not grace. Teaching that proclaims Christ plus anything is another gospel.” This is a hard nut to swallow when so many of us in the past have believed those doctrines and we have loved ones, family members and friends who are steeped in the lies and believe they are “okay” in them and doing God’s business. How sad this makes us when we see the truth and know that they are believing the lies of the evil one and those that perpetrate those lies, and yes, unfortunately, their own sin natures (and ours) want to believe there is something good in us that merits salvation or God’s blessings. No, the truth is, we are dead in our trespasses and sins, unable to do anything and it is truly by grace alone that we are in His Kingdom. That is freeing indeed and why it is so important for us that have been delivered to study and know God in all of His fullness so that we might not fall into the condemnation of the evil one by permitting or perpetrating those falsehoods. We must pray for those that are entangled in those gospels that God will open their eyes and hearts of understanding so that they too might have deliverance and freedom in the gospel. It is not easy and for those of us that have family members who are pastors, elders, church leaders, etc. in these gospels and know that they are preaching lies it is even more painful to us. Pray for them and pray that God would open their hearts to truth. It may cause a great divide so there is no fellowship or opportunity but God is perfect and just in these things and prayer is our answer for them. He has been clear, “you will be hated by all men for my sake” and there will be a divide in families because of the truth of the gospel as Scripture teaches. Man has and will always want a gospel of works and self-salvation but that is not the salvation of God, it is another gospel, which is no gospel (good news) but rather a damning condemnation to be metered out on the last day. Carol says, “anyone who comes preaching a gospel different from the one God authorized Paul to preach is perverting God’s revealed truth and must not be tolerated” [NOG, p.21] and, “those who do not love the Lord and those who pervert the gospel truth desecrate the glory of God and impugn His sovereign majesty. But they will not get away with it. They will reap what they sow – utter destruction in separation from God.” [NOG, p.22] So then, know what you believe and why you believe it and that is why we sit under preaching and teaching and study to show ourselves approved. Thanks be to God for causing the scales to be removed from our eyes and the fluff from our hearts. May it be that will continue to grow in this boldness and understanding for His glory and our good.
One of the statements Carol makes in her first chapter really stands out as a very important subject that needs to be addressed by all believers. In a day where PC (“politically correct”) language, debate, behavior, etc. holds sway, it is paramount that we as believers remember God’s admonition to us to “be bold as lions and harmless as doves” “rightly dividing the word of truth” and not compromise with the world or “so-called” doctrine that calls us away from truth. Listen to Carol here:
“False teachers prey on immature, uninstructed, indifferent Christians. Gullible, credulous Christians welcomed bad doctrine into the cities of Galatia because they lacked the deep knowledge of the gospel truth that would equip them to recognize and refute error. And they were not alone. Bad doctrine runs rampant today because superficiality is alive and well I our churches.” [NOG, p.19]
Now as you read this, you say, “yes” I see it all the time. In my church, in my family, in my relationships with friends and brethren and I see it in the world, especially in the media and “so-called” Christian ministries. As the prophet said, “there is nothing new under the sun” and this is so true of the perversion from the Garden of Eden to this day of “false” and “other” gospels. They run rampant and as we are “called” in Scripture as Christians and yes, apologists, we are to “study” “pray” and soak ourselves daily in the doctrine of God so that we too are not swept away by error and falsehood. It is subtle. Remember that Satan is the “father of lies” and he is not some “out there” monster that you would flee from but rather disguised and comes as an “angel of light” to deceive and destroy. He and his doctrine looks “right” and “good” and a meal that we would desire but we are not to partake of it and the only way we can resist it and not fall into sin of our own lust is to be well-armed, well-equipped and well-settled in God’s Word and doctrine.
When I was a new Christian and fearful of what folks thought I knew and believed, I was quiet but I prayed daily for boldness of speech and in short order, very short order, God gave me the strength to be bold for Christ and the gospel and not to fear men but rather “fear Him” and His displeasure at any unfaithfulness in sharing the message of Christ and His gospel. Like Paul, along with the boldness comes persecution and hatred and yes, even those that are “of Christ” will want to flee from you and not be in your company because you are so “strong” and “biblical” in your faith. As Calvinists (Reformers) we are especially maligned because we believe in and teach the providence and sovereignty of Almighty God in salvation and more so by the “church” then by those outside of Christ. Like Paul, like Christ, and like all true believers throughout history, you will suffer persecution for the truth. We are not to be liked those in Galatia or in our churches and Christian community today who take away God’s attributes and glory and give them to man. We are to be bold truth-tellers and that includes the doctrines of grace in all of their totality without regard for our person. We are to “decrease” and Christ is to “increase” and that means that we shout from the hilltops the truth and God will be glorified in it. Do not fear men or women, but rather take this opportunity as we read and study this important subject to gain wisdom and strength to be faithful in your understanding, application and teaching. Do not let it be said of you or me that we have “lacked the deep knowledge of the gospel” but rather that those reformed women KNOW their God in truth. Even so, let it be Lord Jesus.
Carol J. Ruvolo “No Other Gospel” [NOG] pp.19,21, 22
Copyright TheologyGirl-ReformedWomen All Rights Reserved. The above Heavenly Notes is an excerpt from Chapter #1 of TheologyGirl-ReformedWomen Bible-Book Study “No Other Gospel” – Originally posted October 2009.