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May 3, 2011

On the other end of the spectrum from easy believism is the gospel that adds to the message of salvation. This is not a minor foible we can overlook because the erring church has a good ministry or the preacher is well known. This is a serious error that distorts the gospel and turns it into something false. This error has been an ever present danger since the very beginning of the church. The early Judaizers who added the keeping of the law to the gospel and the early Gnostics who added extra, super-spiritual, hidden information to the gospel were sources of great trouble to the apostolic era church. Of all the New Testament authors, Paul most clearly addresses this problem. In the context of those who added the keeping of the law to salvation Paul warns the Galatian church, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed.” From the age of the reformation we get this synopsis of the gospel, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. As much as the emphasis is on grace, faith and Christ, there is an equal emphasis on the narrowness of that means. It is not through faith and something else. It is not through Christ and something else. It is not by grace and something else. It is by grace through faith in Christ and nothing else.  Or, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves.  It is the gift of God.”

We must not only reject the addition of anything to the gospel, we must separate ourselves from those who make such additions. Anyone that adds to the gospel, however well intentioned or spiritual sounding, must be separated from. That means we are to have no relationship with those who preach that baptism or speaking in tongues are necessary to be saved. That means we are to have no fellowship with those who teach that some personal merit is necessary to gain our salvation. We must have no comradery with those who add the keeping of the sabbath or dietary restrictions to salvation. One well known preacher teaches that we receive salvation when we cherish satisfaction in God above everything else. Um, no we don’t. We receive salvation when we through faith call upon God for forgiveness of our sin. There is nothing in the Bible that makes total satisfaction in God a prerequisite for salvation. Nor is there anything in the Bible that makes total surrender to God a prerequisite for salvation. Both are results and evidences of genuine salvation, but to add them in as part of the gospel is preaching another gospel. Anything that adds anything to the gospel takes away from the fulness of the work of Christ. It makes Christ a liar, distorting “It is finished” to “You do the rest”.

For many, it is easy to see the error of adding something like baptism as a necessity of salvation. Some have little trouble with the necessity of separating from those who proclaim tongues as a necessary part of conversion. However, we are not given the option of which distorters of the gospel to separate from. If one adds anything to the gospel, even if it is something as good sounding as total satisfaction in God or total surrender to God, they have distorted the truth of God. They are preaching a different gospel. We cannot tolerate any error in the gospel proclamation, even the best intentioned error.


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