“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.”
—Galatians 1:6 (TNIV).
The very thought of steering people deliberately off course is enough to give any right-thinking person of influence shudders of immediate panic, a rampant sweating of the brow; such is the physiological response to a repugnant thought intuiting abhorrence.
Any gospel other than the gospel of Christ, which is enshrined deeply in the Word of God, is the wrong gospel. Any non-biblical application of that Word is also the wrong gospel. And it is easier to be wrong than right.
It is also too easy to add or take away from the truth; but we are warned:
“Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them [the words of the wise].”
—Ecclesiastes 12:12 (TNIV).
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.”
—Revelation 22:18 (NRSV).
We are warned for good reason. We have no right and no place in departing. We won’t find the blessings of God there, either for ourselves or others. We don’t follow Christ for little apparent reason; we receive the Holy Spirit in grace and in truth. He invades our life in love and we serve him—not the other way around. (Those needing to really hear this will be tempted to shy away thinking it doesn’t apply to them; foolishness—it applies to all.)
The passages above also refer just as much to our ‘taking away from’ the message of truth. We don’t deface the Word of God or its intent.
Let us test ourselves:
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
—2 Timothy 4:3 (TNIV).
The trouble is we all seek the doctrine we’re most comfortable with. This is everyone’s desire. Can we go to any Christian church service and be blessed by the Presence and holy anointing of God? It should be so, but too many of us have to be Baptist or Catholic or charismatic, and never the twain meets. Do we have one Lord and Saviour?
Do we have itching ears? Are we suitably comfortable in our little click of what feels good; around a whole bunch of others much like ourselves? These are danger signs.
Can we go to an altogether foreign type of church service and be blessed by God—can we come away feeling that we’d been touched by the very hand of God?
“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
—James 3:1 (TNIV).
It is incumbent on us all, whether apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, healers, administrators etc, that we must guide and goad in grace and in truth; and in this light their shall be no darkness of misleading. For we’ll be judged ‘more strictly’ in any event. We should not want to make this harder for ourselves than it need be.
Besides motivation to the negative, the most important thing right now is we have this very real opportunity to be God-in-skin to the people around us; not as pious, over-wielding figures, but people devoted to the truth and to discernment and encouragement and love, grace and peace.
My prayer for myself is that I won’t depart; that I won’t lead wrongly; that I will honour God in this ministry, always.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.