Friday, July 03, 2009

The Message is Everything

Galatians 1:8-9
(8) 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.
(9) 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.

I have been known to use this passage in a little proof-text war with Roman Catholicism. After all, this is the language that they quoted at the first Council of Trent when they declared the Reformation idea of justification by faith alone to be anathema (what is translated "accursed" here). Basically, the idea is that there is only one gospel and anyone who preaches a different one is accursed.

But as I review this passage I am struck by a different point of emphasis. The authority here is in the message. Paul is emphasizing the truth of the gospel that the Galatians first received. In Gal 1:1 he states his authority as an apostle. But here he makes the point that even he does not have the authority to give them a different gospel.

To me, this is a great argument for the importance of Scripture. Yes, it is important to have educated people interpreting what the Bible says and means. However, I think this passage makes it clear that no one has the authority to change the gospel in any way. If Paul didn't then we certainly don't.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2
(1) Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
(2) and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain.

Hold fast to the gospel!

EDIT: R. Scott Clark happened to write something similar here. I promise I wrote this before I read what he wrote. I find it reassuring when a "real" theologian writes something that I also wrote. It makes me feel like I'm stumbling in the right direction in this case.

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