Monday, July 19, 2010

False Gospels

Galatians 1:8 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.

8 ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ εὐαγγελίζηται [ὑμῖν] παρ᾽ ὃ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.

There is so much in this chapter to write on, but I want to focus on this verse.  Paul gets right down to business after a very brief introduction.  Here he makes quite a bold statement.  Even if he who was the Apostle Paul preaches a different gospel then even he should be declared ἀνάθεμα.  A lot hinges on the meaning of this word.

Thayer has a fairly extensive entry on it.  First, it mentions that in the Septuagint it refers to a "thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and, if an animal, to be slain."  Here is the entry for the NT:

a. a curse b. a man accursed, devoted to the direst woes and in  Rom. 9:3 (pregnantly equivalent to doomed and so separated from Christ). 
So that's pretty heavy, right?  The Council of Trent made a big deal about this.  As Luther worked to return the world to the true gospel the Roman Catholic Church needed a response to save their false view of the gospel.  You can read their declarations. Clearly there are two different views of the gospel here.  Paul makes it clear that there is only one true gospel; therefore, either Protestants are ἀνάθεμα or those holding to the Roman Catholic view of salvation are ἀνάθεμα.  It cannot go both ways.

This business between Protestants and Roman Catholics goes back five centuries.  It is vital that we pay attention to this as this is a matter of eternal life or eternal torment.  But we can't stop there.  What about those nice young men wearing white shirts, blue pants, and ride around on bikes while knocking on doors and telling them the "good news of Jesus Christ?"  If part of their story involves The Book of Mormon then you need to be aware of what Paul has to say here to the Galatians.  Joseph Smith claimed that the angel Moroni gave him gold tablets with inspired text.  The problem is that the Mormom gospel is subtly different from the Christian one.  Therefore, one group or the other is ἀνάθεμα.

The Jehovah's Witnesses don't claim special revelation, but they do claim to be God's faithful stewards of His truth here on earth.  They preach a different Christ and they preach a different, works-based salvation.  Therefore, either the Christians or the Jehovah's Witnesses are ἀνάθεμα.  You can't have it both ways.

So, despite our age of ecumenicalism and the desire to forget all our differences while singing "Kum-Ba-Ah" around the campfire, Paul draws a very clear line in the sand.  We need to understand what Scripture has to say and stop there.  I join what Luther said at Worms:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.
Where do you stand?

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