Vol.XV No.VI Pg.3
August 1978

A Perverted Gospel

Dan S. Shipley

The early church was troubled by certain Jewish Christians who insisted that Gentile converts submit to circumcision and observe the law of Moses (Acts 15:5). In writing to the churches in Galatia, Paul says such men are perverting the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:7). They make it "different", as he puts it. As a result, God's people were being troubled and were removing themselves from Him (v.6, 7). In addition, the false teachers made themselves accursed (v.8, 9).

Since the gospel is of divine origin (Gal. 1:12), and "not after man" (v. 11), it is obviously everything God intended it to be and, therefore, without need of alteration of any kind. Trouble still comes when men start to "plus and minus" the gospel. Like the Judaizing teachers, many desire a gospel that includes their own ideas, innovations, and "improvements"— and herein lies the root of most religious division today. In fact, denominationalism itself is a living monument to a perverted gospel. When, for example, men are willing to extend salvation to sinners on completely different terms than those set forth in the word of God, they pervert the gospel. Others alter the gospel pattern of worship by adding instruments of music (giving a plus to Eph. 5:19) or by deleting weekly observance of the Lord's supper (giving a minus to Acts 20:7). Such things as infant baptism and sprinkling as baptism represent further blatant perversions of Christ's gospel and are no more a part of it than circumcision. Little wonder we are troubled and divided in the religious world! — and that so many are removed from God. But worse, and closer to home, we see the Lord's church still troubled with the problems of a perverted gospel. The "plus" and "minus" may come in different places, but the effects are no less hurtful — not even when you assume the perverting is being pushed and accepted by well-intentioned brethren (no doubt the Judaizers meant well). But the question is NOT whether such brethren mean well or whether they consider their "improvements" right —certainly they do! However the real question is (and pardon me if this sounds old-fashioned): IS THERE SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY FOR THEM? Are they a part of the God-given gospel?

For example, where in all of the God-given gospel did elders ever oversee ANYTHING other than the flock among them (1 Pet. 5:2)? Where in that complete and all-sufficient gospel do you find the Lord's church making a donation to any kind of human institution? Where do you find the popular sponsoring-church arrangement? Where in all of the glorious gospel do you read of churches providing for the social activities of its members? Remember, we are the people who used to say, "We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent"! We must not allow prejudice to replace conviction; we must be honest with self! We must continue to "prove all things" (1 Thss. 5:21). Not even apostles and angels have the liberty to make something a part of the gospel that God didn't (Gal. 1:8,9). Dare to take your Bible and learn that most of what troubles the church today is no more a part of the gospel than was circumcision.