Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Gospel in Detail

Chapter 4

The Gospel in Detail

The best thing the reader can do for him or herself is to read through the accounts of the gospel being preached by the apostles as found primarily in the book of Acts. See what is a part of the gospel, and try to see what is not a part of the gospel. For an example of the preaching of the gospel to work from, I cite the example of Peter preaching to Cornelius,

And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me? And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. — Acts 10:24-45
What exactly did Peter say that these Gentiles heard that resulted in their being in receipt of the Holy Spirit? A message about Christ; His life, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection and the proof or evidence of the resurrection through their witness, and that it is those who believe; place their faith and trust in Him that receive remission of their sins (the application of that sacrifice to their lives). Having one’s sins forgiven redeems the individual to God, and that individual’s life is now hidden in Christ. The believer takes on the righteousness of Christ.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. — Colossians 3:3
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. — Romans 3:21-26
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: — 1 Corinthians 1:30
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. — Philippians 1:11
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: — Philippians 3:9
The gospel can be falsified in several ways, most commonly through adding to the gospel what is not a part of the gospel; claims of things required for salvation either explicitly or implicitly. It cannot be emphasized enough– anything claimed as something a believer must do or even should do besides faith in Christ needs to be examined carefully and thoroughly. Some of the more common claims include:

Obedience to the old covenant law, usually couched in the terminology of keeping God’s commandments or the “law of God.” Proof texts will accompany any such claims, and there are quite a number that are very convincing up front. If deceptions were not subtle and believable, who would believe them? And who is behind all deceptions anyway? The devil, who has had plenty of time now to refine and hone the deceptions so that, as Christ said in Matthew 24:24, even the elect might well believe them. Conclusion? Everyone believes they are the elect, therefore they cannot be deceived! Can we afford to be so cavalier and arrogant in our own thinking? No, we must be willing to diligently go about covering every issue and the nuances of every issue in order to gain a more complete picture of the truth of Scripture, and fight the temptation to let our beliefs and assumptions drive our understanding and interpretation of the Scriptures.

The apostle Paul was constantly at odds with those of the circumcision who were going behind him, teaching the Gentile converts they had to keep the law in order to be saved. To them, it was a logical conclusion based upon a lifetime of serving the law. It was, after all, a sin to break that law, and how could it now not be a sin? All such issues however are answered when one has an understanding of the spirit of the law, and an understanding of sin.

The paradigm of those who have bought into law, arguably the first heresy found within the early church, is that everything is seen and interpreted in terms of the law. All mankind’s problems are a result of breaking law, and this law gets defined as the law given to Israel at Sinai, including events prior to Sinai. The proper paradigm for examining Scripture is faith. Adam and Eve rejected faith in God, and as a result, decided to partake of that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And it does no good to point out to those who have a legalistic paradigm that it is the law that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents.

The gospel then is a message of faith; faith in Christ based upon the evidence and witness of the resurrection from the dead. Christ shows us that He has conquered death – the one thing that is most dreadful to mankind. You know that you will die. What you didn’t know was whether you would stay that way in a state of having perished as though you had never existed.

What then does God want from mankind? Does he want a bunch of people conditioned to blindly obey a plethora of rules and regulations like those of some despotic ruler who demands his followers jump through hoops in order to “show” their dedication to him, or does God desire to have the love and trust of mankind He created? Abiding by rules and regulations does not prove one’s love. You can comply with a law that says, “do not murder” despite your harboring hatred in your heart for someone.

But the picture painted by those who preach a false gospel of law is one of a harsh God who demands obedience to laws that at times even appear arbitrary and capricious.

Legalism is not the only form a false gospel takes on, but it is one of the main forms. If it is not the legalism from the old covenant, it can be a totally new legalism created by a person or church organization. Some churches teach it is a sin to drink alcoholic beverages. I should mention here that a Christian is dead to sin, and this will be covered elsewhere in detail. Suffice it to say some churches and false prophets resurrect the Christian back to sin for the sake of control. The result of this sort of teaching is a group of people fearful of sinning, thus risking their salvation, and their greater dependence upon the leadership or false prophet who is there to lead them from sin where he or they define sin and direct people as to how to avoid sin.

Any teaching of any church or man needs to be subjected to certain criteria in order to ascertain whether the teaching is true or a deception. Without a methodology to abide by, one can find themselves misled all the while being totally convinced the deception is truth. First, we ascertain whether the teaching falls into any of the categories commonly used to foster lies and fables. Are any of the methods of deception being employed?

Another valuable tool is the use of one’s critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, those who are drawn into cults and false doctrines undergo a subtle process of indoctrination and conditioning so as to abandon their critical thinking skills in favor of letting the leadership decide what is right or wrong, again using the methods of deception. The deceived are led to believe that the leadership are called of God and to question them and their interpretation of things is to question God Himself.

But if your critical thinking skills have not been compromised by the group, which will happen after even a brief exposure to them and their teachings, you can ask yourself important questions in regards to what they teach.

Does the teaching have a comprehensive backing of Scripture? Sometimes a deceiver will flood the issue with a great deal of material that is all based on inference in order to appear comprehensive. The best proof of a belief is a “thus saith the Lord” statement.

Many deceptions resort to claims that are not falsifiable. What this means is that every claim, in order to be considered true, must also be of such a nature that evidence must be possible to disprove the claim. Is the claim or rationale so stated that it is impossible to either confirm or refute the belief? Such statements are useless when it comes to discerning truth from error, and so they are best dismissed. An example would be a “prophet” who claims direct revelation from God. False ministers/preachers/prophets are expert at making claims that cannot be disproved or verified. Those who recognize this ploy up front are not going to follow such a person, but those who do not know the rules of proper critical thinking may well fall for such a ploy, and these, after all, are the sort of people the deceivers are looking for.

Getting back to the example of some churches teaching that alcohol consumption is a sin, we ask ourselves, what Scriptures exist to back up the claim, and what specifically do they relate? Close doesn’t count when it comes to digging out truth. Does Scripture declare drinking is a sin? As evidence, they may produce a Scripture such as this:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. — 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
The deceiver will take this passage, and take the term “drunkard” and redefine it to suit his or her own purpose. But what is a drunkard? One who drinks to excess so as to become inebriated regularly. They have a habit of “sin” in this regard. The difference here is that a Christian is one who no longer lives a lifestyle of sin. Their conversion and their receipt of the Holy Spirit is what changes this. The Christian still can and does sin, but it is not the lifestyle; it is not the common practice any more of the individual.

Critical thinking asks these sort of questions. If drinking any alcohol defines one as being a drunkard, then why would Christ turn a great deal of water into wine where people would drink it, become drunk, and be excluded from the kingdom of God? Wouldn’t this be counter-productive in regards to why Jesus came in the flesh in the first place?

Deceivers have their answer to this issue. They claim the wine was not alcoholic. They claim the wine contained no alcohol. What evidence do they provide for their claim? None. Does this claim meet the falsifiability test? No, it fails miserably. They cannot provide any evidence for this being true, and there is no way to even disprove such a claim of divine intervention in regards to this particular batch of wine.

Another argument/claim employed is that drinking will lead to drunkenness.
Critical thinking also forces us to ask, if drinking is a sin because it will lead to drunkenness, then what if we applied the same logic to eating? If one overeats, it is gluttony. Therefore, using the same logic, people should not be allowed to eat lest they eat to excess and commit the sin of gluttony.

Another critical thinking tool is to subject a claim to the question, is there any Scriptural evidence that appears to refute the claim? Rarely does a deceiver address Scriptures that appear to contradict their claims, and when they do, they subject those Scriptures to the methods of deception. Often, you will see their explanation couched in an accusation. An example of this is the response legalists give when confronted with Scripture that says Christians are not under the law; the old covenant law, which includes the ten commandments. They will often respond with, “then it would be alright for a Christian to lie, steal, and murder without concern of punishment.”

Does the claim provide evidence to support their overall claim Christians should keep the law, or does it attempt to make a rationalization based in an accusation? It should be obvious, but it has been an effective argument for them. What it does not answer is whether a Christian would be doing such things should they conclude they are indeed free of that law. But the real critical thinking question to ask in response is to turn it back on the one making the accusatory rationalization and ask them that, if it were indeed proven to them that Christians are not under that law, would they personally in turn go about committing those acts such as lying, stealing, committing adultery and murder? After all, if they claim others would, why not them?

We must also ask if a claim is logical. This in and of itself though is not enough, for many false claims can be made to look logical. It takes all these criteria to make a more informed decision regarding the veracity of a claim. But some claims are not logical, seeing as they can be based on faulty logic or use logical fallacies, hence the importance of studying into logical fallacies so that you recognize when someone is using them in a claim or premise.

All this takes time to learn and apply, and the time to learn it is not after you have been tricked into a false religion or a cult. But if one can be honest with themselves, it can reap rewards and benefits in one’s Christian walk.

The other item of importance is to read Scripture regularly while comparing what you read to what you believe and what you have been taught.

Getting back to the gospel then, we will examine it in greater detail in regards to how it was presented to people as recorded in the New Testament Scriptures from Acts onward, but first, a Scriptural definition:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. — Romans 1:16
What can we safely conclude from this statement? If the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to the one who believes, then what of one who buys into a false gospel? Is there salvation in a false gospel? Can the reader see the necessity of understanding and believing the true gospel, leaving no proverbial stone unturned in this quest for truth concerning the gospel?

Before we begin an examination of the gospel as preached by the apostles (and others) we need to stop and ask ourselves what motivates one to preach a false gospel. There are a number of issues, but first and foremost is the false prophets desire to feed their own bellies, and if they can do it at the expense of others, that’s just fine with them.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. — Matthew 7:15-20
The false prophet has an outward appearance of respectability and can appear to be the perfect minister of Christ. The real tell tale sign though are the fruits. See Galatians chapter 5 for a list of fruits and works of the flesh, and remember that even here, the deceiver will redefine fruits. Bursts of temper will be redefined as a zeal for God, for example.

An interesting aside is how many ministers today wear wool suits; the clothing of a sheep, but wearing a wool suit does not mean one is a false prophet. False prophets though can be found wearing wool suits – expensive wool suits.

In order to make his living off of a flock, the deceiver has to control the flock, and this is accomplished through a number of deceptive practices. The most important to the false prophet is to do whatever it takes to prevent sheep from leaving. Next in importance is recruiting new members, so it is no big surprise that almost all false churches ( I say almost, even though I have not yet found one that did not do this) make the claim that only members of their particular group will be saved. Again, what can we conclude from this claim? Does it meet the falsifiability test, for example? We may intrinsically know it to be false, but this too is a claim they can neither prove, and that we cannot properly disprove. Part of the problem is in the definitions again. In this case “church” gets redefined as being their particular organization; the “one true church.” Scripture though defines “church” as being the Christian collective, regardless of where they live and what group they associate with.

There is another tell-tale sign that you may be dealing with a false prophet and a false church, not based upon their gospel, but their goal. Is there goal to preach the gospel as found in the Scriptures, or is their goal one of recruiting you into their church? Try telling him or them that you believe their “gospel” to be the true gospel, and that you already attend a church that teaches the same thing. What will be of interest is their response.

You might be wondering why I would want to begin examining the gospel as preached beginning with the book of Acts instead of the gospel as preached by Jesus the Christ. In the cult church that I was a part of for nearly 25 years, they relied on the gospel as preached by Jesus, which was through the use of parables. According to Jesus, those parables were used for a reason; to disguise and hide the meaning behind the parables:
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. – Matthew 13:10-13
By relying on the parables, it is relatively easy to redefine the gospel in light of the parables; in this case redefining the “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God.” Kingdom of God was equated with the “Government” of God, and from there the case was made to justify keeping the old covenant law.

In the preaching of the gospel by the apostles, the veil comes off, and the gospel is preached in its fullness. What I would like the reader to take note of is that nowhere in the preaching of the gospel is it ever mentioned that one had to keep the law; any of it, it order to be saved or attain to salvation. Those who insist we keep the law must rely on assumption and rationalization in order to make their case, and this incorporates the tools of deception as a result. There is evidence in Scripture to refute this line of rationale, found in Acts 15. This too gets its particular spin from those who believe otherwise, by attempting to break up the law into two separate and distinct laws, one of which is the ten commandments as a stand alone covenant. At other times though, the legalist plays it the other way around in order to justify laws not found in the ten. What needs to be understood is that there is but one old covenant law, and it was the book of the law that was ratified, and not the tablets of stone.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 22Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. 25For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. 29Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. – Acts 2:14-41
Did Peter say anything about keeping the law; any of it? No. You have to resort to those things commonly employed in deceptions to make any such case, and one that is employed here is the redefining of what it means to repent. It means to turn to God, or to return to God. In doing so, one abandons a lifestyle of sin and living according to one's own will and desires. The legalist redefines repentance as turning from sin, and by relying on the poor translation in the KJV found in I John 3:4, one has to keep the law, or turn to the law in order to turn from sin and avoid sinning by transgressing that law; that covenant law Christians are not a party to.
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. – Acts 8:27-39
Philip taught the Ethiopian about Jesus and belief in Him. Nothing at all here makes any mention of keeping the old covenant law, or any other requirement.

What we need to understand is that Luke did not leave out important details when he recorded these events. God does not leave things up to assumption or imagination, and neither did Luke. Philip covered the basics of the gospel with this man in regards to faith and their call to preach the gospel. The man heard, understood, and believed. If it were important for the man to believe he had to keep the law; any of it, we would expect to see it here. This man returned home with the knowledge of the gospel; faith/belief in Jesus as the Christ.

But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. 15And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. 16Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. 17The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. 18And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. 19And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. 20And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. 22And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. 23Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: 24When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. 26Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. 27For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. 28And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. 30But God raised him from the dead: 31And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. 32And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, 33God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. 35Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 36For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: 37But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. 38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; 41Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. – Acts 13:14-41
Paul preached Christ, and salvation and forgiveness of sins. Through Christ, a man is justified from “all things” which could not be accomplished through the law of Moses. Here then was salvation through faith in Christ that was not reliant upon that law at all. Indeed, the law was rendered irrelevant and useless when it comes to salvation.

Why then Paul's closing comments? Because he understood the Jew's reliance on that law. They could not imagine a “work” in association with their religion and faith that was apart from that law. All was defined and understood through that law. Those who rejected Christ did so in favor of the law of Moses.

In Acts chapter 15 is the discourse over the law and its possible relation to the gospel and salvation. There were Jews with a Pharisaical background who believed the Gentiles should be circumcised and made to keep the law of Moses in order to be saved. It was established then and there that the Holy Spirit was given to the Gentiles as a result of their belief in the gospel and their faith in Christ; that they were accepted by God and sealed by God with the Holy Spirit without having to keep that law or come under that old covenant. Indeed, it was concluded that to teach the Gentiles to keep any of that law was to subvert their souls. How? Why? When one lives by a set of rules (laws) one's focus is on complying with those rules and laws. As a result, their focus comes off of that which is important; living according to faith in Christ. The focus of a Christian is to be on Christ, and not a faith divided between Christ and the law. The Christian is complete in Christ. There is nothing to be added or gained by keeping that law. The Christian is called to “fulfill” that law through that love of God shed on the changed heart that God has given the believer. The Christian is no longer motivated by that hard heart of stone he was born with. He has a new heart of flesh and “God's law” written on the heart to lead him, and this new heart; this “law of God” written on his inner being, is that Holy Spirit imparted to the believer.
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. – 2 Corinthians 3:3
That which was written in stone, and written with ink, is not this “law” written on the heart. Yet legalists will insist it is, ignoring the prophesy spoken by God Himself as recorded in Jeremiah 31:31-34:
31Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
With that old covenant law, there was a constant reminder of their sins.
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. – Hebrews 10:1-4
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. 27And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. 29Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. – Acts 16:25-33
What was Paul's answer in regards to how the man could be saved? Faith in Christ. Believing in Christ. Placing one's faith, hope, trust, assurance in Christ. Believing this promise found in Christ.

Note also the man was baptized that night. There was no waiting period of time for any indoctrination of the law. When it came to the gospel and Paul it was a matter of what?
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. – 1 Corinthians 2:2
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. 4And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. – Acts 17:1-4
By now, one should be asking themselves why some Jews, who were attending synagogues, who were doubtless religious, rejected this message of Paul's. It is a simple message; a message of faith. The reason some would reject the gospel is that it is too easy; too simplistic for many. They reason there must be more to it. If anything, the law became a stumbling block to them, for the message of the gospel was quite a departure from what they understood in relation to the law. Here was salvation apart from the law.

Later in Acts 17, Paul is in Athens, and preaches Christ and the resurrection. He also speaks of how God now commands all men to repent, and that Christ will judge the nations.

To a legalist, repenting is associated with turning to the law. To Paul, repenting has to do with turning to God and abandoning one's lifestyle of sin and self indulgence and the ego-centric nature of life apart from God.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: – Romans 1:1-6
Here, Paul equates the gospel specifically with Christ and His resurrection and one's obedience being to the faith, for His name.

In the opening of Romans, Paul makes this statement in regards to the gospel:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. – Romans 1:16-17
This gospel of Christ is shown to be associated with salvation to those who believe the gospel, and associated with faith; the just living by faith, and faith is contrasted to those who live by law:
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. – Galatians 3:11
In the opening of I Corinthians, Paul writes:
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
23But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; – 1 Corinthians 1:17-18; 23
Here, Christ's sacrifice is equated with the gospel.
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 12Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:1-14
Here, the gospel is associated with the death and resurrection of Christ.
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. – II Corinthians 4:1-5
The gospel is about Christ.
For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. – 2 Corinthians 11:4
A false gospel could be a gospel not of Jesus, or be about “another” Jesus; a counterfeit. This could be a Jesus misrepresented; a Jesus who is said to teach what Jesus did not teach.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:6-8
The true gospel is a gospel of grace. This false gospel is a gospel devoid of true grace. Paul was constantly battling those of the circumcision who were going behind Paul, attempting to teach Gentile converts to Christianity they had to undergo circumcision and keep the law. Law and grace are contrasted in Scripture.

There are those today who also teach Christians are required or obligated to keep that law, thereby falsifying the gospel; preaching another, that is not another, but rather adds to the gospel requirements that are not required for salvation.

Teaching law perverts the gospel. They teach salvation through Christ, but then redefine grace and add the law, all the while claiming one does not keep the law in order to be saved. To expose this false gospel, all you need do is ask them what happens to their salvation should they quit keeping the law.

But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: – Galatians 1:11-16
Note that the gospel is in contrast to the religion in which Paul was raised and a part of. And again, the gospel is related to Christ and preaching about Christ.
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. 2And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. 3But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 4And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: 5To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. – Galatians 2:1-5
These false brethren were false in relation to circumcision. The desire of these false brethren was to bring Christians under bondage while removing Christian liberty. What they taught was in contradiction to the gospel.

Was the law seen as bondage? What law was circumcision a part of? In Both Acts 15 and Galatians 4:21-5:1, the old covenant law is what was seen as bondage and a yoke. The Israelites served the law, and the law was a harsh taskmaster, condemning those under the law.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. – Galatians 2:11-16
Their not dealing with the Gentiles in accordance with the gospel was a case of their reverting back to the law. Paul hits Peter with the argument that was extant with many of the Jews in regards to the erroneous belief put forward in Acts 15 that the Gentiles should be living like Jews. Peter was playing both ends against the middle, as we are apt to put it. He lived like the Gentiles, associating with the Gentiles when in the company of Gentiles. But when other Jews showed up, he flipped and lived like a Jew. So the logical question Paul breaches was that of why some believed the Gentiles should live like Jews in the company of Jews and Gentiles? Paul therefore exposes the double standard of Peter in regards to the gospel. It is the Jewish Christian that changes in regards to the law, and not the Gentile.
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. 10For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. – Galatians 3:8-12
The gospel is associated with faith, and as preached to Abraham, in regards to the promises made to faithful Abraham; promises that are not related to law; promises that are related to faith.
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: 15Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. 16Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, … – Romans 4:13-16
Jesus preached the gospel couched in the terminology of parables for the express purpose of hiding the meaning of the gospel.
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. – Matthew 13:10-15
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: – Matthew 13:34
The carnal mind is a sick mind, in need of healing. But if the sick think they are well, then what? Will they not reject that which does not fit within the confines of their belief system?

The law was given to the Israelites as a witness against them; to prove to them they were exactly what God declared them to be; a stiff-necked and rebellious people.
Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee. 27For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death? – Deuteronomy 31:26-27
Psalms 44 is a good example of Israel in denial; refusing to believe and accept the reality of their situation.
In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah. 9But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies. 10Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves. 11Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen. 12Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price. 13Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us. 14Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people. 15My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me, 16For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger. 17All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. 18Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; – Psalms 44:8-18
Jesus referred to them as a whole as merely giving God lip service, and having a heart far from God.
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. – Matthew 15:8
So Jesus preached the gospel to them in parables, often referring to the gospel in relation to the kingdom of God. This leaves the kingdom of God, or heaven, open to a great deal of interpretation and deception in regards to the gospel.

However, in the writings of the apostles, the “kingdom of God/heaven” is only rarely referenced, and when it is, no specifics are given. I would remind the reader that Luke and the other writers of the New Testament writings, were not in a habit of leaving out important details. It is the deceivers who like to “fill in the blanks” for the purpose of misleading people, and the true gospel is the greatest target in this regard, for what better way to get people to follow you and do as you say by convincing them that what you claim is necessary for their salvation?

If a deceiver declares that only those who are members of their particular church and brand of Christianity can be, and will be saved, would this not influence the unwary to join him, and do as he (or she!) says?

The gospel is a message of salvation. It is specifically about Christ and what He accomplished for us, dying for us and rising from the dead so that we might live.

It is not about jumping through theological hoops, complying with a set of rules or laws where we “do this” and “don't do that.” It is not about being a member of any particular group or organization. It is about believing Christ and placing our faith and trust in Him. Faith is what was lost; faith is what was restored.

Faith, resulting in our being in receipt of the Holy Spirit is what heals our minds; minds that were corrupted when faith in God was abandoned.

No wonder then that Paul proclaims a double curse on those who would teach a false gospel. There is no salvation in a false gospel, and the gospel is easily falsified by adding things to the gospel that are not a part of that gospel.

Anything attached to the gospel falsifies the gospel, and anything attached to faith falsifies faith.

The gospel can be falsified in a number of ways; through addition, subtraction, or outright substitution, or any combination of the three.

A false Christ is one proclaimed as teaching that which Christ did not teach and preach. Legalistic ministers teach a Christ who taught and upheld the law as necessary for salvation, often citing Matthew chapter 19 as their proof text:
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. – Matthew 19:16-17
As is usual with a false belief, the context is ignored. Further in the chapter Jesus makes it plain that no one is going to achieve eternal life based on their own effort. So what is happening here? The man asked a specific question, and Jesus answered him accordingly. He asked what he, personally, could do to have eternal life. If one could live a sinless life, which would be demonstrated by keeping that law perfectly, then that person would have no need for a Saviour. But the purpose of that law was to show man he could not live a perfect, sinless life.
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. – Romans 3:19
That law has nothing to do with salvation. That law existed to show man his utter inability to save himself. All that law could do was expose the man as a sinner, and condemn him accordingly, justly and rightly.

To teach the law is to teach a doctrine of failure. You will never prove to God anything more than what He already knows. You are not God, and you cannot make yourself over to be like God. God wants to make sure you understand He alone is God and there is none other like Him, and there never will be. The believer's life is hidden in Christ. The believer lives by faith, and not self-reliance through law. You are saved by grace, and not a combination of grace and your own efforts. Christ paid the price for your salvation. Christ did not pay half of it, with you attempting to make up the difference through your own effort.

When a person has been a part of a false, legalistic organization for any length of time, the hardest thing to do and accept is to step out in faith. The law becomes a crutch. It is like a drug that is hard to overcome. Humanly, we want to prove ourselves worthy. Of ourselves, this is impossible. Only through God's Holy Spirit are we able to produce the fruit God desires of a believer. It is a fruit of faith; a fruit of love. It is a fruit of the Spirit.

We do not overcome based on our own efforts. We surrender.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


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