A Different Gospel

An article entitled, “A Different Gospel,” has been given to me for my consideration and comments. The title obviously refers to Galatians 1:6-8, where the apostle Paul laments that some of the Galatian brethren had been seduced by a different gospel than that he had preached or they had received. Some were teaching a perverted gospel. His epistle relates the perversion, viz. that the  Gentiles had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. Ignoring this context of the Galatians letter, the author of the article declares that the heresy was teaching that “justification is obtained through the works performed by sinners,” in denial of justification by faith only. Neither “works performed by sinners” or “faith only” is found in the text. This is not what Paul addressed. Although the writer wrests the text to introduce an apparent hobby, we will follow him  and examine his assertions.

The article under review is saturated with false conclusions and assertions in that the author arrays “faith” against “works,” even declaring that we “must choose between ‘justification by works’ and ‘justification by faith.’” In so doing, he commits the fatal error of classifying obedience to God as a work to be rejected in favor of “faith only.”

From the outset, let us observe that there is no conflict between faith and obeying God; we do not have to choose between the two. Rather, obedience is the result of one’s faith, both of which are essential to one’s salvation. Obeying God begins with one’s faith, and is itself a “work of God.” Consider.

Hebrews 5:9, “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him…”

James 2:22, “Seest though how faith wrought with … works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (This perfected faith is in contrast to a faith without obedience, which is dead.)

John 6:28-29 —faith itself is a “work,” a work commanded of God — “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

The fatal flaw in the author’s concept is readily seen in his failure to distinguish between the works which a man may do. A “work” is imply what one does: a deed, a doing, a performing. One may seek justification (being right with God) (1) by doing something he or others may devise, or (2) by doing as the law of Moses directs, or (3) by doing what God commands, according to his faith in the Lord.

However, one is not righteous by  conforming to the norms established by men, even though they may have received the approval of many, over a long period of time. Jesus condemned the assumption that one is right by having conformed to tradition, which often times actually conflicts with God’s revelation (Matt. 15:1-9, 23:28, Rom. 10:1-3) Just here we may add that this aptly applies to the author of the article, in that he subscribes to the tradition of  Calvinistic theology. One cannot be justified by following the doctrines of men, in doing the works of men, even though they may appear to be righteous and extol faith. (Col. 2:23)

Nor is one made righteous by following the law of Moses. (Rom. 2:17-29) Even with the context of Romans regarding the law before him, the  author boldly declares that Paul taught “justification by faith apart from works,” leaving the impression that this includes anything that man may do. But the quotation is incomplete. What Paul said is: “justification by faith apart from works of the law.” (Rom. 3:28, NASB) The author  ignores the context and omits the specific statement to mislead the reader into  thinking that Paul rejects everything that man may do. That’s a shameful mishandling of the word, and is what Peter refers to as a wresting of scriptures to one’s own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16)

The Lord teaches that faith gives one the right (or privilege) to become a child of God (John 1:12). When faith is expressed in obedience, as He commissioned His disciples to preach  (Mark 16:15-16), one becomes a child of God indeed “in Christ.” He is baptized into Christ  and puts Him on. (Gal. 3:26-27) Thus when one obeys the “form” of the doctrine of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—in baptism one does to sin, is buried, and is raised—he is brought forth to live a new life. (Rom. 6:3-7) There is a change from before baptism to after. Before obeying, he is a slave to sin: however, in obeying from the heart he becomes a slave of righteousness. (Rom. 6:17-18) To reject baptism, in obedience to the faith, and to persuade people to rely upon an unresponsive dead faith, is to rob them of righteousness and a new life in Christ.

So, we see that not all “works” mentioned in the Scriptures are the same. To equate humanly-devised works, works of the law, and works of God, demonstrates either a gross ignorance of Scriptures or brazen dishonesty.

Since God connects faith and obedience, and ordained the preaching of the gospel so as to bring men to “obedience of faith” (obedience that comes from faith, Rom. 1:5, 16:26), it is absurd to think that we have to choose between the two. Obviously, then, one cannot be saved by external acts without faith, or be saved by a dead faith that fails to do what He says. Faith cannot stand alone; such faith is dead. (James 2:20) Only through obedience is faith made perfect. (James 2:22) You see than how that “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24) The context of James shows that the “works” mentioned were things done in obedience to God.

The truth that James presents is rejected by those who accept the human tradition of “faith only” over Scripture. Some have gone so far as to teach that James’ epistle is an epistle of straw, of little value and  uninspired. Others, while giving lip-service to its inspiration, put such a spin upon what is said to effectively nullify its force. They dare not accept the text of James for what it says, without redefining  justification with modifiers unknown in Scripture, because it plainly denies their false premise that justification is by faith only without works of obedience!

To the sincere student of the Bible, there is no conflict between faith and the works of God. In fact, those who gladly receive God’s word, the source of one’s faith (Rom. 10:17) will be baptized for a remission of their sins. (Acts 2:38,41) This was true in the apostolic age, and it is true today.