Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Faith Worth Sharing

You've been sent to PREACH the GOSPEL here!
I spend a lot of time discussing the doctrine of the Gospel here at On My Walk, but I want to ask the readers plainly - do you actually share your faith?

It's fine and good to hack away at all the straw that men build, and to sharpen each other's iron but are we obeying the Great Commission?

What IS the Great Commission? Well it's a big mission is what it is! Firstly we are to preach the Gospel to everyone. Yes everyone.

Mark 16:14-18
14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
It is not our responsibility to "make converts." Those who believe will be saved, those who do not will be condemned.

But this is not all we have been commissioned to do. We have also been commissioned to "make disciples."

Matthew 28:16-20
16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
We do not have the authority, or the commission to "make converts" but we do have the authority and commission to "make disciples" of the converts. Which is a side conversation which has been discussed at length. Hopefully this thread will not need to go there.

Including here.
What I want to discuss is how we're doing with each of these things. Are we, you and I, preaching the Gospel and then following through with strong discipleship?

Some will say that you need to be led by the Spirit to share your faith with someone... and while there are times when we are led to do many things I do not for a moment believe we get out of step with the Spirit by sharing our faith. We've got a command from the Lord to preach the Gospel to every living person.

What's more, the only people Paul DIDN'T share the Gospel with were those who the Spirit told him not to go to. Paul had a more pressing mission, and someone else would go to Asia.

Acts 16:6-10
6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
and here.. 
Wonderful, lovely, highly gifted, beloved children of God read and participate here at this blog. We spend a lot of time and effort talking about what the Gospel is, what it means, how we are to receive it... I truly hope those reading who are so well equipped with an understanding of the Grace of God are obeying the Great Commission and sharing that free gift with EVERYONE, and doing it INTENTIONALLY.

Do you want to be used by God to reach someone? Know what the Gospel is, and then go talk to them.

Romans 10:14
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 
To which you reply Romans 10:15 and I reply Mark 16:15.

and even here.

Not to mention everywhere else. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Testing The Test - Part 3 Conclusion

Maybe assurance should be tested for
using a 'Bell Curve'? 
Here's the conclusion to this three part series discussing the reliability, and therefore the validity of the John MacArthur organization's test of a person's salvation. This test can be found at his Grace To You website.

In Part 1 I made the applicable introduction to the subject and found some of the test, the objective part of it, was actually valid and trustworthy. In Part 2 I began to look at the subjective portion of the test. There's an important note about subjective testing in that part - just because a test is subjective doesn't mean it is invalid or unreliable. However, reliability decreases with any increase in subjectivity.

This time I'll pick up where I left off in Part 2, and cover the rest of the MacArthur test - questions 3 through 7. I will then offer a conclusion and a closing thought.

Just as before, each individual test question will be evaluated by three standards that it must meet in order to be trustworthy:

  1. Be in accordance with the Scriptures. If it does not explicitly come from the Scriptures then it is man’s wisdom and cannot be relied upon, and is therefore invalid.
  1. Be passable by every single saved person, at every moment, in any situation. If it could give a false indication of an unsaved state to a person who actually is saved then the test is invalid.
  1. Be impossible to pass for every single non-saved person, at every moment, in any situation. If it could give a false indication of salvation to an unsaved person then the test is invalid.

NOTE: Unless otherwise noted MacArthur is referencing chapters and verses from the book of 1st John.

Question 3 reads:
  • True believers keep His commandments (2:3-4; 5:2-3). The term here refers to a watchful, observant obedience. Here the believer desires to obey truths he deems precious. It involves a proactive approach to obedience-the Christian studies Scripture in order to understand and obey it.
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO.  Mature believers keep His commandments. Hereby we know that we experience Him deeply – ginosko -  Not that we know we are saved. This is well explained in ‘But’ Theology series. However, it is also clear from the passage. 1Jn 2:5 in particular. Being “in Him” is not in the Pauline usage of being baptised into Christ, but in the Johannine usage of “abiding in” Christ, as we see in 1Jn 2:6.  The “test question” falls apart dramatically when the second cited passage is examined. 1Jn 5:2-3 follows after 1Jn 5:1 (as though this needs to be explained…) The test question is invalidated by 1Jn 5:1 where we find that everyone who believes is saved. Then we see that additionally those who love Him, will love other saved people. This is again, birth and then maturity.
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO. The immature, many of whom John wrote to in 1Jn, and those who are failing in their walk or who have simply not come to maturity yet, such as illustrated in 2Peter 1:5-9 will not pass this test. Yet as Peter states, they have had their sins cleansed.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO. Many will say “Lord, Lord….” And will have done mighty works… and yet not be saved. Though they will believe they have been obediently following His commandments. 
Question 3 is therefore unreliable and invalid.
Question 4 reads:
  • True believers love the brethren (2:9-11; 3:10, 14-15; 5:2). Ask yourself the question, "Do I love God's people and desire to be around them?"
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO. While there are things in this question which come from Scripture, as we have seen in the last question, this is about being in fellowship and maturing not simply if you are saved or not. 2Peter 1:5-9 shows that brotherly love is a fairly high point of maturity. However, the Lord did say that the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for each other. In this way, our maturity and our following are made “manifest” to the world. Not that we are saved so much, as we are maturing followers of Him. Careful examination of 1Jn 3 shows more than a simple test of Salvation. He who does not love His brother abides in death. The person who does not do all the things listed in 1Peter 1:5-9 will abide in death - that is they will be dwelling in darkness and not experiencing the abundant life of Christ. 
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO. Immature Believers may struggle with this. Every Believer may go through periods where they don’t want to be around other people, for various reasons.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO. Many people following various religions of the world love the people that also follow their own religions. They see their religion as from God and the other followers as “God’s people.”
Question 4 is therefore unreliable and invalid.
Question 5 reads:
  • True believers affirm sound doctrine (2:20-23; 4:2,6). John here teaches that no true believer will fall into any serious, Christ-denying error or heresy.
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO.  Though 1Jn 2:20-23 is cited as support, it speaks those who deny Jesus is the Christ – not ‘falling into serious error’. The language used in the question is objectionable because it is unclear. The intent of the question is to bring other “errors” into what John wrote under the guise of being a “Christ-denying error” but John is talking about denying Jesus is the Christ – not some related error. Further 1Jn 4:2,6 are also cited in support. However, 1Jn 4:1 is clear that John is writing to saved people, instructing them not to believe every spirit but to test them. Obviously true believers may believe false doctrine.
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO. The Corinthians were taught that there was no resurrection to be expected, long after they had believed the Gospel and had been saved. Acts 18:5-8. They had to be reminded of what they had believed, and have it explained to them all over again. 1Cor 15:1-58. The Galatians were taught that they had to obey Mosaic Law and other things in order to be saved after they had believed the Gospel and received the Spirit by the hearing of faith. They also would have failed this test before they were corrected by Paul, though they were indeed saved.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO.  Many unsaved people believe true doctrines, and are ignorant of false doctrines. Depending on the questions asked it is very easy for an unsaved person to pass this test.
Question 5 is therefore unreliable and invalid.
Question 6 reads:
  • True believers follow after holiness (2:29; 3:3-4, 6-9). These verses certainly aren't talking about sinless perfection, or even the frequency or duration of sin. The term sin in these verses describes one who lives an immoral, ungodly, unrighteous life as a matter of continual practice, and carries the attitude of hardened hate for God's righteousness.
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO. The author of the test imagines what these verses mean. These tell us that as we walk in the Spirit (or abide in Christ in the Johannine sense) we will not sin. Gal 5:16 also explains how this happens.
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO.  Most obviously every assembly of Believers written to in the NT (including any who read these letters today) are taught and discipled into living holy lives with varying degrees of success.  
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO.  Many followers of false religions “follow after holiness.”
Question 6 is therefore unreliable and invalid.
Question 7 reads;
  • True believers have the Holy Spirit (4:13; 5:10-11). This is an over-arching test summing up all the others. Is there evidence that the fruit of the Spirit is present in your life (Galatians 5:22-23)?
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO. While it is true that Believers have the Holy Spirit, the author of the test leaves out very valuable information from Galatians 5. Gal 5:16 being the proposed solution to the problem stated in Gal 5:17. Paul’s exhortation is not that those who do not bare the fruits of the Spirit are not saved (or that they don't have the Spirit) – but that those who do not walk in the Spirit – though they LIVE in the Spirit – are being exhorted TO walk in the spirit. Gal 5:25. Most obviously if one believes they DO have the Spirit; Who is our guarantee of future resurrection. 2Cor 1:22, 5:5 and Eph 1:14 However, using our walk as a subjective test is not at all helpful. Because though we have the Spirit we don't always walk in the Spirit. Instead we ought to trust that the Spirit will bare witness to our spirit. Rom 8:16
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO. Those who, like the ones Paul was correcting in Galatians, are not walking in the Spirit will not be displaying the fruits of the Spirit.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO. Many followers of false religions have these characteristics at times, some of them for their whole lives.
Question 7 is therefore unreliable and invalid.
The MacArthur test closes with the following paragraph:
In summary, one's assurance of salvation does not need to be based on a past decision or an experience. It should rest first of all on one's faith in the objective truth of God's Word, Jesus Christ, and the gospel. Secondly, it should rest on the reality of a changed life marked by obedience, a love for Christ and His righteousness, and a hatred for sin. Take heart if these things are true in your life, and trust God to continue to work out His salvation in your life.
If God cannot lie, if He is not like a man that He should lie and go back on His word, if He is faithful and just – then we ought to have assurance in His promise alone. There is nothing higher we can hang our assurance on. There is nothing lower worthy of our trust.

Faith alone in Christ alone; anything other than this gives only false assurance. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Testing The Test - Part 2

What do you see?

In Part 1 we introduced the topic and looked at the objective portion of the test of Salvation, that the MacArthur organization’s website suggests to readers. This test can be found at the Grace To You website.
A Note About Subjective Testing: That a test is “subjective” does not invalidate the test, but it does reduce reliability to the same degree as it is subjective. Subjectivity increases in direct relation to at least two factors which are relevant to our discussion; the relational closeness of the evaluator to the evaluated and the value of a result to the evaluator.  In our discussion the evaluator is examining his or her own self to determine if they indeed posses Eternal Salvation or are condemned to Eternal Wrath. The relationship couldn’t be closer or the result more important.
As we progress through the subjective tests I will use examples of how particular factors related to subjectivity can affect the results. I will not say that because the test is subjective it is invalid. In many cases I will however show how a particular person or people group could fail or pass the test because of a specific item of subjectivity that they possess.
The second portion of the MacAthur website test is acknowledged to be subjective, and is introduced this way:
Second is the subjective or experiential test of assurance in which you ask yourself, "Is my faith real?" The apostle John's purpose in writing the epistle of 1 John was to give true believers assurance of their salvation (1 John 5:13). In that small epistle John gives several marks to distinguish a true believer.
As I introduced in Part 1 the very first test of validity for these tests is for me to determine if they come explicitly from Scripture. So here we see that the question being addressed - “Is my faith real?” Then 1Jn 5:13 is cited as the reason the author will use the 1st Epistle of John as the basis for their test. Now the language used in the introduction paragraph is tricky. “Is my faith real?” is a question asked as though it matches the intent  of 1st John; which the article states as being “to give true believers assurance.” However we’ll see that this is not an accurate equation, or even an entirely accurate representation of what the Apostle John wrote.
1Jn 5:13 reads:
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
Notice that these things are written to those who believe in the Name of the Son of God. This is written to people who believe, not to people who may or may not really believe. John goes on to state the purpose. “That you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the Name of the Son of God.” His purpose is to assure them, not to give them a test to see if they should have assurance.
You can find the Greek text examined on this page.   
He is telling those who believe that they have Eternal Life, not giving them a test to see IF they have Eternal Life. Clearly this matches the tender character of this whole chapter written to “my dear little children.” 
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO.
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO.
Since it does not come explicitly from the Scriptures we can know that it is not a valid test. Not every saved person can “pass this test” (it’s not actually a test so I’m straining the language to meet the demands of the article). We know this because as the verse continues it is possible that truly saved people can stop believing. Also an unsaved person could potentially "pass" the test. For example an unsaved person may think that believing in the Jesus of the Mormons is the same as believing in the Name of the Son of God.  
The test question “Is my faith real” is therefore unreliable and invalid. So by testing the introduction to this subjective test we find a failure at the very start. 

Nonetheless I will continue examining each individual subjective test question the MacArthur article asks because their own validity is not necessarily excluded just because the reasoning behind using them is invalid.
Question 1 reads;
  • True believers walk in the light (1 John 1:6-7). The light here means both intellectual and moral truth. Ask, "Do I affirm the truths of Scripture, and desire to obey them?"
The question offers a definition of what it means to walk in the light as being “Do I affirm the truths of Scripture and desire to obey them?”
And 1Jn 1:6-7 reads as follows
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
It is obvious through our first light reading that this passage does not bring up affirming the truths of Scripture and desiring to obey them. One can examine the deeper meanings of these words at these following links. Verse 6 and Verse 7.   
That being the case, John gives us an explanation of what it means to “walk in the light” himself; If we read the entire passage the meaning becomes most obvious.
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Hiding our sin, or claiming we have none is walking in darkness, or what we think is darkness. Such would have us calling God a liar for He has said that all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. So His word is not in us, which is what “His truth” is not in us means. This is Jn 8:31-32, and Jn 15:1-8 in action. It is about discipleship, maturity and fruitfulness not IF one is saved or not. 
Eternal Salvation is not in view here, but fellowship and usefulness is. If we walk in the light we have fellowship. If we walk in the light, confessing our sin, then we are “cleansed.” This doesn’t mean saved, it is a cleansing in the same way that articles used in the Temple had to be cleansed in order to be used. This is the same teaching that the Lord gave to His Disciples when He washed their feet. They have already been washed, now they must only be cleansed.
If you are cleansed you can be used by God and therefore be fruitful, and have fellowship. If you are not cleansed, then you cannot be.
Therefore, as with the introduction we see this test question fails immediately upon inspection, but I will ask all three questions for the sake of being consistent and complete.  
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO.
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO. Believers who are in rebellion, or are fearful about their sin (such as the ones that John is writing to in this Epistle) are not able to pass the test IAW with either the MacArthur’s version or what the Apostle John wrote (if it could be construed as a test of Salvation). Saved people in 1Cor 15:1, also came to deny the Resurrection, which is what Paul was correcting them on. The saved people in Heb 5:12-14 would not have passed this test. Therefore the test is invalid.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO. An unsaved but religious person, such as a Catholic, can say that they affirm the truths of Scripture (as they understand them) and desire to obey them. In fact every religion in the world has these tenants, so followers of any religion could pass this test as worded by MacArthur’s website.  If we read the passage the way it was written, (not the way the MacArthur article uses it) then clearly we see that it is about fellowship and usefulness, not about Eternal Salvation. Understood as it is written in the Scripture I can say that no unsaved person could pass it (as if it were a test of Salvation). In which case we could say that YES it is true that no unsaved person can pass the test of qualifying for fellowship and usefulness. But this “yes” does not help the validity of the test question.
Question 1 is therefore unreliable, and invalid. 

Question 2 reads:

  • True believers confess their sin (1:8-2:1) Confess here doesn't mean to recite every wrong that we have ever done. Rather, it means to agree with God about our sin. That means that true believers hate their sin; they don't love it. They acknowledge they are sinful, and yet they know they are forgiven.
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? NO. The word “confess” is in the Present Active Subjunctive form. This means it’s something that the true believers that John is writing to may or may not do. The result if we do is being cleansed and this conditional statement is clearly seen even in the English. Confessing our sins is something we may or may not do and reap the results of or not. MacArthur would have us see that this is a mark of a true belief verses false belief. However, 1Jn2:1 (even cited by MacArthur) makes it clear that this is written to “My dear little children” saved true Believers.
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? NO. As the verse says itself; this is something true believers may or may not do at any given time. Peter would have failed this test as he played the hypocrite.  
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? NO. As I have witnessed to many people over the years, on the street, on the radio, in churches, in coffee shops, at work…. I have found there is a percentage of people who will admit their sin but who will not believe that God has been satisfied by Christ’s death burial and resurrection. These people agree with God, to a point, about their sin but have not faith in Jesus Christ.
Question 2 is therefore unreliable and invalid. 
The subjective portion of the MacArthur test of salvation isn't fairing very well so far. We'll see how the remaining questions stand up in Part 3. 
Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abram was assured by God's word and this was accounted as righteousness. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Testing The Test - Part 1

Does it come from the Bible or not?
Lordship Salvation(LS) theology is an over-zealous response to the nebulous concept of “Easy Believism.” For the most part, the average person who follows teachers of LS theology desires to glorify God and have lost people be truly, or rather “soundly” saved. The unintended result though is that a false and unsaving message is presented instead of the Gospel and the lost are encouraged to do many other things than put their faith simply in the Christ Who has died for our sins in accordance to the Scriptures, was buried and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures and who was then seen alive in the flesh by many people over many days before He ascended to Heaven.

As if the result of lost people not being saved is not bad enough, truly saved people are given logical but invalid reasons to doubt their salvation. The message given instead of the Gospel is a call to discipleship and because discipleship is a life long process that will never comes to a perfect result in this life; there can never be true assurance of Salvation.

It is argued: All soundly saved Christians are Disciples. Being saved is invisible, but the works of Disciples are visible. Therefore, since all Christians are Disciples, if we test for the visible works of Disciples we’ll be able to test for the invisible Salvation. Therefore if one is able to fail a test of Discipleship they must have reason to doubt their Salvation. Discipleship is a process of growing. The more we grow the more accurately we see ourselves and so it is a process by which we become more and more aware of our shortcomings. Christ (and His sacrifice on the Cross) is magnified as we see more clearly both ourselves and Him. The LS theology proponent however would have us believe that Discipleship is a path of victory and triumph where our Salvation is confirmed by how good we become; If we are saved we will become good, if we are not saved we will continue doing evil works.

John MacArthur, a leading proponent of LS theology, offers a test to see if one is saved on his Grace To You website.   

I’m going to evaluate this test to determine if it is reliable and valid or not. In order for me to consider a test of one’s Salvation as valid it must meet all of the three following criteria:

  1. Be in accordance with the Scriptures. If it does not explicitly come from the Scriptures then it is man’s wisdom and cannot be relied upon, and is therefore invalid.
  1. Be passable by every single saved person, at every moment, in any situation. If it could give a false indication of an unsaved state to a person who actually is saved then the test is invalid.
  1. Be impossible to pass for every single non-saved person, at every moment, in any situation. If it could give a false indication of salvation to an unsaved person then the test is invalid.
MacArthur’s website tells us that there are “two important tests in Scripture to determine whether or not he or she is a true believer.”

One objective, the other is subjective;
There is first of all an objective test, which asks, "Do I believe?" Ask yourself if you affirm the Scripture's record of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Do you believe that He is God manifest in the flesh? Do you believe that God saves sinners solely through the merits of Jesus Christ's obedient life and substitutionary death on the cross?
This first objective test is simply, do you believe the Gospel? The Gospel can be found explicitly stated in 1Cor 15:1-11. Although objective test above does not state the full Gospel the intent is recognizable. For the sake of argument I will concede that the intent is to believe that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures and was seen over many days to be alive by many witnesses. That this is the basis by which God saves sinners, and it directly provided for one’s own Salvation.
  1. Does this explicitly come from the Scriptures? YES.
  2. Can every saved person pass this test in every situation? YES.
  3. Is it impossible for an unsaved person to pass this test? YES.
Three yeses mean this IS an accurate and valid test of the reality of one’s salvation, given that God is faithful to save all those who believe. The fact is that if God truly is faithful, if He is worthy of our trust then there is no further test required. Either His word on the matter is good enough or it is not.
However, assurance based on God’s faithfulness to do exactly what He says is not deemed as enough for assurance by the MacArthur website article. For it continues on now to talk about the believer’s performance, which of course is counter to the above test question - “Do you believe that God saves sinners solely through the merits of Jesus Christ’s obedient life and substitutionary death on the cross?” If that is the “sole” basis, then that is also the end of the test. Has that happened? Then the test is passed. Has that not happened? Then the test is failed. The results are clear and straight forward.
I will close Part 1 of this series with this very serious and I believe solemn statement. If a person is not assured of their salvation based on the faithfulness of God alone (that is to say that God saves those who believe in Him just as He has said) then they do not have saving faith. I do make allowance for the fact of saved people being led astray by false teachers after they have been saved. For example the Corinthians and Galatians were led astray after they were saved and went on to doubt the provision that they had originally received by believing the Gospel. So to state this plainly, if one has not received the Gospel, that Christ has provided for our salvation fully as our full, final and only hope, then they have not had saving faith.
To seek assurance of salvation outside of, or along side of, the provision of Christ and His just propitiation of God’s wrath is to call God a liar. 1Jn 5:10, Jn 3:33, Jn 1:29, Rom 3:21-26, 1Jn 2:2
We will pick up with the subjective tests that the MacArthur website suggests to readers in the next instalment of this series. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Does God Love Sinners?

Art by Saxy Phrygian
It's a big question. Over the last number of years I've been working with people and around some ministries that make debunking "God hates sin but loves the sinner" -like statements a big part of what they do.

Straight up, I don't think that sort of statement is true. I think it has elements of truth, but is misleading and damaging to the Christian witness of Christ. I believe it is hurtful to the person it is told to. 

But DOES God love sinners? I want to chat with you about this question. I have some ideas, I have some things that I know to be true, and I have some opinions. What I don't have is a solid Biblical answer that answers not just the question - but the intent of the question. Well maybe I do.. but I'm not confident enough in it that I would preach the point.  

This conversation, that I'd like to have with you-all, stems from a conversation I had with my Pastor and one reader of this blog a few Saturday's back as we escaped the rain in a Tim Horton's coffee shop.  We were speaking about the Gospel and various related topics which in particular included disagreement about God's love, or hate, for sinners. 

I took the position that God hates sinners, and used Ps 5:5 as my proof-text (I use this term intentionally, most readers of this blog will realize the distaste I have for such practice). I didn't intend it as a proof-text, but it sort of turned out that way. My Pastor and the other Brother took the position that God loves sinners. We ended up agreeing that the subject was distracting from the thrust of the conversation and I promised to prepare an argument for my position and provide it to my Pastor. 

I have done no small amount of thinking about this topic since then. I have not dug into the Scriptures deeply enough to believe I have a strong answer, but here is where my head is at right now. 

Romans 5 is an amazing chapter (are there any which are not????) and Romans 5:8 is most interesting for our discussion. Does this mean God loved us, or He demonstrated His love before us as available to us? I really could go either way, but I have not done due diligence with the Greek yet. 

John 3:16 says that God loved the world (the kosmos or all creation) in this way, that He gave His only begotten Son.... 

1Jn 2:2 says this act was for the sins of the whole world (the kosmos or all creation). 

1Jn 4:10 seals the deal on if God loves sinners or not in my view.  
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.
To my understanding, this verse coupled with Rom 5, 1Jn 2:2 and John 3:16 clearly means that God does in fact love sinners. 

However, this does not erase how God says that He hates sinners in many places Psalm 5:5 being just one example. Nor does it erase how we read over and over about God's wrath against sinners. 

I believe that God has a dual love and hate for sinners. His wrath abides on them, but He loves them as well, and salvation is available to any who access it through faith in Christ. 

So tell me what you think, please. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bad Kool-Aid: Late Removal of Submission from the Gospel

If you don't know what I mean by "Bad Kool-Aid" please read the introduction to this series.

Lordship Salvation proponents often claim that it in modern times submission to the Lordship of Christ has been removed from the presentation of the Gospel. To make this claim many high profile preachers are cited from Church history.

This is Bad Kool-Aid because when the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians (and all readers of the New Testament) of the Gospel which he received directly from Jesus Christ, and which all the Apostles preached and all Christians believed – he made no mention whatsoever of submission to the Lordship of Christ. 1Cor 15:1-11 Therefore there has been no removal of submission from the Gospel, lately, or at any time.

Link To This Answer!

If you encounter someone spreading the Bad Kool-Aid of a “Late Removal of Submission from the Gospel” please link them and their audience to this post. Here’s a TinyURL to use: http://tinyurl.com/2cjxlx7

Bad Kool-Aid: Late Invention of Carnal Christians

If you don’t know what I mean by “Bad Kool-Aid” please read the introduction to this series.

Lordship Salvation proponents often state that the concept of “Carnal Christians” was invented in modern times as an excuse for the terrible behaviour of some people claiming to be Christians. They say that as this behaviour became almost normal in professing Christendom that something had to be done to explain how this could be and the idea of “Carnal Christians” was born.

This is Bad Kool-Aid because most of the New Testament is written to Christians in order to correct carnal behaviour. In particular 1Cor 3:1-4 cites explicitly that there are “Carnal Christians.”

There then is debate about what Paul meant by this phrase but he explains it well himself in the passage; and all the more so with the remainder of his letters to this and other assemblies.

Link To This Answer!

If you encounter someone spreading the Bad Kool-Aid of a “Late Invention of Carnal Christians” please link them and their audience to this post. Here’s a TinyURL to use:  http://tinyurl.com/29vtasg

Friday, November 19, 2010

But let a man examine himself

The Lord's Table is for Believers only, and it is to be shared with only with Believers who are in proper fellowship. I will be leading the Family Communion service this Sunday and I'll be preaching from the following Scriptures.

Last week a Brother lead and reminded us that when we eat and drink at the Lord's Table that we are instructed to examine ourselves.  We read about this and why in 1Cor 11:23-34.

Note that this is clear instruction to Believers, and that the consequences of not obeying are dire. Believers who eat in an "unworthy fashion" are judged by God and can become sick even die. This is no small matter to be brushed aside. This is how seriously God takes the concept of "biblical separation."

But how are we to examine ourselves, what are we looking for, what are we to do about what we find? In some persuasions of theology we are told to look for the evidences of God's working in and through us. However, the Apostles Paul and John explain that we are to expose what we would rather have hidden, our sin, to the Light. We are to allow the Spirit, God's Word and our Brethren even to make manifest our sin so as to be cleansed from it and have true fellowship, rest and fruitfulness.

Eph 5:8-14 and 1Jn 1:5-10 are good examples.

The entire chapter of Hebrews 4 ( Heb 4:1-16 ) is about entering our rest in Christ. In order to do this we have to approach God "boldly." God who sees all, knows all and will judge all.

Heb 4:16 reads
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 
But what does "boldly" really mean? How ought we expose our sin to the Light and then come boldly? Well consider the Tax Collector and the Pharisee of Luke 18:9-14
9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Tax Collector who was a great sinner approached God "boldly" because he knew he was a sinner but came anyway - in faith. Boldly didn't mean he marched up to God, but that he feared God but came anyway! The Pharisee looked only at his good works and thought they gave him reason to have assurance before God.

The cup that Jesus called the blood of the New Covenant was the Cup of Redemption. We drink it today to proclaim the death of Jesus Christ for sinners until He returns. When we drink this cup we must do so in a worthy fashion, knowing our need of the Saviour - else we make Him a liar and so drink it in an unworthy fashion.  We do not need to reform our lives to drink the cup, but we do need to expose our lives to the Light. He'll clean us up as He chooses.

I'll close with Hebrews 10:19-25
19   Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,  20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,  21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,  22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,  25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birthday Unknown

If you're a Christian; When were you saved? Why? Do you know the date? The time? Do you know the year? What was going on? Who told you about Christ? What were you told about Him? 

*UPDATE: This post is not intended to suggest that John MacArthur is not saved. I believe that he is, but this belief is based on other testimony than what he shares in the following quoted interview.  This interview is obviously an incomplete testimony (for whatever reasons) but I'm interested in discussion about if this was the only testimony a person had - are they saved? Would you be concerned about their salvation? There are currently 25 comments below this article.  I highly suggest reading the first few and then skipping to any past 25. As much of the middle discussion is about MacArthur. 

Here's how Dr. John MacArthur describes his conversion, as detailed at his Grace To You website

Here's part of the interview between Phil Johnson and John MacArthur. 
PHIL: How old were you when you first recall sensing your need for Christ?
JOHN: Well I always believed the gospel. I don't ever...I don't ever remember a time when I didn't believe the gospel. I mean, it was so wonderfully modeled by my Mom and Dad, it was so consistent. They were exactly at home what they were in the church. And what my Dad was in the pulpit he was in the house. And Christ was always very wonderful to me and inviting to me. And my Mom and Dad lived out their Christian life before me. And so, I never rebelled against it. I always knew I needed Jesus to be my Savior.
But there was an incident when I was about nine or ten. I had gotten involved in some vandalism because some kids had kind of prompted me to do it. My Dad was actually preaching in another town and he took me with him for the week of evangelistic meetings and some kids vandalized a school. And they happened to be, one of them happened to be the pastor's kid and so he drags me along, you know, my Father takes me to spend the week with this pastor's family with him. Anyway, I get involved in this thing. And they did some stuff in the school and I came back and I was...I felt terrible and frightened by it. And I sat down on the steps with my Dad...as a result, I don't know...remember the exact time sequence, but I said, “You know, I think...I'm not a good boy and I need the Lord to forgive me.” And that was sort of an initial prompting. And I remember my Dad praying with me on the steps that the Lord would save me. There may have been other times that I brought it up, but that one stands out in my mind. And as to whether I was actually converted at that time, I don't know. Again, in the years following I never rebelled, I was always responsive to the things of Christ. But I don't know that they were really the dominant matters of my life and the priorities that early.
PHIL: So you're saying...are you saying it would be difficult for you to put your finger on when your conversion took place?
JOHN: Yeah. I've never been able to do that. And it doesn't bother me. I think I'm one of those kids...I was one of those kids that never rebelled and always believed. And so when God did His saving work in my heart, it was not discernable to me. I went away to high school and for all I knew, I loved Christ, I was part of the ministry of the church. I went away to college and I wanted to serve the Lord and honor the Lord. I was certainly immature. But at some point along the line, I really do believe there was a transformation in my heart, but I think it may have been to some degree imperceptible to me because I didn't ever have a rebellious time, I didn't ever revolt against, you know, the gospel or not believe. And I guess that's...in some ways that's a grace act on God's part. So that all that wonderful training found some level of fertile soil in my heart and none of it was wasted.
It is entirely possible that a person can believe the Gospel at such a young age that they won't later remember the event, but I've never heard of it happening before. I'm not aware of this topic having been discussed at any of the blogs I frequent, or among my peers.

So what do you think? Can someone be saved and not remember how or when it happened? I don't think that 2 Peter  1:9 applies here but if you want to include it in your discussion please feel free.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On My Walk: Some Personal Updates

MusicMan Bongo 5 String
Pouring time into one thing always takes time away from something else. Time is the one resource we can never restock once it is spent, and it's also the one resource that can't be audited. We never know how much more we have to spend on things. Today could very well be the last day of this life, and the first day of the next.

When I was leaving my previous ministry position one of the things that was brought up about me by a critic was that I tend to be discipled at a distance. I thought the statement was hurtful, perhaps even intentionally so, but mostly based on ignorance more than true observation. However, the truth was that I was pouring every minute into that ministry and this really did cause me to not be deeply involved in other things. It was a sacrifice that I was more than willing to make. 

As I have been restructuring my life since resigning I've found time for many wonderful things. My wife and I have MUCH more time together now which has been a true blessing. I'm also more able to be involved in things going on at my church. For instance this week I played bass and guitar during a get together of friends, and I played bass with the worship band at this morning's service. 

Playing bass used to be a huge part of my life but it has had to be all but given up in recent years. Now this week came and I was blessed with being able to play with some lovely people! The congregation did seem to appreciate the music as well. The man leading the team has a very good understanding of how musicians work together in playing music and so I felt I had a kindred friend to work with. What a wonderful time! 

The Lord is good, my walk progresses and He is moulding as He chooses. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Baptisms This Sunday

So what did you do after church today? I got to help my Pastor baptize three Believers!!! In case my American friends are wondering; yes lake water in Canada on Nov 7th is VERY cold.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

'BUT' Theology - Part 5 - Conclusion

Picture removed to spare those
who are prone to stumble.
This Part 5, and the conclusion, of my response to the sermon preached by Pastor Norm Millar at Harvest Bible Chapel in London Ontario on 26 Sept 2010 entitled "Knowing Where You Stand With Jesus." If you have come directly to this post, please read Part 1 first because the context of Pastor Millar's sermon is fully explained there and mostly in his own words. Then read Part 2 which covers most of his strongest arguments. Part 3 also deals with a large number of textual arguments, most of which the Pastor made in passing. Part 4 dealt with a number of passages where the Pastor added his own words to the Text, and skipped some important information that the Lord gives us in His words. 

I'm just going to pick up where we left off last time, because this last article may be the longest yet! Pastor Millar begins the home stretch of his sermon applying John 14:15 to the life of people who profess to have faith in Jesus Christ.
“Here’s five simple questions you need to ask yourself and examine yourself with the answer to.. now, now please hear me… I’m not saying if you fail these you’re not saved. I can’t say that about you, you can’t say that about me. We don’t see each other’s heart. I would never, Lord willing, say you’re not saved. I might say you look like you’re not saved.
When I do funerals I try to be very careful. But sometimes there’s so much fruit and so much evidence it’s like man I really really really believe they’re saved. But I’m not the judge of that, so I’m not saying you’re not. I’m saying examine your own heart before the Word of God.
Here’s just five simple tests.”
To be fair, the prime thrust of his argument is that he can’t judge your salvation and you can’t judge his. BUT (that’s for Look Up) the fact remains that when the chips are down and he’s doing the funeral of someone he knows, and who has “so much fruit and so much evidence” he’s not able to say they are saved.  You’ll see in his five questions that he sets the bar VERY low.. is there “any glimmer” of what he asks you to test for… but when there is “so much” he can’t say that salvation has occurred? To be blunt… if the test can’t be trusted then it is not of God.

Now I have written in the last couple of parts of this series that this part would start out with me agreeing with Pastor Millar. Perhaps I should have thought about that a bit more before I wrote it. I’ll start agreeing with him now… which is close to the start.. but not exactly the start.

Now here's his 5 question test.

1. Do you have conviction over your sin?

He goes on to talk about how the Scriptures say that the Lord disciplines all those who are His, and those who are not disciplined are “illegitimate sons.” Shockingly I agree with this… it is Biblical. Heb 12:3-11 However, the presence of what might appear to be conviction doesn’t indicate Eternal Salvation – because any number of things can convict us of behaving poorly. The law of the land, our peers, our family, our up-bringing. This is not an accurate indicator of Salvation… but if you are in fact saved and God’s Spirit indwells you then you will be convicted of your sin. That is until you seer your conscience…. And forget that your sins were cleansed… What’s more, Hebrews 12 makes no sense in the Lordship Salvation theology. If you truly have saving faith then you will obey… you don’t need to be trained to obey, it’s part of your faith.

OK the agreement portion of this article is now concluded, I hope it was worth the wait.

2. Do you have any desire for Jesus? “is there any sort of kindling of love in your heart?” “maybe it’s just a light flame, but is there any sort of desire in your life for Christ?”

He references Phil 3 very quickly, saying “it talks about this” but he moves quickly away from the question. I really don’t know how this can determine if you are saved or not. I find the contrast between “so much fruit” and “is there any sort of…” here to be disturbing. How can he preach such differing standards? I don’t get his point and I’m not sure it’s important.

3. Do you see evidence of growth in your life?

Again this is about maturity not determinative of if you have been Born Again or not. Does a plant grow when it is choked out by weeds? Does a plant grow when it is starved for food? Does a plant not growing mean it isn’t a plant? The constant confusion of discipleship with salvation is a great cause of offense to the Scriptures by Lordship Salvation proponents.

One notable departure from some other Lordship Salvation proponents is heard here though. He speaks of how “we” can struggle with the same sin over and over. I’m not sure how tshis fits with the rest of his theology, but at least he is not making all the mistakes that most Lordship Salvation proponents make.

4. Are you growing even a little more humble or teachable?

This is an interesting one as well. For in my inbox I have an email from one of the Pastors on his staff, who has been a dear close friend – as much a brother to me as anyone could possibly be – for about 15 years. That email says that he will not devote any more study time to the subject of Lordship Salvation. I have troubled the man very little with this subject. I offered him a single email that detailed all the good resources I knew to help him. He responded with a note about having read the foolish writings of Zane Hodges – instead of the good and credible resources I offered. Also on my kitchen counter are two boxes with books I paid for and sent to him. Lou Martuneac’s In Defense of the Gospel and Dr. Fred Lybrand’s Back To Faith. He emailed me when he received them offering three options. He could return them to Amazon, send them to me or dispose of them himself.

Are you growing even a little more humble and teachable? I’m sorry but I can’t take this question seriously. I’m also not sure it has anything to do with determining whether a person is saved or not.

Please forgive me the personal intrusion into this series. The influence of this Pastor drew my best friend away from the Gospel of Christ to another that is no gospel at all.  The personal aspects neither validate nor negate the truthfulness of his message or my challenge of it. Please determine the validity by the Scriptures alone.

5. Do you have a love for the world? “That’s not good.”

He notes immediately after asking that we all love the world at times, and asks:
“…but is that who you are? Or are you being renewed in your minds? Or how about this are you offering yourself daily as a sacrifice?”
Where in Scripture is salvation conditioned on “offering yourself daily as a sacrifice”? One might read Romans 12 and find that this is optional for a Believer, that it is something we ought to do – as our rightful service, not something that all true Believers will do.

This is where he tells his listeners to read 1John for more “tests” and we dealt with that last time in Part 4 of this series, because it fit better there.

Here he says that if you fail his test;
“there’s a good chance that you do not know God and you do not belong to Him.”
Next the Pastor offers two more questions. Do you know Jesus? Which he breaks out a number of scenarios… basically he wants to know how well you know Jesus. Do you spend time with Him? Can you tell me all about Him?

I’m at a loss to find where Scripture conditions my salvation on how well I know Christ. 1Cor 15 tells me that if I receive the Gospel – that He died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures that I am saved. Not if I know lots and lots about His life….

Then he asks what he says is the most important question – Does Jesus know you? This is where he brings up that those in Mat 7 who call Him “Lord, Lord” are truly mindful of the Lordship of Christ. He says:
“These people are really thinking ‘He’s my Lord!’”
 “They profess a relation ship with Him ‘We believe in You’” and goes on to remind us that He never knew them." 
Again, he adds his own theology into the words of the Lord. How can you do this? Especially in THIS of all sermons?

It’s true that if the Lord does not know you, you are not going to get into Heaven. But you don’t know if the Lord knows you by your works. You know it by having received the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 1Cor 15:1-11 tell us this clearly.

Now here is your listening assignment, and I’m being serious. Please listen to the man preach. At this point in the sermon you will hear what is either a performance worthy of lofty awards… or a broken heart desperate for those who are listening to respond to his sermon.

I think it’s a broken and desperate heart. I’ve listened to this sermon some 15 times now. As enraged as his abuse of the Text can make me, at this point my heart softens and my emotions melt and I ache for the man.

Please start listening at 37:40 thru to the end of this 43 minute sermon. You can find the recording here. The Pastor asks his worship band to come up and play a song. These guys are wonderful players. When I have been at Harvest London I’ve delighted by how well these people play.  He tells the people to pray the words of the song… or sit there silently examining themselves…

How can you pray to God and hear what God is telling you and revealing to you while a rock band is playing in front of you?  This is nothing more than guided emotionalism. It has nothing to do with seeking God.

The recording then jumps ahead and you hear the emotive music playing and the Pastor starts to speak again, now very emotional. He starts offering his solution, or rather solutions to those who failed the test. Please listen to him preach this, and consider these question – what doesn’t he say? What’s missing?

Here are the things he tells people to do, after having said there’s nothing they can “do.”

“If you’ve examined yourself and you’ve failed the test. You don’t have to do something. You have to come to the cross and fall at the foot of the cross.”
“Maybe you haven’t surrendered. Listen believing is; I turn fully and completely from myself and everything…… Trusting in myself…doing it my own way… all my own ideas and I just surrender. I open myself I just turn to Christ and it’s all Him.  It’s a faith.. it’s a believing.. it’s a following”

With 2 minutes left in the sermon He starts to pray to the Father. When he gets to those who have failed the test he prays;
“That this would be the time, right here right now they’d be willing to repent and turn fully from their sin and turn to serve a living and true God. To just let go of everything and hand it over to Christ.”
He goes on to tell the Father that is “our desire” to have this play out in all areas of our lives. I have to say “That’s a lot of doing for the people to do who he says ‘don’t have to do something.’

So we’ve reached the end of the sermon. What’s missing? 


Other than a vague reference to coming to and falling down at the foot of the cross we have no preaching here that God’s wrath has been propitiated by Christ’s death. Much earlier in the sermon he also noted that knowing Jesus died for your sins ought to humble you. We have not told that justice has been satisfied for our sins in this sermon. This man puts a crowd in fear of their eternal life, and holds back the only hope they could have! 


Here's what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:16-17 
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Do you hear the words of the Apostle here? The Gospel is the power of God to salvation for EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES. The just shall live by faith! Not by obedience. Not by faith + works. Not by a faith that works. The just shall live by faith!

In Romans 4:1-6
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,  just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

Notice please that the Apostle did not write "But to him who does not work but has a belief that works on Him.... his faith that works is accounted for righteousness..... to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works." BUT this is what the Pastor would have you believe the Apostle meant! There's a faith that does nothing he says, and it is a false faith. A true saving faith is a faith that does something, that changes you, that works, that loves, that perseveres....

He started out saying shocking words “It’s all of grace and it’s all of faith. It’s believing. We affirm that completely BUT…” He went on many times to assure us that he doesn’t add works or obedience to the Gospel. But when he gets to the point of his sermon where he knows many people are doubting their salvation what does he tell them about? What they must DO. He doesn’t tell them that their sins have been paid for! He doesn’t tell them that Christ died for their sins and rose again victoriously so that we can have life! He doesn’t tell them to put their faith in Christ. He tells them to “repent of their sin and turn to serve a living and true God” 

What religion is this?

Friends. Beloved. Jesus Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. He died and was buried, then rose to life again the third day according to the Scriptures. He was seen alive and in the flesh by MANY brethren for MANY days. By this we know that God has accepted His sacrifice on our behalf and if we believe this we are in fact saved because we have believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

What does God say about sermons like this? Read the book of Galatians to find out explicitly. Read it out loud. Preach it to yourself. Preach it to the wind as though it could hear! Preach it to Harvest Bible Chapel in London. Preach it to Pastor Norm Millar. Preach it, for it is true.

Paul declared what the Gospel is, that Gospel which he received from Christ Himself and that ALL the Apostles preached, and what EVERY SINGLE truly saved believer hangs his or her hope on in 1Cor 15:1-11. Beloved, if this is not your hope then you are not saved. I don’t have to waffle on this whatsoever. I don't have to change the meanings of passages, skip verses and insert my own thoughts and words. It is the truth. If the Gospel is your hope, you are saved. If it is not, then you are not.

Pastor Millar commented on Part 1 of this series saying that he would not be returning to my blog. Likewise I will not be returning to listen to any more of his preaching. 

A false gospel is poison to Believers, and to the world.

I’ll close with Galatians 1:6-9

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.