Another Gospel - A.T. Pierson

"Another Gospel: Which Is Not Another"
Galatians 1:6-12 by A.T. Pierson
from WATCHWORD AND TRUTH, January 1900
IF THERE EVER WAS a warning, framed by the Holy Spirit, in apostolic days, for the very times in which we are living, it is surely this, which is found in the forefront of this letter to the Galatians.
It is peculiar and emphatic for seven prominent features:
  • The rapidity with which heresy had been working its dire results. "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel."
  • The pretentious claims of heresy to be "another gospel," or good tidings, involving a supposed improvement on the old.
  • The utter denial of all such claims-"which is not another." There is a beautiful discrimination in the Greek words, another (numerically), and not another (in merit).
  • The emphatic denunciation of this new "gospel." "There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.... let [them] be accursed."
  • The utter indifference as to the person of these perverters; "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." There is no deference to persons here. Principles are at stake, and principles are always independent even of parties. Paul says whoever preaches this error, though I myself should become such a perverter, or though an angel himself should give it his sanction- can any language be stronger to show us the need of separating between the messenger and his message?
  • The new gospel was calculated to please and persuade men. This however was not its recommendation, but its condemnation. "For do I now persuade men, or God?...for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."
  • The true gospel is not a human discovery, but a divine revelation, "For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Hence it is forever independent of human criticism, and exalted above all human modification or improvement. Nay, it will contain inscrutable things that defy even the ripest scholarship to explore and unravel.

These seven points are eternal principles, and need perpetual emphasis; but they are in our day practically neglected, and to a large extent ignored and, in some cases, actually treated with contempt. There is a conflict ahead, and it is alike irrepressible and irreconcilable, and may as well be recognized as such. There are some believers that cannot and will not relinquish their faith in the eternal verities and certainties of the Word of God, in which they have been instructed. They know of whom they have learned them, and that Teacher is God Himself. Moreover, it has pleased God to reveal Christ in them, as well as to them, and they have the witness in themselves that the Word of God is an inspired and infallible guide in doctrine and duty. It has proved itself the Word of God, and all its utterances true, "as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times," that is, proven by the seven-fold test of varied earthly or human experience (Psalm 12-.6).

Hence all that modern criticism can say does not disturb their confidence. They can endure ridicule the sneer of those who laugh at their ignorance, the contempt of those who despise their faith, the lofty pity of those who commiserate their credulity. But they hold fast the faithful word as they have been taught, and to them, amid all the growing uncertainty of a skeptical age, the Bible is still God's unshakable " Rock of Ages."

"With charity toward all, and malice toward none," there is a little company of believers who, content to be in the minority, remember that Truth has never yet, in this sinful world, perched on the banner of the majority. The "voice of the people" is not now, and never has been, the "voice of God." It was vox populi that cried "Crucify Him," and it is equally untrustworthy today.

It may be well to expatiate a little upon these seven points of Paul's rebuke to the Galatian church, only inverting in part their order.

First, the true Gospel is a divine Revelation. Notice Paul's three affirmations. "The gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ"-not after man, nor received of man, neither was I taught it, but through the special apocalypse of Jesus Christ. Here three prepositions are used, which, taken together, are sweepingly comprehensive.

The Gospel, and like it the whole Word of God, is neither according to, from, nor through man's notions, standards, inventions, or discoveries; nor is it even subject to his interpretations. Its origin is divine; its channels of communication were divinely chosen and fitted for its conveyance; it neither originated with, nor can it be adequately interpreted by men. It is a revelation of God, and can be understood and received only by a divinely prepared and illuminated mind and heart, to which it thus becomes an individual revelation.
Here is the fundamental principle, the starting point; and he who differs at this point diverges more and more from the true direction at every successive point. Two paths which at the beginning take a different direction, however slightly, continue to widen in their separation, until they are no longer in sight of each other.
Just here, as we apprehend it, lies the fatal error of modern, so called, "Biblical criticism. "Whatever may be the polite terminology used, it cannot disguise the fact that the whole basis of the "higher criticism" is wrong, is rotten, so far as it assumes that the Bible is a human or literary production, and is therefore to be put upon a level with other human and literary products, even for purposes of criticism. A distinguished American prelate says, "The Bible is literature, and must take its chances with other literature." This we deny, and right here the controversy becomes irreconcilable, because of a fundamental difference and divergence.
We hold, with Paul, that the Revelation of God is lifted infinitely above all merely human literature, that it cannot and ought not to be placed, even for purposes of criticism, on the level of mere human books, because on that level it can neither be received, examined, nor understood as God's Book.
For example, a work shows its workman, and in proportion as it is a perfect work will reveal the perfection of the workman. Now, if God be the author of the Bible, we may reasonably expect that it shall reflect, as far as a book can, the natural and moral perfection of its author. We shall see His power, wisdom, eternity, omnipresence, unchangeableness - His truth, righteousness, holiness, goodness, love, mirrored forth there. And inasmuch as He is infinite, and therefore mysterious and inscrutable, we may expect to find there much that passes our comprehension, secret things that forever belong to the Lord our God, and which we must be content not to explore. These secret things will not touch duty, for duty must be clearly revealed-even all the words of this law. But it is inconceivable that God should put upon any book framed on human language the stamp of His Divinity, without also leaving upon it the marks of its infinite and incomprehensible Author. It would not be strange if such a book should have about it a dialect peculiar to itself, if God should have his own way of reckoning time, a calendar of His own; if He should have His own lexicon, terms which He alone can define. We may expect to find paradoxes, contradictions which to our finite view defy reconciliation; double meanings which perplex our simplicity; figures and symbols which, like Ezekiel's wheels, have a height and a rim which are dreadful, and are full of eyes before and behind.
To expect to reduce the Book of God to the level of the book of man, to account for all that it contains, to explain all its enigmas and solve all its problems, to satisfy ourselves as to the reason of all it contains or does not contain, is incompatible with our reception of it as the Word of God. Nay, such an expectation logically involves the surrender of faith in the Bible as the product of an infinite mind, and hence prepares the way of all other lowering of its standard, both of doctrine and of duty.
We have seen that the true Gospel, as preached by Paul and handed down to us, is a Divine Revelation, dependent on God for its original communication, and perpetually dependent on the inspiring Spirit, even for its interpretation.The second point in Paul's rebuke is, that a false gospel may be recognized in part by its fitness to please and persuade men. This is therefore not its recommendation but its condemnation.
There are in Galatians 5:11, four words, in the Greek, translated as the offense of the cross that are invested with an awful significance. They literally mean the stumbling block of the tree (of curse), and they describe briefly one unchangeable characteristic of the true Gospel-it is to the natural and carnal man an occasion of offense-of stumbling. We are told why it was especially such to the Jew and to the Greek. The Jew required a sign of the Messiah, and the sign was glory and victory, not shame and defeat,-the crown not the cross. He would have followed a conquering victor but not a condemned and crucified victim. The Greek demanded wisdom which includes both learning and wisdom, mental capacity, and sagacity-and he would rather have his own philosophers than the fools, the fishermen of Galilee,- what was even the carpenter of Nazareth alongside of Socrates and Plato and the Athenian sages!
But these only represent human antagonism generally. And the offense of the cross consists of seven things, any one or more of which may be a stumbling block in the way of men.
It is a stumbling block to human pride, demanding humility and self-surrender. It is a stumbling block to human righteousness, demanding repentance. It is a stumbling block to human wisdom, demanding us to become fools. It is a stumbling block to human ambition, demanding service to the least and lowest. It is a stumbling block to human caste, putting all on a level as sinners and saints. It is a stumbling block to human wisdom, teaching that even "princes" need God's teaching. It is a stumbling block to all selfishness, its first law being self-denial.
Any teaching that takes away these stumbling blocks by lowering God's standard and accommodating the Gospel to the unregenerate or unsanctified man, is therefore a perversion.
Whatever makes Christ's Gospel palatable to the carnal nature does this by mixtures that are adulterations. God meant that the cross should be an offense-because not until a man ceases to stumble over It and gets under It-takes It up and bears It, is his own will given up to the will of God.
It is very noticeable that our Lord, even for the sake of winning men, never once modified an offensive doctrine. This is particularly marked in the Gospel according to John. Nicodemus stumbled over the teaching about the new birth, but Christ simply and even more strongly repeated the statement, and added a further statement that it must be accepted as a mystery, to be no more seen by the mind than the movements of the wind by the eye. In the sixth chapter he teaches that He is the Bread from heaven, and that except we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we have no life in us. When such teaching caused strife, He only reaffirmed it, with more emphasis (compare verses 48, 51, 53), and when many of His disciples so stumbled over such doctrine as to go back and walk no more with him, He retracted not a word. He did nothing to hold them, but simply turning to the twelve sadly said, "Will ye also go away?"
Elements of inscrutable mystery are allowed to be in God's Word for the very purpose of compelling us to bow before the Infinite, and leave the secret things with the Lord to whom they belong, while we hold fast the revealed law which belongs to us. To have no paradoxes in the Word would imply that man, being capable of perfect understanding of all things, might have invented the Gospel-it being one proof of its divine character that it presents truths which seem to be equally necessary to universal truth, yet to us irreconcilable. As surely as God be God He is sovereign; as surely as man be man he is free, but how to reconcile absolute sovereignty and free agency has been the unsolved problem of the ages. The Bible is full of these apparent contradictions and the very contradictions are a part of the evidence that it proceeded from a mind whose problems finite natures cannot solve.
So many commands are left unexplained and many conditions unindicated to human reason, in order to teach implicit obedience to explicit law. For be it ever remembered that if I obey a command because I recognize its reasonableness, I am obeying not God's authority, but that of my own reason. Hence parents that always explain to a child, always have to: there will be no obedience without such persuasion, and therefore no implicit and unhesitating compliance.
Man's greatest need in redemption is utter, full and final self-surrender and self-renunciation. There is not a form of self-life that is not antagonistic to holiness. Self-righteousness disputes imputed merit; self-help makes us depend on self instead of on God; self-seeking and self-pleasing put self-interest and indulgence before us instead of God; self-will arrays us against His perfect will; self-defense leads us to undertake our own protection and vindication instead of calmly taking shelter in Him; and self-glory actually robs Him of His honor.
Any child of God finds that his approach to perfect conformity to God is in exact proportion to his self-crucifixion-observe the word. Not only must he follow the great Cross bearer, but himself become a cross bearer; not only depend for salvation on One who was crucified for him, but find sanctification in being crucified with Him. (See Galatians 2:19,20; 5:24; 6:14, which is the great epistle of the Believer's Crucifixion.)
Hence he who in any measure takes away the stumbling block of the cross from a sinner so far prevents his true conversion; and if, from the saint, so far retards his true sanctification.
Now no discriminating man can watch the modern "gospel" in its developments without seeing that it is in every way taking away the offense of the cross. To tell men that "Reason is coordinate with Revelation" as a source of truth, and that we are to test Revealed Truth by its conformity to our Reason, and thus determine what in the Bible is truly of God, is to set up every man's own standard in place of an infallible one; and when all that every man is thus pleased to reject is eliminated, what shall we have left? To one the dual nature of Christ as God-man is opposed to "reason," and so he becomes a Unitarian; to another, the final punishment of the ungodly, and he becomes a Universalist; to another, prayer; to another, the inspiration of the Word; to another, vicarious atonement; to another, the existence of the spirit apart from the body; to another, absolute creation; to another, prophecy and miracle; to another, regeneration; to another, the whole doctrine of the Holy Spirit; to another the resurrection of the crucified One, and of His Saints. And what becomes of the Bible! of faith, of anything most vital to the Religion of Christ!
What is the consequence? We shall have,-nay we already have, a popular, easy going Gospel with no self-sacrifice, no self-surrender, no unhesitating obedience. Christ is not the one and only Saviour, nor this life man's final probation; the heathen are not lost, and foreign missions are a mistaken intrusion and interference. The church needs not to be separate from the world, but should court and so win it. Self-denial is asceticism and opposed to a full and round symmetry of life. Orthodoxy is narrow and opposed to charity. It is a matter of indifference what you believe if you are sincere, or what you do, if you are honest and honorable. Pile up wealth and transmit it to your heirs, enjoy yourself and be happy, conform to the world and do not let the devil have all the best things. Truth and error are separated by a line so faint that no one can tell where one ends and the other begins; and sin and sanctity are so akin that wrongdoing is often only an excess of right-doing, "a fall forward."
This is the modern "another gospel." It pleases and persuades men, of course, but it does not please or persuade God. And it is remarkable that Peter once preached this easy going path to his Master, and the reply was, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence (a stumbling block) unto me"!
Peter was the first who proposed that the offense of the cross should cease, and his Master promptly replied that whoever preaches such a gospel identifies himself with Satan, and is therefore "accursed."
also, by A.W. Tozer: old cross/new cross

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