When a friend recently mentioned a booklet called Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face, expressed his concerns about its message and asked me to write an analysis of it, I thought it would be a good idea to do so because of the importance of the gospel. The good news of Christ is not an entertaining story; it is the only message of salvation given to sinful mankind, pointing to the only rescue from sin and its terrible punishment. We must, therefore, take that valuable message very seriously.

The apostle Paul certainly did. For him, the gospel message was of the highest importance in his ministry. It was not to be trumped by anything else whatsoever. Paul made it plain in his epistle to the Galatians that anyone—no matter who—that preaches a distortion of the gospel is worthy of being cursed (anathema). He wrote:

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–7not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:6–12)

There is a great deal in this short passage. To sum up, we could say that Paul makes the following points:

  1. To preach another gospel is to preach no gospel at all (v. 7). Paul says that there really is not another gospel; there is only one. To use an analogy, consider Elvis Presley. There are many Elvis impersonators out there, and some of them do such a remarkable job at imitating the rock star that it is almost impossible to distinguish them from the real Elvis. In spite of their resemblance, though, they cannot be, and never will be, the real Elvis Presley, since there is only one such man. They are merely imitations but not the real thing. So it is with the gospel. It can be imitated and counterfeited, but there will always be only one gospel. Thus, Paul makes no allowance for even the slightest deviation from the divinely originated gospel message, warning against those who “distort the gospel of Christ.” For Paul, the gospel is an either/or proposition: Either the gospel is the real one that originated with God, or it is a false one fabricated by man. There is no middle ground, no compromise.
  2. The identity of the one who distorts the gospel is not to be taken into account (verses 8–9). The apostle does not even spare himself from the curse if he were to be the one to bring another gospel. Not content with that, however, Paul extends the curse to even heavenly beings who bring another gospel besides the one that originated with God.
  3. Those who preach another gospel are to be accursed (verses 8–9). The sober language here cannot be glossed over. If Paul were to speak these words in our postmodern culture today, undoubtedly he would be intensely decried as divisive, unloving and judgmental. Paul was not being grumpy, ornery, or legalistic, though; he was devoted to preserving the true gospel as it was revealed to him by God. We, too, should have the same zeal to guard the gospel of God jealously and painstakingly, rejecting any who distort it.
  4. The origin of the gospel is God, not men (verses 11–12). This was why Paul guarded the gospel so jealously: It came from God. God is the author of the gospel, not we, so to edit it or to fabricate a “gospel” of our own is to steal the message from God, usurping his authority.
  5. If Paul replaced God’s gospel with man’s gospel, he would be seeking the approval of men, not God, and he would not be serving Christ (verse 10) because he would not be preaching his message (verses 11–12). The true gospel is offensive to the natural man, and it inevitably incurs disapproval because preaching Christ crucified is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23), and “[t]he natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). The only way to avoid this negative response is to preach another gospel, one that men will approve. Once again we see a clear dichotomy: Preachers either seek the approval of men by preaching another gospel, or they seek the approval of God by preaching his gospel. Like a true apostle, though, Paul was faithful to the one who sent him, just as Christ was faithful to the one who sent him:

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30)

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:37)

“The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” (John 7:18)

If Paul took the gospel so seriously, we should, too. As we communicate the gospel to those around us, we need to ask ourselves: Are we trying to please men and gain their approval, or are we seeking God’s glory? If we are truly seeking God’s glory and not our own, we will do our utmost to honor him by keeping his message intact, refusing to distort it either by omission or addition. We must be very careful, therefore, in our choice of gospel literature, and for this reason the following review is needed.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

3 Responses to "Two Ways to Live"–Prelude to Review

  • Darlene says:

    Jerry,

    Out of curiosity, do you consider non-Calvinists Christians? Can Wesleyans, Lutherans, Methodists, those who do not adhere to the 5 point Calvinist Reformed doctrine of the TULIP be saved?

    As you probably already know, I am not a 5 point Calvinist. I allign myself more closely with the teachings of John Wesley and the Methodist/Wesleyans.

    Darlene

  • Darlene,

    Yes, people can be saved even if they don’t adhere to the 5 points of Calvinism.

  • Ray says:

    Yes, non-Calvinists can be saved, but eventually they will want to stop calling God a liar and stop believing their man-centered, decision-based gospel… they will eventually bow down to God, the real God who is sovereign above all, and the God who is not embarrassed to say that He “hatest all workers of iniquity”. Read your Bibles folks and also learn some church history. I spent my first 10 years as a true Christian in free-will churches, never realizing that I was being fed a false gospel and unaware of how much of the Bible and church history (regarding the reformers and sound theology) was being withheld from me. Find out what men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Gill, Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, Arthur Pink, etc. really believed about the gospel and how that may differ from what YOU were taught by your blind and ignorant shepherds.

    Isaiah 43:13 – Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?

    Psalms 33:11 – The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.

    Psalms 135:6 – Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.

    Proverbs 19:21 – There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.

    Daniel 4:35 – And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

Leave a Reply

About the Author



The author of this blog, Jeremy (Jehanne), is a Catholic who strives to think God's thoughts after Him and obey Christ's exhortation to take up the cross daily and follow Him on the way to Golgotha. He likes reading theology, evangelizing, and, of course, writing.