Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the second chapter of this New Testament book. “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: but contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do” (Galatians 2:1-10).
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now life in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:11-21).
When you come to the second chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia you will continue to find the biographical portion of this epistle. Upon reading the opening verses of this particular epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing concerning his own personal experiences after being converted unto Christianity while traveling on the road to Damascus. If you want to truly understand the words and language found in this particular epistle it is absolutely necessary to not only recognize and understand that which is the true gospel of the Lord Jesus but it is also necessary to recognize and understand the tremendous need to know the Lord Jesus and His voice. In the first and opening chapter of this epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia we find him beginning with the declaration that he was called to be an apostle—not by the will of men lest any man should have reason to boast. The apostle Paul was called as such by the Lord Jesus and by God the Father who had raised Him from the dead. What makes the opening verse of this epistle so incredibly unique and powerful when you think about it is when you consider how even in the opening verse we find the apostle Paul preaching the gospel unto the Galatian churches and saints. The apostle Paul begins and opens this epistle with an emphatic declaration that he was an apostle not of men nor by man but Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead, thus not only speaking of the unique relationship between the Father and the Son but also how the Father had indeed raised up Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day as He had promised and declared
If you continue reading in the first and opening chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul going on to write and declare unto them grace unto them and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself for their sins, that he might deliver them from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. Pause and consider how in the first and opening verse of this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul speaking of God the Father who raised up the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and how immediately after that He wrote and spoke of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who gave Himself for our sins that he might deliver us from this present evil world according to the will of God and our Father. Within the first five verses of this epistle—not only do we have the gospel of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ but we also have the gospel of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before the apostle Paul would even speak unto the churches which were in Galatia we find him speaking both of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and how God the Father had raised Him from death to life as well as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who gave Himself for our sins. When the Lord Jesus Christ willingly and voluntarily offered up His life for us and for a sacrifice—not only did He do it that we might delivered from sin but also that He might deliver us from this present evil world. When the Lord Jesus died on the cross He not only made atonement for the remission of sins thus fulfilling that which John the Baptist had proclaimed when he spoke of Jesus as being the Lamb of God which took away the sins of the world.
Oh there is something which we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in the opening chapter of this epistle for what we find in the beginning verses is a strong and powerful picture of God the Father raising up the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and how the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins. In the first five verses—not only are we brought face to face with the gospel of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ but we are also brought face to face with the gospel of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the third day. In truth the gospel which the apostle Paul preached—the gospel which the apostles themselves preached—was a gospel concerning the suffering, the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. At the very heart and center of everything they preached was the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and how God the Father raised Him from death to life on the third day. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and pay attention to this for what we find in verses six through ten of this first chapter is an incredibly strong and powerful picture of the churches which were in Galatia turning aside and removing themselves to another gospel which was in all reality not a gospel. In verses six through ten of the opening chapter of this epistle we find ourselves coming face to face with the concern the apostle Paul had for these churches and how they had turned themselves unto another gospel which was in all reality not a gospel but was a false gospel.
Before I go any further into this writing I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth that there is a great need within our hearts to not only discern the sound of the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ but also a need within our hearts to recognize the voice and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If there are two undeniable needs which are present in our culture and society—particularly and especially within this generation—they are the need to discern the voice and presence of the Lord Jesus as well as to discern the sound of the true and genuine gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no denying the fact we are living during days of multiple “gospels” which are being preached and proclaimed. With this being said these “gospels” are not only being preached from behind the pulpits of our churches but with the advancement of technology they are found on YouTube, they are found on internet websites, they are found in podcasts, and they are even found in printed form in books. What’s more is that we are living in a generation when books can be absorbed in one of three different formats—audiobook, electronic, and physical paperback or hardcover books. We are living in a day when it’s so incredibly easy to hear and listen to so many false gospels which are not gospels at all but are nothing more than the vain imaginations and inventions of men. We must needs remember the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eleventh chapter of the second epistle which was sent unto the Corinthian saints. In this particular chapter we find the apostle Paul writing unto them concerning Satan himself who can transform himself into an angel of light and can masquerade himself as such. The apostle Paul saw no wonder in the fact that even his servants—those false brethren, those false prophets, and those false prophets and teachers who were themselves able to transform themselves into angels of light that they might deceive others. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints beginning with the first verse:
“Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preaceth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things. Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? Because I love you not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:1-15).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words which are present here bring us face to face with the concern the apostle Paul had for the Corinthian congregation. This concern was such which was rooted in others coming in among them and preaching another Jesus whom they had not preached. Not only this but the apostle Paul was also concerned that they would receive another spirit which they had not received or even another gospel which they had not accepted. In verses thirteen through fifteen of this particular chapter the apostle Paul writes and speaks of false apostles which were deceitful workers who transformed themselves into the apostles of Christ. Such individuals were pawns and puppets of Satan who himself is transformed into an angel of light and masquerades himself as such. The apostle Paul marvelled not in this and considered it no great thing if the ministers of Satan can also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness that they might deceive the very elect of God. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when considering the days of the early church it’s that eventually the enemy and adversary launched and mounted his two greatest assaults and attacks against the church—namely, persecution and deception. In all reality I would dare say that two of the greatest tools in the hands of the enemy in these Last Days are two of the greatest tools which he used during the days of the early church. These tools and weapons were spoken of and mentioned by the Lord Jesus when speaking unto His disciples from the mount called Olivet. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom again kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:1-8).
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations: and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:9-14).
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:15-28).
When speaking unto the disciples which were present at the mount called Olivet the Lord Jesus warned them against deception—and not only warned them against deception but also sought to prepare them once more for persecution. If you take the time to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus speaking of deception and how false Christs, false prophets, and false apostles will seek to deceive many into abandoning the faith and turning aside unto another Jesus and another gospel. Not only this but the Lord Jesus also spoke unto His disciples and sought to prepare them for persecution which would arise on account of the word—and not only on account of the word but also on account of His name. If I am being truly honest with you who read these words I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth that two of the greatest dangers we have a need to guard and protect ourselves from in the coming days are deception and offense. There is not a doubt in my mind that just as the enemy and adversary sought to infiltrate the early church with false doctrine, with false teachings and with false gospels so also has the enemy already sought to infiltrate the true church of the Lord Jesus within our generation with the same. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for the apostles and early church fathers such as James and Jude were incredibly concerned over the flood of false doctrine and false teachings which were not only infiltrating but also spreading throughout the churches in the world at that time. The enemy and adversary had indeed sought to unleash a torrent of false gospels, false teaching and false doctrines seeking to deceive the elect into moving aside unto another gospel and even another Jesus.
Perhaps one of the greatest questions we need to ask ourselves at this juncture is whether or not we are those who truly know the voice—and not only the voice but also the person and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. I continue to be absolutely captivated with the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers which the apostle John captured in His gospel narrative of the life of Jesus. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Paul you will find Jesus speaking unto His disciples and followers—not only concerning Himself as being the good Shepherd but also of hirelings and wolves who would seek to scatter and destroy the flock. If there is one thing we need to recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s the absolutely undeniable need within our hearts and spirits to not only discern the voice of the Lord Jesus but also to discern the person and presence of the Lord Jesus in our midst. It is absolutely undeniable that in this generation—perhaps more than in any other generation due to the technological advancements in recent years—that there are many voices which are presenting various other and various different gospels. Not only this but there are countless voices which are even presenting a different Jesus—one which is not the true Jesus whom the apostles walked with and followed for three and a half years. We must needs recognize and understand this truly awesome truth and the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John for within it we find Jesus calling those who were His sheep to not only recognize His voice but also because they recognized His voice would not follow the voice of another. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John beginning with the first verse:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them” (John 10:1-6).
“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by men if any man enter in, he shall be save, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for the steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catceth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:7-18).
When the apostle Paul begins this epistle written unto the churches in Galatia he does so essentially delivering to some small degree and measure the gospel concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. In the first and opening verse of the first chapter the apostle Paul speaks of God the Father having raised the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead while in the fourth verse He wrote concerning the Lord Jesus Christ how He gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world according to the will of God who is our Father. Within the first five verses of this opening chapter the apostle Paul preaches the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ concerning His death and resurrection and how it would be through His death we might have atonement for our sins and might also be delivered from this present evil world. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for upon coming to the sixth verse we find the apostle Paul being astonished at these churches and how they were so soon removed from the One who called them into the grace of Christ unto another gospel. The apostle Paul then follows this up by speaking of this gospel which they turned to not being a gospel at all and that there were some which troubled them and would pervert the gospel of Christ. Oh I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and pay close attention these words for what was true during the days of the apostle Paul and the churches of Galatia is still true today—namely how there are men and women who seek to trouble the saints of God and disciples of Christ. The underlying way this is done is by perverting the gospel of Christ which is the very same thing the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthians he was concerned of among them.
If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand is that just as the serpent not only attempted to beguile and deceive Eve in the garden by perverting the word and command of the living God so also does the serpent seek to deceive and beguile men and women by perverting the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the serpent asked Eve in the garden if God really did say so also the serpent asks us in this generation the same question. This time around, however, it’s not merely in reference to the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for in the day they ate thereof they would die. Within our generation the serpent does not attempt to deceive and beguile us by seeking to subvert a single command issued by the one true and living God but by seeking to distort and pervert the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He does this by asking us—not if God has said but rather if God really sent His only begotten Son. He does this by asking us if Jesus really was the eternal and only begotten Son of the Father. He does this by asking if Jesus really did suffer in the flesh and give His life in death as a sacrifice upon the cross at Golgotha. The serpent continues to subvert and pervert the gospel—not only by asking us if Jesus really was and if Jesus really did (the same thing he said unto Jesus in the wilderness “If you are the Son of God) but by seeking to add additional rules, regulations, traditions and the like on to the gospel. Perhaps one of the greatest dangers to the true and authentic gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is when man tries to attach works to it thinking that we are somehow justified by works. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifteenth and twenty-third chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, he that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).
“And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:10-20).
“Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not yet after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them. On men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: For one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for in is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12).
“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifeth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon” (Matthew 23:13-22).
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchures, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, before, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify: and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:23-36).
If there is one thing these passages in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew reveals it’s that the scribes and Pharisees were those who not only placed heavy burdens upon the shoulders of those in Judaea, Jerusalem and Galilee but they also kept and prevented men and women from entering into the kingdom of heaven. The scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the religious community of Jesus’ day were such that placed a great deal of emphasis—not only on outward observance of the Law of Moses and the prophets but also on their own external traditions. In fact you cannot read the four gospel narratives without witnessing and beholding the scribes and Pharisees of that day seeking to accuse, condemn and indict the Lord Jesus and his disciples for somehow violating their traditions, their rules and their regulations. As if it weren’t bad enough they placed strict emphasis on rigorous adherence to the Law of Moses and the prophets they also added to the law and the prophets their own traditions, their own understanding and their own rules and regulations. With this being said they also sought to impose these traditions and regulations upon those who were present during those days. What’s more is when you consider the fact that much like Pharaoh appointed physical taskmasters which cruelly and brutally opposed the children of Israel in the land of Egypt so also were the scribes, the Pharisees and the religious system during that day religious taskmasters who vehemently opposed and placed heavy burdens on the people who lived during those days.
When we come to the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia we find him writing unto them concerning those who would trouble them as they perverted the gospel of Christ. The apostle Paul would immediately follow this by emphatically declaring that whether they, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto them than that which they preached unto them those individuals ought to be accursed. The apostle Paul would double down on this emphatic statement for he would go on to declare once more that if any man preach any other gospel unto them that which they had received they are to be accursed. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this epistle written unto the churches in Galatia is that there were indeed false apostles and false brethren who not only sought to trouble them but sought to pervert the gospel of the Lord Jesus. In all reality I am convinced that the enemy has always and will always seek to pervert the gospel of the Lord Jesus—not only by seeking to discredit it but also by seeking to add to it. It’s actually quite surprising that in the garden when Eve spoke with the serpent she did of course provide the original command of the living God not to eat of the fruit of it for in the day they did they would die, however, she also added something the living God didn’t say which centered upon touching it. This is incredibly important for us to recognize for when we think about and consider that which is found in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches in Galatia we find imposters and troublemakers seeking to pervert the gospel through adding to it that which the living God never said.
If you turn and direct your attention back to the garden you will find that not only did Eve add something to the command of the living God which was not spoken but you also find the serpent seeking to discredit the words which the living God spoke. The first thing the serpent tried doing was casting doubt on the living God even saying that they should not eat of every tree in the garden of Eden to which Eve responded by giving the command plus that which the LORD God didn’t say. Immediately after this the serpent cast further doubt on the words which the living God spoke for he declared unto her that she would not surely die. Please pay close attention to this for this would be followed by the serpent leading Eve into believing God was somehow holding something back from her. The serpent would speak unto Eve and tell her that God knew in the day she ate of the fruit of the tree of the garden their eyes would be opened and they would be like God or gods knowing good and evil. This is something which must be carefully considered for when we think about those who would subvert and pervert the gospel of the Lord Jesus we must needs realize that not only do they seek to cast doubt on that which the Lord Jesus has actually spoken but they also seek to add to it that which he did not speak. What’s more is these troublemakers make every attempt to cause men and women to believe the living God is somehow withholding something from them.
A GOSPEL OF ACCOMODATION! As I sit here today writing these words I can’t help but think about the tremendous truth surrounding these troublemakers who seek to pervert and subvert the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such individuals seek to take the original gospel and/or parts and portions of the gospel and add to it that which the Lord Jesus never spoke. Not only this but such men and women will seek to create and cast doubt on the very character and nature of God Himself by seeking to demonstrate that He is holding something back from them. In all reality this is what lies at the very heart and center of the prosperity gospel for the prosperity gospel is centered upon what we can receive from the living God. What’s more is that this very reality is at the very heart of the “name it and claim it” gospel which is being preached in countless churches, stadiums, arenas and venues throughout this nation and across the world. If there is one thing we must needs recognize is that these troublemakers not only seek to add to the gospel that which the Lord Jesus never promised—specifically as it pertains to wealth, fame, prosperity, and the like—but they also seek to add to it additional rules, statutes, laws, and a number of commands centered upon works. In short these individuals take the true gospel and seek to add to it the idea that something additional is needed to find and experience salvation—such realities such as being circumcised. This is precisely the trouble the church at Antioch ran into and experienced when troublemaking Jews came from Judaea and began declaring unto the Gentiles how they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Not only this but this was also the trouble which the believers and brethren ran into in the city of Jerusalem after Paul and Barnabas had come from Antioch concerning this matter of being circumcised to experience salvation. With this in mind I invite you to first journey back to the garden of Eden where the deception and beguiling first began as the serpent cast doubt on whether or not God had actually spoken, where the serpent cast doubt on the punishment revealed against disobedience and ultimately causing Eve to think the LORD God was withholding something from them:
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the yes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake: in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the seat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it was thou taken: for dust hou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:1-24).
The words which we find here in the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis serve as a powerful reminder to any who read the epistle written unto the Galatian churches the tremendous danger the enemy can and will pose against the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a reason the apostle Paul linked the serpent beguiling Eve in the garden and the hearts and minds of the Corinthian saints being turned away from the simplicity that is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a reason why the apostle Paul also in this same passage spoke of another gospel, another spirit and another Jesus for he recognized and understood that which the serpent had done in the garden of Eden. I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw our attention to the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Genesis for when we think about what the serpent did unto Eve one can’t help but clearly see the great trouble created. The serpent would initially begin by deliberately and intentionally calling into question whether or not God had really said. What’s more is the serpent in the garden also sought to discredit that which the LORD God had spoken and even beguile Eve into not only thinking the LORD God was withholding something from her but also that there was something more she could receive. Not only this but that which the serpent beguiled Eve into thinking she could receive was also something he beguiled her into thinking she could achieve on her own. All Eve had to do was eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and not only would her eyes be opened but so also would she be like unto God as gods. It was this particular truth facing Eve which ultimately caused her to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil after seeing that it was pleasant to the eyes, that it was desirable to make one wise and that it was good for food. After looking and beholding this fruit she finally partook of it and gave into the temptation of the serpent.
What we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this particular passage of Scripture is how the enemy not only seeks to pervert but also distort and subvert the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The enemy and adversary can and will seek to raise up false apostles and false ministers masquerading as agents of righteousness leading people into thinking there is more that is needed for salvation than simply believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul emphatically declared that those who confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead would be saved. Not only this but the apostle Paul also repeated the words of the LORD which were spoken by the prophet how everyone who calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand this for it calls and draws our attention to two of the greatest ways the enemy and adversary can and will seek to pervert and subvert the true gospel of the Lord Jesus—namely by adding to it or by making men and women think the Lord God is somehow unjust and withholding something back from them. Oh I would dare say there is nothing more dangerous than a gospel that seeks to paint the picture that there is more that is to be experienced beyond that which the living and eternal God had promised and spoken in His word. There is an inherent danger that surrounds those who seek to present a gospel of accommodation—and not only a gospel of accommodation but also a gospel of accumulation. What we find in the epistle written unto the Galatian churches is men and women perverting the gospel by mixing it with legalism. Oh if there is one thing that is so deadly and dangerous—not only to walking with and following the Lord Jesus but also to the gospel itself—it’s legalism. It is with this in mind I invite you to now consider the following words which are found in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts concerning the church in Antioch as well as the brethren which were in Jerusalem:
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses” (Acts 15:1-5).
“And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago, God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (Acts 15:6-12).
“And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day” (Acts 15:13-21).
“Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren: and they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Genitles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall al so tell you the same things but mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well” (Acts 15:22-29).
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to notice the similar language found in this chapter as that which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle written unto the Galatian saints. It was unto the Galatian saints the apostle Paul wrote unto them concerning those who troubled them by delivering unto them another gospel which was not another gospel but a false gospel. When you come to the second chapter you will find the apostle Paul speaking of an altercation he had with the apostle Peter when he came to Antioch for prior to Jews from among the brethren coming from Judaea he would eat and fellowship with Gentiles. When, however, Jews from Judaea came he separated himself from the Jews—and not only this but also others from among them including Barnabas separated themselves from the Gentiles. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to this for the apostle Paul speaks of his needing to contend with the apostle Peter and Barnabas to their face because of their hypocrisy. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that two of the greatest threats to the gospel are legalism and hypocrisy. The one deals with preaching one thing while doing another while the other deals with unnecessary expectations surrounding rules, traditions. Legalism says do what I tell you while hypocrisy says don’t do what I do—both while distorting the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to these words for when we come to the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Galatian saints we find the apostle Paul concluding with incredibly powerful words—words which strike at the very heart of the gospel. In the final verses of the second chapter—not only does the apostle Paul speak of rebuilding those things which we have destroyed but the apostle Paul also speaks of something far greater within our lives. That which the apostle Paul speaks of is being crucified with Christ that the life which we live in the flesh we no longer live of ourselves but by faith in the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning the gospel of the Lord Jesus it’s that we have indeed been called to be crucified with Christ that it is no longer we that live but Christ who lives within us. In all reality I would dare say the words which are found in the final verses of the second chapter must carefully be considered with the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Philippi. Not only this but I am convinced these words must be considered in light of the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the saints at Rome. I leave you with these words written by the apostle Paul in these three epistles as an invitation to crucify ourselves afresh in the sight and presence of the living God that it might no longer be us who live but Christ who lives in us for those who are in Christ are new creations as old things have passed away and behold all things have become new:
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:16-21).
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye otherwise be minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:7-16).
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:1-14).