by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2 October 17, 2010 Dayton, Texas
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But 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.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
1901 ASV Translation:
6 I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel;
7 which is not another gospel only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.
9 As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.
I. The Issue of the "Different Gospel".
A. This issue begins with Paul's claim that they are being removed from God unto a "another" Gospel.
1. The word "another" means "of a different kind" in respect to its essential makeup.
2. The departure is, thus, rooted in a message that is distinctly different from the one he preached.
B. This issue is introduced by the phrase "by grace" as a description of how God "called" them.
C. This issue is, therefore, fundamentally focused upon the true essence of "grace".
1. In defining "grace", one must recognize that the definition one chooses will also directly affect the subsequent definitions of other conceptual terms, the most important being "faith" and the next in line being "repentance".
a. The danger in defining "grace" has already been addressed in this series of studies [See the study from 08/29 of 2010(018)].
b. The greater danger in defining "grace" is declared by the apostle in this context: a twice-stated, eternal curse for those who define it incorrectly.
2. In such an enormously critical reality, one hopes for some clear, bottom-line guidelines.
a. In our context, one of the "bottom lines" has already surfaced: to whom does the credit go for our deliverance?
1) This question is raised because Paul declared two major facts in his introduction in a kind of "thematic inclusio" (everything included in the introduction sits between the "book ends" of the thesis): his name is "Paul" (the "credit-giver"), not "Saul" (the "credit-seeker") [See Notes for June 27, 2010(002)]; and the Father gets the credit [See Notes for Oct. 3, 2010(028)].
2) This question is also raised because Paul revealed in other letters just how massive the issue is.
a) In Romans 3:27, immediately after a careful and clear-cut declaration that justification is "free" and "by grace" (3:24) because sin is all-pervasive (3:23), Paul asked this question: "Where is boasting then?". This question would not have been raised if it were not critically tied to the issue. From this juxtaposition of "grace" and "boasting" we understand that the issue is a root to the majority of things that exist and, as such, addresses a "bottom-line".
b) In Ephesians 2:8-9 the same apostle declared that one of the main reasons for God's choice to approach the "salvation" issue by "grace" is so that no "man should boast".
c) In Romans 2:17 and context, Paul said that Jewish "boasting" had caused the Gentiles to blaspheme the name of God.
d) The fact is this: nothing is more destructive of relationships than what Paul calls "boasting" (it began, according to Isaiah 14:13, when the "power" behind the King of Babylon "boasted" that he would exalt his throne above that of God). It is not too much to say that all of the conflict in the universe has its roots in creatures who are not content to be what they are and, being driven by their discontent, constantly vie for a greater status.
3) The answer to this question, therefore, affects all of our "definitions" in this way: any definition that leaves the door open to "boasting of human accomplishments" is erroneous and deceptive and leads to being eternally cursed.
a) There are those whose definitions are spongy who not only leave the door open, they encourage others to enter therein. These, generally, give lip service to "grace" while insisting that the one who is finally credited with whether a person is saved or not is the one who does the "final" thing that brings salvation into actuality. Their "logic" runs like this: God has done the objective actions to make salvation possible (like sending His Son to be the propitiation for sins), but whether a person actually gets saved is up to that person. Since God has done the "objective" work, salvation is "by grace". That this objective work is not applied to specific individuals until those individuals take certain steps does not, in their "logic", undermine "grace". Since, say they, God has done the objective work, no man can take credit for his/her salvation even if they "do" something -- like "walking an aisle", or "being baptized", or "living faithfully", or following any number of other divine imperatives. Thus, the "subjective" part of the application of God's grace is human, not divine. This, however, leaves the door to "boasting" wide open because "salvation" becomes "operative" as the result of the human action, not as the result of divine action. Any person who is in heaven because he/she "faithfully obeyed" some divine imperative can boast.
b) There are others whose definitions are also spongy who, seeing the door left open at the subjective level, seek to close it by moving "salvation" to the front of the line and make the human response issue(s) an "after-the-fact" reality. The "new birth", say they, is effected by God before any "faith" is exercised so that "faith" cannot lead to boasting. These think that by making all human responses not really human responses -- along the lines of Paul's "not I but Christ" -- they can maintain the purity of "grace".
c) Then there are those who wrestle with the issue of definitions and take the biblical order seriously. The Bible declares that "salvation is by grace through faith" and reinforces the declaration in many ways. Additionally we have the declaration that a proper understanding of "faith" eliminates all boasting (Romans 3:27). The question is this: what is this "law of faith" and how does it eliminate "boasting"?
i. The answer begins with an understanding of what Paul called "the law of works" (Romans 3:27) because it leads directly to boasting (Romans 4:2). In Paul's terminology, "works" are "deeds of law" (Romans 3:28) that automatically establish a valid basis for insisting upon a "debt-driven recompense" (Romans 4:4) which absolutely nullifies "grace" (Romans 11:6). At issue here is the fact that "works" involve the expenditure of energy (as the very terminology demands) and lay a foundation for the ability to insist upon a legitimate recompense. Paul's argument begins at this point: it is only by the expenditure of energy that one can lay claim to any kind of recompense. This, apparently, does not include heart/mind reactions to propositions of Truth or situational developments. The expenditure of "mental energy" does not obligate.
ii. Then the issue of "the law of faith" comes into the picture. It is an issue that most fundamentally turns upon "definitions". What does it mean to "believe"? Indisputably, to "believe" means to consider some proposed "fact" to be true. But, it is more than that. When "faith" is at issue, the truthfulness of the proposed fact is being considered in a very specific context wherein a relatively significant consequence is in view. In other words, the biblical notion of "faith" is never "non-consequential" to the "believer" or to the "unbeliever". It is not "biblical faith" to consider a proposition to be "true" when that proposition has no recognizable link to one's own quality of life. If someone proposes that "one should never end a sentence with a preposition", it is not "faith" to consider that true when ending sentences with prepositions is without consequence to the one who accepts it. If the one who accepts it is a mechanic by trade and no one hires, or fires, him because of the way he speaks, it is not "faith" to accept the proposition. But, if the one who is hearing the proposition plans to be an English teacher by trade, or an author for an editor who is fussy about grammar, it is a matter of "faith" to accept the proposition as true because the thing "believed" is of some value or merit in relation to the "believer's" quality of life.
iii. There is another issue involved in "the law of faith". Besides being "context" determined, "faith" must be considered in terms of its root(s). It should go without saying that a person cannot make himself "believe" what he does not "believe". If one's financial situation is rather precarious and one gets a "Nigerian Scam Letter" in which he/she is promised a huge amount of money, but he/she is familiar with such scams, one cannot make himself believe that this particular letter is true. If one wishes to make an enormous amount of money selling "blue cheese" and someone comes along who proposes that "Lake Superior is made of blue cheese", the one wishing to improve his/her quality of life by sales of said commodity is not going to suddenly "believe" such a proposition and cannot even "make" him/herself do so. Biblically, "faith" is not the result of a personal "decision to believe". Rather, "faith" is the result of one's inability to sustain his/her unbelief in the face of sufficiently potent evidence. In other words, when a man is faced with God's provision of sufficient evidence and internal "conviction" so that the person is faced with a crisis wherein he/she may well wish to remain aloof from the proposition(s) but finds him/herself incapable of so doing, he "believes". In this light, "faith" is simply a capitulation to the evidence and the internal conviction that such evidence means a given matter is true within its context of some serious consequence(s). Thus, "the law of faith" is more a matter of a cessation of resistence to what one has already come to know is true than it is any kind of proactive leap into the dark. "Faith" is only a "human" production in this sense: the one who "believes" simply gives up the resistance he/she has attempted to maintain in the face of evidence and conviction to the contrary. Thus, since the root of faith is in God's provision of both evidence and conviction and the human response is simply ceasing to resist, there is no basis for "boasting" (there was no "work" done). This "law of faith" has totally eliminated such a basis. The "law of works" requires a proactive engagement in taking actions of obedience; the "law of faith" requires nothing more than a cessation of resistance. But, someone may well say, "Well, I am going to heaven because I stopped resisting God" in an attempt to resurrect the ability to "boast", but this question needs to be asked: Has one really "stopped resisting God" who is continuing to oppose Him by attempting to exalt oneself over others? This is nothing more than the twisting of a gracious promise to be believed into a legal demand for faith that man must conjure up in order to be "legitimately compensated".
iv. Then, finally, there is the issue of "faith's connection to the activities that follow". James cogently argued that a profession of "belief" that is followed by activities which deny the proposition "believed" is "dead" just like a body that is void of the energizing spirit. He said this three times in his argument (James 2:17; 2:20; and 2:26). If we eliminate the sophistry attached to this text by "theologians" with an agenda, we can easily see what the Bible says in multitudes of places: what a person "believes" has a direct bearing upon the way he/she "thinks", the way he/she "chooses", and the way he/she "acts". Both Hebrews 4:10 and all of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews are frankly destroyed by those who would eliminate the "works" which follow consequentially from what is "believed". The issue is this: all "work" is rooted in "values held" and "concepts believed". The "values held" issue is the biblical issue of "Love" and the "concepts believed" is the biblical issue of "faith". Paul acknowledged this in this letter to the Galatians (5:6). Therefore, the distinction between "faith" and "works" (as the expenditure of energy) is this: one is the "root" and the other is the "fruit". The reason salvation is by the "root" and not by the "fruit" is that the "root" is directly attached to confidence in God in some highly specific form of "promise" and the particular "promise" involved in "salvation" is "free justification" (Romans 3:24). The reason no "work" can be attached to this "promise" is simple: the promise is rooted in "work" that Jesus already accomplished and there is nothing left to a man to "do". Any "addition" to "faith" is an attempt to add to what is presented everywhere in the Bible as Jesus' already-accomplished labors. Now, will this "faith" that "justifies" produce any "necessarily attendant" works? According to James' "faith without works is dead" thesis, the answer is "yes". What? Hebrews 4:10 answers: he that has entered into his rest has stopped all "work". In other words, the "work" that "faith" produces in respect to justification is the "work" of ceasing to work. This is the necessary corollary to "belief". The context of Numbers 15:32 clearly indicates that "ceasing to work" is not necessarily an easy thing to do. Everything depends upon what is actually "believed".