there are some things that should never change. The gospel that we have received is to be preached all over the world
(John Lathrop)

The apostle Paul was very zealous for the Lord; he had great spiritual passion and drive. In some ways he was also a very flexible man. Though he was raised as a devote Jew (Phil. 3:4b-6), he accepted the Lord’s call to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 26:17). He actually refers to himself in the New Testament as the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:8).

The fact that he could relate to people who were ethnically and religiously different than he was shows that he was not an inflexible person. In 1 Corinthians 9:20-23 he describes his flexibility. He tells us that he became like the Jews, like those under the law, like those not having the law, and like the weak in order to win each group to the Lord.

In addition to his flexibility in his evangelistic efforts he was also known to allow for some flexibility in the views and practices that various Christians held. This can be seen in Romans 14 where allows believers to eat meat or not eat it and to regard whatever day they wished as sacred to the Lord.

That being said, there were some things that Paul was totally inflexible about; the gospel message was one of them. He did not allow any adjustment to this fundamental truth. Lest anyone be unsure what the gospel message is Paul left us a brief description of it in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

In this passage he tells us that the gospel involves the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. This is the gospel by which people are saved (1 Cor. 15:2), if they believe.

His zeal to preserve the purity of the gospel can be seen in a couple of texts. When he wrote to the churches in Galatia he dealt with a doctrinal error. Some were teaching that in addition to believing in Jesus Gentile men needed to be circumcised in order to be Christians.

Paul did not agree, and that is putting it mildly. Near the beginning of the letter he pronounces his judgment on the false teaching. He calls it a perversion of the gospel (Gal. 1:7), a “different gospel” (Gal. 1:6 NIV), and “no gospel at all (Gal. 1:7 NIV).

He indicates that if anyone preaches this “new” gospel, whether it is a spiritual person (including Paul himself) or a spiritual being, an angel, that their message should not be believed. We know this because he then goes on to say twice that those who preach a gospel that is different from the original should be “eternally condemned” (Gal.1:8-9 NIV).

There is no confusion about where he stands. Another text which illustrates Paul’s zeal for the gospel is found a little later in the book of Galatians. In Galatians 2, Paul mentions a specific case in which he dealt with this false gospel, and he says that when he and his coworkers encountered it they did not give in to it so that the truth of the gospel would be preserved (Gal. 2:5).

So, why was it that Paul would not entertain the idea of an adjustment to the gospel message? There are a number of answers to this question.

First, Paul received the message from Christ Himself (Gal. 1:12).

Second, the gospel that he preached agreed with what was revealed in the scriptures (1 Cor. 15: 3-4), in this case the Old Testament scriptures.

Third, the apostles in Jerusalem, which included some of the original 12, added nothing to what he was preaching (Gal. 2:6). In fact, they approved his ministry (Gal. 2:9).

Fourth, he knew the change it had made in his own life (Phil. 3:7-11). In addition to these things, there is too much at stake to get it wrong! The eternal destinies of people hang in the balance.

At times people say, “Some things never change.” Frequently when they say this it is a complaint.

However, there are some things that should never change. The gospel that we have received is to be preached all over the world (Matt. 24:14, 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8).

Like Timothy of old we are to guard the truth with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us (2 Tim. 1:14). May we be good stewards, faithfully holding on to the truth until the end, even if a spiritual person or a spiritual being steps forward to offer an alternate version of it. The substitutes were “no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:7 NIV) in the days of the first century church and they are the same today.

 


John P. Lathrop - United States

John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.

 

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