Friday, September 19, 2014

of angels and gospels

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Galatians 2
mark this- Galatians 1:8
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!
In our lives, each one of us has some "not so proud moments" that we'd rather forget about. One of my career low-lights come from a White Elephant gift exchange gone horribly wrong. I was in a college at the time, and this took place in a small group of about 15-20. (If you've never participated in a White Elephant- do yourself a favor and stay far away!)
There were lots of decent gifts for the taking: games, candy, gift cards. But for some strange reason, I had my heart dead set on the Sea Monkeys. I picked them up early, and thought I was safe, because no one else seemed to want them. I was already planning out how and where I could hatch these glorified brine shrimp, when all of the sudden the final person decided to forgo all of the more appealing prizes, and went straight for my Sea Monkeys. That made me a bit upset, but I at least had the opportunity to open up a small wrapped box and maybe get something decent. To my shock and utter horror, the present that I was stuck with was none other than a small, porcelain baby angel.
I have a very low tolerance for cheesy and sentimental "Christian paraphernalia," especially when that junk is decidedly un-biblical. As I look throughout the Bible, it's become very clear to me that there are not any "chubby naked babies with wings." So in my frustration I took that porcelain angel, and wrenched off its wings, head and left foot. I felt vindicated doing so, even though the poor girl who brought the original gift was right there in the room. (She was speechless- I tend to have that effect on people.) Looking back, I am sure that my rage had less to do with my righteous indignation and more to do with my lack of Sea Monkeys.
So I will admit, as we come to today's reading, that episode left me with somewhat of a bias against angels. But from what Paul wrote in Galatians and what has happened in history since, maybe we all need to hold a bit more caution. As we learned from yesterday's reading, the people of Galatia were in danger of abandoning the true Gospel. The had allowed outside forces to infiltrate and water down the Gospel. That's a big deal, hence the harsh words from Paul.
He gives them (and us) a key truth: A different gospel is really no gospel at all. Or, to put it in other words: As soon as you change the good news it ceases to be good news. Once the Galatians tried to add to the message of Jesus Christ, once they made keeping the Jewish Law in order to be saved a requirement, they left the true Gospel behind.
No one has the authority to change or add to the gospel- no apostle, no human, not even an angel. Consequently, any kind of person, be they king, pope, bishop, pastor, politician, prophet, blogger, or historian who attempts to add or alter the message of Christ is merely heaping condemnation upon themselves. So what then is that message?
Try 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 first:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...
If that's too long for your liking, try 2 Corinthians 5:21:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
For nearly 2000 years, all kinds of people have tried to add all sorts of stuff to the Gospel. Hundreds of heresies have come and gone, all kinds of religious fads have gained prominence, only to fall out of favor. Other falsehoods seem to hold on much more tenaciously. But no matter how many adherents they gain, their basic premise is wrong. Even if an actual angel appeared to Muhammad (Islam) or Joseph Smith (Mormonism), that angel could not trump or override the  "the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people (1)."
There is only one message that convicts, converts and saves sinners; follow Paul's advice by accepting no imitation.
(1) Jude 3

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