“How do people go so far astray spiritually?” Asked Joe Stowell in his book Following Christ.
This question was raised when Stowell read an article in his local paper about a man, Tom Wilson, who was gunned down as a member of a Neo-Nazi gang.
Tom had grown up in the church where Stowell preached. He had confessed Christ and was baptized. And was active in the church as a teenager.
He was “A very good student and won many points for faithful memory work, lesson completion, and attendance” according to his fourth-grade Bible class teacher.
How did Tom Wilson fall so far away from the Lord?
No doubt many of us who teach and preach wonder the same thing about those who leave the Lord. Why? How? What happened?
But that is not a new problem. It existed in the first-century church as well. In his letter to the churches of Galatia, the apostle Paul expresses the same amazement regarding Christians who are in danger of losing their faith.
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
There are several lessons we can learn from this text.
(1) Apostasy is possible.
The impossibility of apostasy is a very popular doctrine among those who embrace the tenants of Calvinism. Yet, the Bible clearly shows that Christians can lose their faith and leave the Lord. Later in the letter, he says “you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4).
God extends his grace to us through the gospel. We must accept it. Receive it. And abide in it. It is possible to stray away from God’s grace.
The Devil is a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). This warning was issued to Christians. They were admonished to be sober, watchful, steadfast and to resist the devil.
(2) Some are deceived by those who corrupt the gospel.
The Judaizing teachers in Paul’s day were mixing the old law with the new deceiving, confusing and misleading the brethren. “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?,” Paul rhetorically asked (Gal. 3:1).
Today is no different. I’ve seen young people who’ve “grown up in the church.” Been raised by godly parents. Attended schools where the Word of God is taught and honored. But later listen to the wrong people. Doubts are put in their minds. They are persuaded by a perverted gospel. They lose faith in gospel preachers and godly elders. They question the most basic of Bible truths. And begin to ridicule faithful brethren on social media, raising questions and making pejorative comments about those following “the old paths.” Soon they began searching for something new, exciting and non-traditional. And, of course, they find it.
(3) There is one, true gospel of Christ.
The Pied Pipers of a perverted gospel are very ecumenical in their religious ideas. They portray faithful Christians as narrow-minded. But fancy themselves as broad-minded, accepting, and more loving of others. They are progressive. Ironically, they’re not very tolerant of us who call for “book, chapter, and verse.”
The inspired apostle is clear. There is one gospel. It is called the gospel of Christ. The gospel of the Kingdom. The gospel of grace. The gospel of your salvation. And the glorious gospel.
A different gospel is not the pure gospel. It is a corrupted message. A distorted doctrine. And a false faith.
We must ever be on guard and alert to those who would deceive us and lead us away from the Truth. Paul’s call is still relevant today. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1).
Yet, like Paul, when I see the faithful fall, “I marvel.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman