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. (Galatians 1:9)
We will discuss in the next several days Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In the first chapter, Paul lays out an important principle: that the gospel preached by him is the true gospel, and all other gospels are accursed.
It has been the work of the church, since Pentecost, to remove error from the church in order to retain the true gospel. Heresy has always been an attack on the gospel.
Judaizers brought God’s people back into the types and shadows of Old Testament Israel. They did not understand that Christ had fulfilled the Mosaic economy of ceremonies and sacrifices in his person. Thus, they taught observance of the ceremonial laws. Paul says this is a false gospel; it takes away from the work of Christ by denying what he has fulfilled.
Gnostics denied the True and Living God, God the Father, sending his Son as our substitute, but rather believed a “demiurge” had sent out an emanation. They offered a Christ who was all in our heads. This is why John had to remind the church “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1) was Christ. He was known to the sense, he was real, he was not an idea or a secret form of knowledge.
Arians took away from the Son’s divinity. And if He was not God, He was not able to stand as a perfect sacrifice for our sins, as Hebrews tells us “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God” (9:14). See WLC Q38.
Docetists took away from the humanity of Christ. If he was not man, we could not be adopted as sons (Galatians 4:5) nor could he have been obedient to the law on our behalf where Adam was disobedient (Romans 5:17). See WLC 39.
Pelagianism told the lie that we didn’t need the grace of God to attain salvation. Christ did not come for nothing. He came on our behalf to redeem a people unable to save themselves.
Nestorianism takes away from the gospel by taking away Christ’s full divinity. Thus, like Christ, humanity has to advance back up to God. The one person of Christ does not have two natures, but there are two persons each with their own natures. Christ is not fully God and fully man and, therefore, like him we must ascend to the divine.
Many more can be mentioned. However, the important point is this: Christ coming on our behalf to save us from our sins through faith alone by grace alone is the true Gospel.
All of these other gospels in some way ask us to either seek Christ by worshipping ourselves (our knowledge of Him) or resting in our works (since Christ is not fully God we too can ascend to God, we don’t need grace to grow in our sanctification, or we don’t have a man who has keep the law in perfect obedience for us).
False gospels always turn back to ourselves and our works. Rather than Christ and his work.
It has always been the work of the Church to guard agains the errors of false gospels. May we, by our faithfulness to Scripture, continue to keep the true gospel pure and true.