Friday, October 17, 2014

THE CURSE OF THE JUDAIZERS



Imagine living in a time when travel pretty much consisted only of walking, boat, and horseback (or other beast of burden).  You travel many miles on foot, risking your health and even your life, bringing the good news, the gospel message of Jesus Christ to a mostly pagan and barbaric country.  You convert many to Christianity there and start a number of churches along the way.  Your message has been clear and direct, mincing no words, yet, spoken in love.  Before you leave this faraway land, the churches there are showing a lot of promise.  Ok, great.  But you find out some time later that the teaching for which you risked so much, and fought so hard to share, has been twisted in a manner that voids the whole message and puts their souls at stake!


Such was the situation in the Apostle Paul’s case.  On his first missionary trip, he traveled through the region of Galatia, preaching the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, Who (mercifully) came to pay the full penalty for our sins.  But the message got distorted somewhere along the way.  Paul’s famous question to the saints in Galatia jerked them back into reality… “O foolish Galatians, WHO HATH BEWITCHED YOU, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Galatians 3:1) 
 

No New Testament epistle has a stronger message than the one to the Galatian churches.  Paul states that the message that he first brought to them is, and always will be, the true gospel.  He says that if ANYONE (including himself) would preach a different gospel, that messenger is cursed:


“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.  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 1:8-9)


Sobering words!  But what was it, exactly, that grieved Paul so much?  What was this other gospel that had crept into the Galatian church?  It was the message of the Judaizers.  It was simply a message that accepted Jesus’ work on the cross for salvation, but also added something else to it.  It was salvation “by faith plus works.”  The works that the Judaizers added were circumcision and the Law of Moses (Acts 15:1, 5).  Ok, so what’s wrong with adding the Law of Moses?  Wasn’t this law directly from God, and therefore the ultimate guide to righteous works?  Absolutely.  And wasn’t the Mosaic Law summed up in the Ten Commandments?  Indeed it was.  And did not Jesus, Himself, condense all these even further into only two commandments, i.e., love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40)?  So, what’s the big deal?  What could possibly be wrong with any work that would fit in the category of these two commandments? 
 

The fact is, ALL good works fall under this category.  So, nothing is wrong with the Mosaic Law itself, it’s the fact that it was added to the cross.  Therefore, any time we try to add good works…. any good works…. to the work of the cross in order to be saved, we are saying that Jesus’ work was just not quite enough.  But there is only ONE work that can save us… and it is HIS work, HIS suffering, HIS paying the penalty on the cross.  We can do nothing to add to our salvation at any point in our Christian walk.  In fact, if we even try to, we are insulting Him and we are cut off, we are severed from Christ and fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4)!  We have deserted Jesus for another gospel (Galatians 1:6)!  Any mixture of God’s grace and man’s works to be saved is fatal.


But the error of the Judaizers is not just a problem of the past.  We have many today who claim to be Christians, yet who strongly embrace this evil doctrine.  The Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and even many Protestant churches all claim to believe and trust in the work of Jesus, yet try to add some type of work(s) to the cross in order to be saved.  This creates a false gospel.  It may be water baptism, it may be speaking in tongues, or perhaps performing the “moral aspects” of the Mosaic Law, helping your neighbor, giving to the poor, becoming a martyr (dying for your faith), etc., etc.  All these things can be good, but they cannot be trusted in to save us, even partially.  They cannot contribute to our justification.  Salvation is a gift, and you don’t work for a gift (Romans 4:4-5).  There is no amount of suffering or work that can be “added to” Jesus’ work for salvation.  To add even one of these works is to say that Jesus did not completely pay the penalty for our sins (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:12; 1 John 2:2).  This is blasphemy.  No wonder Paul was so severe with the Galatians.
 

Are we claiming that Christians should not do good works?  No, we are not at all saying that.  But we should simply do good works out of a love for God, and in appreciation for what Jesus has done.  And we will be rewarded for our good works which are done in the right spirit.  The wrong attitude would be, “I am doing these good works to help my chances of getting into Heaven.”  But if Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross wasn’t enough BY ITSELF, then surely nothing could save us.


Put your faith, your trust, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.  Don’t put yourself under the curse… don’t be a Judaizer.




See also this article:

 http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2010/08/sola-fide-revisited.html












21 comments:

  1. Hello Russell,

    I came across this page when I was conducting some research(which is one of my personal hobbies). This article truly has a powerful meaning to it and should certainly provide answers to people with questions about the gospel of the Lord. Do you not find it strange that someone would add stuff to such a simple gospel and make it difficult for themselves? Why would anyone want to add works to the cross of Christ when perpetual salvation is a FREE GIFT? I am astonished by the fact that the New Testament was written so long ago and it even speaks of people who would "twist the Scriptures to their own destruction"(2 Peter 3:16). Look at all these Christian denominations with religious leaders and they add "WORKS" to the gospel. What really shocks me is the fact that the Bible very clearly and repeatedly tells us that grace is a gift without a cost and that multitudes of people still attempt to modify the gospel. Wow! Does this not interest you Russell?

    Jesse

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  2. Hi Jesse,

    Thanks for your comment. By the way, you are the very first commenter on this (my new) blog!

    Yes, indeed, Jesse, I find this an interesting, yet strange, thing. Why would anyone mess with a perfectly simple (and liberating) gospel? Maybe it has something to do with our pride. I have heard it said that all world religions are works-based, and even many in Christianity (both Catholic and even some Protestants) believe in some sort of works-based salvation. Because of pride, man would love to take at least SOME credit for his salvation. I guess it’s just deep down in our sin nature.

    But when it comes to trusting something / someone for salvation, it’s either ALL Jesus, or not Jesus at all. You can’t say, “I trust in Jesus… plus XYZ.” His work on the cross is totally sufficient. Thank God for that. Thank God that we don’t HAVE to work for our justification. That, my friend, is indeed good news.

    In His Name,
    Russell

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  3. Hello Russell,

    When I have discussions with the Romanists(and MANY other Protestants) about this subject, they always appeal to James 2:24 as a "crutch" to support the Catholic teaching of "faith plus works". What exactly was James' point? How could I help Catholics(and others) see that James is NOT arguing against salvation by faith alone(I have attempted multiple times-perhaps I do not quite understand the passage.. I could be wrong though). What is the best Scripture passage(that you know of) to help demonstrate that salvation is by faith alone(perhaps Romans 4:5, Ephesians 2:8-9,and Titus 3:5)? Thanks for answering my previous question(you have cleared a lot of my confusion)!

    Would you mind if I kept in contact with you or supported your blogs?

    Jesus is Savior,
    Jesse

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  4. Hi Jesse,

    It cannot be emphasized enough that CONTEXT is critical here. We should always point this out to Catholics and anyone else who points to the book of James and tries to say that works contribute to a person’s salvation. James’ actual point was that REAL Christians (i.e., Christians with a true and real faith) will certainly be doing good works. If a person who claims to be Christian has no works, then he can hardly be considered a Christian.

    James 2 is about the DEMONSTRATION of a Christian’s faith (James 2:18). It is NOT about HOW TO BECOME a Christian, i.e., how to be “justified” in the sense of salvation. Catholics, especially, always point to James 2:24: “…a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone,” but they are ignoring the context.

    The word “justified” in this context means VINDICATED, where one is shown to be a Christian, or is demonstrating proof that he is a Christian. This lines up with what Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

    If you want to learn about the doctrine of justification (in the sense of salvation), then you should go to the longest, continuous passage that SPECIFICALLY deals with that topic… and that would be Romans chapter 3 thru 5. This is where one must look when asking how to become saved / justified.

    By the way, the verses you gave above (Romans 4:5, Ephesians 2:8-9, and Titus 3:5) are also some of the best ones to share.

    See also:

    http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2010/01/faith-alone-part-2.html

    And yes, Jesse, feel free to keep in contact and ask questions and / or comment on the blog anytime.

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  5. Hey Russell,

    When is one justified?

    Jonathon

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  6. Jonathon,

    A person is justified when he first believes; when he comes to the realization that he is a sinner who is spiritually bankrupt and is on his way to Hell. It is when he humbly surrenders his life to God, and he begins to trust in the Person of Jesus Christ and in His work on the cross in order to make it to Heaven. This is the moment that God changes the person’s heart and his desires, and He gives him a new life. This is the moment that he is “born again.”

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  7. Russell

    Jonathon,

    Got it? A person is justified when he first believes; when he comes to the realization that he is a sinner who is spiritually bankrupt and is on his way to Hell. It is when he humbly surrenders his life to God, and he begins to trust in the Person of Jesus Christ and in His work on the cross in order to make it to Heaven. This is the moment that God changes the person’s heart and his desires, and He gives him a new life. This is the moment that he is “born again.”

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  8. Anonymous,

    Two questions.

    1) Is this Jonathon? And

    2) Why do you ask, "Got it?" and then repeat verbatim what I had just said earlier? What's your point?

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  9. Yup.... It's me!

    My point was to just be funny...sorry.....

    Johnathon

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  10. Hi Russell,

    Do you believe that a true, born-again Christian can be assured of his or her eternal salvation?

    Jesse

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  11. Hello again Jesse,

    Great to hear from you. Thanks for the question.

    To answer, I believe that, on the one hand, a true Christian can indeed lose his salvation. There is way too much Scripture that tells us that this is the case, so we can’t deny this fact. But this doesn’t mean that we have to go around wringing our hands, torturing and worrying ourselves sick, wondering if we will make it into the Kingdom of God, or wondering if we are “the elect.” On the other hand, we should not be over-confident and arrogant about our right standing with God either (like I’ve seen many people do), since God hates pride.

    It is really very simple. We can KNOW that we are saved by the fact that God has indeed changed our lives and our hearts, BUT it is ONLY because of our trusting in Him and in His work. If we had to perform works to merit our salvation, then we would ALWAYS be questioning whether we had done enough.

    So yes, we can indeed be assured of our salvation… as long as our faith / trust is in the right object… Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. This faith pertains not only to our justification, but also our sanctification (Galatians 3:3). The same One that saves us by faith, KEEPS us through faith.

    Thanks again Jesse, and God bless.

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    Replies
    1. Hello again Russell,

      It has been awhile since I talked to you. I hope everything is going fine for you.

      You said, "On the other hand, we should not be over-confident and arrogant about our right standing with God either (like I’ve seen many people do), since God hates pride."

      Yes! Did not the Apostle Paul repeatedly warn us about boasting about our works (Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5, Romans 3:27-28)? This is absolutely fatal to a works-based salvation! I am so glad that I found someone who is on the scriptural side of this.

      I certainly agree with you on the fact that eternal security is a false and unscriptural doctrine. I am glad that you are on the biblical side of this! This gives witness to the clear testimony of Scriptural instruction and is deadly to Calvinism! After all, if Christians could NEVER lose their salvation, then the numerous Scripture passages warning us about Satan, eternal damnation in hell, the final judgment, evil teachers who will deceive many, and future heresies would simply be redundant. So, we can indeed be assured of our salvation as long as we do not fall away from the faith (John 3:16, 1John 5:13, 1 John 2:25, etc.).

      I have a question regarding a Scripture reference. Opponents of Sola Fide usually quote Matthew 7:21 as "evidence" of a works-based salvation. Could you give some assistance interpreting this passage?

      Thanks,
      Jesse

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  12. Hi Jesse,

    Concerning Matthew 7:21, which says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven.”:

    First, we need to ask, what is the CONTEXT of this passage? Notice that it is NOT “how to get saved,” or “how to be justified,” or “how to get right with God.” The key is in verse 16, and it is repeated in verse 20: “You will know them by their fruits.” The context is about the EVIDENCE or the DEMONSTRATION of one’s faith. In other words, is he living like a Christian should, and does he have the fruit of the Spirit?

    Yes, those who do the will of the Father are the category of people who will be in Heaven, that’s true. But it is not the doing of good works that CAUSES one’s salvation (although good works are part of the Father’s will). People just read that into this context.

    Verse 22 demonstrates that they were indeed trusting in their works, since they are asking, “Did we not prophesy… cast out demons… perform many miracles?” Apparently, they had actually done these “great” things, but their hearts were not right, most probably because of the object of their trust (i.e., their works).

    Jesse, it is pretty much the same in the great majority of the verses that Catholics (and others) use to try and justify the “faith plus works for salvation” teaching. Always check the context.

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  13. Hello Russell,

    It has been awhile since we have talked.

    Would you use 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 as a supportive text for Sola Fide? Also, notice verse 19,which says,"that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, NOT COUNTING PEOPLE"S SINS AGAINST THEM. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." I would honestly appreciate your comments on this passage.

    I thought that it would be good to show you some Scripture passages that I leaned from personal Bible study. They clearly demonstrate that justification is apart from meritorious works. Some of these verses would include John 5:24, Galatians 3:24-26, Galatians 5:4-5, and Philippians 3:9. Do you think that these are solid proof-texts?

    I just thought that it would be a good idea to pay you a "visit". Thanks!

    Jesse

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  14. Hello Jesse,

    Thanks for “visiting”!

    2 Corinthians 5:18-21 is a great passage about what Jesus accomplished on the cross and how we can participate in His ministry toward others (sharing the gospel). But our Catholic friends would be quick to point out that there is nothing about faith ALONE in this passage. Remember what I said previously?

    Although, I did find an interesting point in 5:16, which says, “…even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” Someone could possibly use this verse to make a case against the Eucharist, since Catholics claim that Jesus is (supposedly) present IN THE FLESH in the Eucharist.

    The other four passages you mentioned, I believe, are excellent supporting verses for Sola Fide (Faith Alone), but context must be emphasized in order to make the point.

    God bless and keep on studying! The more you study, the more God will show you.

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    Replies
    1. Hello Russell,

      Thanks for clarifying the meaning behind the 2 Corinthians passage and the additional information concerning the Catholic Eucharist. I will use it to the best of my ability.

      Do you think that 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 could be used to supplement 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 as a Sola Fide proof-text?

      One more thing, would you know of any more Scripture texts demonstrating salvation by faith apart from meritorious works? What about Romans 10:9-13?

      Thanks,
      Jesse

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  15. Hi Jesse,

    You asked about 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 supplementing 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. I suppose that they can go together, but I feel like I’m having to keep repeating myself. There are tons of verses on any particular topic that can be used together. It’s impossible to list them all. Just remember that all Scripture is interrelated, it just depends on CONTEXT. And, as I said before, when discussing verses on “Faith Alone,” we need to give special attention to verses that emphasize the ALONE aspect of the verse, or the verses that specifically mention things like “apart from works” or “without works.”

    And yes, I believe that Romans 10:9-13 is a good supporting verse, as well.

    I think that I already mentioned to you the verses that I feel are the strongest in supporting the doctrine of “Faith Alone”: Romans chapters 3, 4 and 5; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-10; Acts 16:30-31; Galatians chapters 1, 2, and 3; Romans 11:6; Luke 18:9-14; 23:40-43; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; Philippians 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:9. There are possibly some others, but I feel that these are the best.

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  16. Hello Russell,

    How would you respond to an "eternal security believer" who claims that denying such is a works-based salvation?

    Jesse

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  17. Jesse,

    By “eternal security believer,” I’m assuming you mean a person who believes in “once saved, always saved,” right?

    For the record, we do believe in eternal security for the person who maintains their FAITH (and lives accordingly), but there is way too much Scripture that warns BELIEVERS of losing their position in Christ, to believe in “once saved, always saved.”

    But, I’m not quite sure how they can accuse us of a works-based salvation. Can you please elaborate?

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  18. Hello Russell,

    You said,"By “eternal security believer,” I’m assuming you mean a person who believes in “once saved, always saved,” right?"

    That's correct!

    You asked me to explain what I meant when I asked a question. This is how CARM.org explains this alleged objection to our position:

    "We could, on the other hand, raise an important objection to conditional security. If it is possible for a person to lose his salvation, then we have to ask if that person is keeping his salvation by his good behavior--whether by being good or by being faithful. This is important because the Scriptures teach us that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone so that "being good" cannot be part of keeping salvation. It is the result of it--not its cause nor the glue that keeps salvation in place."

    If you wish to read more on the subject, then see this article:

    https://carm.org/why-should-carm-write-about-eternal-security

    The above reference in quotations came from the provided link. CARM is an apologetics organization that is ran by Matthew Slick and believes in Calvinism. Thus, we can see why the website is dedicated to defending eternal security! Moreover, even Heretic David J. Steward makes this lame accusation. Do you find any of this strange?

    Do you understand my question now? I hope that this helps.

    Thanks,
    Jesse




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  19. Hello Jesse,

    Thanks for clarifying your question.

    I like the C.A.R.M. website. It has a lot of great articles, but unfortunately, Matt Slick seems to lean toward Calvinism. Without getting into the Calvinism aspect too far though, here is what I would say about your question.

    In Matt’s quote, he said that “If it is possible for a person to lose his salvation, then we have to ask if that person is keeping his salvation by his good behavior – whether by being good or by being faithful.”

    I’ve heard this response before, but we are saying that a person can indeed lose his salvation, but this is because of the STATE OF HIS HEART, not primarily because of his ACTIONS. His actions are just a symptom of the state of his heart. While it is true that “being good” can’t save you, Paul clearly tells us that not only is salvation (justification) received by FAITH, so is our sanctification received by FAITH:

    Galatians 3:1-3:

    “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

    In other words, Paul is telling them that they got saved (justified) by faith, and they (by the same Spirit) are also being sanctified in the SAME way: by FAITH! There is no room for bragging. You REMAIN in the Kingdom of God in the same way that you entered: by FAITH. You don’t get saved by faith, and then become sanctified by your WORKS. If we did, then we could boast. Paul is rebuking them for thinking that they can be matured / sanctified by their works / efforts / their upholding of the Law. He stresses FAITH throughout the Christian life.

    But to answer Matt’s question, I would say, yes, we do have to make choices, we do have to maintain our faith. It IS up to the individual to choose to follow God, because this is very clear throughout all of Scripture. If we maintain our faith, it is not because we are “better” than others or “smarter” than others. It is not an opportunity to boast. Our faith to become saved is not something we can brag about. It is an admission of our inability to meet God’s perfect standard.

    But God tells us that we MUST choose to follow Him, and we do it through faith in His work on the cross. That’s all we have, but it’s all we need!

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