I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: it is astounding just how radical, even revolutionary the Christian Bible is. But that said, when we come to see how radical, even revolutionary the Master was, and is, we cannot be surprised.
Take for example in one of his high profile exchanges with the religious leaders of his day that’s recorded for us in Matthew 23: ‘What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either... you are like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but filled with dead men’s bones and all sorts of impurity’.’
He didn’t miss and hit the wall, did he?
I also think of the writings of the great apostle Paul, maybe not quite as outspoken, but just as misunderstood by those who pretend to preach the gospel of grace.
For example, in halls and churches up and down the land you will hear the frequent refrain: ‘You must obey every regulation in the whole Law of Moses’, but the words are taken so out of context that they miss the point. In fact, the great man meant the exact opposite.
And sadly, most church goers trot into the sanctuary every week, listen to what the preacher says, and it never seems to dawn on them that it might be an idea to consult their Holy Book to see if what they heard was right!
What Paul was actually saying was this: ‘If you are trying to please God by keeping the law’, then you are required to ‘obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses’.
How’s that for preaching a different kind of gospel than the one he preached!
All that said, one of the most glaring examples of turning the gospel on its head is the great lie that by being rebellious, or wicked, we can fall from grace.
I was guest speaker at a men’s conference some years ago, and this was my chosen topic. The audience consisted mainly of ministers, pastors and seasoned believers.
Toward the end of one of the sessions I handed out a couple of prepared questions, one of which was: ‘How do you fall from grace?’
All the answers said much the same thing: we fall from grace by sliding back into our former ungodly way of life.
Now, can you imagine the response when at the beginning of the next session I revisited the question I had posed at the close of the previous one: ‘How do we fall from grace?’
I said. ‘By being bad?’ and they all nodded wisely.
‘Well, the truth is that we fall from grace by trying to be good, or to be more precise, we fall from grace if we are trying to please God by being good!’ (Galatians 5:4).
Blasphemy! Infidel! was written all over their pious faces.
But let’s read what Paul actually did write: ‘If you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have fallen away from God’s grace. Not my words, but the words of the great apostle who is venerated by most of Christendom.
Doesn’t that underline just how secure in his family God’s people are?
Contact Adam by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org