“Not According to Man”
The Divine source of the gospel of Christ

By Jon W. Quinn

Do you think that our nation's constitution is a "living document"? By this it is meant that it's laws are subject to redefinition according to changes in prevailing cultural attitudes. Some believe hat the constitution needs to be re-interpreted every generation. They say that what the original framers meant by the words they chose is not necessarily the meaning we should give those words today. Others are more strict than that, suggesting if we allow redefinitions then we will put our security and liberties at risk.

The U.S. Constitution, as wonderful as it is, is no doubt one of the better documents men have written, but it is still just that; a document of man. The Bible, and specifically the gospel of Jesus Christ, is something more than that. It comes not from mere man but from God, the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12).

Whatever argument we may use concerning the constitution is not applicable to the gospel. It is not subject to redefinition or amendment by man due to prevailing cultural attitudes because it is not "according to man" to begin with. In fact, that very point is made by Paul earlier in the chapter, and it still needs to be heard today because many would still, today, like to redefine the gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ
There are characteristics of the Gospel that are peculiar to it, setting it apart from all writings of men.
The gospel was revealed by God (Ephesians 1:7-9; 3:3-4).

It is a gospel of reconciliation and peace with God (Ephesians 6:15; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

The gospel is the power of God to save (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18)

The gospel gives us a foundation upon which to live (Romans 16:25; Acts 20:32)

The gospel tells of the promises of God (Ephesians 3:6; 1 John 2:25).

The gospel is the truth of God (Colossians 1:5; John 17:17)

Changing the Gospel
It simply is not man's place to alter the gospel. It is not within the scope of man's responsibility or rights.

In the first century, some attempted to alter the gospel so as to make requirements of Gentile believers to keep portions of the Law of Moses to be justified by Law and not by grace (Galatians 2:16). Then, in other places, it was altering the gospel to make grace a license to sin (Jude 4). Today, there are similar efforts to alter the gospel with the additions of religious creeds of man and/or altering or even denying the moral precepts of the gospel suggesting they no longer apply. Some even claim to be Christians but deny that Jesus is the only way to the Father as he said He was (John 14:6) or that we are divinely limited in who may divorce (Matthew 19:4,5) or whether homosexual practice constitutes sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Another Gospel, Or the Gospel Distorted?

Paul mentions both other gospels as well as a distorted gospel. The end result of both is the same-the displeasure of God (Galatians 1:6,7).

Paul had worked tirelessly to instruct the Galatians and others in the pure gospel for their salvation. Changing the gospel could/would render all that effort in their behalf vain (Galatians 4:9-11). They would become enslaved again (Galatians 5:1). They would be fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4). They would be hindered from obeying the truth (Galatians 5:7). In fact, these things had already occurred with some of them!

Understand this important point: These who had distorted the gospel were still mentioning Jesus in their teachings. They were not denying the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). One can still render the gospel vain without such a denial. The Galatians had done so.

Also, there is a difference between being faithful to the gospel and being perfect. (Men, are you a faithful husband? Are you a perfect husband? See? There is a difference!) These people were not condemned for being less than perfect while trying to live by the gospel, but rather for looking to a different, or distorted gospel for their justification.

We might also look at who God specifically prohibits from changing the gospel (see Galatians 1:8,9).

"We" - This would be Paul and the apostles or Paul and his associates. An apostle was not permitted to change what was given to him by revelation (John 14:26). What would happen if an apostle acted in a way contrary to what he had received by revelation? He would stand condemned unless she repented! (Acts 10:34-35; Galatians 2:11; 14).

"An angel" - This may be somewhat hypothetical, but I have met and talked with people who thought an angel had communicated something to them different from what is written in the gospel. In fact, whole religions have been founded on such alleged occurrences. So, even if it happened, what do we do with such an event? We recognize that the messenger is "accursed" ("anathema" - he has incurred the disfavor of God) (REV 22:17-19).

"Any man" ("whoever") - teaching a different gospel is accursed - has incurred God's disfavor.

The gospel is not a "living document" in the sense that it is subject to change, but it is in that it imparts life in a practical and eternal sense. This is one of the reasons that we seek to know the definitions of Bible words as they were defined when revealed by the Lord and written down to eventually form the pages of the New Testament. It is the revelation of Almighty God. It does not need to be changed from what it is; it needs to be received into the heart as it is.

From The Bradley Banner 11/1/2009
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway

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