Proximity And Heresy
By Pastor Tony Butler
“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.
Even if we, or an angel from heaven
Preach any other gospel to you
Let him be accursed.
The heresy that Paul was addressing to the Galatian church was their beginning to turn away from justification by faith to justification by works law, namely the circumcision of Moses in order to be saved. Paul warns them that this turning away to another gospel (which really wasn’t another gospel, but a heresy) would bring the anathema of God to any who would pervert the true gospel, which is that a man is saved, forgiven, and declared righteous by faith, alone (Gal. 2:16-21; 3:2, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 14).
The key to understand why the Galatians were beginning to accept the teachings of heresy is in the introductory verses. Somehow, they had begun to distance themselves from Christ. When we begin to distance ourselves from Christ, Who is the Truth, then we open ourselves for deception. Remember the Prodigal son of whom the Scriptures say “went into a far country,” far from his father, his moral moorings and spiritual foundations. In this far country, he spent his inheritance on riotous living. In the end, he repented and came back home where he belonged.
In these last days, God’s people are often removing themselves from close proximity to Jesus, in direct disregard of the Scriptures which state, “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” We are often like a chorus of a song I know that says, “The truth is right in front of me, but I turn and walk away, looking for the answers.”
Because God’s people are often not in close proximity to Jesus, we are allowing sins and heresies in our midst that would not normally be there. We have often exchanged the truth for our selfish pursuits, and have allowed the deception of Satan to challenge the eternal truths of Scripture by replacing them with our vain opinions.
One of the greatest results of our distancing from Christ is allowing the teachings of heretics, and accepting them as brothers, all on the basis of commonality of doctrine. The false brethren that taught “Jesus, plus circumcision for salvation” are no different than those who teach “Jesus, plus Baptism,” “Jesus, plus a denomination,” “Jesus, plus the church, confession and communion,” “Jesus, plus anything or anyone.” Paul taught plainly in Ephesians 1:3, that everything of God is ours in Christ. He, Himself, is sufficient to save. He is received, and the Spirit is given by faith, and faith, alone. The false brethren of Gal. 2:4 believed in the Trinity and the resurrection, but that did not save them. They never came to God in the right way, and were telling the Galatians that faith in Jesus, Alone, could not save them. Not only were these false teachers, souls accursed of God, but also all who received their message.
These false teachers can penetrate into the true body of believers, as evidenced in the book of Galatians; but they can be and should be exposed for what they are – false brethren or heretics. When I went to Promise Keepers, I was amazed that as I was asked by their leaders to go find a member of a particular false group that preaches works for salvation, or Jesus plus, and ask his forgiveness for my condemnations of him. The truth is that those who ask us to go to them ought, themselves, to cry out in repentance to God, because they have been duped by a lie, and ask the Body of Christ for forgiveness.
All that Christ has for us can only be received by faith on the basis of Christ’s grace, and His Word (Gal. 3:2, 5). Commonality of doctrine can’t save us or unite us. Ecumenism is a lie that compromises the truth of Christ. We are not one because we believe the same essential doctrines, but we are one because by faith we trusted in Christ, Alone, for salvation (Eph. 2:8, 9; Gal. 3:26).
It is utter blasphemy to look at the One Who took our place on the cross, and say to him, “What You did wasn’t enough, I must add to it.” Precious reader, that will bring the curse of God on your life. Come to Jesus by faith, alone, and let your works be born out of a heart of love, because you are saved not to be saved. The further you get from Christ, the more you depend on your own works. Stay close to Jesus, and you’ll always find Him sufficient.