Thursday, April 10, 2014

Small Difference – Huge Distinction Part l

What was the point of Paul writing Galatians? Was Augustin, Calvin and Luther right, or are the “New Perspective on Paul” people closer to the truth? My conclusion is that the New Perspective people are definitely not right but, neither are many of those who have adopted the western view of Paul that was championed by Augustin and Luther. The title of this series speaks of nuance, and it seems that nuance is not something that evangelicals work well with. Especially those evangelicals that believe the bumper sticker which reads… “God said it – I believe it – and that settles it.”
The question that is raised is this; is this really what God said? This is the place that nuance comes into play. There is such a variety of evangelical doctrines that are often mutually exclusive. That alone should give pause to the bumper sticker crowd. With this in mind we will boldly move on into the discussion to identify the small difference that makes a huge distinction. What am I specifically speaking of here? The simple answer is the gospel.
Paul writes this in Galatians chapter one: Gal 1:6-9 “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, (7) which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  (8)  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  (9) As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” What were these different gospels?
In order to answer this question one has to read through Galatians’ chapters one and two. It becomes obvious in reading Galatians one and two that the different gospel demanded works of the law for justification. Galatians 2:21 states the most important factor in identifying the different and false gospel. It reads: Gal 2:21 “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” The attribute that identified the true gospel was this. Righteousness *does not* come through the law. That means that one is not made righteous or declared righteous by adhering to the law.
This is precisely why I am so confident that the gospel that is preached today by most evangelicals is a different gospel. While it is true that many, if not most would say that righteousness does not come through obedience to the law, their actual practice negates that statement. This is where the small difference with a huge distinction comes into play. Nuance is the key word that I would use to explain this. It is my hope that this will help us embrace the actual gospel that Paul states was revealed to him by Jesus Christ.
This is the point where many are going to say the word antinomian with an accusatory tone. Hold your horses and wait for this series to be completed. Understand this however; Righteousness does not come through the law.  We do not receive righteousness by our obedience to the law. This is different than Old Covenant righteousness, and that is why the New Perspective people are simply off base. Deu 6:25  “Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.” Old Covenant righteousness was connected with obedience to the commandments. Not so under the New Covenant and that is where nuance comes into play. This is the source of the small difference with a huge distinction.


  1. Hey Joe..
    Have you considered what Paul wrote to the holy ones in Galatia as a response to those judaizers sent by James to destroy the freedom in Christ?

    1. Hi Roger,
      You make the point that Luther originally made. I used to adhere to it but in my reading of the Greek NT Scriptures recently, I don't see James as a grace buzz kill as I once did :)

      What I have come to understand is that the NT scriptures were written during a transition period from Judaism (Old Covenant) to The New Jerusalem (New Covenant. During that time there was a Jew/Gentile distinction. The temple was still standing, the believing Jews were Torah observant, awaiting the destruction of the temple and God adjudicating between the Old Covenant unbelievers and the New Civenant believers.

      With that understanding James becomes very grace oriented with statements like "mercy triumphs over judgment" etc. Likewise, when James said be doers of the word and not hearers only he no doubt meant be doers of the gospel and not hearers only.

      As I move along in this series, I hope to show that true transformation and therefore true righteousness and holiness are brought about by peace with God Rom 5:1. Peace, Shalom, becomes very important in my paradigm shift. Shalom has a much more wholistic meaning than absence of strife. It includes, health, prosperity, serenity, hope deep trust etc.

    2. I must add that those who came from James were teaching an erroneous gospel to the Gentiles but I doubt that it was sanctioned by James. I think that the difference between James and Paul over justification was meant to only effect the Jewish believers prior to the destruction of the temple


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