There is a fake unity in the term “Christian” that affects society more than most people ever realize. The truth is, every single one of us in a “blank” Christian. We have specific affiliations that give us the tendency to snub some, look up to some, and seek to make others believe the way we think is right, and no other. The problem is that this specific ideology is wrong, creates far more division, and it often stems from the “traditions of men” that Jesus so often spoke out against.
What we should actually be striving for is to be the New Testament Church we were meant to be. Paul reminded his audience that if anyone were to preach another gospel than the one they had preached, even if that preacher happened to be an angel, to let them be 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)
The Greek word for “accursed” used in these verses is “anathema” (Strong’s G331), which means, interestingly enough, a ban of religious proportions or a concrete excommunication. In other words, let that person who preaches another gospel be cast out, banned from your presence, cut off.
Paul Offers Strong Words
Strong words? Absolutely. But then, they had to be. They were facing great turmoil. Remember, the religious leaders wanted to degrade, in any way possible, the story of the resurrection of Jesus, even though they had seen it happen! It’s one thing to deny Jesus, having never heard the Good News. It’s quite another to allow the miraculous to pass before your eyes and continue to harden your heart against Him. Matthew 28 tells the story clearly.”
Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (Matthew 18:11-15)
There is always, always a danger in doing as we are “taught,” especially if the teaching doesn’t come straight from the Words of the Holy Spirit or one commissioned by Him. So though Paul’s words may seem harsh to us now, they were essential in those days. They faced great turmoil, even risked their lives, to preach the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To risk losing that original message that Jesus wanted to send forth was to risk the very foundations of the true church and the message of our Lord!
There’s a reason the book of Jude speaks out against those who “crept in” to create havoc in the Body.
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 3-6)
Jude pointed out that even those who had once been saved by the Lord were eventually lost due to unbelief. Even the angels, who lived and communed daily with God, were cast out when they were disobedient. So this message, this Gospel, that Paul defended so fervently, as did Jude, they defended because they KNEW that to stray from it meant eternal separation from God and eternal damnation for the soul. If they had preached the “reckless” and “abandoned” love of God that many churches stand on now, we might not even have a Bible translated into the English language, or the freedom to even express our faith!
Study the Word
There IS a right way, but there is also a wrong way. And while we are certainly not saved by works, a true relationship with Jesus makes you DESIRE to be holy, as He is holy, as Jesus told us to be. It makes us WANT to be in right-standing with Him. It is marked by a desire, as my mother use to call it, to BE “Christ-like.”
And there’s the big difference. We must KNOW the Word, as well as how to rightly divide it, in order to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Please know that we are never “just Christians.”