By Li Qiang
Thesays, “I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of to another : Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6–8).
To those of us who believe in the Lord, these verses of Scripture should be very familiar. Especially in recent years, pastors and elders have often expounded on these verses, warning us to keep the’ name and keep His way, and that we must not go listen to any other sermon, much less accept any gospel preached by anyone else lest we commit apostasy and be cursed by God. Having believed in the Lord for years, I always adhered to these verses and listened to what the pastors and elders said. Even when I heard that many were testifying that the Lord had returned already, I still didn’t dare to go listen to their sermons, or seek and investigate this way, afraid that by listening to “another gospel” I would be betraying the Lord. But my church was now becoming more and more desolate, my life was not being provided for by any gathering or sermon given by the pastors and elders, and more and more brothers and sisters were following worldly trends and going off in pursuit of riches and fame, and even turning our gatherings into places of commerce, where connections could be made. My spirit had withered, I felt no inspiration when I read the Bible and I got no enjoyment from attending my church gatherings. Did my stubborn clinging to my church really accord with ? I prayed to the Lord about this many times, asking Him to enlighten and guide me, and to show me the path of practice.
One day, Mu Dao, an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, came back from another place where he had been working and preaching, and we talked about our understanding of the verses 6–8 in chapter one of Galatians. I said, “The pastors and elders often expound on these verses to us, and they say that we are now in the last days, and that the Lord Jesus will soon return for us. They say that, at this crucial time, there are many around who are preaching heresy and false ways, and that we must stick to our church and not go seeking and investigating other ways, for if we did that, we would end up following another gospel and would betray the Lord. I’ve clung to this idea for years too, and even though I’ve heard people testifying that the Lord has returned, I haven’t dared to seek this way because I’ve been influenced by this view. I keep clinging to what the pastors and elders say, so how come I feel like my spirit is getting darker and darker? I feel so confused and I don’t know whether doing this accords with God’s will or not. The pastors and elders also take their quotes from the Bible, however, and so I really can’t figure this matter out. What do you think of it?”
After listening to me speak, Mu Dao gave me fellowship, saying, “The quotes used by pastors and elders are what Paul says in the Bible. The things Paul said were not wrong in the Age of Grace, but if quotes are taken out of context from the Bible and used indiscriminately, then they are apt to misguide us! Actually, there was a background to what Paul said. At that time, the Lord Jesus’ gospel was spreading like wildfire, and many in Galatia accepted the Lord’s new work and they set up churches. It was then a period of transition between the Age of Law and the Age of Grace, and amongst the Jews of the time, there were two groups who spread the gospel: One group preached the old work of the Age of Law, enjoining people to observe the law of Jehovah and to be circumcised, keep the Sabbath and go to the temple, and so on; the other group (which primarily consisted of the 12 disciples of Jesus) preached the new work of the Age of Grace, and they enjoined people to accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior, to act in accordance with the Lord’s requirements, to confess and repent, to be baptized, to love each other and show each other tolerance and patience, and so on. The Pharisees who clung to the law of the Old Testament stated that the gospel preached by the Lord Jesus’ disciples was entirely different from what they themselves preached, and they said that the Lord Jesus’ way went beyond the Old Testament. They therefore refused to accept the Lord Jesus’ new work, and furthermore they tried to disrupt those who accepted the salvation of the Lord on the cross. At that time, because he had become so busy with his work, Paul left the Galatian churches, and those who preached the law of the Old Testament took advantage of this opportunity and moved into the Galatian churches to disrupt the believers there. In the end, because the Galatians at that time were without discernment, they departed from the Lord Jesus’ gospel and they began to follow the gospel that preached the law. After he found out about this, Paul wrote the Galatian churches, saying, ‘I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed’ (Galatians 1:6–8). By writing the churches, Paul exhorted the Galatians to return to the true way.
“Paul also said, ‘O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyeshas been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received you the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?’ (Galatians 3:1–2). From this, we can clearly see that the words ‘another gospel’ spoken by Paul meant the gospel that asked people to adhere to the law, and it was a warning to the people of that time that, in the Age of Grace, only by accepting the gospel of the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption could they , and it had nothing to do with whether or not we now go out to listen to other sermons or seek and investigate other ways. Besides this, Paul was just an apostle who preached the gospel in the Age of Grace; he was no prophet and no seer. This letter he wrote was aimed solely at the issues existing in the Galatian churches at that time, and it was written to exhort them and encourage them. If we were to take Paul’s exhortations and apply them wholesale to the last days, believing that we cannot listen to any way preached by anyone else and cannot go seeking or investigating any other way, wouldn’t we be just blindly following rules?”
Mu Dao’s words made me feel like I had woken from a dream. “Yes,” I thought. “There was a background to what Paul said, and his words were aimed solely at the Galatian churches in the Age of Grace. Paul was no prophet and he could not foresee what would happen in the future, so how could I take words spoken by Paul two thousand years ago and cling to them today? How could I be so foolish!” Thinking of this, I said, a little embarrassed, “You’re right. I never sought or looked into the background to these things Paul says in the Bible, but instead I just believed blindly in the expositions of the pastors and elders, and my understanding has been really off the mark.”
Mu Dao went on: “You mustn’t do that. Now, we are in the last days and this is the crucial time of the Lord’s return. We must base our approach to the Lord’s coming on His words, and not just blindly believe what other people say, or else we will miss our chance to welcome the Lord’s coming, and our faith in the Lord for all these years will have been in vain. I’ve been thinking over the past few days, and in Revelation it says: ‘And I saw another angel fly in the middle of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people’ (Revelation 14:6). It says here that there will be an everlasting gospel that is preached to all nations and peoples, so is this saying that someone will come preach the gospel to us in the last days?”
My mind felt like it had been suddenly enlightened, and I said excitedly to Mu Dao, “Now that you mention it, I’m reminded of the First Epistle of Peter 1:5: ‘Who are kept by the power of God through faith to salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.’ Is this saying that the Lord will come again in the last days and reveal His salvation to us?”
Mu Dao pondered this for a while, and said, “Very possibly. What’s more, this salvation will be preached to us through people, perhaps exactly like when the Lord Jesus’ disciples preached His gospel two thousand years ago.”
“Wow, so in that case my constant clinging to my church and not accepting any other gospel is the wrong way to practice and, by doing that, it’s highly probable that I’m closing my door against the Lord’s salvation in the last days! So what should we do now?” I asked in earnest.
“I think we should go seek the appearance and work of the Lord in the last days. When we hear someone testifying to the Lord’s salvation in the last days, we should hurry to seek and investigate it. Concerning the matter of welcoming the Lord’s coming, Jesus said very clearly: ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6). ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:20). ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me’ (John 10:27). From this, we can see that we should pay great care and attention to listening to the voice of God, and the moment we hear someone testifying that the Bridegroom has come, we should hurry out to meet Him!” Mu Dao flipped through the Bible and showed me these verses.
I cheerfully nodded in agreement as I read, and I said, “We really must take heed to listen to God’s voice, for only proactive seeking and investigating accords with God’s will! In the future, if someone spreads the gospel of the Lord’s return to me, I must not cling to those things Paul said and not heed, or investigate this way!” Just then, the sun shone through the dark clouds, and my heart soared.