Do We Teach Another Gospel?

September 26, 2007

What is required in order to be saved? Do churches of Christ add requirements to the pure gospel message? And if so, what are the implications of that? These significant questions are the topic of an online book by Jay Guin, a third generation elder in the churches of Christ.

My study has led me to a great many observations and conclusions, but there’s one conclusion that troubles me greatly, and I write this in hopes of being proved wrong. I know that’s an odd thing for an author of a religious book to say. Indeed, we church authors just about always write to prove ourselves right and our opponents wrong, but I find myself wishing to be wrong.

You see, I’m of the opinion that Galatians teaches, and teaches quite plainly, that adding any command to the gospel—that is, making any law beyond obedience to the gospel a requirement to be saved—causes one to fall from grace, indeed, to be alienated from Christ. If this is so, many within the Churches of Christ are in jeopardy of their souls, as it is nearly universal in the Churches of Christ to add commands to the gospel as further requirements to be saved.

Jay begins by providing biblical definitions of “gospel” and ‘faith”. Based on passages like Rom 10:9-11, Rom 10: 14-17, 1 Cor 1:17, 1 Cor 1:23-24, 1 Cor 15:1-6, 2 Cor 4:4-5, he establishes that the faith which saves us is faith in the gospel; and the gospel is the message about Jesus being the Son of God, dying on the cross for our sins, being raised again on the third day, and now reigning as our Lord. Those are the truths in which we must put our faith in order to be saved.

He then defines “works” based on Rom 11:6 (KJV), Gal 3:2, Rom 4:1-5, James 2:14-19, and Eph 2:8-10.
From these passages, he argues that “works” refers to anything done in an effort to earn salvation. According to the gospel, our salvation comes by grace through our faith and not from our works. However, if we are saved, that will result in us doing good works. In Jay’s own words:

Now the key is the direction of the arrow of causation. Works do not cause salvation; rather, salvation causes works. We can state this in terms of formal logic. The statement “If I do good works, then I will be saved” is false, because no one other than Jesus is capable of doing works that merit salvation (Rom. 3:23). On the other hand, the statement “If I am saved, then I will do good works” is true. Now, my logic professor at David Lipscomb taught me that any true statement can logically be “double reversed” into the “contrapositive,” and it will still be true: “If I don’t do good works, then I am not saved.” And this is precisely what James says.

Because we have been saved, we love God and we seek to please Him. We don’t merely “love” because it is commanded! And so our good works are a natural, willing and eager response to the grace we have received, because we love, because God loved us first. God’s requirements are written on our hearts through the Holy Spirit so that we want to do what is right.

Jay demonstrates that there are two things that are required to be saved: faith (in the gospel), and repentance (lordship). And there are two things that can remove us from our saved position: abandoning that faith (1 John 4:1-2), or abandoning repentance (Heb 10:26-31).

All this leads to his very important conclusion:

Therefore, I readily accept as saved those within the Churches of Christ who disagree with me on any number of issues. The Scriptures teach that salvation is determined by faith and penitence—not by being right on the fashionable theological issues of the day. I can be entirely penitent and yet disagree on what the Bible says on any number of subjects. Neither the age of the earth nor the scriptural grounds for a divorce are matters of faith, and thus being wrong on those subjects is not a salvation issue—provided that I’m penitent, meaning that I’m trying to honor God in my study and teaching.

Now there are several Scriptures that authorize expulsion of church members who behave divisively (e.g., Rom. 16:17; Tit. 3:10). But being in error is not by itself divisive—or else we’d all have to agree on every single point of doctrine and practice— and we don’t and can’t. Similarly, a church may disfellowship a member due to unrepented moral sin. But this is to shame him into repentance (2 Thes. 3:14-15) because an impenitent Christian is in jeopardy of his soul under Hebrews 10:26. But a Christian who disagrees with me on, say, the role of women is not thereby impenitent and hence not a subject for disfellowshipping.

Jay develops these ideas further by examining the concepts of faith, hope, and love, in contrast to law. He shows from the book of Galatians that whoever adds any legal requirements to the gospel falls from grace. He further develops this idea from Romans 14 – 15, concluding with the following comment on Rom 15:7

In short, and it’s quite unambiguous in the Greek, we must accept as fellow saved people all those who’ve met the terms that we had to meet when we were first saved. “Hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized” defines not only who becomes saved but whom we must treat as still saved. More precisely, someone who’s become a Christian and who remains true to his original faith and repentance is still a Christian, and we must treat him as such.

He then turns to the disturbing implications for legalists in the churches of Christ:

You see, in teaching that certain doctrines other than the gospel are essential to salvation, we’re effectively saying that to be saved, you not only must hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized, you must also join a congregation with a scriptural name, with a scriptural organization, and with a scriptural pattern of worship. Thus, if your home church has an elder who might not be properly qualified, or your church does something in worship that might lack authorization, you must change congregations or else lose your soul! I know Christians who have left their local congregation and take communion weekly at home rather than risk damnation by joining an unscriptural Church of Christ.

I fail to see how insisting on these rules as conditions to salvation is any different from insisting on circumcision as a condition to salvation. Either way, you’re insisting on obedience to a law in addition to the gospel.

Jay then offers a word of hope. Paul had not yet deemed the Galatians church as a whole to have fallen from grace — though he apparently felt that the false teachers had done so. So perhaps the churches of Christ are in no worse condition today. But Paul did address the Galatians with some of the most urgent warnings in scripture. They were in great danger of falling from grace. Adding requirements to the gospel is a perilous path.

There is much more to be gleaned from this online book. I heartily recommend it. May we all gain a better understanding of grace, faith, and the gospel of Christ!


  1. That’s why I always liked 1Thess 1:3We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.So there it is, faith hope and love, and the results of having each. (I also have always thought that this ‘trio’ of faith, hope and love was the manifestation of the Godhead in our lives)

  2. Sounds like he says exactly the same thing that I have been trying to say after a deep study of Galatians, only he says it much better.

  3. Alan,I think to teach another gospel would be to teach against the death, barrial, & ressurrection of Jesus. His divinity. The hope that we have. That is what I understand that statement to mean.

  4. Hi preacherman,That would certainly be preaching a different gospel. But in Galatians, those Paul accused of preaching “another gospel” were not denying the facts about Jesus. Instead they were adding a requirement (circumcision) to the gospel.

  5. Alan,Yes, thank you for wonderful point and wisdom of the text. I learn so much from you. Thank you so much brother. I greatly appeciate it. May we strive for Christian Unity! 🙂

  6. Alan, I am almost finished with “Do We Teach Another Gospel?” It is a gem. Although I started it reading it as an affirmation of my own thinking, it did challenge me. What am I looking for in salvation issues? How quick am I to label and cause division? What of the dangers of patternism? Thanks for the link to this great book and an opportunity to enjoy God’s grace for myself and extend it to others.

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