Deep within the soul of every expositor, there must reside an unwavering commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the cultural currents of the day, he must be persuaded that faith in Jesus Christ alone is the only way of salvation. From Genesis to Revelation, the whole Scripture speaks with one voice. Simply put, there is not one drop of saving grace outside the One who hung upon the cruel cross, bearing the sins of sinners.
To be wrong at this critical point is to be wrong everywhere else that matters. To be wrong here is to violate the saving mission and sin-bearing death of Jesus Christ. To be wrong here is to contradict the meaning of the substitutionary bodily death and resurrection of Christ. To be wrong here is to divert souls from the way that leads to God. To be wrong here is to pave the broad path that leads to eternal destruction.
The very essence of the gospel itself demands exclusivity. When the purity of the gospel is rightly defined, the singularity of the gospel is automatically established. The Bible has a “zero tolerance” policy for any equivocation outside of this singular message. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone—period, end of paragraph, end of discussion.
This truth, of course, cuts against the grain of the spirit of this age. In this present postmodern hour, tolerance is the new virtue. An acceptance of every opinion about religion and morality is to be commended. Thus, we find ourselves in a postmodern culture in which there are no moral absolutes. Many roads lead to God, we are told. In the maze of worldviews today, every world philosophy has some piece of the truth to contribute to the larger body of knowledge for the world community.
This idea may look attractive to some. But its appeal is based on its accuracy, and it certainly is not accurate. To the contrary, the Scripture is adamant that truth is absolute and that the Jesus is the only way to heaven.
The truth of the gospel desperately needs to be guarded. So-called efforts to contextualize the gospel often result in its disappearance. In many cases, the issue is not what is being said from the pulpit, but what is not said. A gospel message that does not present Jesus as the only way is not a gospel message. The exclusive nature of the Christian gospel must be proclaimed with conviction and clarity. There is no other way.
The apostle Paul addresses this very issue of the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ in his letter to the Galatians. In the churches of this region, the gospel had come under siege. The message of salvation had been conflated with another gospel, which is, Paul says, no gospel at all. The gospel of grace had come under attack and was no longer being preached as Paul had delivered it.
Within the churches of Galatia, false teachers known as Judaizers were mixing law with grace and works with faith. These defilers of the gospel claimed that salvation must be earned by keeping the law and that sanctification was achieved through the works of the flesh. These perverters of the truth sought to change the good news: salvation was not a gift for the guilty, but a reward for the righteous.
In light of these distortions, the apostle Paul could no longer remain quiet. He penned this fiery epistle to the Galatians in order to fight the noblest fight any preacher could undertake. Paul fought for the hard-and-fast truth that salvation comes through the grace of God alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
In these opening verses, Paul minces no words. He breathes holy fire. He tells all perverters of the gospel they are going to hell. He is shocked with the Galatians, who have so quickly been duped by these false teachers. Paul must speak directly to the believers in Galatia and confront this present danger at hand. He does not try to win the Galatians over by emphasizing the overlap between the gospel of Christ and this “different gospel” (v. 6). Instead, he goes straight to the heart of the matter: this gospel is a false one.
Such words need to be heard today by every man who stands before an open Bible to proclaim its truths. The gospel is not subject to the whims of other voices. Those who think so are, in Paul’s words, “accursed.” This is all the more reason to be sure that the whole gospel of Christ—including its exclusive nature—is proclaimed to those who are straying.
Steven J. Lawson is the President of OnePassion Ministries. Dr. Lawson is also the Professor of Preaching at The Master’s Seminary and Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries. The author of numerous books and articles, the latest of which is The Daring Mission of William Tyndale.