Are You Preaching “Another” Gospel?

Philip P. Eapen


The Church is the new humanity that Christ created — a “new humanity in place of the two.” This truth is central to the Gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has survived various attacks from diverse quarters. Although persecution was employed to wipe out the Gospel and the Church, I am referring to attacks that attempted to alter the Gospel. Over the centuries, several people tried to change the Gospel. Although they appeared to succeed for a while, Providence ensured that the Gospel survived in its pristine glory.

The Apostles and elders of the early Church defended the Gospel against teachers of false doctrines. The “enemies” of the Gospel included the Judaizers, the Gnostics, the Docetists, the Arians, the Nestorians … the list is long. Each of these groups or persons attacked a vital aspect of the Gospel. Had they succeeded, the Gospel would have ceased to be the Gospel.

Today’s Christians may be super-cautious against human attempts to disfigure the Gospel. However, not many have noticed that an effort to undermine the Gospel has been around for several decades.

Today’s Christians may be super-cautious against human attempts to disfigure the Gospel. However, not many have noticed that an effort to undermine the Gospel has been around for several decades.

Jesus Christ and his atoning death, resurrection, and glorification are central truths of the Gospel. Evangelicals and Pentecostals are ever careful to uphold these truths. They know that the forgiveness of sins they received and the resurrection they hope for depend on the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, many tend to err by limiting the benefit of Jesus’ death and resurrection to “personal salvation.”

The Gospel is not just about “personal salvation.” It is about the Kingdom of God. In many Evangelical and Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches, we hear about “personal salvation.” So hardly anyone teaches about the Kingdom of God. This lack of appreciation for what Jesus Christ achieved for humanity at the corporate level has plagued the Church from the first century.

Jesus, through his atoning death and resurrection, made forgiveness available to repentant sinners. Through His death on a cross, Jesus defeated and disarmed the devil. What else did Christ achieve through his cross? Let’s hear it from the Apostle Paul:

“He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace.” Ephesians 2:15

“One new humanity” in place of “the two?” Yes, Christ created the new humanity through “his flesh,” through His death on the cross. The new humanity was to replace “the two” groups that existed until then. What exactly did the “one new humanity” make obsolete? The context makes it amply clear that the phrase “the two” refers to Jews and the rest of mankind. The former constituted the “people of God”, a covenant community, while the latter was “far away” from God. (Eph 2:13)

Jesus abolished this Jew-Gentile distinction through his death on a cross. He took repentant sinners from both groups and created a new humanity. This “new humanity” does not give rise to a third group in addition to the two – Jews and Gentiles – that existed until then. Instead, Paul says that Christ created a “new humanity in place of the two” or “out of the two.” This truth is central to the Gospel. Those who fail to understand this fail to understand the doctrine of the Church, which is the new humanity that Christ created.

What does this mean to us? God doesn’t see the world as divided into two groups—Jews and Gentiles. Instead, in God’s eyes, there are two new groups: the Church (the new humanity) and those outside the Church! All that matters now is whether a person is inside or outside this “new humanity.” Being a Jew does not afford any benefit in God’s sight today. Similarly, being a non-Jew does not result in a disadvantage. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross abolished the Jew-Gentile distinction.

The world is no longer divided into two groups—Jews and Gentiles. Instead, we have the Church and those outside the Church. All that matters now is whether a person is inside or outside this “new humanity.”

The Judaizers of the first century failed to understand this revolutionary change that Christ brought about at the corporate level. In their minds, they were stuck in the old paradigm, thinking that Jews were the “people of God” and that anyone who wished to get saved through Christ should first become a Jew!

The Apostle Paul wrote lengthy epistles (Romans and Galatians) to defend the Gospel against the claims of Judaizers. The Apostle John said this in a simple, straightforward manner. He explained that the privilege of being known as “children of God” went to those who received Jesus. Those who rejected the Savior lost the plot. The Jews, even though they were once “His own,” had rejected God’s Messiah.

He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children … – John 1:10-12.

The structure of Luke’s second book, Acts of the Apostles, reveals how God accepted all who believed in Christ. God gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to Jews, Samaritans, God-fearing Gentiles, and Gentiles. That’s why Acts records four Pentecost-style outpourings instead of just one outpouring. We find these four accounts in chapters 2, 8, 10, and 19.


We may not have Judaizers in our churches today, but we have people who think God has two sets of people on earth—the Jews and the Church. These Christians demand that we must support the Jews and their political ambitions in Palestine. They continue to believe that the Jews are God’s special people as if Christ’s death did not bring about any change in this regard.

If Christ’s death did not erase the Jew-Gentile distinction, how can we say Christ’s work created the new humanity – the Church? Peter referred to the Church as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (1 Peter 2:9). Isn’t it remarkable that Peter, a former Jew, used these special adjectives to describe the Church? The Old Testament used these terms exclusively for Israel. Peter used these terms to describe the Church.

Paul referred to the Church as the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16). At the time of the apostles, only a remnant of three tribes of Israel was left in Palestine—Judah, Benjamin, and Levi. Ten tribes of the northern kingdom, Israel, were lost to Assyrian captivity in 722 BC. Still, James referred to the Church as the “twelve tribes of Israel.” This indicates that the fullness of Israel is now found in the Church (James 1:1). Jesus had warned unbelieving Jews that the kingdom of God would “be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it” (Matt. 21:43). That “people” is the Church.

The teaching regarding the creation of the “new humanity” in Christ is central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The integrity of the Gospel will be compromised if we put one ethnic group on a pedestal or when we consider an unbelieving Jew to be part of God’s holy people. Those who uphold the old order, by considering the Jews as God’s special people, alongside the Church, are enemies of the Gospel. They are guilty of preaching a different gospel! Therefore, they are worthy of inheriting St. Paul’s double curse, as recorded in Galatians 1:8-9.

But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell!

May God grant us the wisdom to return to His Word.

Originally published in the newspaper ‘Praise The Almighty’ in August 2010.

 

 


About the author

Philip Eapen, an environmental scientist by training, devoted his life to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ ever since he realized that the world needs Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else. Apart from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Philip teaches Christians in order to equip them for service. He is supported by donations from readers; he also runs a small ‘tent-making’ business. Philip is married to Dr. Jessimol and they are blessed with three sons and a daughter.

Date: August 1, 2010

 

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