The Departure From Paul’s Message
Pastor Cornelius R. Stam
THE RESULTS OF DISOBEDIENCE
The Church, even the true Church of believers in Christ, is doubtless larger today than it has ever been. Yet it is weak and sick, confused and divided.
Many feel that the causes of the Church’s low spiritual state are: failure to live separated lives, lack of prayer, indifference toward the lost, etc. These, however, are the effects, not the causes. The cause is the Church’s departure from God’s message and program for our day, as revealed through the writings of the Apostle Paul. There lies the root of the trouble, though few as yet recognize or acknowledge it.
With Israel it was the departure from Moses’ law that constantly got her into trouble; with us it has been the departure from Pauline truth. For, remember, as surely as the dispensation of the Law was committed to Moses, so surely was the dispensation of Grace committed to Paul (Eph. 3:1-3), and those who have lapsed or backslidden from his day to ours, have done so, not so much by departing from the Word of God in general as by departing from the Word of God through Paul in particular.
Toward the close of his life Moses urged the people of Israel not to take the riches of Canaan for granted. Indeed, he warned them that if they did this they would soon “utterly perish from off the land” which they had gone to possess, and would be scattered among the heathen.
Likewise Paul, also, warned believers that they would lose the blessings intended for them if they departed from the truth and the program made known to them. Some, indeed, had already begun to depart, and the loss of blessing had become evident. The Galatians are a striking example of this and a lesson to us.
How they had rejoiced when Paul first came to them with “the preaching of the cross” and “the gospel of the grace of God”! As they heard him preach, and noted the difficulty, and perhaps pain, he experienced with his eyes, one said to another: “I wish I could give him my eyes! I would gladly do without them. He needs his sight so badly, and think of the joy and blessing he has brought to us!”
Soon after his departure, however, they were taken in by the Judaizers who “zealously affected [courted]” them to draw them away from Paul and his message (Gal. 4:17). And now Paul had to write them:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (1:6).
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched [charmed] you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently [plainly] set forth, crucified among you?” (3:1).
“WHERE IS THEN THE BLESSEDNESS YE SPAKE OF? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me” (Gal. 4:15).
Gone was the blessedness! Those who had rejoiced so greatly in the riches of God’s grace proclaimed by Paul, had now turned back to Moses and the Law.
In Paul’s epistles we find both the tendency on the part of believers to depart from the path of blessing and God’s diagnosis of the particular cause of the trouble. In every case the cause is rebellion against Paul’s God-given authority and departure from his God-given message and program.