The Bible provides repeated warnings about departing from the truth and the consequences that follow (Phil. 3:1-3; 2 Thes. 1:7-9; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Tim. 3:1-9). In modern times, few people seem to think these warning have little, if any, merit. However, this does not alter the fact that there is a real problem with men turning away from the truth.
Turning From God
Paul was astonished that the saints of Galatia turned away from the gospel so quickly (Gal. 1:6). The problem was accepting circumcision as necessary to salvation. Note, though, how Paul describes this doctrinal transgress.
“I marvel that you are turning away…from Him…” (Gal. 1:6).
This is why he stated later in the letter that being circumcised for salvation actually cut them off from Christ (Gal. 5:1-4). In other words, doctrinal error separates one from God. Put another way, doctrinal apostasy = apostasy from God.
These men were not denying the deity of Christ. They were not involved in immorality. They did not denounce the Church or promote idolatry. Rather, they transgressed in a doctrinal issue by adding to the gospel. In doing so, they “perverted” the gospel (Gal. 1:7).
When men add to the gospel today – or take from it – they pervert the gospel. For instance, adding instrumental music is a doctrinal error that cuts men off from Christ (cf. Col. 3:16). Adding women as pastors or preachers is turning away from the truth (1 Tim. 2:11, 12; 3:1-7). Yes, these are doctrinal issues. No, these do not involve one in an open rejection of the deity of Christ or His headship over the Church. They do, however, lead on into apostasy – a falling away from God.
The Real Trouble
Trouble comes with all such departures (Gal. 1:7). This trouble is the fault of those that fall away, not those remaining in the truth. The unfaithful will seek to blame the faithful for unrest, just as Ahab accused Elijah (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:17). They may cite attitudes or timing or any number of other things. However, we cannot allow this to distract us from the fact that error and those who accept it is the source of trouble, not truth and those that abide by it.
Because error brings trouble among brethren and cuts one off from God, we are to reject it no matter who brings it (Gal. 1:8, 9). Paul himself was not exempt from this, nor are the angels. This is too much for some people who put more stock in a created being than the eternal truth. Still, if we do not want to be severed from Christ and eternally damned, we will reject a perverted gospel.
Pure or Perverted?
To determine whether or not a message is pure or perverted, we must test the spirits (1 Jn. 4:1-6). This means comparing what men teach with what the gospel says. The Bereans did this when Paul preached among them and for this they are known as the “noble” or “fair minded” Bereans (Acts 17:11). If the message agrees with God’s word, then we are to accept it. If it does not, we are to reject it.
Still, some will resist claiming it is too hard to discern the truth. If that is so, then we are all doomed because we are set free by knowing the truth (Jn. 8:32). God has commanded us to know His will and assured us we can know it (Eph. 5:17; 3:3, 4). Thus, we can understand the truth and when something does not match up to it, we reject it.
There is not another gospel – only one. It is in the New Testament. Countless men have turned away from it and separated themselves from God. We do not have to go with them. Rather, as we learn the truth, using it as the standard and actively comparing what we hear and see to it, we will remain steadfast in the Lord.