At times, change can be a good thing. I know it has been for me. Over a decade ago, I made a change and moved to the DFW metroplex. Growing up, I never thought I would live in Dallas, but when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I took the opportunity because I thought it would help me advance my career faster, but I also made the move because I felt like I needed a fresh start in order to work on my relationship with God.
While attending the University of Georgia, I was caught up in the party scene. That scene spilled over into my time living in Atlanta because a lot of my friends from college moved to Atlanta when they graduated. I even lived with the same roommate I lived with in college. Having all the same friends made it difficult to escape that scene. At times, I tried, but it wasn’t enough. I felt like I needed a fresh start in a new place with new friends. So, I moved to Dallas.
Moving wasn't the magic bullet I was looking for. You see, if we don’t deal with underlying sin, things aren’t really going to change. We end up falling back into what we were doing before. That's what happened to me. But having the mindset of starting afresh did cause me to get back into church, where I made new friends. God worked through those relationships to expose my underlying sin and to call me back to following Him. For me, changing cities provided to be a good thing.
But change isn’t always for the better. That’s especially true when it comes to the gospel. Why is that?
Why shouldn’t we change the gospel?
(1) Changing the gospel makes salvation impossible.
If we are forced to rely on our own works, we’ll never experience salvation.
When I was in college, I let my credit card get a little bit out of control. It wasn't anything too crazy, but it wasn’t something I could pay off while I was in college. I worked part-time at a climbing wall. It was a fun job, but it didn’t pay a lot, so I ended up graduating college with some debt. I didn’t keep that debt for long, though. After I got my first job out of college, I paid it off quickly.
We often think of salvation in the same way - like it’s a debt we have to work off by doing good works. If we do enough good works, God will forgive us and we will experience eternal life. But that’s not how it works. God doesn’t accept our works as payment towards our debt. He only accepts the work of Jesus on our behalf.
Paul makes this clear in Galatians 1 when he writes: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father...” (Gal. 1:3–4).
You see, it was Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf that gave us peace. It was His sacrifice that delivered us, not our works. That’s the case because that’s how God designed it. Notice that Paul says that this is “according to the will of our God and Father.” Since God doesn’t change, the payment He requires doesn’t change. So, if we change the gospel to a works-based system of salvation, we make salvation impossible because God doesn’t accept our work as payment towards our debt.
(2) Changing the gospel leaves us with a disturbed conscience.
In the middle of verse 7, Paul writes, "but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ" (Gal. 1:7b).
The idea here is that changing the gospel doesn’t help us; it hurts us. Paul tells us that these folks are troubling the Galatians. The distortion of the gospel troubles them and it troubles us because a works-based system produces emotional distress. It makes us uneasy because we don’t know where we stand with God. We know it's true because when we talk to people caught in a works-based system, we hear them say something to the effect of: “I sure hope I have done enough.” The point being, they don’t know if they have done enough. They just hope they have, which means they are left in limbo, always wondering if they are good enough. It affects us by leaving us with a disturbed conscience.
But as Christians, we don’t have to worry about where we stand. If we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are God’s children. We will experience salvation instead of eternal damnation. We can be sure of that because Jesus’ work is enough. It has satisfied God’s wrath, so we don’t have to worry. Nor do we have to live with a disturbed conscience, but those who change the gospel do.
(3) Changing the gospel means we aren’t delivered from bondage.
In verse 4, Paul tells us that Jesus "gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age" (Gal. 1:4).
If we add works to the gospel, we don’t understand or believe the gospel. We aren’t trusting in Jesus as our Savior, which means He hasn’t delivered us from bondage. Since we can’t deliver ourselves, we remain in bondage. Satan remains our master and we remain his slaves.
(4) Changing the gospel means that we are directing worship away from God.
In verse 5, Paul tells us that our salvation should result in God’s glory forever and ever. If we make salvation a result of our works, we steal God’s worship from Him. Instead of it being about God’s grace and sacrifice on our behalf, it’s about our work - what we do, our ability to muster the effort, to crack the code of salvation. When we think like that, we’ll find that we start praising ourselves for what we’ve done, instead of what God has done in our lives.
(5) Changing the gospel means that we will face a curse.
In verse 8 Paul writes, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8).
The idea here is that those who change the gospel will face a curse, and that curse is eternal damnation.
We must see that changing the gospel isn’t a good idea. It might be tempting because we often think we have to do something in return for what we are given, but not so with the gospel. It’s a gift of God that’s freely given. Nothing is required of us. We should rest in that understanding. If we don't, salvation is impossible, we will most likely experience a disturbed conscience, we will continue to live in bondage, we won’t give God the worship He deserves, and ultimately, we will experience eternal death instead of eternal life.
While change can be good, when it comes to the gospel, it most certainly is not. What we need to do, then, is rest in the biblical gospel, trusting in God’s wisdom for salvation.