George Bancroft, B.Sci., M.Div, Th.M.
(17th December 2018) (Updated: 7th January 2019)
In the Book of Galatians, it warns against being subverted by another gospel and severely condemns the ministers or elders promoting another gospel. In fact, it starts the warning at the beginning of the Epistle to the Galatians. For those professing Christians that require ministers to be positive, tolerant of sectarian professing Christians, ‘loving’ by an unbiblical love, they display their ignorance of Scripture and the true gospel body of divinity for the Protestant evangelical faith. There are prophets in the Old Testament who began their prophecies quite negatively and emphasizing condemnation in their prophetic ministry for departure from the gospel of free grace (for example, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Zechariah, and Malachi). The book of Galatians is one of those books, Jude perhaps ranks second, and I and II Corinthians perhaps ranks third in the New Testament of being rather negative; and in a time of reformation besides periodically, faithful reformed evangelical ministers are going to frequently preach sermons that are rather negative, seeking to turn back souls who have been subverted in favour of another gospel and advance the true gospel of free grace with all clarity (see Acts 15:24; Rom. 16:17; I Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:11-14; II Tim. 2:14; II Tim. 4:1-2; Jude 3-4).
A writer, including the writers of Scripture, may put the most significant or negative point in warning that the writer wants to convey in the middle of writing including defining of terms; and sometimes it is put at the end of the writing or letter. In the Book of Galatians, the Apostle Paul put it at the beginning and throughout. In the Books of I and II Corinthians, the Apostle Paul puts it at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. In the book of Jude, Jude puts it at the beginning and throughout the epistle. In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul put his negative warning at the end of the epistle (see Rom. 16:17).
Now some preachers have made a critical hermeneutical error simply taking note of Galatians 1:2 (note: ‘brethren’) or even I Corinthians 1:2 referencing readers of a regional group of congregations to be definitely ‘sanctified’ and ‘saints’. They either do not know any better, making an error needing remedial instruction, not qualified to preach, or sectarians claiming that all the gospel errors mentioned or rebuked refer to definite saved believers. It needs to be properly understood and remembered that there is the invisible church, who are definite brethren becoming visible especially in heaven, and the visible church, who are basic adherent brethren and communicant member brethren on earth. Whilst the Scriptures are written to any and all who will hear, ultimately the Scriptures are for those who seek the Lord savingly, become born again, initially sanctified, and God-fearing repentant believers in Christ.
Galatians 1:6-9 is herein quoted: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which was preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
Then what is another gospel, and what is a sect? A common interpretation by so-called “broadly evangelicals” (misnomer) including “broadly reformed”, or neo-reformed activists, in the mid-20th century and known by common fame (in numerous books), was that ‘another gospel’ is the undefined proven lack of orthodoxy with little or no explanation. Some writers, when pressed, would then go on to declare or write that they are speaking of sects. Sects are assemblies, calling themselves churches, including such groups as Roman Catholic-Greek Orthodox, Mormons, Seven Day Adventists, Seven Day Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses (Russelites), Church of Christ (Cambellites), Unitarian Modernists, Irvingite-Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches, etc. The criteria for labelling such to be sects had been rejection of any one or more of the following evangelical doctrines: Incarnation and Virgin Birth of Christ, and the Trinitarian God-head, Inerrancy and Authority of Scripture, creation of all things and mankind distinct, the fall of mankind into sin, substitutionary atonement, Justification by grace through faith alone with full forgiveness and acquittal from sin (and not to be brought up at the final judgement), 1st day of the week church attendance, immortality of the soul and everlasting punishment, new birth, resurrection of the body of Christ, general resurrection, and the Final Judgement. We note that this was a mid-20th century “broadly evangelical” view of what is a sect, wherein many of the Bible translations used still had the label ‘sect’ in the translation of Acts 15:5. Furthermore, we should note that repentance unto life is not in the list besides other reformed evangelical doctrines. If one were to here about ‘repentance’, under the simple faith false gospel, it is simple another explanation of justifying faith, namely, turning from sin unto Jesus with no concern to walk in the moral law as the rule of right living.
By the latter part of the 20th century, if there were to be a list of sects drawn up by the “broadly evangelicals” and many “broadly reformed”, it would had been significantly reduced to this: for example, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses (Russelites), etc. Even the Roman Catholic-Greek Orthodox sectarians came to be viewed as ‘sick’ “broadly evangelical churches”, so to speak. The criteria for labelling such to be sects was reduced to the rejection of the following very limited evangelical doctrines: the Incarnation and Virgin Birth of Christ, the creation of all things and mankind distinct, the fall of mankind into sin, substitutionary atonement, resurrection of the body of Christ, general resurrection, Final Judgment, and the Trinitarian God-head. Yet, we cannot even be sure that many “broadly evangelicals or “broadly reformed” would be thinking of a list of sects, since the New International Version and the English Standard Version does not have the label ‘sect’ in Acts 15:5.
The 16th to mid-19th century Protestant evangelical interpretation of another gospel included such groups as the Anabaptist sects, Antinomian ‘English’ sect, 1644 Baptist Confessing Churches, Roman Catholic-Greek Orthodox, Quaker-Shaker-Charismatic sects, and Unitarian Modernists. The criteria for labelling such to be sects was the rejection of the following evangelical doctrines: The Scriptures are the only the rule of faith and obedience (WCF 1:2; LCQA 3; SCQA 2-3), Incarnation and Virgin Birth of Christ, the Trinitarian God-head, the creation of all things and mankind distinct, the fall of mankind into sin breaking God’s moral law of nations, Justification by grace through faith alone with full forgiveness and acquittal from sin (not to be brought up at the final judgement), repentance unto life and the moral law of the Old and New Testaments as the rule of right living, the same saving faith in the Old Testament and the New Testament required for Salvation, Divine Election and Predestination *, Christ redeemed the elect ** (see SCQA 21), effectual calling-new birth (see e.g., WCF 10:1-4; 18:1-2; LCQA 67; SC 31), perseverance of the saints, and assurance of Salvation as confessed in reformed church creeds (see e.g., WCF 18:1-2; 18:1-2; LCQA 69; SCQA 36) , 1st day of the week church attendance, ceasing of the extraordinary gifts in the early New Testament period (see WCF 1:1), immortality of the soul and everlasting punishment, resurrection of the body of Christ, general resurrection, Final Judgement, the Second Coming of Christ is not imminent *** , the Incarnation of Christ and Virgin Birth of Christ, and the Trinitarian God-head. Furthermore, there were two positions on creation with the second position in the 16th century soon phased out: (1) six day normal length days (SCQA 9); or (2) can be one week but essentially running the six days together without emphasis.
The Presbytery of Westminster Evangelical Presbyterian Church holds to the 16th-19th centuries Protestant evangelical view of another gospel and the marks of a ‘sectarian’ church. So we would say that one of the marks of a neo-reformed sectarian church-assembly is endorsing sectarian Bibles: for example, Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New International Version (NIV) and the English Standard Version (ESV); and the neo-reformed sectarian churches promote a sectarian gospel message (simple faith false gospel or justification by faith plus works) and/or have other departures from the minimum reformed evangelical body of divinity. The American Standard Version (ASV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASV) retained the label ‘sect’ in Acts 15:5. Both translations relegated the label ‘heresy’ to footnotes, except for II Peter 2:1 where it was retained in the text. With reference to the pastors using these translations, the ASV (1901) and NASV (1963, 71), they could preach against ‘heresy’ from the footnotes and of course from their Greek New Testaments. In contrast, the NIV and ESV translators followed the RSV, deliberately almost eradicating ‘heresy’ and sect from the Bible without footnotes. The RSV, NIV, and the ESV thereby rendered the label ‘sect’ to be useless and the understanding of ‘heresy’ to be rendered unintelligible or referring to those of another religion altogether. Therefore we call these Bibles, RSV, NIV, and the ESV, sectarian Bibles. The NKJV tried to follow the NASV, but did manage to put the term ‘heresies’ back into the text of Galatians 5:19-21. The ASV and NASV and especially RSV, NIV, and the ESV (sectarian Bibles) made it very difficult for reformed evangelicals to defend secession and separation over the first mark of the Church, which is the pure preaching of the gospel of free grace, namely, the Protestant evangelical faith (or the reformed evangelical faith).
Gospel errors that would indeed bring severe division and schism in a church and family, related to the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and obedience, is the introduction and advancement of the simple faith false gospel or faith alone (which is not saving faith alone, but justifying faith alone) in contrast to the Protestant evangelical faith. The Protestant evangelical faith is embodied in the Presbyterian Shorter Catechism (1648) or the Protestant evangelical Baptist, Catechism (1689) or the Heidelberg Catechism (1560) and the Canons of Dordt (1619); but the Shorter Catechism must be interpreted in light of the Larger Catechism; and the Baptist Catechism must be interpreted in light of the Baptist Confession of 1689. The point is that reformed evangelical doctrines (e.g., redemption through Christ, effectual calling-new birth, repentance unto life, and the moral law) in the Shorter Catechism cannot be reinterpreted and separated from the meaning in the Larger Catechism and the Westminster Confession.
Whether it be the “broadly evangelical” (not evangelical) or neo-reformed simple faith false gospel displayed in the “Four Spiritual Laws” of CRU (see online) or D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion (see online), these presentations of the false gospel used in “Lay evangelism”, as well as other similar tracks, teach at least four severe gospel errors: (1) It gives instant assurance of Salvation together with a “born again” birthday, without making the person understand and confess the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and obedience; (2) It gives instant assurance without sufficient teaching on Justification by grace through faith alone; (3) It gives instant assurance without teaching biblical repentance unto life with no requirement to purpose and endeavour to live by the moral law of God; (4) With assurance of Salvation granted, accepting a Christ the person still does not know, there is no clear exhortation to pursue holiness and be a peacemaker, learn the gospel body of divinity, nor work out one’s own Salvation by saving grace (Rom. 12:18; I Cor. 11:3-4; Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 12:14; I Pet. 3:10-11). Under the simple faith false gospel, there is no need to do anything further to gain assurance of Salvation than simply “accept the person and work of Christ” but not sufficiently known.
Justification by faith plus works, including justification before God by “obedient faith”, is another gospel clearly condemned in the Book of Galatians and throughout Scripture. Both the simple faith false gospel and Justification by faith plus works significantly reduce morality and is condemned in Matthew 5:17-20, John 14:15, Romans 2:19-20, 6:17-22; 8:1-16, Galatians 2:15-19, II Timothy 2:19, and Hebrews 12:14; and these sectarian doctrinal errors are a form of Antinomianism. Whilst both gospel errors are serious and subversive to souls, the simple faith false gospel can be worse in practice by teaching a false ‘faith alone’, leading to all manner of chosen personal exemptions in obedience to the moral law and church ordinances. The Protestant evangelicals historically taught saving faith alone: the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and obedience, Justification by grace through faith alone, and repentance unto life.
With the use of the sectarian Bibles (e.g., RSV, NIV, ESV), the neo-reformed heretics can be quite subversive, proclaiming another gospel. Whilst the ASV and the NASV are poor translations, we would not call them sectarian Bibles. The dedicated members of the sectarian churches, we call neo-reformed activists; and other members or attendees, we label basic Christian adherents. Even so, none of them can have biblical assurance whilst continuing in membership or adherents of these sectarian neo-reformed churches. We label their church officers, pastors and elder governors to be heretics. We call upon all basic Christian adherents and reformed evangelicals to begin the process of vacating the neo-reformed sectarian churches, for the good of their souls, their marriages, and their families.
* For those who want to disagree with the 16th-19th centuries list of evangelical doctrines including Divine Election and Predestination, let it be known that they are disagreeing with the legislative intent of the Shorter Catechism (QA 7), Canons of Dordt, rejection of errors (see Part II: “A Call to Reformation and to Unify in the Reformed Evangelical Faith”), and the natural meaning of Heidelberg Catechism QA 1. Furthermore, in Scripture, Predestination, Divine Election, and effectual calling are part of the body of divinity evangelical doctrines referenced: take note of Romans 8:28-30, 9:16, Ephesians 1:4, 11, II Timothy 2:19, and II Peter 1:10 (KJB). How can basic Christian adherents make their calling and election sure, if they reject Divine Election and effectual calling? The answer is, they cannot. If they are allowed to come to the Lord’s Supper, displaying their rejection of the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and obedience, in Divine Election and effectual calling, there can be further examples of denying the natural and plain meaning of Scripture, in the body of divinity gospel doctrines (see “principles of the Doctrine of Christ”, ‘An Epistle to the Reader’; Thomas Vincent, The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture). There has neither been a credible profession of faith and obedience, nor an accredited profession of faith and obedience. We are speaking here of the minimum reformed evangelical doctrines for communicant membership and not for Baptised membership (see SCQA 95, 97; LCQA 171, 173, 177).
** On the one hand, the Shorter Catechism does not explicitly teach Particular redemption of the elect (SCQA 21); on the other hand, the Larger Catechism (QA 59) does indeed explicitly teach Particular redemption of the elect. Every faithful reformed evangelical minister will be preaching Particular redemption of the elect from the pulpit; but always remembering that the Shorter Catechism was designed for those of ‘weaker capacity’ for communicant membership (see 1648 Adoption Act, Church of Scotland).
*** In the 16th-17th centuries, there was no ‘imminent return of Christ’ position taught in Protestant evangelical churches, as it is condemned in the natural translation and interpretation of II Thessalonians 2:1-2 (see KJB and Geneva Bible). With the influence of the Premillennial Dispensationalists and the “Redemptive Historical” Pessimistic Amillennials, the neo-reformed pessimistic view of the end times (see II Thess. 2:1-2 compare KJB and the Geneva Bible with NASV, NIV, NKJV, and ESV) was deliberately placed into the following poor translations in the 20th century: Revised Standard Version (RSV), New American Standard Version (NASV), New International Version (NIV), New King James Version (NKJV), and the English Standard Version (ESV). The translation and meaning was changed. In contrast, the American Standard Version (1901) continued with the meaning and translation as in the KJB. Instead of Paul writing to definitely not believe in an ‘imminent return of Christ’, it was changed to mean definitely not believing in ‘Christ having already come or present’. Thereby, the false position of the ‘imminent return of Christ’ (see NASV, NIV, and ESV) was freed up to be a viable position to hold and teach in neo-reformed churches, when that is the exact position the Apostle Paul was condemning.