Many Are Addicted To Strange Fire

John Calvin

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 we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-8)

In thinking about the verses above we should not forget the grievance Jeremiah had against the Jews. He says, in effect, “Go to distant lands, run to the isles, observe what is done by other people. Each one keeps to his own idols”, adding, “which are yet no gods” (Jer. 2:10-11). Satan had deceived them by calling this worship, and they were so set in their ways that they could not be moved. The same can be said of us nowadays: for we have seen how unbending the members of a variety of strange heresies and cults are. They burn with such mad passion to maintain their blasphemous practices. When the devil beckons us, will we too be enticed away? Modern man is on the lookout to find anything new and strange. Almost any strange doctrine will immediately attract us and lead us astray. John Calvin says of this:

At this point, Paul states that the cause behind all this is that, ‘there be some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Here, Paul is asserting that anything which we may add to the gospel is nothing but mere smoke. Eventually we will discover that it is the devil who has conceived such nonsense in order to deceive miserable fools who cannot adhere to God’s truth at all. ‘This is nothing other than some people troubling you,’ he says. . . . Paul is saying that the Galatians were wrong to be troubled by those from Jerusalem and Judaea, who told them they must not separate the law from the gospel. ‘No, no,’ he says, ‘there is only one Jesus Christ. There is only one doctrine that will lead us to him, and give us faith, through which we may obtain salvation. If we wish to have and maintain a pure knowledge of the gospel, we must realise that this is where we find perfection; those who go further are simply trouble-makers throwing everything into disarray.’ This text is well worth noting. We learn from it that if our Lord has given us the privilege of being taught in his school, we must no longer have weak faith which can be blown here and there. We must have resolute determination, so that we can say, ‘Here is the faith by which we are going to live and die.’ We meet many who do not openly oppose the teaching of the gospel, and who even suffer us to preach the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, if we were to ask such people what they disagree with in the gospel, [their answer would be] ‘Nothing!’ But then, if they were to see an altar adorned with grotesque statues, sure enough, they would flock to it. . . . And if all this is set before them as error, they still cannot see that it makes any difference. Take good note — such base behaviour reveals that they do not have faith. How? Well, this is how we can know, and even feel, if we ourselves are believers: when we have discernment about the gospel, and conclude that it is the infallible truth of God, and that it cannot lead us astray if we follow it. . . . It is written that we can only obtain justification and salvation through faith, when we embrace Jesus Christ as the one who communicates all blessings. (“On Perverting the Gospel of Christ”)

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