That title bothers you doesn’t it?
It bothers me too. But that is telling. We revere angels—as maybe we should. So I invite you to imagine a scenario with me for a moment.
You’re driving home from work. You haven’t had codeine or any other mind-altering substance. You’ve been sleeping well. You didn’t have Indian food for lunch, either. All of a sudden you get this weird urge to pull over to the side of the road. You ignore it for awhile but after it keeps gnawing at your guts you sheepishly veer off to the shoulder.
Your car has not been stopped for more than 15 seconds when a man that looks like Michael Landon gets in your car. He tells you that he has a very important message for you. He explains that he is an angel. And he even shows you his wings and his drivers license to confirm it.
His important message is that most Christians have gotten the gospel message of Jesus entirely wrong. He lets you know that the message that Christians proclaim is only partially true. Because of a vast conspiracy, that Satan himself was behind, an entire book of the New Testament has been left out.
The angel hands you a tattered scroll with some funky ancient writing on it. He opens it and reads the important portions to you. It turns out that Christians are correct about salvation in Jesus by grace through faith. That is what gets you into the kingdom. But you do not stay there simply by a continued faith in Jesus. The way that you stay in the kingdom is through a complex set of rituals that mark you off as the people of God. Everyone that does not engage in these rituals (similar to the putting blood on the doorpost in Exodus) will not inherit eternal life even if they have initial faith in Jesus.
How You Decide If This is Bunk
This seems really weird to you, but the guy is really convincing. So, how will you determine whether this is true or not? How will you go about getting at the truth? Some might answer, “Well, I need to figure out if this is really an angel or not. If it’s really an angel then I ought to really consider what he’s saying. But if it’s just some crazy guy dressed up like Michael Landon then I can dismiss this.”
That might be your answer. And you might also be totally wrong.
The Scriptures teach you that it doesn’t matter if this really is an angel. If it’s an angel then the angel is an idiot. This is what Paul says in Galatians 1:8,
“…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.”
You don’t need to know whether or not this is an angel to know that what he is telling you is bunk. It doesn’t match up to the gospel and so the credentials of the messenger really do not amount to a hill of beans*. What matters is the content of the gospel. As soon as this Pa Ingalls look-a-like starts blathering on about a different gospel you know his words are nothing more than serpent talk—even if he is an angel.
It doesn’t take wings to teach a different gospel. There are many different gospels that are being promoted in our world, sadly even from “Christian” pulpits. For many of them they are followed simply because of their credentials. Their book deals, the number of people coming to their church, the massive amount of people they have “helped”, etc., serve as an angel license. Surely they aren’t preaching a “different gospel” if the Lord is giving them so much success.
It might be easy for us to point a finger at those goobers that embrace a different gospel simply because of the flashy teachers credentials, but let’s be really honest…we can be just as awestruck.
Dude…it’s John Piper**. You can trust what he’s saying. And you can. He’s not going to preach you a different gospel nor is he deserving of an anathema. So, in that sense Galatians 1 doesn’t apply at all. I still think that we can learn a lesson here, though. We ought to be careful not to be so enamored with some dude’s credentials (even if it’s a long list of gospel-centered talks) that we begin weighing what people say based upon their name instead of on the unchanging gospel message.
So, let’s weigh the veracity of a message based upon it’s faithfulness to the gospel of Christ instead of Preacher Joe and his stellar gospel credentials.
*I’m not really sure what the exchange rate for a hill of beans is these days, but my grandma seems to think that they aren’t much.
**You can substitute John Piper for any other solid Bible teacher.