A different gospel?

From a local church’s website, under “Beliefs:”

It is the will of God that each believer should be filled with the Holy Spirit and be sanctified wholly, being separated from sin and the world and fully dedicated to the will of God, thereby receiving power for holy living and effective service. This is both a crisis and a progressive experience wrought in the life of the believer subsequent to conversion.

I have a couple of questions about this.  First, what exactly does this statement mean? Do any of the members—or the leadership, for that matter—of this church really understand this?

Second, and more importantly, what exactly is wrong—or right—with this statement?

I checked, and this statement of faith comes directly from the denomination. I had hoped, then, that the local church ignored this point of faith (it’s been known to happen), but unfortunately this does not appear to be the case; it seems there are even people in leadership who are suffering under some pretty heavy burdens. It is truly sad.

I found it quite interesting that the denomination’s version includes footnotes with Bible references, specifically 1 Thessalonians 5:23,  Acts 1:8, and Romans 6:1–14, which must be twisted in order to support how this particular point of faith reads. I, at least, agree with the verses, but don’t agree at all with this item of belief. According to Paul, adding any attempt at human effort to the work of Christ totally eradicates the Gospel (I am finishing work on a book which should be out this summer that explains this in detail). Paul felt very strongly about protecting the simple truth of the gospel; I wonder how he’d respond to this church, seeing what he wrote to the Galatians:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Gal. 1:6-9)

So, what is your opinion of this point of faith?  How would you react?

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10 Responses to A different gospel?

  1. Steve Martin says:


    Law language is all over the New Testament.

    But it is still law. Gospel language is also all over the New Testament, and it is liberating and life giving.

  2. me says:

    I am not interpreting the whole NT here, just this particular point, which is not scripture, and—as I have said—is either extremely poorly written or is contrary to the Gospel.

  3. Fred says:

    Steve: Should and oughts are law language? You’d better bone up on your Pauline epistles.

    Alden: Even in the Gospel economy there are many conditionals of which a number do indeed have to do with blessing and punishment within the fulfilled promise.

    I caution you both against a theologically prejudiced reading of the NT—the very thing you seem to assume of the “other” guys.

  4. Steve Martin says:

    ‘Shoulds’, ‘oughts’, and ‘musts’ are all law language.

    The law brings death. We can fulfill it’s perfect demand.

    The gospel (you ARE forgiven – you ARE loved – you ARE accepted) brings new life in light of our failed efforts at justification and sanctification.

  5. me says:

    As long as people know that God loves them and accepts them regardless of their performance, and that He will empower them and that He is “changing them from glory to glory,” I don’t have a problem with the shoulds.

    I do, however, have a problem with people being told they “should” do something (that God has already done or promised to do, or that is completely unnecessary) so that (“thereby”) God can bless them or empower them.

  6. Fred says:

    The NT often uses “shoulds” which are clearly directed to the believer. Why do you have a problem with that?

  7. Steve Martin says:

    Progressive experience?

    That doesn’t sound like the gospel to me.

    It sounds like self-centered religious ladder climbing.

    Plenty of that around these parts (unfortunately).

  8. me says:

    It is mainly in the use of the word “thereby,” although the presumption of human effort is throughout.

    When they start out by saying, “It is the will of God that each believer should be…,” this presumes that “each believer” is not already; perhaps they mean “God has…” but that’s not what it says. The presumption here is that we somehow need to achieve these things.

    The reference to Acts 1:8 ties receiving power (after the “thereby”) with receiving the Holy Spirit. However, the statement says that receiving power (and therefore the Spirit) is a result of being holy, sanctified wholly (whatever that means), set apart from the world and dedicated…

    If these are not works of the Spirit’s power (which of course they are), then they must be resulting from effort apart from the Spirit.

    You could perhaps read “God has,” or “God will” into the statement, but they didn’t say that, and it doesn’t seem to work with the “thereby” there.

    It is, at best, poorly written.

  9. Fred says:

    I don’t understand how you get from that particular point-of-faith statement to your assessment that it is “adding any attempt at human effort to the work of Christ.” How do you get that from it?

  10. Howard says:

    It’s the kind of premise that is right at home with several forms of ‘christian’ teaching and practice I’ve encountered over the last 30 plus years, but the results smack of all the ugliness of a ‘from of godliness’ – legalism, confidence in the flesh and a dangerous adherence to dualism that can sever us not only from Christ Himself, but also His reconciling and redeeming work in our world (how can our work be ‘effective’ if it does not stem from here?) The book sounds very interesting!

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