The Impossible Gospel

The benefits of The Gospel are not applied based upon our performance…period. You are not saved through faithfulness. You are not saved through trust (where faithfulness and trust are understood as something other than propositional belief). Faithfulness and trust are words about your performance with respect to something. You are not saved by unmerited favor through your merited performance. However, here is a very interesting question: does Paul undercut his own message with the following warning?

“You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4 NASB

Is Paul saying, “you who are mis-performing relative to The Gospel will not enjoy the benefits of The Gospel, benefits which are gifted and applied without regard to performance”?

Well, if Paul is telling us the truth, then the answer can’t be “yes”. If the answer is “yes”, our benefiting from the gospel is determined by our performance. That is, there is some law according to which our performance relative to such a law determines our relationship to The Gospel’s benefits. And if this is the case, then we would couldn’t help but be mis-performing relative to The Gospel by seeking to ensure that we are appropriately performing relative to this law. A consequent of this reasoning is that those who would even appeal to Paul’s warning here as a proof text that we can lose our salvation have already mis-performed relative to the gospel (or they are at least leading others to mis-perform). That which is behind the belief that one can lose their salvation is the belief or fear that our performance is in fact that through which we are justified. Our citing this verse as a proof text for our being able to lose our salvation only counts as proof that we don’t get the gospel.

But if Paul is not undercutting his own message, the very message that he has been trying to drive home in Galatians, what is he saying? Why is he saying it? This is truly a brilliant passage. Paul is laying out the impossible gospel. What Paul is saying here in Galatians is equivalent to the claim that those who are trying to accomplish something by trying are destined to fail and have already done so. For example, if I told you to open some jar without trying to get it open, how would you begin your task? No matter what steps you take get that jar open, you have already failed the task. The lesson here is this: there is The Gospel and there is The Impossible Gospel and those who think that their performance matters are pursuing The Impossible Gospel; they are pursuing that which they cannot get by trying. And Paul is saying, “for those who want a gospel of works, a gospel of performance, here…here is your gospel of performance. And, by the way, it is impossible.” There is only one rational response to Paul’s words here: stop trying and wait for God (Galatians 5:5). The waiting, of course, is not performing. It’s only what you can’t help but do when you stop trying.

But, some will still persist, “But can’t we lose our salvation? If a man can be severed from Christ, then a man can lose his salvation.” One is not in a position to understand the warning language of the gospel of grace and liberty until they have grasped the weight of The Impossible Gospel. Go. Wrestle with The Impossible Gospel until you get it and do not stop until you do. And then and only then will you be in a position to make sense of such warnings.


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