Sunday, January 03, 2010

The revelation of the Gospel

Theological debates over Galatians typically swirl around issues involving the Pauline doctrine of sola fide–as well as the enduring relevance of Pauline anathemas to analogous situations in church history. And that’s a necessary debate. Every Christian generation must appropriate the truth for itself.

However, that emphasis can cause us to overlook an equally important and complementary emphasis in Galatians:

“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ…But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus (Gal 1:11-12,15-17).

Notice that, for Paul, it’s of paramount importance that the gospel be a divine deliverance. And that, in turn, is why exegesis is so important. That is why it’s incumbent on Christians to understand Paul on his own terms.

The real gospel is the revealed gospel. The gospel we preach is only as good as its divine source of origin. Hence, the gospel we preach must directly conform to that primitive revelatory deliverance. Tradition is no substitute for the revelation of the gospel.


  1. Amen.

    “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
    and whoever BELIEVES in Him will not be put to shame.”

    To build a house right and good, you need a cornerstone; and then a foundation; and then the house will be sound and solid; only with a level and true cornerstone.

  2. "Hence, the gospel we preach must directly conform to that primitive revelatory deliverance. Tradition is no substitute for the revelation of the gospel."

    I should hope that most "T/traditions" conform and uphold "primitive revelatory deliverance."

    It need not be an "Either/Or" approach to Gospel and T/tradition.

  3. TUAD: especially with Rome, "Tradition" is seen as a completely separate source of revelation. The great and eirenic Bryan Cross has even admitted in public that the pronouncements of the Magisterium themselves count for Divine Revelation. That's why they can't back off from the Assumption of Mary, for example.

  4. Hi John Bugay,

    Sometimes I wonder if "Living Tradition" is the RCC parallel to Semper Reformanda.

  5. Truth: I don't see how that could be the case, and I'll tell you why.

    Roman "Tradition" incorporates all kinds of things that have never been found in Scripture. For Protestants, "Semper Reformanda" always involves starting with the texts, with doctrines that are actually in the texts, and working to refine our understanding.

    Here's how the WCF understands it:

    The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

    I'll give you two examples from roughly the same time period.

    The doctrine of the trinity was the subject of two fourth century councils--Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381). These largely involved an effort to describe the pre-existing person of Christ vs Arianism, and also to understand the relationships among the three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit) which are well attested in Scripture.

    Shortly thereafter, bishops of Rome found themselves (thanks first of all to Roman emperors and later to the absense of Roman emperors) in positions of huge secular power.

    During the "pontificates" of a scoundrel like Damasus (366-382) and later someone more reasonable like Leo (around 450), there was an effort to codify the authority of the bishop in Rome.

    Now, Roman Catholics would tell you that both of these are instances of "development". However, not only is there a difference in "degree" of development, there is a difference in "kind."

    In the case of the Trinity, all the "building blocks" of Scripture are there. Just read any Systematic Theology or New Testament theology and look up "Trinity". ALL of the essential understanding is there.

    In the case of the developing papacy, we now are virtually certain that there was not even a "monarchical bishop" in Rome until around 180 ad. The whole concept of "papacy" could not have existed in any way; and further, leading bishops in Rome came about because there were ongoing arguments among a group of presbyters as to "who was greatest." There are essentially three veryses in the NT which talk about Peter, but make no mention of Peter in Rome, no mention of anything like an ongoing primacy, no hint of anything like Peter's foundational role in the church being passed on to "successors" etc. All such things are merely assumed.

    And yet Rome wants to tell us that the papacy was a divine institution of Christ.

    It is easy to see the Trinty as being clearly revealed in Scripture. There is no way to arrive at a papacy even as a "good and necessary consequence" of the Scriptures about Peter.

  6. "There is no way to arrive at a papacy even as a "good and necessary consequence" of the Scriptures about Peter."

    They, Rome, use the Scripture, "your name is Peter, and upon this rock", and I have given you the authority to forgive sin.

    I not too long ago had a discussion witha Catholic nun, who knows the teachings of of Rome quite well.

    However, and what an incredible blessing for every born again believeing saint, "There is only One Mediator between man and God, the Man, Christ Jesus." And what a loving and gracious Mediator and God we have.