Christian traditions that add either works or the traditions of men to the faith and doctrine of the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints verify that they are not part of the redeemed. This perversion of the grace of God has occurred for millennia, but it is occurring at breakneck speed in these last days as we see the time approaching for Christ our Lord and Savior to return. Two Christian traditions that have greatly influenced the world through their false teaching are the Catholic and Orthodox faiths. God lets us know through the writing of Paul in Galatians what He thinks about these false teachers and false brethren who pervert the gospel of grace.
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:3-9
Those who pervert the gospel of Christ bring God’s curses upon themselves.
I recently had an online discussion with a proponent of the Orthodox faith who expressed the Orthodox doctrine that we are saved through baptism. In responding to a comment that I made, he spent a great deal of time talking about baptism and the Orthodox faith, but spent very little time writing about Jesus Christ. If we are saved by baptism, then why did Paul say the following in his epistles:
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. 1 Corinthians 1:17;
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,.. 1 Corinthians 15:1-5;
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation, Romans 5;8-11; Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2
There is no mention of baptism as a condition of salvation. The thief on the cross was saved by Jesus Christ apart from anything that he did; he was saved on the basis of his testimony of the faith.
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?” “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:39-43
Paul and Silas gave a similar response to the Philippian jailer when he asked them about salvation.
And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. Acts 16:30-32
We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ; by believing in Him and His gospel. Baptism is an outward expression of an inward reality, that we are dead to our sins and sinful nature through the cross of Jesus Christ, but alive to God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and is not integral to our salvation. In regards to our salvation though, it does testify to our belief in and obedience to our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If baptism is the instrument of our salvation, then the Catholic and Orthodox faiths have a serious problem with those who were baptized as babies but show no evidence of salvation as adults. Those adults who were baptized as babies and live lives of murder, extortion, corruption, sexual immorality, idolatry, and wickedness show they are not saved, for God says in His Word:
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him: Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:7-15
The Catholic and Orthodox faiths, however, have a handy answer to the rebuke and exhortation of the Word of God; they have their man made traditions and doctrines which they have elevated to have greater importance and status than the Word of God.
The Catholic and Orthodox faiths ultimately leave the faith of the Bible through denigrating the Scriptures and exalting the traditions and doctrines of men. For this exact reason Jesus condemned the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes.
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’, and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ “But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”-‘then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Matthew 15:3-6
Elevating their tradition above God’s Word kept His word from being honored and obeyed in the lives of the Jews. Jesus then went on to give the end result of this faithlessness.
“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9
Those who put the doctrines of man for the Word of God are hypocrites without faith. Christian leaders who do not value the Word of God and are constantly resorting to the words and opinions of man are tools in the hands of the enemy for the apostasy of others who reject the Word of God when the lies they have received and believed make it impossible to understand the Bible, or they are deceived by these leaders into believing a lie that leads them to hell when all the while they were thinking they were going to heaven. On the other hand, the importance of the Word of God to our faith and belief in Jesus Christ and obedience to Him is emphasized by what Jesus said when told that His mother and brothers were outside wanting to see Him:
But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it. Luke 8:21
Our relationship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is based fully upon the Word of God. Those who reject the Word of God as their only source for faith and practice make it clearly evident that either they are not redeemed or they are being deceived and led astray by the enemy.
The ultimate reason these false teachers, these who pervert the gospel do so is that they do not have the Holy Spirit indwelling them because they are not born again through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8
They are not, cannot be born again because they trust in baptism, or the church, or the doctrines of man, rather than the Word of God and the gospel which it proclaims. They trust in what they have done rather than what Jesus Christ has done. They are lost and condemned, led astray and leading others astray to their doom. Bereft of the Spirit, they cannot understand the Word of God which is written by the Spirit of God through men of God chosen by God to write His Word.
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 1 John 1:19-21
So once more we are led to the importance of God’s Word, which we cannot understand apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit, Who informs our minds and hearts so that we can receive the truth of the gospel and so be saved. As believers in Christ Jesus, God gives us our marching orders regarding the deceived in the epistle of Jude.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction, but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen. Jude 20-25