Studies with Stearman: A Portrait of the Rapture

The Book of Philemon is actually a love letter; personal and private. More than that, it’s a prophetic portrait that captures the essence of the Church and the nature of God. Scholars refer to such biblical letters as “epistles,” but they are really messages that are addressed to groups and individuals.

They reveal the heart, soul and spirit of the Church, its people and its destiny. In the Old Testament, God used a variety of men to deliver the Law and prophecy, as well as history and poetic expression to His people. In the epistles – especially this one – He became much more personal.

Paul’s letter to Philemon tells the story of a Greek family and their household servant, Onesimus. Like no other book of the Bible, it allows us to see the inner workings of a family, made very special by their relationship with the Apostle Paul.

Irreducible Elements of the Gospel

The gospel is the great nonnegotiable of Christian truth. We aren’t allowed to add to, subtract from, embellish, or rejigger the sacred message of how sinful men can be reconciled to a holy God.

That’s why the apostle Paul reserved his sternest warning for anyone who would dare to mess with the message: “If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).

The preacher is left with one option when it comes to faithful gospel proclamation—and it’s not an elusive option reserved for scholars. Paul expected his audience to be able to clearly differentiate between the one true gospel and all the other pretenders. It is an expectation implicitly placed upon all believers. With that in mind, we recently asked John MacArthur to identify and explain the essential truths of saving faith—the irreducible elements of the gospel.

Our destinies hinge on the unshakable nature of those truths. Any variation in just one of them and the hope of eternal life completely collapses.  

If you present a different god than the God of Scripture, you are effectively calling people to idolatry. If you preach another Christ you do not have the Lord; you have a liar or a lunatic. If salvation by grace through faith alone is corrupted with even the smallest amount of works-righteousness, “Christ will be of no benefit to you” (Galatians 5:2). If we don’t repent from our former sinful ways, we will perish (Luke 13:3,5).

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