“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” — Galatians 1:6-8
As we begin our study of the book of Galatians, we have encountered an urgent warning from the apostle Paul: to cling fast to the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.
Most of us would say, “Of course I believe the gospel of Jesus!” But when we examine our lives, we discover that bits and pieces of counterfeit gospels have worked their way into our beliefs about God, Jesus, and salvation.
Here are some of the more pervasive counterfeit gospels that are being preached today.
The moralistic gospel. This gospel teaches that it is individual sins, not our sin nature, that separate us from God, and if we can just be “good enough,” we can earn God’s favor. Jesus is no longer a savior who died for our sins, but a good teacher and example to show us how to live a good life.
The theological gospel. This gospel teaches that there are certain doctrinal beliefs–that go beyond the basics of the gospel–that a Christian needs to understand in order to be saved. Relationship and obedience to Jesus takes a back seat to understanding the finer points of the hypostatic union and ordo salutis.
The cultural gospel. This gospel teaches that Christianity is a cultural phenomenon, and if you grew up in church, you’re a Christian. The gospel is assumed, but not known, and walking in faith with Jesus is less important than going to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening.
The individualistic gospel. This gospel teaches that Christianity can and should be experienced as a relationship between you and Jesus–no church required. The Church, which Jesus established as foundational for Christian living, becomes an optional social event rather than a life-giving group of sinful people learning to walk with Jesus together.
The postmodern gospel. This gospel teaches that because the bible was written so long ago, that it is no longer relevant to our culture today, and that everyone can choose his or her own path to God. Jesus becomes one way to God, not “the Way.”
The social gospel. This gospel teaches us that man’s greatest ambition must be to solve the social ills of the world—poverty, hunger, social injustice. Jesus becomes a means to an end, not our only hope for salvation.
The prosperity gospel. This gospel teaches that the promised riches of God are material blessings that we earn in this life, not spiritual blessings that are stored up for eternity. Jesus becomes a pinata, and if you whack him hard enough, a Mercedes will fall out.
The comfort gospel. This gospel teaches that God wants Christians to have a comfortable, carefree life. Jesus becomes a security blanket, not a master to be obeyed.
The syncretistic gospel. This gospel teaches that one’s faith is an “all-you-can-eat buffet” of religious ideas, where you can take what you like and leave what you don’t. Jesus becomes a good teacher, or an example, but not Lord.