Different Gospels

Early Greek manuscript of part of the New Testament
Early Greek manuscript of part of the New Testament

Daily Reform, Day 83

Galatians 2:7-8 & Ephesians 4:4-6

From the Reformer

Paul reiterates that Peter, James, and John, the accepted pillars of the Church, taught him nothing, nor did they commit unto him the office of preaching the Gospel unto the Gentiles. Both the knowledge of the Gospel and the commandment to preach it to the Gentiles, Paul received directly from God. His case was parallel to that of Peter’s, who was particularly commissioned to preach the Gospel to the Jews.

The apostles had the same charge, the identical Gospel. Peter did not proclaim a different Gospel, nor had he appointed his fellow apostles. They were equals. They were all taught of God. None was greater than the other, none could point to prerogatives above the other. To justify his usurped primacy in the Church the Pope claims that Peter was the chief of the apostles. This is an impudent falsehood.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

There are many gospels being promoted in the world but there is but one Gospel. May anyone be accursed if he preaches another gospel than the one you received from the Apostles. (Gal 1:8-9) Since there are so many gospel distortions (Gal 1:7) and since they are so subtle, one needs to be careful and thoughtful in order to avoid them. Here are just a few prevalent ones:

The Political Gospel  It does not matter what party you subscribe to, this one is virulent. In this errant gospel, Jesus exists to justify one’s political bent. It is fairly easy to tell if you subscribe to this gospel. If you find yourself always using Jesus to rationalize your politics, you have likely been infected. If you find it impossible to believe that God is even sovereign over American politics and that you just have to get out there and rant about it, you subscribe to a different gospel. If you find yourself telling people about how God supports your party but not telling people that God died for them…well, you get the picture.

The Cultural Gospel  If you find yourself saying things like, Well, times have changed, in order to justify your lifestyle (or someone else’s), and are intolerant of someone who appeals to the scriptures, your good news is getting ready to change with the next, newest cultural demands.

The Think Positive Gospel  Think good stuff and good stuff will come your way. This is popular on television where they are busy selling you all the good stuff while they numb your brain with vacuous programming. In this distorted gospel, you may believe in Jesus as long as everybody else is free to believe what they want. Everything is truth. To even suggest that somebody might believe wrongly would be negative. And if you think negatively, good stuff will not come your way. Just be positive. And keep your thoughts to yourself. Then we will all get along just fine.

The Bad Education Gospel  This one is sometimes called “name it and claim it” or “word of faith.” It is classically American, the result of poor educations. And it leads millions astray. In John 14, Jesus talks about assisting us in our ministry for him. I mention this because if you do not read contextually, you will miss that point. Then you may end up thinking that Jesus’ promise in John 14:13-14 is simply about asking for stuff and having Jesus, the Celestial Santa, there to grant your wishes. Tried this and not gotten what you asked for yet? Well you just do not have enough faith, child. You need to believe harder. No! What you need to do is learn how to read. Then you will discover that the gospel is not about you and what you want; it is about Jesus.

The Right Church Gospel  Things going poorly? Well, you just need to go to my church. In this age-old distortion of the Gospel, God is not blessing you because you are not going to the right church. Since when does the scripture tell us to turn to the Church (any church) when we need peace? (John 14:27) This one is easy to identify: the folks often follow the preacher or the programs offered instead of following Jesus.

The Jesus When You Need Him Gospel  You know the drill: pray in the emergency room or the funeral parlor. Or suddenly you want God near when your finances are failing. In the true Gospel, Jesus is with you always, not just when you feel a need for him. (Mat 28:20)

The Believe In Yourself Gospel – This one is very deceptive. Jesus believes in you so you need to believe in yourself. God is for you (Rom 8:31) so you need to believe in yourself; then you will be a success. The Gospel is not about success; it is about following Jesus whether you feel successful or not. The Gospel is all about believing in God-not yourself.

The Seven Dwarfs Gospel  “Just whistle while you work” your way to heaven. In this classic gospel distortion, you get to heaven because you do all of the right things and do not do the wrong things. Wrong! One goes to heaven because Jesus did the right thing and you trust in him alone. (John 14:6)

It is difficult to follow Jesus, to be a real Christian, one who believes the true Gospel, when you implicitly trust the preacher or the church. The noble path is to listen to the preacher and then go to God’s Word to see if what you heard is really the Gospel. (Acts 17:11) There are many distorters out there; examine the scriptures daily so you remain in the one true Faith. (Eph 4:4-6)

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers

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