A few weeks ago we considered the biblical overview of The Gospel of Jesus Christ. And we’ve taken a glimpse at the assurance of salvation. Today I want to share what I believe are the consequences of false or ‘works based’ gospels and show that Scripture teaches that they are not really good news, but a prescription for death and false hope. Before I begin I want to answer the critic who says, “Why do we need to even hear about these ‘false’ gospels?” The reason that we need to hear about them is because they are being preached and shared by a majority of Evangelicals in our local community. This so-called gospel is being published on the television, in the newspapers, on the radio, and on the internet at a breathtaking rate and by a great number of people. Scripture teaches ONE gospel, ONE way to salvation, ONE means of Grace, and ONE savior who is Jesus Christ alone. Anything taught contrary to such things, especially when it interferes and invades the church, has to be called out and shown to be in error. So, I make no apology for doing what God has called us to do, and I implore each of you to be prepared to speak the truth in love when an error in doctrine arises in the lives of those around you. It is a gravely wicked thing to allow another human being to live in perpetual unbelief when we have the truth.
What False Gospel Are We Talking About?
While there are many obvious heretical teachings alive and well in our culture, the primary matter at hand is dealing with a weak and cheap grace or a grace plus works. There are people who believe that salvation is faith alone in Christ and then they will add obedience or baptism or church membership etc. to the pile of requirements for justification. And I will warn you, I am going to rant and chase a rabbit or two against the margins of this article.
The False Gospel of Man-Centered Faith can be heard from many Baptist pulpits. Christ is preached as the redeemer and savior, but afterward comes the list of do’s and don’ts. Don’t hear what I am not saying; God will produce good things in our lives, such as our love for each other, our desire to be in the word, our continued putting to death of our flesh, etc. But all of these things are results of God’s work in us and are a reflection of Christ’s righteousness, they are not a means to salvation and they surely do not offer a display of righteousness or guaranteed proof of one being born again. If we are honest, we have to admit that many unbelievers can pull off the same type of lifestyle. They can act the part, speak the part, do the right stuff, and seem like a genuine believer. But each day when they rest in their beds, their confidence in this gospel says, “I know I have eternal life because look at all I am now. I am living a pretty good life… Thanks, Jesus!” This gospel is not one that saves because one’s hope is what he has become, not what Christ has done for His redemption. We could call this a False Gospel of Fruitful Works. It rears its ugly head and causes a man work even harder after “faith” in order to be right with God when Jesus Christ has already done all the work required. Some folks even take great pride in their lifestyle that seems to be less sinful compared to so many others. This gospel of Piety and self-righteousness places them in the company of the Pharisee that Jesus says went home condemned.
A few more false gospels teach that the bible isn’t the rule of faith or the means to salvation in revelation. These people offer a relationship with Jesus Christ outside of Scripture and some of them even consider their own writing to be a new revelation. Others teach that man’s will determines his eternal destiny and that all he has to do is speak into being his salvation request to God and “poof” he’s saved. I call stuff like this having faith in one’s faith. This means that one knows he is right before God because he did the right thing or said the right prayer. Jesus Christ is the ONLY way a man can be righteous before God. Sinners do not make themselves available for purchase, God has bought them with the blood of Christ. This type of so-called gospel puts a greater emphasis on man’s decisions and determination rather than the infallible and effectual work of Jesus Christ the Righteous. The so-called gospel of sloppy grace is where someone claims to be saved by grace alone through faith and even has a right understanding of the gospel per se but they then take the grace of God and consider it a license for living in darkness and rebellion. This makes no sense. That would be like me saying that God has saved me eternally but has done nothing in my life or my heart right now. God gives His people a new heart and He puts His spirit in them. So, His work will produce His fruits: Kindness, gentleness, etc. (Gal 5:22). To say that Grace doesn’t transform a man is to say God is a liar. After all, anyone who claims the name of Jesus but walks in darkness is to be put out of fellowship in a public manner. This includes a false gospel, false testimony, false doctrine and false actions. But, we don’t put hope in the transformation, the transformation is evidence of the claim of faith in Jesus Christ and as we’ve stated above, we hold fast to Jesus, who is our righteousness, not the works. (James 2:15-25)
Saving faith and faith are two different things. Sadly, most people have the latter, just faith in something, but it is displaced. Jesus is the only true object of faith. Do you ‘believe’ on Jesus Christ? Are you believing now?
What about this Trauma?
The trauma comes when the object of hope is non-existent, or worse, existent but ineffectual. What happens when a believer sins? Does he run to the altar of repentance, work a few days in a row without sin and then feel OK with God again? What happens when the sin is not of the action or the affections of the flesh? What happens when a believer gets depressed? For years I clawed at the walls of my emotional depravity while I was being told that I just had to shake it off and enjoy life and ministry. I remember people giving me counsel that if I was neither happy nor having fun, then maybe I wasn’t called to ministry and should quit. If my hope were in my faithfulness to the Lord or the success of ministry or my joy, then I would have died or quit Christ many years ago. Sometimes our lives are joyless and even then we can have joy that cannot be expressed. (1 Peter 1) When someone is given an ineffectual object of faith, they will never live up the standard of that object. They will never be good enough or holy enough to feel adequate. And if they do, then they have bought into the false gospel of self-righteousness like we’ve mentioned above. If we gauge our salvation on the measure of our joy and our joy is not to be found, then what? Where is the anchor that holds the man to Christ? What anchors the faith of the believer to the Savior? Is it sinlessness? Is it sacrifice? Is it church work? Is it repentance? Is it preaching? Is it prayer? NO! It is only Christ. Christ keeps His people tethered to Him. There is no escape from His grasp. He is faithful, even when we are faithless. Praise the Lord Jesus!
When someone comes to believe in these false gospels they never have any true means of forgiveness. They never feel as if their salvation is effectual. They never experience the bold truths of Scripture that they are secure in God through Christ and that nothing can snatch them out of His hand. In turn, they hold to the work of their mind, their heart, and their hands while “saying” that Christ is their savior. They are sometimes cavalier and sometimes too broken and scared to know what to do. Christ alone has provided forgiveness through His blood, there is no other work that can be prepared. There is no other sacrifice for sin. Some may suggest, “what does it hurt to go the extra mile?” Well, beloved, the extra mile is a sentence of death. It is unbelief. It is taking a walk for the sake of salvation and righteousness that God does not prescribe. Paul said to the Galatians that they would forever be cut off from Christ if they began to adopt other means of grace. Grasping at these false hopes belittles the grace of Jesus Christ and produces a continual guilt or an opposing pride in the heart. These give birth to either a perpetual worthlessness, a fake righteousness, or a prideful arrogance that all end in the same place: spiritual death.
The false gospel of man keeps many from knowing and holding fast to the enormous truth of God’s everlasting love for us. I remember a time when I felt far removed from God because of my self-evaluation only to be driven to depression, hopelessness, and despair with nothing to do but throw myself at the mercy of God who lifts helpless sinners to glory. Where are you today? What has your faith? Is it you? Is it your church? Is it your religion? Is it your works? Is it your faith? OR is it the grand good news of Jesus Christ who took ALL OF YOUR SIN on Himself and was judged in your place? Trust in this Jesus. The God of the bible who loves you and gave Himself for you. Otherwise, you rest in vain.
Something to think about,