Friday Free For All: False Gospels

Posted by Mercy Hill elder Jeremy Dager.

If you’ve hung out with me for any length of time you know that I hail from Philadelphia.  And if you’re around me on a regular basis you know I have a thing for Philly Cheesesteaks. – So much so that I would consider myself a cheesesteak snob.  I have personally taken up the fight to defend the true Philly cheesesteak.   And I have yet to find a cheesesteak that matches the pallet pleasures you experience when eating a true – right from the streets of south Philly – cheesesteak.

A Philly cheesesteak is simple: cheese whiz, fried onions, and thinly sliced rib-eye steak on an Amoroso’s hoagie role.   The problem is most restaurants begin adding to or changing ever so slightly these simple ingredients.  And when they do so they no longer have a true Philly Cheesesteak.  Anything added to or taken away – regardless of the degree – has robbed the Philly cheesesteak of it’s true goodness.

OK, I might be going a little overboard in regards to cheesesteaks but the reality is that when it comes to the gospel adding or taking away actually does matter…a lot!  Over the past three weeks we’ve been studying the book of Galatians and we have seen how a group of Jewish teachers went around in the region of Galatia adding to the gospel.  How so?  They added to it by telling the Galatian Christians that in order to really be saved it was not enough just to believe in Jesus.  You also had to adhere to Jewish laws and customs.  Essentially, they were encouraging a Christianity that was really a modified version of Judaism.

This is where the apostle Paul steps in and says right off the bat that to add anything to the gospel is actually to make it NOT the gospel at all.  By adding Jewish law to the gospel the Jewish teachers were not just teaching a false gospel – they had now started teaching something that was not gospel.  It’s easy to look at that and miss the application but the reality is that false gospel exist all around us.

One author recently put together a book that outlines and explores the most prevalent “false gospels” in our culture.   It’s helpful for us to spot them not only to see our own tendencies towards believing something other than the gospel but also to point it out when we see it pop up in the culture surrounding us.   Check out the list below and let us know which of these do you think is most pervasive in our society.

Therapeutic Gospel: Sin robs us of our sense of fullness. Christ’s death proves our worth as humans and gives us power to reach our potential. The church helps us find happiness.

Formalist Gospel: Sin is failing to keep church rules and regulations. Christ’s death gives me an agenda, so I can begin to follow the predescribed forms of Christianity.

Moralist Gospel: Our big problem is sins (plural) and not sin (nature). The purpose for Christ’s death is to give us a second chance and make us better people. Redemption comes through the exercise of willpower with God’s help.

Judgmentless Gospel: God’s forgiveness does not need to come through the sacrifice of His Son. Judgment is more about God’s goodness, not the need for human rebellion to be punished. Evangelism is not urgent.

Social-Club Gospel: Salvation is all about finding fellowship and friendship at church. The gospel is reduced to Christian relationships that help us enjoy life.

Activist Gospel: The kingdom is advanced through our efforts to build a just society. The gospel’s power is demonstrated through cultural transformation, and the church is united around political causes and social projects.

Churchless Gospel: The focus of salvation is primarily on the individual, in a way that makes the community of faith peripheral to God’s purposes. The church is viewed as an option to personal spirituality, or even an obstacle to Christlikeness.

Mystic Gospel: Salvation comes through an emotional experience with God. The church is there to help me feel close to God by helping me along in my pursuit of mystical union.

Quietist Gospel: Salvation is about spiritual things, not secular matters. Christianity is only about individual life change and is not concerned with society and politics.[1]


[1] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2011/01/20/which-counterfeit-gospels-are-most-prevalent-today/

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