Here’s a question for you: do you know how many gospels there are?
If you’re like most people, the chances are probably good that you answered this question by saying “four,” right? Well, there are certainly four gospels found within the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) but that wasn’t the question. The question was, “do you know how many gospels there are” which may not seem like a big difference until you stop and think about it.
You see, there are many different “gospels” that exist outside of the four that are found within the Bible- and none of them are good. If this sounds confusing, let’s see if we can clear things up with an explanation from the Biblical book of Galatians.
In the following part of his letter to the church in the area of Galatia, the Apostle Paul had some strong words for those people who showed a willingness to toss the real gospel for a fake one…
“I am amazed that you are turning away so soon from God who, in his love and mercy, invited you to share the eternal life he gives through Christ; you are already following a different ‘way to heaven,’ which really doesn’t go to heaven at all.
For there is no other way than the one we showed you; you are being fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ. Let God’s curses fall on anyone, including myself, who preaches any other way to be saved than the one we told you about; yes, if an angel comes from heaven and preaches any other message, let him be forever cursed.
I will say it again: if anyone preaches any other gospel than the one you welcomed, let God’s curse fall upon him” (Galatians 1:6-9).
The word “gospel” seen above means “good news” and the authentic good news spoken of here refers to the fact that people can escape the death penalty and have a relationship with God by accepting Jesus’ death on the cross as the punishment for the things that they’ve done wrong. However, it seems that some people in Galatia had exchanged this good news for some other “good news” that was actually bad news. In other words, they gave up the real gospel for something that was a fraud.
Unfortunately, there are lots of counterfeit “gospels” found outside the Bible, both religious and non-religious. For instance, there are religious-sounding phony gospels which teach that people can get right with God by “living a good life” or by following certain rules that will allow them to get into heaven when they die.
Then there are other non-religious “gospels” which include the “gospel” of getting rich or the “gospel” of popularity -having the “right” hair, the “right” clothes, and being seen with the “right” people- or the “gospel” of having as many sexual relationships as you can, just to name a few. All of these may seem like “good news” for a while but they all make the same mistake- they’re each about something instead of someone.
You see, the real problem for anyone who trades the genuine gospel for a substitute is that they always trade a Person for a thing. The authentic gospel message is at the center of Christianity and Christianity is about Christ. It’s not about an organization or an idea or a standard or a set of rules that you have to follow- it’s all about a relationship with a Person, namely Jesus Christ.
Whenever someone tries to substitute a real relationship with Jesus for a religious idea, a belief system, or set of principles, they end up with the mistake that the Bible talks about here- a “gospel” that’s really a fake, no matter how good it may sound. In fact, Paul basically went so far as to say, “I don’t care if an ‘angel from heaven’ comes down and speaks to you- if it’s different from the gospel that you received then forget it.”
Paul hammers on this point again a little later on in his letter…
“But now that you know God– or rather are known by God– how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Galatians 4:9 NIV).
There are many people who say that they know God but the real question is, does God know them?
See, the point is that rules and regulations (which Paul calls weak and miserable) don’t establish a real relationship with your Creator. Yet this is the way that lots of people choose to relate to God. For example, people may express this belief by saying that “they have their own way of following God” or something similar. In reality, though, this is just another counterfeit gospel because it’s built on what someone feels that God should accept rather than on what He will accept as found in the Bible.
This is something that Jesus also warned people about…
“Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but still won’t get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven. At the Judgment many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.’ But I will reply, ‘You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil'” (Matthew 7:21-23).
The Doctor fears that there may come a day when people will be shocked to find out that God is very different from what they expected because their concept of God was based on a “gospel” that turned out to be a fake. Remember, anyone who truly wants to follow God has to do it His way -and His way is found in 1 Timothy 2:5 (NIV)…
“…there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus…”