How Do We Pervert the Gospel of Christ?

If you were on a sinking ship and had a choice of going into the water holding an anchor or a life preserver, which would you choose? Silly question? Yet this is the same choice we make when we choose which gospel to be believe.

Choose a gospel? Isn’t there only one?

Many so-called gospels are preached, but there is only one which is divinely empowered to save those who trust in it. All the rest are anchors.

In Part 1 of this study we asked the question, by which gospel are you saved? The answer is the gospel of God’s grace. Contrary to what you may have heard, this is the only gospel message found in the Bible. What does the gospel of God’s grace look like? It looks like Jesus. Jesus is grace personified. To preach the gospel of grace is to preach the exceeding riches of God’s unmerited favor revealed to us through Jesus Christ (Eph 2:7).

The turned-around gospel

Tragically, the gospel of grace is not always preached in its pure form. The result is that sincere believers get confused about their standing before God. In their confusion, they may even abandon God’s grace for inferior alternatives. That’s like swapping the life preserver for an anchor. It’s not a smart move. If you see someone doing that you really ought to speak out, like Paul did with the Galatians:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Gal 1:6-7)

What does it mean to “pervert the gospel of Christ”? The Greek word for the verb “pervert” can be translated “turn around.” A perverted gospel is a turned-around gospel. It is a gospel which turns the focus away from Jesus onto something else. If the gospel of grace reveals Christ alone, then a perverted gospel is Christ plus something. It’s the somethings that’ll sink you.

Ten ways to set aside grace

The Bible lists many things that can distract you from sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Here are some of them:

1.    Human effort (Gal 3:3): think performance-oriented Christianity. “Gotta get busy for Jesus. Gotta work for my salvation. Gotta start producing fruit or he’s going to lop me.” Except that you don’t and he won’t.

2.    Traditions (Col 2:8). “That’s just the way we do things around here; if you’re going to be a part of us, you’d better get used to it.” So you’re saying Jesus is the gate into the kingdom, but right behind him is this other gate that you have added.

3.    Hollow and deceptive philosophy (Col 2:8), like karma: you do good, you get good. “God won’t judge me, I basically a good person. At least I’m better than that guy.” Indeed, there are good sinners and bad sinners, but they are sinners alike. Your goodness still falls catastrophically short of God’s goodness. What matters is whose righteousness you’re wearing – yours or his?

4.    Angel worship (Col 2:18). God told you the name of the angel watching over this church? Cool! Now let’s get back to Jesus.

5.   Rules and regulations (Col 2:21-23). Smoking will kill you, but it won’t send you to hell like unbelief does. Working on the Sabbath may wear you out, but Jesus still loves you.

6.    Self-denial, abstinence (Col 2:23). God gave us taste buds and appetites to enjoy life! Keep your monkish asceticism away from my chocolate stash!

7.    Endless genealogies (1 Ti 1:4). So you think you broke your leg because your grandfather was a mason? But weren’t you adopted into a new family when you believed? Didn’t Christ redeem us from the curse so that we might inherit the blessings of Father Abraham?

8.    Myths (1 Ti 1:4). Did Adam have a second wife? Were the Nephilim really angel-spawn? Is this stuff going to be on the test? I think not.

9.    Sin consciousness (Heb 10:2,22). God’s grace is greater than your sin. If you are more conscious of your sin than you are of his righteousness, it’s like saying that the payment of Jesus Christ was insufficient. His worth is greater than your unworthiness!

10.    The 10 Commandments, a.k.a. the ministry that brought death (2 Cor 3:7). God hid these inside the ark under the blood-stained mercy seat and now you want to hang them on the wall? In the Sunday School?!

What’s wrong with all these things? Very simply, they diminish your faith in Christ. The more you trust in your own works, for example, the less trust you’ll place in His finished work. Trusting in your works is like filling your life preserver with cast iron.

I call these things anchors because they have no life in them. They can’t save you because they are based on “worldly principles rather than Christ” (Col 2:8). We have died to such things (Col 2:20). They have no value for us. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal 5:6).
___
Related posts:
- What is the good news?
- What is the “whole” gospel?
- Seven signs that you might be living under law

Comments

  1. Yes, we need a gospel that is not added by any human ideas. The gospel of grace must so pre-eminence or so focus on the Lord Jesus Christ that there is nothing in added or subtracted but pure Grace right from God. This I believe will transform the hearts of men. Thanks for the blog article

  2. janet cadieux says:

    Absolutely the best article I have read lately. Thank you so much for it!

  3. Dear Sunny and Janet – thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Bobfromchicago says:

    You said, “The 10 Commandments, a.k.a. the ministry that brought death (2 Cor 3:7). God hid these inside the ark under the blood-stained mercy seat and now you want to hang them on the wall? In the Sunday School?!”

    Fantastic! Thank you.

  5. Hi Paul, thanks for all the articles you have posted they are really helpful. Stay blessed.

  6. Very interesting…but you do realize that there are 2 types of tradition, and that Paul actually commanded the church to adhere to that tradition handed down from himself and the other apostles? See 2 Thess 2:15 and 3:6. Also, which do you think came first, the Holy Traditions passed down by the Apostles in the framework of the Church, or the Scriptures as we know them today? There is a good tradition that came from those who followed Jesus personally (meaning the 12, the 70, and the other original disciples) and then there is the tradition of men that has twisted and warped many peoples ideas about tradition to the point that they will hear nothing regarding it (even though, if these same people were to consider it, they would have to admit that they have their own traditions as well.) This good, or Holy, Tradition is that which gives roots to our faith, and makes us realize that those of us striving to follow Christ here in the 21st century do not need to reinvent the wheel…it’s there and it’s been kept unadulterated, without addition or subtraction, by the Orthodox Church. Please look into it and do not merely dismiss what I’m saying, and you will see that, while the Roman Catholic Church has added many unnecessary and unscriptural things to the faith, and while the Protestant Churches have been so anti-tradition that they have “thrown the baby out with the bath water” so to speak, the Orthodox Church has kept inviolate the faith and traditions handed down for the past 2000 years, even through some of the fiercest persecutions man has ever dreamt of. This Church has truly kept the Faith of the Fathers and is welcoming to all to come and see.

    • Hi Charles, thanks for your comment. The context of Col 2:8 can probably be summarized as this:

      Bad traditions = those that depend on human effort, worldly principles, hollow and deceptive philosophy, man-made religion and superstition, etc. and which purport to make men righteous, holy, etc. the Bible calls these works of the flesh and they are fatal (Rms 8:6,13, Gal 6:8).
      Good traditions = depending on Christ and continuing to depend on Christ (Col 1:23).

      One thing I have noticed is that the lifeless traditions of men are complicated and distracting while faith is simple and is manifested in sincere and pure devotion to Christ (see 2 Cor 11:3). Lifeless traditions draw men to other men and institutions, but the gospel always points people to Jesus.

      There us no such thing as holy tradition unless you’re referring to faith in Christ who is our righteousness, holiness and redemption. What was the essence of Paul’s teaching (2 Thess 2:15); “Christ and Him crucified.” What was Paul’s remedy for the carnal Galatians when they started to embrace bad traditions? Remind them that “before your eyes Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (Gal 3:1). This is what orthodoxy means to me. I have written more about this here. I can’t speak for Catholicism or Protestantism, only myself.

      • Lifeless traditions is what drew me to university and even religion. Since failing in both, books became my new “life source.” Since being divorced, escapetoreality became my new life source. Since being beaten over the head by Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill became my new life source. Since, still struggling with sin and pornography, GRACE has become my life source!!! Amen!!!

    • Where there is Spirit there is freedom – not traditions. Freedom form sin, death and law.
      Whom ever the Son sets free they will be free indeed. Christ has set you free therefore stand firm – in freedom. Sever the Lord out of love not out of obligation.

  7. God gave us taste buds and appetites to enjoy life! Keep your monkish asceticism away from my chocolate stash! LOL!!! Paul I bless d day I found E2R!

  8. Deborah Webb says:

    Beautiful analogy – succinct and powerful post. Truly, when we reach our very dead end, we come face to face with our breathtaking impotence and complete and utter spiritual bankruptcy. If God in His Wisdom did not provide a way of redemption for us (all of us, every last one of us), our precious lives would all be over. Praise God: Christ is our all in all. Thank you for not mincing words and publishing this, Paul. The sooner we face Christ, the better. Maranatha!

  9. Can we get an article specific to levin it’s often referred to as sin and not so much as the mixture of legalism that Paul spoke of in Galatians?

  10. I agree completely,but I sometimes find myself making the ten ways, rules and regulations,like my mother used to say[ take it easy your trying to hard.] take it easy,dont let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.——-wow sounds like good lyrics for a song. ha ha

  11. Lawrence Dean Terrell says:

    we all must now be glad and rejoice , after reading this article, we can now serve any god, we can now make images of those gods and bow down and worship them, we can now through our freedom given through the grace of the almighty god use his name in vain, we can now forget about keeping the sabbath holy, we can now dishonor our father and mother, we can now kill our fellow man, we can now have each others wives, we can now steal others people wealth or anything that they have, we can now bear false witness against others, we can now covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. and one more thing I am free from death and am free to live forever and keep on doing all those to all people and they can never kill me wahoooooo!

    • Why would I want to kill you for stealing my ass?

    • I guess the question Lawrence would have to be,do you want to do all that stuff,so much for writing the law on our hearts in Jeremiah. please don’t steal Paul’s ass, that’s just not right, and besides I dont think Paul would kill you……………………JUST SAYING

  12. Lawrence Dean Terrell says:

    I see how it is, after posting that ridiculous post destroying the TEN COMMANDMENTS and setting people free to live filled with all the things that bring misery into peoples lives, you have failed to post a comment that reveals the things we are set at liberty to do with out remorse

    • Colleen G. says:

      Well since Paul dealt with your previous rant so eloquently I’ll tackle this one. :)
      There is new covenant and an old one. Christians are under the new covenant.
      Deuteronomy 4:13 says quite clearly that the 10 commandments written on tablets of stone were the covenant made with Israel which is the old one. Jesus has brought us a new one, a better one.(Hebrews 8:6-13) Looks like you should do an in depth study of Galatians chapters 3 & 4 as well. Romans 5-8 also deals with what makes a person holy and it is without the law.

  13. Lawrence, would you agree that we have not a prayer of achieving salvation, sanctification, or any notion of holiness by keeping the 10 Commandments? I have a difficult time understanding why, when someone speaks of God’s incredible grace, others hear “we have a pass to live like hell.”
    But even if I decided to wallpaper my home with the10, it will never lead me to a truly Christ-like life. Why else would Jesus have offered Himself as the ultimate, perfect sacrifice?

    • irene, i have also had a hard time understanding why some Christians think grace means “we have a pass to live like hell…” honestly, i think it is bc they havent experienced what it is like to actually live in faith by the Spirit – they are fearful and dont trust that the Holy Spirit will lead them to keep the law without focusing on it themselves.

      • jennie,I hear ya, I just got done trying to convince,help explain,etc that grace is not a licence to sin,…….so Paul doesnt want to kill you and please dont steal his ass……..SEE ABOVE FOR THOSE WHO DONT UNDERSTAND.

    • well put irene,do we need laws?you bet,in todays world,where would we be without them. Romans 13. you will find lawrence,that more of the one who was able to complete the law,it will become your nature to DESIRE to keep the law,although we will still break it,but that is already forgiven,because we have a advocate,who sets at the right hand of the father.

  14. Read Matthews 5,6,7 for a breakdown on the new covenant.

  15. Hey Law…rence, maybe just change your name to… Gracerence. Yeah?
    God KNOWS you. Get to know Him, which is Life Eternal and when you know Him you can’t but live and keep the dear 10 commandments.
    Be perfect as the Father!
    Blessings!

  16. Aimee Fernback says:

    I find grace a freedom to confidently assert my identity in Christ, knowing that it’s not about me or keeping to any law other than believing that Jesus is my everything. Sin hurts people. I know…I’ve sinned, and the consequences of all sin are painful. God gave us His laws because He doesn’t want us to get hurt, like a loving Father…but He also loves us no matter what, so He made a way to have victory over sin. That Victory has a name…it’s Jesus. Lawrence, I used to think the way you do, I do understand what you’re saying, but what Earl (above) says is true: when we have rested in Christ’s grace, we will have freedom to depend on Christ more instead of trying to overcome sin on your own strength, which humanly speaking is not possible. But with God, it is…and I don’t see Paul’s posts as doing anything but affirm that. Grace is peace and rest, so that our energies are focused on our Savior, Jesus, instead of focusing on the sins He already dealt with on the Cross.

  17. I am blessed to have discovered this site. Thank you Paul!

  18. God’s Grace is NOT a License to sin, as some do believe, who also have turned God’s Grace into lasciviousness (Jude 1:4). There will be a Judgment Seat Of Christ for ALL Blood-Washed believers, and those who live ungodly will suffer LOSS (not Salvation). We see this in Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. God Is NOT MOCKED (Galatians 6:7-9).

    • It’s their problem if anyone can’t conceive grace and the freedom in Christ without going after women, lying, stealing, and indulging in all kinds of licentious life styles. They don’t know grace, they’re still bound by the Law, under the curse and they don’t know the Father.
      That’s the problem of nominal Christians “knowing about God” but not having had an encounter with God and “knowing Him”, the greatest hinderance for the world to see Christ, lukewarm stench.
      What is that to thee? You… follow Me!

      Anyone who lives Grace and enjoys God’s quality of life (eternal llfe is to KNOW the Father) will be the last person to whom you have to remind the Law. The Spirit of God, the Life and Light of God in him fulfill the law continually.
      John 14:20 – In that day you will KNOW that I am in the Father, you are in Me and I in you.
      John 17:20-26, I mean, try to relate to what Jesus says about us right there, do you think that the Father answered Jesus’ prayer? And particularly this verse: [Jhn 17:22 ESV] The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. – The glory and quality of life He had we have. Was Jesus having trouble trying not to sin?
      Or was He speaking about a glory where people walk in fear of sin and sin consciousness all the time? Do you think the prodigal son, after experiencing the Love, Goodness and Glorious acceptance for who he is – a son – will ever think of the pigsty ever again and wish he could return to its filth and stench and cheap counterfeits?
      1st John tells us “who is born of God CANNOT sin” and cannot dance anymore to that old tune: “God’s grace is not a license to sin”.

      Why try to constantly substitute the feast we have eating from the Tree of Life (Jesus) to eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and sin-consciousness?

      Instead of looking in the Word to find out where we miss the boat, let’s try to see the Living Word in our hearts that makes us One with Him, how we have become the Living Word and how WE FULFILL THE LAW, us in Him and He in us.

  19. The grace of God to all.

    First the terms of the new covenant in the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are CLEARLY STATED in Hebs. 10:15-17.
    To get the full context and power one must read from the first chapter.

    2nd the traditons apostle Paul referred to were the contents of the gospel of God’s grace. In other words the gospel is the tradition. Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Cor.2:2. The traditions were the message of God’s Amazing Grace he taught them.
    3rd pls anyone who thinks that the grace of God is a green light to live in sin should study, not read, study Rm. 6. The summary is this: anyone who is in union with Christ is DEAD to sin and ALIVE (RESPONSIVE) to God (Hebs.10:16 bcos of vs.17). Such is now a slave of God and WILL bring forth the fruit of holiness the end of which is the enjoyment if the benefits of eternal life the one now has in Christ Jesus. For while the consequences of being under is sin is the rule if death we, who are in Christ, now rejoice that we have from God the gift of Eternal Life in Christ Jesus!
    Romans 6 is, when understood, a real cause of rejoicing!

    I thank God for His great mercy and grace given to man through and in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord!

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