The Three Rs of Counterfeit Christianity

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:6-12, KJV).

I. Recognize the False Gospels that Threaten Us.
Paul was helping the Galatian believers to do this; he writes “[…] there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7), pointing out the fact that there were false gospels prevalent in their churches.

A. In the Early Churches:
Though Galatians goes on to emphasize the errors promoted by Judaizers, there were at least two other major types of false teachings circulating during the time of the apostles that distorted the true Gospel.

1. Judaizers – Those who taught that observance of the Old Testament law was a necessary addition to faith in Christ: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

2. Gnostics – Those who taught that reason could lead them in to a relationship with God: “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4:3).

3. Pagans – Those who believed that they could find truth in a myriad of spiritual practices: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (I John 5:1).

B. In Modern Day Churches:
The false gospels threatening the early churches have direct parallels today.

1. Rules – The “I can earn God’s favor by living a good life” mindset

2. Reason – The “I believe in God and that’s enough” mindset

3. Religion – The “I go to church, therefore I’m a Christian” mindset
Christ and rules, Christ and reason, Christ and religion: the nature of the something else is irrelevant. When we put our faith in Christ and something else, the result is a false gospel.

II. Remove False Teachers.
Paul writes of one who would teach a false gospel, “let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9). The word for accursed is anathema. According to Strong’s Concordance, the implications of this word are two-fold: those who teach a false gospel are cursed in that they will be punished for their wickedness in leading people to Hell; and they should be viewed by true churches as being under a curse–they should be put out from among the church, lest their false teachings infect the body.

III. Return to the Simplicity of the Pure Gospel.
Paul writes that his Gospel is that of Christ, the one they have heard and believed—not one devised by men: “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). We must, in turn, focus on that same simple message of redemption and reconciliation to God made possible by Christ and His blood shed on the cross.

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (II Corinthians 11:3-4).