Skip to main content

Gospel? Or No Gospel?

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. Galatians 1:6, 7 NIV

This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. Galatians 2:4 NIV
Recently I wrote elsewhere that God isn’t against the differences of understanding amongst Christians—differences that give rise to a variety of denominations. People who find wrong teaching in every group they see really bothers me. But how would I respond if the same false gospel Paul is talking about to the Galatians showed up in a church near me or in my own church? What then? Would I recognize it as false? Or would I say it’s simply a different stripe of Christian that’s entitled to their interpretation of the gospel.

Basically the false gospel being taught here was the importance of keeping all the Jewish laws as a means of justifying themselves before God. But the teachers of this “gospel” probably didn’t see it that way at all. They probably saw that they were maintaining the laws God had initially instituted and being more faithful to God’s way than those who did not. So they obeyed and taught this idea out of their desire to please God. Motive obviously isn’t enough because Paul castigates them strongly.

So then, how vigilant are we to be about wrong teaching? How adamant do we become about what the “right gospel” is? Every church thinks that what they teach is the right way. Some think theirs is the only way and treat all others as wrong. An obvious example is the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kansas who wanted to come to Winnipeg and protest at the funeral of Tim McLean because they were convinced that his murder and beheading on a Greyhound bus was a judgment from God against Canada’s policies and attitudes towards abortion and homosexuality (thankfully, they didn't show up). They probably believe that they’re the lonely voice, crying in the wilderness; like the prophets of old who told it straight about Israel’s sin and condemned her. Yet I and other Christians I know see the people of this church as hate mongers.

So how can we be sure whether something is a false gospel or not? Most of us can agree that those who teach that Jesus was just an ordinary man, though a good teacher, are teaching heresy. Many of us would be concerned about teachings that explain miracles as something other than the supernatural. Most Christians I know hold to the teachings of one or more of the early creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, etc.) and claim these to be non-negotiables of doctrine.

But what about the “tighty-whitey” or “loosey-goosey” churches? Are they teaching the right gospel? Can we really know which side of many of the debatable doctrines is correct? Is there a right and wrong when it comes to things like free will and eternal salvation, dispensationalism, interpretation of end-time prophecies, use of alcohol, dancing and head coverings? Would we agree that churches with strict rules of behaviour are teaching truth or teaching the kind of heresy Paul was so against in the early church? How do we know? How important is it? If there is a balance between mercy and truth, what is it? At what point do we declare certain teachings as “no gospel at all”? Are we using the same measuring rod as Paul? What do we do with the results?

I have no answers. These are merely questions I’ve been examining as I read through the New Testament epistles.

God, there is so much disunity in your church, every congregation or denomination certain they have the truth despite differences with other congregations and denominations who are equally convinced they are teaching what is right. You want us to be as one but how do we do this when there is so much honest and well-meaning disagreement? How welcoming do you want us to be to those who teach a slightly different message than we do? How cautious do you want us to be in evaluating differing ideas of Christian truth? To what degree do you want us to avoid those who teach false doctrine and how do you want church leaders to tread dissenting members or adherents in their congregations? I thought I knew where the lines were but as I continue to read and reread your Word, I begin to wonder if I’ve been right—or if it even matters if I have been or not. Please make the answers clear to me and all others with a sincere desire to know and do your will. Please make the muddy waters clear and continue to pour your Living Water into each of us.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Monogamous, Homosexual Unions--My Position and the Story behind it

I've been asked to be one of two participants at church each representing opposing views on the matter of monogamous, homosexual unions, moderated by the pastor.  In preparation, I have written the following.  In the comments, please do not post any vitriol--from either side. If I think any comment is hateful, I will delete it. Respectful disagreement or questions are welcome, however.















My Position and Values:
I believe that sexual relations between two people of the same sex is contrary to God’s will.I would like to say otherwise but I find nothing in Scripture that allows me to do so.BEING homosexual, having a longing or desire for someone of the same sex, is not condemned in the Bible.  We all have desires that are contrary to God’s will.  The sin occurs when we feed those desires, like Jesus talks about when he calls lust adultery (Matthew 5:28).Much cruelty to LGBTQ people has happened because of the stance of the Church. We have not acted with love, compassion and listening ear…

What Is Separating me from the Promise?

This is the question Andy Wood asked us each to consider this morning at the end of his sermon and it hit me like a thunderbolt.

Imagine the Jordan River on the eve of the Israelites crossing it into the Promised Land.  The river was at flood stage, so it was moving quickly (even the Red River here in Winnipeg moves quickly during flood season) but this particular stretch of the river near Jericho is narrower than the rest so that as the rushing flood waters reached the point where the people were waiting--all two million of them--it became even more turbulent.  Anyone who's witnessed a flood knows that it doesn't just carry water; there is debris like fallen trees, parts of sheds and houses and perhaps even animals unable to escape the river's grab.

Back in the days of Abraham, God had promised the land of Canaan to him and his descendants but during the days of Abraham's great-grandson, Joseph, the whole family had moved out of the Promised Land to Egypt because of f…

In My Prayer Room

Oh God
You surround me with your love,
with memories
of who you are
of what you've done
of promises you've made
of who I want to be
of who I am because of you.

You give me hope and joy,
peace and gratitude.
You convict me
and teach me
encourage me
and remind me
of what it means to follow you.












You listen to my prayers
and grant my requests
in your time.
You give me insight
and knowledge
and words to write
to share your presence
your goodness
your love
your admonition
with others.























You expand my love
to pray for friend and foe
near and far
family and stranger
people as pins on maps
clustered and scattered
who know you and reject you
for those in need
and those too full to need.


















You draw me close
and then release me
to bring you close to others
to serve
and love
and give
all I have received.

You fill my heart with joy
that warms
and glows
and bursts
into laughter,
song
and even dance.

You wrap me in your arms
and tell me
"You are mine"
with intensity that burns
and smoul…