In the book of Galatians, Paul warned his converts:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:7-9).
These stirring words should convince any clear-thinking Christian that it is quite possible for Satan, his angels, and his agents to so “pervert the gospel of Christ” that those who think they believe the “Good News” are actually being deceived by the Devil. Ominously, this actually happened to Paul’s own converts in Galatia, and they were in danger of being “accursed.” We should watch out that this doesn’t happen to us.
Here are three popular perversions we should avoid:
1. The “I’m Good Enough To Be Saved” False Gospel. Sadly, millions of professed Christians have accepted this perversion of the “Good News.” They think that just because they aren’t as bad as other men, they’re automatically going to heaven. Jesus Christ warned about this delusion in His “parable to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). In his prayer, the proud Pharisee boasted, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give tithes of all that I possess” (verses 11,12). Such self-complacency won’t lead to Pearly Gates, but to the lake of fire. By contrast, the lowly tax collector “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!'” (verse 13). Jesus is clear that the tax collector was “justified” by God, not the Pharisee (see verse 14).
Paul clarified in his Galatian letter that the only way any sinner can be legally “justified,” which means to be declared “not guilty” before a holy God, is by “faith in Christ and not by the works of the law” (Galatians 2:16). In other words, being “good” won’t save us. Neither will performing good deeds. Neither will keeping the law. Not a chance. Only the true gospel of Jesus Christ can save us. We must have personal faith in Jesus Christ alone.
2. The “I Can Keep Living in Sin” False Gospel. This error is comparable to a ditch on the other side of the road, and it is very popular. Millions assume that because they are not saved by “the works of the law,” that this means that they can nominally accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, and then do as they please, even to the point of willfully practicing known sin. “Only Jesus is perfect,” they may claim (which is true), but then they mistakenly conclude that it is therefore okay for Christians to do wicked things. In the same book of Galatians, Paul also warned,
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21, emphasis added).
Did you catch that? Under the general heading of “the works of the flesh,” Paul listed “adultery,” “fornication,” “sorcery,” “hatred,” getting drunk, and spreading strife. “Well,” many who practice these sins will rationalize, “once again, no one is perfect, what can you expect?” My response is that Jesus Christ expects these evil sins to be sliced out of both the heart and life of every true Christian. If they are not, what does Paul say? Take note: ” those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” To believe otherwise is to believe a false gospel.
3. The “I Don’t Need to Keep the Law” False Gospel. This last deception is insidiously subtle. Because the New Testament is clear that sinners are not justified or saved “by the works of the law,” many have therefore mistakenly concluded that the Ten Commandments have passed away, and don’t need to be kept. But if you look closely at Paul’s works-of-the-flesh list quoted above, and then compare it with Exodus 20:3-17, you will see that Paul is actually listing specific violations of God’s Law. “Adultery” breaks the 7 th commandment, “idolatry” violates the 2 nd , and “murder” breaks the 6 th . Next Paul lists nine “fruits of the Spirit,” such as “love,” “joy,” and “peace,” and concludes by saying, “Against such there is no law.” What does that mean? It means that the law of God is not against these good fruits, but it is still against the evil ones! Thus God’s law still exists, and should be obeyed. We can be sure this is Paul’s intent because in another letter he quoted the 5 th commandment, stating, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” and then he commands Christian children to “obey” it! (See Ephesians 6:1-3)
So what is the true gospel after all? We don’t need to speculate, for the answer is in the Holy Bible. Paul wrote,
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, emphasis added).
There it is, clear and simple, straight from Paul’s inspired pen. “Christ died for our sins … He was buried … He rose from the dead.” That is the gospel. But what is “sin” anyway? Again, we don’t need to guess, for John told us clearly when he wrote, “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). So how should we respond to the Good News that our loving Savior died on a cruel cross to pay the complete penalty for our sins of breaking the Ten Commandments? The biblical answer is that we must “repent” (see Acts 2:38) – which means turning away from the sins of breaking God’s law – and believe the gospel. Then Jesus Himself says to us, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), which is a direct quote from the 2 nd commandment (see Exodus 20:6).
If we heed this inspired counsel, we will avoid the “I’m Good Enough to Be Saved” false gospel, the “I Can Keep Living In Sin” false gospel, the “I Don’t Need to Keep the Law” false gospel, and escape deception. Then we will be following “the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:5) in these last days.