For the next few weeks, we will be working our way through the book of Galatians in a series titled Jesus+. The focus of this series is on following the Gospel and what rules we’ve tacked on to make ourselves “good enough” to receive it. Jesus lived, Jesus died, he was buried, he rose three days later and is alive today. This is a simple summary of the Gospel. Believing this chain of events is Biblically true, acknowledging the first-hand accounts of these events by the Bible’s authors is historically accurate, then living by the morals and values Jesus taught; this is salvation. Many who have grown up in the church, and many who only know the stereotypical mainstream definition of Christianity, understand evidence of following the Gospel as much more complex. Various circles within the church have created their own gospel by legislating rules only found in Old Testament law, if they’re in the Bible at all. Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia addresses just that, distorting the gospel by adding certain criterion to not only accepting, but also adequately following the Gospel of Jesus.
We can hear Paul’s blatant frustration with the church of Galatia in Galatians 1:1-10. Paul calls out the church for their gullibility in allowing any change gospel message, no matter who calls for it. Paul attests we should not let even an angel change the gospel in any way! Galatia had their toes stomped on pretty hard when they received this letter. The church in Galatia had begun requiring anyone interested in Christianity to first convert to Judaism. A Gentile had to meet certain spiritual and physical requirements then adhere to a list of regulations set forth by the Old Testament law. Paul vehemently condemns the church for adopting this twisted theology.
In today’s drawing, I created four icons to represent the Gospel of Jesus; a cross, a tombstone with INRI (Latin acronym for Jesus, King of the Jews), an empty tomb, and Jesus in human for with an outstretched hand. This represents the cycle of Jesus’s life and purpose; life-death-burial-Resurrection-life. Concentric ripples distort these images until they’re hardly recognizable.
Two great modern-day perversions of the Gospel are this; it’s too easy to be true and I can do whatever I want because He has forgiven me. These represent two opposite extreme distortions in today’s church. The Gospel does not need any more effort or righteousness on our part than the price Jesus paid for us on the cross. It really is that easy. After accepting the facts, we are then inspired to live following Jesus’s example. This (and only this) is what sets Christians apart in the world. At the other end of the spectrum, we are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. Claiming you’ve been forgiven does not allow you the freedom to set your own standards for living.
We need to shift our thinking to avoid a drift from the gospel.
What examples of Gospel distortion have you encountered?