(2 Corinthians 11:1-4)
I travel a lot each year, often going into distant cities as well as the remote towns and communities of outback Australia.
In my travels I have often visited churches and listened to the messages being preached in those churches. Some of these have been small country churches with just a handful of people, while others have been the large mega-churches with congregations in the thousands.
As I have listened to the messages preached from these various platforms, I have been often joyfully surprised at what I have heard. But at times I have left the churches stunned at the deceptive lies in messages preached and sick to the stomach at the damage being done to those who are receiving these messages.
This is the thrust of Paul’s words today where he too was horrified at how easily people in his time accepted a different gospel, a different Jesus and a different spirit than what is taught in the truth. And they submit to these lies and accept them readily. It was happening then, and I would go so far as to say it is worse today.
How Many Gospels Are There?
Here is an interesting question to think about. How many gospels are there in the Christian church today, (and no, I am not talking about the first four books of the New Testament)?
If you stop and think about it, every Christian church today has begun and separated from another church primarily due to some dispute over the doctrine of the church. At the time of separation there were difference in opinion over what the church was teaching and the two (or more) sides of the argument could not be resolved and so the church divided in conflict.
Probably the best known such schism in the church was when Martin Luther nailed up his points of opposition to the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church and so began the Lutheran Church. But this is only one of hundreds or thousands of breakaways in the church that have occurred due to differences in doctrine.
The gospel or the doctrine being taught by the Lutherans is different to the Presbyterians, which is different to the Anglicans, which is different to the Pentecostals, which is different to the Seventh Day Adventists, which is different to…and I could go on ad infinitum!
So there are at least as many “gospels” in the church as there are churches, perhaps more as some preachers in the churches may differ from each other in their views, which may lead to further divisions down the road.
And this is where Paul found himself and what troubled him.
The True Gospel
Now if this is true, the next question you need to consider is…which of these “gospels” is the truth? Who amongst the thousands of churches that exist has the true gospel that is unadulterated by lies and can truly lead a person to the fullness of the maturity possible in Jesus Christ?
That question, I cannot answer. I don’t know.
Unlike in the days of the early church we do not have access to those who were taught the gospel directly by Christ Jesus. The Apostles and disciples were taught the unadulterated truth by Jesus Christ Himself, and Paul was taught by the Lord also. We know that Paul went to speak with the Apostles Peter, James and John to check his ministry and doctrine to make certain he was on the right track, which he was. But we do not have those verification processes available to us today.
All of the Christian churches use the same bible, but they all interpret it differently, which is why we have so many different gospels. And not all of them are the truth.
Now, while I do not know which church, if any, has the unadulterated truth, I do now where to find it. I also know the path to the truth because there is only one truth.
The true gospel is found in Jesus Christ only and the pathway to the truth is through Him alone.
But don’t all the churches say that? As far as I know they do. But it is HOW they then apply that knowledge that causes them to fall into preaching a different gospel. Let me give you an example from the Bible.
Paul had a lot of trouble in the church of the Galatians because there were a group of teachers who were telling the people they had to be circumcised and be required to keep the law. Paul had a great dispute with them over this and we see how far from the truth this teaching was in Galatians 5.
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:1-4)
Do you see how horrified Paul was that the people were starting to accept this “different gospel” requiring them to be circumcised and to keep the law? Look how damaging that teaching was to the people. Paul says that if they accepted that teaching, then they would be required to “…keep the whole law…” and that they would be, “…severed from Christ…” and, “…have fallen away from grace.”
Do you understand how dangerous it is to fall prey to a false or “different” gospel? It can cut you off from Christ and the grace of God. And we must remember that the people who were preaching this “different gospel” were in fact Christians, and were part of the church at the time. We see the discussion about this matter among the apostles and elders of the church, which included these preachers of this different gospel, in Acts chapter 15.
How many other teachings have infiltrated the church in the last two thousand years that are contrary to the truth of the gospel? I personally know of a great many, and they are upheld by a vast majority of the churches today as being part of the gospel of truth…but are not. Some are insidious and dangerous and can be very destructive to a person’s faith.
Finding the Truth
So what can we as individuals do about this? How do we find the truth in the mass of diverse teachings and doctrines that form the Christian message today?
We have to look for ourselves. We have to seek the truth from Jesus directly and be taught by Him, just as the early Apostles and disciples were. We have to test every piece of doctrine we hear against the yardstick of the Bible to see if it measures up. We have to question our teachers and preachers, asking them to explain how each part of the message they teach fits into the whole picture of the gospel. I firmly believe that the gospel of the truth is no contradictory and that the bible does not contradict itself, and I know from more than fifty years of reading and studying the bible that this much is true.
We must seek the true teacher of the gospel: the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit given as a gift from God who is to lead us into all of the truth. How do I know this? Because the Bible tells me so. How will we find the truth? Again, it is written in the Bible and Jesus promised He will show it to all who come to Him seeking it. See and you will find, ask and it will be given. Knock, and it will be opened. These are the words of Jesus in Luke 11.
9 And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)
This is an ironclad PROMISE of the Lord that He will show His people who come to Him and ASK Him for the truth that He will give it. And even more, the last verse in this section says that if we ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, God WILL give this gift to those who ask. You don’t receive this gift of the Holy Spirit automatically, as some “different gospels” teach. You have to ask for this gift. How do I know? The bible tells me so. It does not say you automatically receive the Holy Spirit, you have to ask for the gift.
And it is important to keep these few verses in mind because this is the path to finding the truth. Ask Jesus for insight and understanding, and most importantly, ask God to give you the Holy Spirit to teach, counsel and guide you into ALL the truth, which is His job.
This is how you will find the true gospel and not be caught in a false, “different” gospel. There is only one truth and there is only one gospel. I don’t say that I have it all yet, but I do know the pathway to find it and will be happy to freely share it with anyone who wants to know. I will also be happy to discuss anything that you may be wondering about as to whether it may be part of the true gospel or a different gospel. Just send me a comment or an email.
May God bless your search for the truth.
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