The visible church today is undoubtedly full of false gospels. There are, of course, the cults like Mormonism and the Watchtower Society. There is the Roman Catholic Church, which distorts the gospel into a form of works righteousness coupled with idolatry. We have the Prosperity Gospel, the Word of Faith movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, Charismania, Arminianism, easy-believism, and so on. Satan’s attack on the Church is relentless and unforgiving.
But there are a few, less noticeable false gospels that have crept into even the most sound of churches over time. I would like to go over a few of these today.
The Gospel of Niceness
Growing up, I was always taught to be nice to people. “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” the old adage goes. The teaching is prevalent, and usually involves parents, or teachers encouraging kids to be thoughtful and kind to others. “Share your candy,” or “play nice with others.”
Christianity is often confused with niceness; “you seem so nice, are you a Christian?”
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While the Scriptures do teach us to be kind and compassionate towards others, it does not teach us to do so at the expense of truth. This is where the gospel is compromised and becomes a false gospel. We don’t want to offend people. It’s okay to talk about the positive things in Christianity, but we don’t want to upset anyone by telling them they’re a sinner. The church is afraid that if we tell people they’re sinners, and they need to repent, that they won’t come back.
We’re afraid of spoiling a friendship or disturbing a close relationship by speaking the truth. While we’re called to engage the world and share the love of Christ, we must not put our relationships above the work of the Holy Spirit. As a Christian, you should expect to be hated by the world (Matthew 10:22). If you have close friendships with those in the world, it need only be based on the truth. If you aren’t sharing the whole counsel of God with your friends who are lost, you are leading them to eternal torment.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 2:8 that Jesus is offensive–a “rock of offense.” The Word of God is foolishness to those who are lost (1 Corinthians 1:18). God is love, and God is kind, but God is also righteous and just and full of wrath (Nahum 1:2). Yet he is merciful and sent his son to die on the cross for our sins and be raised from the dead so that those who would repent and believe in him would be saved. We must not short-change people by only being nice.
We must offend people with the truth.
The Gospel of Unity
This one we hear all the time, the church must be united. In fact, it’s becoming clear that the evangelical church’s focus is becoming centered around unity. The call to unity in the Bible is very clear and often repeated. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says,
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment,
1 Peter 3:8 says,
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind,
and Philippians 2:2 says,
Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
So there is no doubt that the Church is to be united–but around what?
So many churches today have watered down the truth so much so that there is no truth left in what they preach. They have set aside sound doctrine in order to, once again, not offend people. It is around this watered-down system of religiosity, usually focused on “love,” “tolerance,” and “acceptance” of everyone that they can remain united. Sound doctrine has become less important, and unity has become the central theme. Many sound churches are even falling into this trap. Solid churches standing in ecumenical unity with Rome for political and cultural advancement are becoming normal.
We’ve seen this particularly recently in the Southern Baptist Convention as various leaders continue to call for superficial unity despite drastic differences in doctrines and beliefs—even doctrines and beliefs that place one outside the bounds of the historic, orthodox Church.
But the illusion of unity among these religious systems is false and dangerous. It is not sound doctrine, or the defense thereof, that causes divisions and destroys unity, as many have been led to believe. Romans 16:17 says,
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstaclescontrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
You see, it’s a false doctrine that creates divisions. There can be many, many false doctrines, all contrary to each other, but there can only be one truth. The true church is united around God’s truth, not error. There can be no true unity around error. Truth has no accord with error and must be exposed to the light of truth in Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Love
Love. Who doesn’t want to be loved? The pulpits are filled with stories of God’s love for us, for the world, and for all of his creation. We are taught from a young age to love one another as Christ has loved us (John 13:34). After all, the greatest commandment is love, right?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.Matthew 22:37-39
But what is biblical love? John 13:34-35 says,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
From this passage alone, many believe that they are disciples of Christ–Christians – simply because they “love one another.” But here is what biblical love is not…Love is not an emotion or a feeling. Love is not receiving, and it’s not getting something out of a relationship. And, love is not accepting or tolerating sin.
Love is sacrificing, giving, and seeking the best for someone. The greatest example of love ever demonstrated to mankind was Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Why did he do this? Because God loved us (John 3:16). God did not accept our sin, or accept us for “who we are,” for if he did, there would be no need for justice. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). God did not receive anything from us for his sacrifice on the cross. Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
This was truly an act of selfless, unconditional love from God, to all who would repent and believe in him. The church cannot just teach love, it must teach the whole counsel of God, including his wrath. But this false gospel of love has become very prevalent, even in well-meaning pulpits, yet it is sending people straight to Hell.
If your church doesn’t condemn sin, and call it what it is, but only preaches “love,” or if your church is focused on “unity,” or “niceness,” or any other aspect of visible Christianity in an unbiblical way, at the very least you should speak up. But if your church is not teaching the full counsel of God, then you aren’t in a church at all, and it may be time to move on.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.Galatians 1:6-8