Let me make a bold statement. I believe over a billion people in this world have been deceived by various "brands" of a false so-called Christian gospel, that is described in the Book of Galatians. We are told in Romans 1:16 the true gospel is the power of God that leads to our being saved. So which "gospel" message we are believing becomes all-important. The TRUE gospel brings forgiveness and God's presence into our lives, and determines that our destiny beyond this life will be heaven, not hell. No one is good enough to merit these things because we are told that we all sin and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that there is NO ONE righteous in God's sight (Romans 3:10). Our sin is THE BIG problem....remedied by the true gospel.
Galatians 1:6-9 CURSES those who teach a false gospel that imitates the Biblical one. How do we distinguish the two? The true gospel is identified in Galatians 1 as a gospel of GRACE. What does grace mean? It means undeserved favor...something God gives as a gift even though the person has not earned it or become worthy of it. Yes, we must meet the requirement to get it (faith), just as a bride must say "I do" to get married, or a criminal on death row must ACCEPT the pardon he is being offered. But does that make the criminal worthy of the gift? Did he earn it?
The true gospel is defined in I Cor. 15:1-4:
Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again for our sins.
Did you notice this statement has no laws or ordinances in it? No statement of requirements to stay in grace? It is all about what CHRIST did FOR US, not what we do. That is why at his death his final statement seconds before dying was "It is finished." That was an accounting term he used that meant "paid in full." Our part (stated over 125 times in the Bible) is to BELIEVE in what he did...that it can and does apply to OUR sins.
The confusion comes when we factor in the Bible verses that speak of good works. Permit a pair of formulas to clarify the issue. It is not faith plus works equals salvation... it is FAITH = SALVATION + WORKS. The false gospel puts the cart before the horse figuratively and that makes salvation OUR doing... WE must measure up...WE must meet the requirements before we can be sure of the outcome, whereas God has said that it is a gift that is ours now. (John 5:24) A gift that comes with a payment plan attached isn't really a gift. It's just an obligation. We do, as followers of Christ, want to do good works, but we do not do them to get saved or to stay saved, but as a way of saying thank you because we ARE permanently saved....by faith.
Now faith is only as good as its object. Faith in a leaky boat only gets you wet. If you are trusting in your ability to change and not sin and follow all the rules 'til death... lots of luck! It just isn't what God requires to stay saved. The faith God requires is faith in HIM, not in ourselves -- faith in the VALUE of the shed blood of Christ to secure eternal life for us. THAT is what the true gospel is all about.
A false gospel is going to leave one always wondering whether they are measuring up and whether they will ultimately make it. It's no fun, to put it mildly. But the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to us when we believe as a sort of engagement ring or promise (Ephesians 1:13) that what God has planned for us IS going to happen. (See Philippians 1:6) Now if you believe the Holy Spirit can come and go every time we sin/repent...that means little to you. But the truth is that Heb. 13:5 says "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," and it is written like a triple negative in the Greek.... never, no, not EVER! Do not believe the false gospel's denial of our security in Christ. I am aware that the "once-saved-always-saved" idea is controversial, but the scriptures ARE clear -- a thorough discussion of the supporting and opposing verses can be found here: If I Could Lose My Salvation (and we ARE talking about ETERNAL life, not temporary life).
But what about when we sin? (Notice I did not say "if".) I John chapters one and two indicate that we are liars if we say we have no sin, and that (chapter 2) when we sin we HAVE an advocate (lawyer)...and his shed blood is the propitiation for all our sins... that word propitiation means a fully satisfactory sacrifice. You might say the penalty is all paid in advance because every sin of ours was "future" when Christ died.
It seems too good to be true, but that is the idea of grace... you do not deserve it. That's why it is referred to as God's gift (Romans 6:23). That is why Romans 3:24 says we are justified FREELY by His grace.
A false gospel invents a purgatory to keep people in line. (Click here for study on purgatory.) It does not teach that a part of the GIFT of eternal life is a permanent right standing with God called imputed righteousness (Heb. 10:14). Click here for a full study of this wonderful blessing that gives us security in our relationship to God. A false gospel ignores Paul's discussion of the law as a CURSE in Galatians 3:10....and says you must keep it or some part of it such as the 10 commandments. It ignores Romans 6:14's statement that we are not under law but under grace, and goes back to requiring obedience to all the laws and ordinances of their "gospel". (For related study on Are Mormons Christians, click here.)
The Bible DOES speak of falling from grace in Galatians 5:4. How do you depart from the idea of something undeserved. There's only one way I know of... and that is to say we must earn it, deserve it, or become worthy of it. And that's just what Galatians 5:4 says... you fall from grace when you get back into LAWKEEPING or rule-keeping, to be justified (or stay justified) before God. That's not the plan. God is waiting for us to fall at his feet and say "I can't do this" (after all...one requirement is to be as perfect as God in heaven is! Matt. 5:48). When we humble ourselves, THEN we are in a position to receive His grace... because we are admitting we don't deserve it... and that's the point. Grace is for UNDESERVING people.
Jesus paid it all. Can you humble yourself and rely on H I M as Savior, not on yourself? Titus 3:5 says "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us..." The word gospel generically means good news, and THIS IS very good news!
If you have not received by faith this gospel message, you can do so right now. It is a HEART transaction between you and God to simply tell Him you know you are sinful and need His forgiveness and you believe that Christ died for your sins and you want to receive the total, permanent forgiveness offered to you as a gift because of Christ's sacrifice. Just talk to God...He is waiting to hear from you. And let us know if you have made that decision so we can rejoice with you.