Faith Forward: false gospel rewards our efforts, the true gospel brings us to repentance

By Scot Loyd, Contributing Writer

Scot Loyd is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Director of Forensics and Debate.

It is ironic that there are so many stories surrounding the origin of the cliché “the real McCoy.”

If you goggle the phrase, you will find several possibilities of its genesis, including confusion over a particular brand of whiskey, the feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families and Elijah McCoy, the Canadian inventor, who made a successful machine for lubricating engines which spawned many copies, all inferior to the original.

All of which, among others, that compete for the distinction of spawning the phrase that is used to describe the real thing, the genuine article.

But my personal favorite of these origin stories is that of the American welterweight boxing champion of the early twentieth century, Norman Selby, who fought under the name Kid McCoy.

As the story goes, an intoxicated man challenged Selby to prove that he was McCoy and not one of the many lesser boxers trading under the same name.

After being knocked to the floor the drunk rose to admit that “Yes, that’s the real McCoy.”

Just as it difficult to determine which of these stories is “the real McCoy” many today have difficulty in distinguishing between the genuine Gospel and its counterfeits, which has been a challenge throughout the history of the church.

In Galatians 3:6-7 the Apostle Paul writes,

“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.”

To these churches that were being infiltrated by false teachers Paul is challenging them to return to the genuine gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Acts 13 and 14 give detailed accounts as to what Paul preached in these cities of the region of Galatia.

In Acts 13:23 preaching in the Jewish synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, Paul declares “God according to his promise raised unto Israel, a savior, Jesus…”

And continuing in verses 38 and 39; “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man (Jesus) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses.”

After Paul proclaimed this message establishing these churches on the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, false teachers infiltrated them.

This group of false teachers, known as Judiazers, plagued the early church with the false teaching that trusting in Christ was not enough to secure salvation but in addition it was necessary to keep the Law of Moses, specifically to participate in the rite of circumcision.

In essence, it was no longer saved by grace, it was saved by surgery.

What was true for the churches of Galatia is often true for churches today.

The issue is no longer circumcision, but other exterior dress codes or rules of behavior, or efforts to pacify the needs of the congregation at the expense of the truth of Scripture.

We would do well to heed the warnings of Paul to the churches as recorded the book of Galatians.

First, Paul warns those who embraced the false gospel of the Judiazers, that it was their own works that became the object of their faith, placing them at the center of the story of salvation, and not Christ.

What they could do for themselves became equally important, if not more so, than the work of Christ, setting themselves up for despondency over their personal failures or the pride of self-righteousness and often a combination of both, all of which in despair.

Next, Paul makes it clear that the Gospel is not centered in the cult of personality or even the supernatural; in verse eight he warns: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than what we have preached unto you let him be accursed.”

Many today are fascinated with the supernatural, even in the church, as if it is a panacea.

However, the Old Testament was full of God’s demonstration of the supernatural but yet the Israelites continually rebelled, in the New Testament Jesus demonstrated that often the crowds became more fascinated with the miracle than with the miracle worker.

The answer is not another miracle but a return to the centrality of the miracle of the Gospel.

Finally, Paul reconnects the Gospel with good news personified in Christ Jesus, in verse 11-12:

“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

In the final analysis the genuine Gospel is one, that like Kid McCoy’s punch, devastates us, knocking the feet of our own good works out from under us.

False gospels seek to prop us up, making us feel better about our efforts and ourselves.

By contrast, the genuine Gospel knocks us to the ground of repentance with the realization that we are sinners in need of a savior, it is then and only then that we can truly rise to walk in the newness of life.

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