Since at least as early as 1914, United States Federal Reserve Notes have been produced with a raised printing security feature. Run your finger along the shoulder of the person portrayed on a bill of any denomination, and you will feel ridges. Not long after high school, I worked as a teller at a bank. I had been trained to feel for the raised printing. One day, I was presented with a hundred-dollar bill as part of a deposit. By all appearances, the bill looked like a genuine note. But, instead of feeling ridges, the bill was smooth. I discreetly excused myself and took the bill to my supervisor. My supervisor confirmed that the bill was counterfeit. Eventually that one-hundred-dollar bill made its way to the FBI. Meanwhile, the man, who presented it, was out one hundred dollars. Although they can look the same, there is a substantial difference between the genuine article and a fake.
In the churches in Galatia a counterfeit was being presented as genuine. It was stirring things up in the churches. (Galatians 1:6-10) These churches were likely located in the Southern Roman Province of Galatia, now located in modern-day Turkey. These were towns and cities that the Apostle Paul visited on what we call his first missionary journey. They were among the first churches Paul planted. Yet, within a few months of his last visit, they were turning to a counterfeit teaching. Jewish Christians from Jerusalem were teaching them that in addition to believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, they needed to follow all the Jewish customs to fully be incorporated into the people of God. Paul addressed the situation, by writing, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is no gospel at all.”
Fake gospels throw people into confusion. At face value, they may seem genuine and capable of offering life in the fullest. But, fake gospels pervert the goodness of the good news. In Galatia, a fake gospel turned God’s free gift of grace in Christ into something that could only be obtained through human effort – following Jewish customs.
The only credible good news is the one received from God. No human manufactured gospel – no matter how good it may seem – can grant salvation and the freedom to live godly lives. Over the next few weeks, this blog will explore the gospel given by God, that empty counterfeits can more easily be detected.
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