“False gospels,” “false teachers,” “heresies”… These are all words the average American Christian might be familiar with, but what do they mean within the context of today?
When scripture tells us that “there is nothing new under the sun,” it should be no surprise that the same false teachings circulating in the early church are still circulating in churches today. Be aware, because these theological lies are sprinkled with just enough truth to deceive the listener.
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.” 2 Peter 2:1-2
Scripture repeatedly warns of destructive heresies and false gospels, but what is most alarming is that these heresies aren’t just out in the world — they’re in your church. And many will fall prey to Satan’s crafty schemes.
False gospels aren’t easy to identify for those who do not study Scripture, but they do exist in the American church today. As believers, we must be equipped with the Word of God to be able to spot and rebuke these heresies when we hear them.
In this series, we’ll discuss four common false gospels within American churches today that must be rejected by Bible-believing Christians: the inclusive gospel, the works-based gospel, the prosperity gospel, and the “only Jesus” gospel. In this article, we’ll cover the inclusive gospel.
The inclusive gospel, a false gospel that often borrows from universalist doctrine, is the belief that everyone will be saved and spend eternity in heaven. This view is often accepting of all religions, denies the need for individual salvation, negates the need for Christ’s work on the cross, and belittles God’s justice and holiness.
Perhaps it’s the distaste for the idea of eternal torment in Hell that pushes people to embrace this view. Maybe it’s the over-emphasis on God’s love and goodness. Regardless, if the god we believe in is all love and no wrath, then he is not the God of the Bible, and he will not and cannot save anyone.
The inclusive gospel isn’t so obvious in American churches today, though, unless you attend a Universalist church. Here are some things you may have heard that would be considered thinly-veiled universalism:
While this statement is true for believers, it isn’t true for those who are not in Christ. If Christ’s atonement were applied to everyone, then God’s wrath against everyone would be satisfied, and no one would go to Hell. Scripture makes clear that anyone whose faith is not in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross will spend eternity in Hell.
“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46
Again, this statement is true for believers, but we must be careful not to say this without following it with a true Gospel presentation that calls the listener to repentance. It’s not enough to simply believe that Jesus loves you. The faith you place in Christ must be a genuine faith that draws you to repent from your sinful ways and follow in obedience to Him and His Word.
“We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6:6-7
We are NOT all God’s children. While it is true that we are all made in the image of God, Scripture is very specific that the use of “God’s children” is reserved only for the saints — all those who have been born again and adopted into the family of Christ by faith. Before salvation, we were all children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), eternally condemned by a righteous and holy God. It is only those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ that are considered to be God’s children.
“This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Romans 9:8
It is common for the world to point its finger at Christians and label them “intolerant” and “exclusive,” but it is true that the biblical Gospel only saves those who repent and believe. Christ Himself declared salvation to be exclusive when He said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6, italics added). The inclusive gospel is a false gospel because it contradicts what Scripture says.
The biblical Gospel states that God is a holy and righteous God:
“[His] eyes are too pure to approve evil, and [He] cannot look on wickedness with favor.” (Habakkuk 1:13)
The problem is that we are not holy and righteous. In fact, we are spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins because we broke God’s good and perfect law. The debt we owe because of disobedience to Him is death.
Because God is just, He must punish us for breaking His law. God would be unjust to let a criminal walk free with unpaid debt. As sinners, we sit under His wrath, facing the reality of eternal death and torment.
But God, being rich in mercy, sent His Son Jesus Christ to enter this world of wickedness and perfectly uphold His law so that He would be the perfect, atoning sacrifice for sinners. Jesus was crucified on a cross where God instead poured out on Him the wrath reserved for us. He died, was buried, and rose again three days later in victory over sin and death.
Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
If salvation were guaranteed for all people everywhere, then there would have been no need for Christ to die and no reason for sinners to repent and believe. In fact, if all people everywhere are guaranteed salvation, then God is actually an unjust and unholy god.
People reject the true Gospel message because it is much easier to believe that you are justified before a holy and righteous God who is loving and saves everyone than it is to believe that you are dead in your sin and in need of a Savior.
The belief in this inclusive gospel will lead you on a path to death and destruction. It is essential that we believe the true Gospel of Jesus Christ — not man’s gospel that depicts God in an unbiblical, unjust light.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14
In the next article featured in the “False Gospels Professing Christians Believe,” we’ll discuss the works-based gospel and why it, too, runs counter to biblical truth and the real Gospel.
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