In the opening words of Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches, Paul remarks that he is “astonished that they are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (1:6). The Christians of the Galatian churches had been influenced in many ways, to believe and hope in a gospel that was no gospel at all. The Galatians had been convinced that the gospel was more than the work of Christ alone — but their own works as well.
False teachers often preach a different gospel but still call it the good news. Lamentably, Paul’s pastoral observations are not limited to only churches in the 1st century but continue to this day. Although the contexts have changed, the human heart has not, and we are tempted to add or take away from the true gospel. The true gospel is one of Good News; it is the good news of Jesus Christ; despite our sins, our rebellion, and our deserved judgment, God has sent his Son to deliver us from this present evil age.
Jesus Christ has come and lived a life of perfect obedience to the demands of the law, Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross to pay the penalty and debt of our sin. Jesus was raised from the dead to signal his accomplished work and perfect sacrifice. All of which point to the good news that his life and work are accounted to us for those who look to Him in faith. It is good news for those who turn from false saviors and trust in the only true savior. The gospel has the power to save.
The gospel is good news! It is good news that doesn’t need our help. It is the good news of what Christ has done. Like the Galatians, Christians have a tendency to forget or confuse the Gospel with our response to it. For example, we don’t live the gospel, but we can live in light of the gospel, or live out the implications of the gospel. But we must be careful not to equate our response to the good news as the good news itself.
Ultimately, like the Apostle Paul, I want to keep a clear understanding of the gospel this year, I want to keep a close eye on my life and doctrine, I want to hold fast to the grace of Christ as shown in the gospel. I want to remind myself that the gospel displays the character and work of God. A God that I can trust in, come what may. May we all take great delight and hope in the gospel of Christ today.
Luke Wartgow is lead pastor at Carson Valley Bible Church.