Cheap imitations can entice. I remember buying a pair of sunglasses in New York City as a child that cost ten dollars and looked like a pair of sunglasses that would have cost at least one hundred dollars if they had been the real thing. I was drawn in by the prospect of owning cool shades I could actually afford. By the end of the trip, the sunglasses were broken and unusable.
Rather than Paul’s standard opening of thanksgiving, the letter to the Galatians begins with a stern rebuke to the churches that have allowed themselves to be enticed by a knock-off gospel. Paul writes, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” (niv).
The gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be improved upon—better news is not possible. And there are no shortcuts to the kind of life this gospel demands. The opening verses summarize the gospel that commands Paul’s commitment: God raised Jesus; Jesus gave his life for our sins and thereby set us free from the evil age.The gospel in a nutshell. Paul ratchets up what is at stake by saying that those who preach something different than the gospel of Christ, “let them be under God’s curse!” (niv).
Paul asserts that the gospel he preaches is not of human origin but a direct revelation from Jesus Christ himself, which is why he emphasizes so strongly the importance of this gospel rather than its perversion or improvement.
The good news is the best news the world has ever seen or heard. We cannot improve on the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we will answer to God if we water it down.
Jesus, protect me from being enticed by false gospels. Drench my thoughts, words, and actions with the good news of your gospel. Amen.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.