A banker friend once told me a story about how bankers who handle currencies are trained to detect counterfeit notes. This was before the advent of fake currency detection machines. According to him, the training essentially entails being made so familiar with the genuine notes such that when they handled the counterfeit, they could immediately tell that it was different from the genuine that they had gotten accustomed to.
The same principle is applicable in most areas of life. When you are used to the genuine, you will be in a better position to identify the counterfeit. However, the unfortunate aspect of this principle is that when training entails blind exposure to both the genuine and the counterfeit, then the trainee gets confused and would more often than not also accept the counterfeit as genuine. Such is the irony of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Church today.
The Apostle Paul; a man of great insight and revelation, in the twilight of his life wrote to his spiritual son, Timothy, and foretold of the situation which is being fulfilled before our very eyes today. “ For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths .….”(2 Timothy 4: 3,4 - NIV). In his first letter to Timothy, Paul also sounded a similar warning…” The Spirit clearly says that in the later times, some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1,2 – NIV). The painful and sad aspect is that when a people are continually exposed to the counterfeit gospel, after a while, they will accept it as genuine and like every other counterfeit; it will damage their lives and render them unfruitful in accomplishing the works which God desires. The dysfunctional nature of our society today bears testimony to the fact that the true gospel of Jesus Christ; which alone is able to produce good fruits in those that receive it, has become scarce in the land, while ‘another gospel’ which is not of Christ has taken over many pulpits. The situation is further worsened by the fact that even members of churches were the true gospel is preached are not insulated from the counterfeit gospel even while in their homes, due to advances in digital communication – Satellite TV, internet, etc.
It is therefore necessary for the sake of the body of Christ; which unfortunately consists majorly of spiritual babes, to clearly differentiate between the genuine and the counterfeit gospel and thereby arrest the current situation where many are being tossed here and there by strange winds of doctrines. The differentiation is also important in order to preserve the sanctity of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the upcoming generation so that they too can encounter that life-transforming light, which gives purpose to human existence. Thirdly, an awakening call on the Church to guard and proclaim only the true gospel, holds the key to solving the myriad of complex societal challenges that we face globally; characterized by chaos and darkness, which bow only to the authority of the true Word of God and its inherent power to declare, ‘’let there be light’’!
An incident several years ago while I was running a postgraduate degree program readily comes to mind. On that particular day, I needed the attention of one of the non-academic staff to sort out an issue in school. When I eventually met the lady who was to assist me, I was taken aback by her condition. She was so weak and tired that she just couldn’t get herself to do anything. Out of concern, I asked if she was okay, to which she responded in the affirmative; but I was not convinced, as her action spoke otherwise. I then requested to know why she was so weak and could hardly move. She told me that they were observing a seventy day fast in her Church. Although I support fasting because it is Biblical, I was alarmed at her state. While I was contemplating on the best approach to counsel her without appearing to counter the essence of periodic fasting, the Holy Spirit said to me ‘Ask her why she is fasting’? When I did, her answer to the question troubled me even the more, and gave me an insight to the level of understanding of several in the Church today. According to her, she was observing the fast so that God will answer her request for a marriage partner and also give her a better job. I became bothered at how our loving Father, Creator and Redeemer has been so portrayed as wicked to His children by shepherds; several of who may likely never have had an encounter with Him, thereby necessitating the affliction of their souls for seventy days before His ‘anger’ will be assuaged enough to give them what is good for them. It was obvious to me that another gospel, which is deficient in conveying the message of the Fatherhood of God based on the completed works of Jesus, as well as our acceptance into His family as joint-heirs with Christ; but explicit in portraying God as a task master and a means to an end; was at play in the life of the lady. I asked her two questions: (1) ‘If you had a son in secondary school whose school fee needs to be paid, will you want him to fast and beg you for seventy days before you agree to pay the fee? Her answer was emphatic, ‘Ah ah, why will my child need to beg me like that, even if he offended me? Am I not the one that gave birth to him? I then referred her to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:11.. ‘ If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him>! (2) What do you think was the motive and purpose of Jesus’ coming to the world? Did He accomplish that purpose? She was a bit unclear on the extent of Jesus’ accomplishment of His earthly mission beyond the fact that He came so that mankind will have eternal life. In the next five minutes, I summarized the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ to her, with emphasis on the love nature of the Father, which made Him to orchestrate our salvation all by Himself. The transformation that took place in her was instant. Her face literally lit up and became full of smiles. I left her with a parting admonition – ‘Take responsibility for your life. Study the Bible for yourself and the Lord will grant you understanding’.
There are so many like her in the Church today, who through ignorance are being made to bear heavy yokes which Christ never intended for His people. Several Churches have become like the modern day ‘Pharaoh’, who rather than relieve the burden of the people, continue to mount pressure on them - psychologically, socially and financially, thereby increasing their affliction.
But the true gospel of Jesus Christ liberates men and women and translates them to the realms of joy unspeakable; full of glory, because the Master s yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
Table summarizing key differences between the genuine and counterfeit gospel of Jesus Christ
Conclusion: As we witness several of the global crisis foretold by the Lord Jesus Christ, it should become apparent to any keen observer that we are indeed in the final days. Therefore, there is the need for every child of God to take heed to the admonition of Christ for this dispensation, “Watch out that no one deceives you”….. (Matthew 24:4 – NIV).
It is therefore time for the Church to rise up to the occasion, by setting up doctrinal monitoring groups, charged with the responsibility to identify and draw the attention of the Church authorities to messages that constitute a perversion of the gospel, so that the flock of Christ can be appropriately guided and protected, and the erring preachers called to order. The monitoring groups will not only evaluate the content of books and wireless media broadcasts but will also visit Churches on Sundays and on other service days to assess the content of sermons. The Church is in safer hands with a few messengers who teach the undiluted Word of God than with a multitude of preachers who pervert the gospel of Christ.
Beyond the corporate effort of the Church authorities, all Christians must be brought to the realization that it is their personal responsibility to watch out and see that they are not deceived. Every child of God must therefore embrace the personal study of the Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and be so familiar with the Spirit of the Word, such that they will be able to detect any counterfeit gospel a mile away. It is my prayer that the Lord will increase the understanding of His children.
Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. A-men’.
The Revd. Dr. Nduka Iwuchukwu. Priest, Diocese of Lagos West, is presently attached to St. Nicholas Cathedral, Anglican Diocese of Victoria Nyanza, Tanzania. (firstname.lastname@example.org)