Galatians 1:6-7, “6 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 — 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
The gospel message has been the most fought against and counterfeited message of all times- yet it has been the fastest growing movement known to mankind. Within just 15 years of the ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the gospel message was being polluted and counterfeited in many different ways.
Paul in the above passage was forced to write a letter to the Roman province of Galatia and sternly rebuke both the teachers of a false gospel and those who were beginning to believe it, Galatians 3:1 & 5:12. Paul corrected this first major kind of perversion to the gospel called, “Jewish legalism.” Jewish legalism occurred when Jewish followers of Christ tried to mix Jewish laws with the grace of God.
The next major obstacle the gospel had to overcome was Gnosticism. The Gnostics were people who mixed the pagan philosophy of dualism (God is both good and evil) with the teachings of Jesus. In doing so they denied Jesus actually had a body when He came to earth and they taught as long as someone was born again in their spirit they didn’t need to live moral lives in their bodies. It was this false teaching of Gnosticism that John the Apostle rebuked in 1 John 2:4 when he wrote, “Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.”
After the apostolic church age (100 AD), the disciples of the first disciples had to preach and face extreme persecution from the Romans who accused them of “atheism” because Christians refused to worship their many gods! The persecution in Rome climaxed in the reign of Diocletian (303-313) when he murdered over 20,000 Christians by burning them, crucifying them, and putting them in arenas to die by gladiator sword or wild animal attacks.
Roman persecution stopped in 313 AD when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and made Rome a Christian nation. His conversion and the rash national acceptance of Christianity soon made way for another enemy of the gospel called, “The Roman Catholic Church.” For the next two hundred years the Church of Rome began to organize all the Christians under one leader, the Bishop of Rome (i.e, the Pope). Eventually, by the 500’s, the Church of Rome persecuted all those who did not do things their way- including other Christians (this was known as the Inquisitions).
Over the next 1,000 years in the “Dark Ages” the Church of Rome reduced the gospel of Jesus to a series of man-made sacraments that only the priests could perform. Though during this time there were gospel preachers, they were few and made to suffer. For example, when the church theologian John Wycliffe in the 1300’s tried to translate the Bible from Latin to a language all the common people could read he was excommunicated and threatened with death until he died of natural causes. Afterward, out of Rome’s immense hatred for him, the priests dug up his body and had it publicly burned!
Therefore, when Martin Luther (a German priest of Rome) with many others, like Huldreich Zwingli, finally “protested” the Church of Rome and broke off in 1517 AD the gospel would be free to grow again. We call this breaking away from the Church of Rome, the “Protestant Reformation.” The name “protestant” comes from those who “protested” and fought against the lies of the priests and “reformation” because the church reformed itself to the time before the Roman Catholic Church.
After the Protestant Reformation the gospel transformed and inspired nations. As a matter of fact, much of the first settlers came to America for religious freedom. Specifically, as the United States formed, so did powerful churches and movements such as the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians. Later in the early 1900’s the fire of Pentecost came again in Los Angeles known as the Azusa Street Revival and since then signs, wonders, and miracles have become normative to the gospel again!
May we never forget the lessons of the past and always remember to hold to the pure and uncorrupted gospel of Jesus Christ!
Are you willing to preserve the gospel of Jesus Christ in your generation?
- Ask God to rid you of any compromise or sin.
- Pray for the power to remember and properly share the gospel with others.
- Pass the gospel torch to others until Jesus comes back