In the purchasable resource called Drive By Discernment, the apocryphal or heretical gospels are mentioned. Some of these you may have seen some of these false gospels on secular Library bookshelves, books such as –
Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Nicodemus
Early Life of Christ
Gospel of Judas
There are other kinds of false gospels. In a blog essay of the past, I’d written about the therapeutic gospel, a point made by Trevin Wax. He’d said that the true Gospel is Christ centered. The Therapeutic Gospel ultimately fails to satisfy because it switches out the great reward of knowing God for the lesser reward of receiving something from God.
In the previous, longer essay, Pastor Wax compares the subtle shift in a counterfeit Gospel from being Christ-centered to man-centered, by comparing the parable of the sheep as they are presented in Luke and in the false Gospel of Thomas. Here is the Gospel of Luke:
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Gospel of (Luke 15:4-7)
The other is from the non-canonical, false Gospel of Thomas.
Jesus said, “The kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them, the largest, went astray. He left the ninety-nine sheep and looked for that one until he found it. When he had gone to such trouble, he said to the sheep, ‘I care for you more than the ninety-nine.‘ (FALSE, NON-CANONICAL “Gospel of Thomas”)
What has happened here, said Mr Wax, is that in the counterfeit Gnostic gospel the writer has shifted the emphasis. The point of the parable in the counterfeit gospel is about the worth of the sheep, instead of the work of the Shepherd. Any teaching that does this, is another gospel.
Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8 some very strong words about ‘another gospel’. He said
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
Matthew Henry wrote of this verse,
Some would set up the works of the law in the place of Christ’s righteousness, and thus they corrupted Christianity. The apostle solemnly denounces, as accursed, every one who attempts to lay so false a foundation. All other gospels than that of the grace of Christ, whether more flattering to self-righteous pride, or more favourable to worldly lusts, are devices of Satan. And while we declare that to reject the moral law as a rule of life, tends to dishonour Christ, and destroy true religion, we must also declare, that all dependence for justification on good works, whether real or supposed, is as fatal to those who persist in it. While we are zealous for good works, let us be careful not to put them in the place of Christ’s righteousness, and not to advance any thing which may betray others into so dreadful a delusion.
As Henry wrote, any ‘gospel flattering to self-righteous pride’ (or any other emotion, like self-esteem), or ‘more favorable to worldly lusts’, (like prosperity gospel) are devices of satan. Anyone who persists in them is dooming himself.
The therapeutic gospel appeals to your self-esteem, and it presented in a way that aims to make you “feel better” about yourself. Many women ‘Bible’ teachers promote a therapeutic gospel. They focus the lessons on the worth of the sheep rather than the work of the Shepherd.
The truth is, none of us suffers from low self-esteem. We already love ourselves with all our heart, all our mind, all our strength, and all our soul. Jesus said to get the attention off ourselves and love the Lord your God as we love ourselves. (Luke 10:27). If we loved God with as much steam as we already love ourselves, we’d really be cooking.
However the device of satan is to prevent that shift in attention. The therapeutic Gospel is one of those devices. If you listen to any teacher who focuses on the worth of the sheep rather than the work of the Shepherd, you are listening to another gospel. Rather than focusing on ourselves, In Matthew 16:24 re read that we are to deny ourselves
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
I’ll close with an echo of Paul’s words. If anyone teaches another gospel, let him be accursed. We are much too friendly with those who bring fatal gospels. Gill’s Exposition says of the Galatians 1:8 verse,
let him be accursed, or “anathema”; see 1 Corinthians 16:22 which may respect his excommunication out of the church, and his sentence of condemnation by Christ at the last day; and the sense be this, let him be ejected from the ministry of the word, degraded from his office, and cast out of the church; let him be no more a minister, nor a member of it; and let him be abhorred of men, and accursed of Christ; let him hear the awful sentence, “go ye accursed”, &c.
Finally, Barnes said of the Galatians 1:8 verse,
…that we are not to patronise or countenance such preachers. No matter what their zeal or their apparent sincerity, or their apparent sanctity, or their apparent success, or their real boldness in rebuking vice, we are to withdraw from them.
What makes us feel better, ultimately, is resting in Christ and looking at Him full in the face. Reflecting on His attributes is an endless delight.
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! (Psalm 105:4)