Summary: An exposition of Galatians 2:16 answering the question "what is the real gospel".
Title: Will the real Gospel please stand up?
Today there is a lot of confusion about what the Gospel is. The word gospel means good news. But a lot of the gospels I hear about don’t sound like good news to me. As you may already know I was raised Catholic and I was taught that if you were good you would go to heaven and if you were bad you would go to hell. Billionaire Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, is a staunch Catholic. Here is how he sums up his theology:
"I was taught -– and I bought it -– that if I live a certain way I’m going to go to Heaven, and if I live a certain way I was going to go to Hell," he said. "And that’s for eternity. And Hell was worse than anything you can imagine here. Heaven was better than anything you can imagine. So, to me, it’s all that simple. I get it, and I want other people to get it, too, for their own benefit. Is that illogical? Is that insanity? I don’t know. I don’t want to go to Hell".
Trying to be good enough to get to heaven leads people in a lot of interesting directions. I am sure you have seen catholic monks wearing their long robes and having a rope tied about their waste with knots in it. They don’t wear that rope for decoration and its not to hold their pants up. Would you believe that they use the rope is to beat themselves! It is a practice called asceticism. They do this as a way to try and make themselves better. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem like good news to me. I don’t think if we put a sign on the front of this church "come on in and beat yourself" that we would get a very big crowd! There is a relatively new traditional Catholic order called Opus Dei. My mother has a book by Josemaria Escriva, founder of this order. I looked inside the cover to see what he had to say. He began by saying "O wonderful pain, glorious pain, etc." He said "to get to Heaven we have to suffer", He also practices asceticism. You know what is truly amazing? They actually have a big following! Is suffering and pain God’s path to earn salvation? I remember going to a shrine and watching people going up stone stairs on their bare knees in an attempt to earn something from God. You can see Catholics doing this at Fatima until their knees are bloody! But even this self imposed suffering is still not enough to get a catholic into heaven. Catholics are taught that when you die you go to a place called purgatory and there you have to be burned in flames to pay for your sins. Does that sound like good news to you?
I don’t want to just pick on the Catholics. I talk about Catholicism because I grew up in it and I am very familiar with it. But other religions have similar ideas. The Jehovah’s Witnesses make you go door to door witnessing to earn your salvation. If you don’t go witnessing their God drops you! The 7th Day Adventists follow the teachings of Ellen G. White, who wrote, "Jesus has purchased redemption for us. It is ours, BUT we are placed here on probation to see if we will prove worthy of eternal life." With them obtaining eternal life depends on proving your worthiness.
In the movie "Saving Private Ryan," Tom Hanks portrays an Army captain whose unit is assigned to find a private named Ryan in the dangerous aftermath of the D-Day Invasion. Ryan’s brothers have both been killed in combat, and, unbeknownst to him, he is his mother’s only surviving son. The mission involves the captain’s unit in brutal battles with the Germans. But Private Ryan is located and his life is saved by his captain who dies in the process. As Private Ryan attends to his mortally wounded rescuer, the captain speaks his last words in a hoarse whisper - "Earn this." The camera merges from the young private’s face to the face of an old man, standing by a white cross in the cemetery at Normandy. It is Ryan many years later, near the end of his life. He kneels by his captain’s grave and says: "Every day of my life, I’ve thought about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I’ve done my best. I hope at least in your eyes that I’ve lived up to all you gave for me." Since the time Jesus was crucified on the cross. People have been looking at His sacrifice and have tried to "earn this". But is that the good news of the Gospel? Do you have to do all kinds of things to "earn this"? Have you been confused about what the real Gospel is? Will the real Gospel please stand up? Today I want to challenge you to know and believe the real Gospel.