There seems to be a fairly common theme in today’s world among those in so-called Christendom. This theme I’ll term the “optional gospel”. It’s core tenet is that basically everything in Christianity is, in fact, optional. “What are some specific examples?” you may ask. Here are a few I’ve noticed:
- Attending worship services every Sunday (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Studying the Bible for oneself (2 Timothy 2:15)
- Applying Biblical principles to one’s life (Matthew 7:21-23)
- Sharing the gospel with others is optional (Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Timothy 2:2)
- Living a godly life (Matthew 7:13-14, 7:21-23, John 14:15)
- Strict adherence to what the God’s word (the Bible) says, without any alterations whatsoever (Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs 30:6, Revelation 22:18-19, Leviticus 10:1-2, 2 Samuel 6, Acts 5:1-11)
- Independently verifying what the preacher said is actually what God has said (1 John 4:1, 2 Timothy 2:15)
Each of these “optional” beliefs is refuted by the accompanying scripture in the list above. The danger in these “optional” beliefs is that people begin to obtain a false sense of hope and security before Almighty God. That is, these optional beliefs have become an “optional gospel”, to be followed, if someone so chooses. Paul warns against a changed gospel in Galatians 1:6-9. Deviating from the written gospel in any way falls under that passage as a false gospel.
Friend, some will point you to Ephesians 2:9 to suggest that absolutely no works are required of the Christian. It will be said that a Christian should desire to obey God, but that there is no requirement to obey. A closer look at that passage (Ephesians 2:8-10) will show that is not what this passage teaches. In fact, if it did, there would be a contradiction with James 2:14ff!
Instead, Luke 17:7-10 helps us understand the difference. A butler labors in order to earn wages and has a legal right to receive the agreed upon wages. A slave, however, has no legal right to earn any wages whatsoever. Instead, everything he receives from his Master is entirely at the Master’s discretion and subject to the Master’s requirements. Thus, all Christians (as slaves of Christ, Ephesians 6:6) are required to obey the gospel to the letter, both in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). That is, we must desire to obey God’s law in a spirit of love and gratitude, and we must also obey the letter of the law. To lack either is to fail to fulfill John 4:24!
Friend, please don’t be caught up in this “optional gospel” bandwagon that has swept up so many! God both commands and desires more from you and for you. He wants a relationship with you (one where both you and He have contributed effort), not just an acquaintance. So, please search the scriptures for yourself and see what God would have you to do! Don’t let pride, assumption, or other such things keep you from a relationship with Him and a home in Heaven in eternity!