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Monday, October 30, 2017

Reformation 500 - Six Days of Luther, Day 1 (from his commentary on Galatians 5:1)

October 31, 1517 was the day that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door at the church in Wittenberg, and this week we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of that special day.  It is commonly thought of as the "official" beginning of the monumental movement of God called the Reformation, which in my opinion is one of the greatest events in the history of the world.  So I'd like to commemorate it by posting in full Luther's commentary on the first six verses of Galatians 5 during this week (one verse each post).  I've been reading through Galatians and Luther's commentary for the last four months along with some friends, and blogging about it along the way.  It amazes me how in the providence of God, at this particular time, I would happen to arrive at this landmark passage about justification by faith alone, which was of course Luther's favorite doctrine and the one he "got right" more than any other.  I hope you'll join me in celebrating Reformation 500 by giving just a few minutes to read some of the profound words God used to change the whole world!

Here are Luther's comments on Galatians 5:1...

VERSE 1. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.

"Be steadfast, not careless. Lie not down and sleep, but stand up. Be watchful. Hold fast the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free." Those who loll cannot keep this liberty. Satan hates the light of the Gospel. When it begins to shine a little he fights against it with might and main.

What liberty does Paul mean? Not civil liberty (for which we have the government to thank), but the liberty which Christ has procured for us. At one time the emperor was compelled to grant to the bishop of Rome certain immunities and privileges. This is civil liberty. That liberty exempts the clergy from certain public charges. Then there is also another kind of "liberty," when people obey neither the laws of God nor the laws of men, but do as they please. This carnal liberty the people want in our day. We are not now speaking of this liberty. Neither are we speaking of civil liberty. 

Paul is speaking of a far better liberty, the liberty "wherewith Christ hath made us free," not from material bonds, not from the Babylonian captivity, not from the tyranny of the Turks, but from the eternal wrath of God. 

Where is this liberty? In the conscience. Our conscience is free and quiet because it no longer has to fear the wrath of God. This is real liberty, compared with which every other kind of liberty is not worth mentioning. Who can adequately express the boon that comes to a person when he has the heart-assurance that God will nevermore be angry with him, but will forever be merciful to him for Christ's sake? This is indeed a marvelous liberty, to have the sovereign God for our Friend and Father who will defend, maintain, and save us in this life and in the life to come. 

As an outgrowth of this liberty, we are at the same time free from the Law, sin, death, the power of the devil, hell, etc. Since the wrath of God has been assuaged by Christ no Law, sin, or death may now accuse and condemn us. These foes of ours will continue to frighten us, but not too much. The worth of our Christian liberty cannot be exaggerated. Our conscience must he trained to fall back on the freedom purchased for us by Christ. Though the fears of the Law, the terrors of sin, the horror of death assail us occasionally, we know that these feelings shall not endure, because the prophet quotes God as saying: "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment: but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee." (Isa. 54:8.) 

We shall appreciate this liberty all the more when we bear in mind that it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who purchased it with His own blood. Hence, Christ's liberty is given us not by the Law, or for our own righteousness, but freely for Christ's sake. In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of St. John, Jesus declares: "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." He only stands between us and the evils which trouble and afflict us and which He has overcome for us. 

Reason cannot properly evaluate this gift. Who can fully appreciate the blessing of the forgiveness of sins and of everlasting life? Our opponents claim that they also possess this liberty. But they do not. When they are put to the test all their self-confidence slips from them. What else can they expect when they trust in works and not in the Word of God? Our liberty is founded on Christ Himself, who sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Therefore our liberty is sure and valid as long as we believe in Christ. As long as we cling to Him with a steadfast faith we possess His priceless gifts. But if we are careless and indifferent we shall lose them. It is not without good reason that Paul urges us to watch and to stand fast. He knew that the devil delights in taking this liberty away from us. 

VERSE 1. And be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 

Because reason prefers the righteousness of the Law to the righteousness of faith, Paul calls the Law a yoke, a yoke of bondage. Peter also calls it a yoke. "Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (Acts 15:10.) 

In this passage Paul again disparages the pernicious notion that the Law is able to make men righteous before God, a notion deeply rooted in man's reason. All mankind is so wrapped up in this idea that it is hard to drag it out of people. Paul compares those who seek to be justified by the Law to oxen that are hitched to the yoke. Like oxen that toil in the yoke all day, and in the evening are turned out to graze along the dusty road, and at last are marked for slaughter when they no longer can draw the burden, so those who seek to be justified by the Law are "entangled with the yoke of bondage," and when they have grown old and broken-down in the service of the Law they have earned for their perpetual reward God's wrath and everlasting torment. 

We are not now treating of an unimportant matter. It is a matter that involves everlasting liberty or everlasting slavery. For as a liberation from God's wrath through the kind office of Christ is not a passing boon, but a permanent blessing, so also the yoke of the Law is not a temporary but an everlasting affliction. 

Rightly are the doers of the Law called devil's martyrs. They take more pains to earn hell than the martyrs of Christ to obtain heaven. Theirs is a double misfortune. First they torture themselves on earth with self- inflicted penances and finally when they die they gain the reward of eternal damnation.

Luther, Martin. Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (pp. 139-141). Kindle Edition.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Was Luther an Antinomian? (from his commentary on Galatians 4:21-31)

I will get to my answer to that question in a little while, but first let me share the passage I read about in Luther's commentary, and his summary of its basic meaning (which I think is right on).  Galatians 4:21-31 says,

"Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, 'Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.'  Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman."

Luther writes this about the overall point of that passage:

Paul quotes the allegorical prophecy of Isaiah to the effect that the mother of many children must die desolately, while the barren woman shall have an abundance of children. (Isaiah 54:1.) He applies this prophecy to Hagar and Sarah, to the Law and the Gospel. The Law as the husband of the fruitful woman procreates many children. For men of all ages have had the idea that they are right when they follow after the Law and outwardly perform its requirements. 

Although the Law has many children, they are not free. They are slaves. As servants they cannot have a share in the inheritance, but are driven from the house as Ishmael was cast out of the house of Abraham. In fact the servants of the Law are even now barred from the kingdom of light and liberty, for "he that believeth not, is condemned already." (John 3:18.) As the servants of the Law they remain under the curse of the Law, under sin and death, under the power of the devil, and under the wrath and judgment of God. 

On the other hand, Sarah, the free Church, seems barren. The Gospel of the Cross which the Church proclaims does not have the appeal that the Law has for men, and therefore it does not find many adherents. The Church does not look prosperous. Unbelievers have always predicted the death of the Church. The Jews were quite certain that the Church would not long endure. They said to Paul: "As concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against." (Acts 28:22.) No matter how barren and forsaken, how weak and desolate the Church may seem, she alone is really fruitful before God. By the Gospel she procreates an infinite number of children that are free heirs of everlasting life.

So far so good, and as usual Luther gets the main point about justification right.  But then he goes on to say some things that raise the question of whether he was an antinomian.  The answer is... yes and no.  But no more than yes.  Let me explain...

The term "antinomian" comes from Greek words meaning "against law."  In a sense Luther is against law, and some critics (but not most scholars who know history) might apply the term to Luther because he makes statements like these:

The scholastics think that the judicial and ceremonial laws of Moses were abolished by the coming of Christ, but not the moral law. They are blind. When Paul declares that we are delivered from the curse of the Law he means the whole Law, particularly the moral law which more than the other laws accuses, curses, and condemns the conscience. The Ten Commandments have no right to condemn that conscience in which Jesus dwells, for Jesus has taken from the Ten Commandments the right and power to curse us.

Paul, however, refers particularly to the abolition of the moral law. If faith alone in Christ justifies, then the whole Law is abolished without exception. 

Luther is "against law" in the sense that obedience to it should never be considered as a basis of our justification before God.  But the most common historical meaning of antinomianism is that after justification believers are not required to obey God's law, and that it should not be taught to them or pressed upon their conscience in any way.  In that sense Luther is not an antinomian, as these further quotes from his commentary demonstrate:

Isaiah [in the OT passage Paul quotes] calls the Church barren because her children are born without effort by the Word of faith through the Spirit of God. It is a matter of birth, not of exertion. The believer too works, but not in an effort to become a son and an heir of God. He is that before he goes to work. He is born a son and an heir. He works for the glory of God and the welfare of his fellowmen.

St. Bernard was one of the best of the medieval saints. He lived a chaste and holy life. But when it came to dying he did not trust in his chaste life for salvation. He prayed: "I have lived a wicked life. But Thou, Lord Jesus, hast a heaven to give unto me. First, because Thou art the Son of God. Secondly, because Thou hast purchased heaven for me by Thy suffering and death. Thou givest heaven to me, not because I earned it, but because Thou hast earned it for me." If any of the Romanists are saved it is because they forget their good deeds and merits and feel like Paul: "Not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ." (Phil. 3:9.)

When we understand the context of the first couple quotes, which may seem antinomian in flavor, we see that Luther was referring to the relationship of the law to justification rather than to sanctification. And we know from his other writings that he taught the Ten Commandments and other aspects of the moral law to the Christians under his care, and in fact he believed that even non-Christians needed to hear it in order to be convicted of their sins and "flee to Christ for salvation" (see this post about that). Also, believe it or not, he was actually the person who coined the term "antinomians" during his debates with some real ones among his followers, who said that the law should not even be taught in the churches.

So Luther could not rightly be called an antinomian himself, but he is not without blame for the excesses of those followers (just like he is not without blame for later German antisemitism), because of some of the language he used (like in the quotes above).  Interestingly, the final complete edition of his Galatians commentary was published in 1535, which was a few years prior to the rise of the real antimonians in the Lutheran Church.  (In Luther's preface to that edition, he names his foils as the Papists and the Anabaptists, but doesn't mention any antinomians.)  It wouldn't be a stretch to surmise that the immoderate statements in Luther's teaching about the law were used by the devil to promote the really bad ideas that came later.

That's a practical "takeaway" from this discussion:  Careless errors of wording, especially by great men of God, become heresy later among their followers.  Even so we should all be careful with our words and lives, because "where parents walk their children will run" and other such sayings are cliches for a reason.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What Martin Luther would say to Donald Trump (from his commentary on Galatians 4:12-20)

I'm not enough of an authority on politics, or even on Luther, to know what the great Reformer would say about President Trump's political philosophy and practices.  I suspect that he probably would agree with some things and disagree with others, but I don't know for sure. What I do know, however, from Luther's commentary on Galatians 4:12-20, is that he would have a number of things to say about the way our President communicates, especially when he disagrees with someone.  (I'm sharing this for all of us, of course, but if by some chance you happen to see this, Mr. President, I hope by God's grace you will find it helpful.  It is intended to be constructive, unlike most of the criticism you receive.:)

The divinely inspired words in this Bible passage, and Luther's comments on them, provide us with a mini-seminar on how to effectively communicate with those we would like to correct or change with our words.  These are God's own principles, and therefore are always right to follow, whether or not they achieve the desired result.  But they often will be effective, when God's plan allows--definitely more so than the alternative.  Read the words of Paul in Galatians 4:12-20, and see if you can pick out the principles even before we discuss them...

"Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you."

Based on Paul's inspired example, and with Luther's comments to help us understand it, here are some principles for convincing those who disagree with us...

Express care and concern for them (v. 12a)

Paul says, "Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are."  As Luther writes,

Anxious lest he should do more harm than good, he is careful to let them see that his criticism proceeds from affection and a true apostolic concern for their welfare. He is eager to mitigate his sharp words with gentle sentiments in order to win them again....In beseeching the Galatians to be as he is, Paul expresses the hope that they might hold the same affection for him that he holds for them.

We request the same consideration for ourselves. Our way of writing is incisive and straightforward. But there is no bitterness in our heart. We seek the honor of Christ and the welfare of men. We do not hate the Pope as to wish him ill. We do not desire the death of our false brethren. We desire that they may turn from their evil ways to Christ and be saved with us. A teacher chastises the pupil to reform him. The rod hurts, but correction is necessary. A father punishes his son because he loves his son. If he did not love the lad he would not punish him but let him have his own way in everything until he comes to harm. Paul beseeches the Galatians to look upon his correction as a sign that he really cared for them.

Though our opponents may not believe us, it can never hurt to express love for them, and it may indeed help.  How hard would it be for us to simply say, while we are disagreeing, "I'm not trying to hurt you, I'm trying to help you" or "I'm saying this for your good"?  Of course we would actually need to mean that truly from our hearts, which is true of all these principles... I'll get to that issue at the end of the post.  But for now, here's another one...

Tell them you're not personally offended (v. 12b)

When we disagree with others, one of the most common assumptions they're going to make is that we are prejudiced against them because we've been hurt or angered somehow.  So they won't even begin to consider what we have to say.  So if we are hurt and angry, we should first deal with that before God, and when we are not, we should communicate about it.  Luther sums up Paul's approach very well:

"I am not angry with you," says Paul. "Why should I be angry with you, since you have done me no injury at all?" To this the Galatians reply: "Why, then, do you say that we are perverted, that we have forsaken the true doctrine, that we are foolish, bewitched, etc., if you are not angry? We must have offended you somehow." Paul answers: "You Galatians have not injured me. You have injured yourselves. I chide you not because I wish you ill. I have no reason to wish you ill. God is my witness, you have done me no wrong. On the contrary, you have been very good to me. The reason I write to you is because I love you." The bitter potion must be sweetened with honey and sugar to make it palatable. When parents have punished their children they give them apples, pears, and other good things to show them that they mean well.

Remind them of something good about your relationship (vv. 13-15)

Paul thanks the Galatians for receiving him initially, even though he had an apparently repulsive "bodily ailment."  Luther thinks this is a general reference to all the suffering and persecution the apostle endured, but I agree with some other commentators who say it was likely an eye problem that marred his visage considerably--because just a couple verses later he says that if possible they would have given him their own eyes.  But regardless of the exact nature of his ailment, Paul's point is that there was something good about their relationship in the past.  People are more likely to listen to those with whom they have shared some common positive experience, so we should remind them about that when we disagree.

Tell them you're not the enemy, and enlist them against a common foe (vv. 16-17)

Paul says, "Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They [his opponents] make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them." This is especially important among Christians, who should be on the same team fighting against our common enemy Satan, who is constantly seeking to destroy our souls.  Luther writes,

"Do you Galatians know why the false apostles are so zealous about you? They expect you to reciprocate. And that would leave me out. If their zeal were right they would not mind your loving me. But they hate my doctrine and want to stamp it out. In order to bring this to pass they go about to alienate your hearts from me and to make me obnoxious to you." In this way Paul brings the false apostles into suspicion. He questions their motives. He maintains that their zeal is mere pretense to deceive the Galatians. Our Savior Christ also warned us, saying: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing." (Matt. 7:15.)

Paul raised questions about the motives of those who opposed him, and we can do that too (without crossing the line into sinful judgments of their hearts).  "Why do you think they like you so much?" we could ask.  "Would they still be your friends if you started disagreeing with them?"  Or, "Don't think those who praise you necessarily have your best interests at heart."  Proverbs 29:5 says, "A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps."

Talk to them in a parental tone, rather than a judgmental one (vv. 18-19)

Paul says, "It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!"

Would you talk to your young children the way you talk to your opponents?  Well, if your opponents are really wrong, then in that situation they are ignorant like children, and likely have been deceived by others.  So have some fatherly or motherly compassion on them.  As 2 Timothy 2:25 says, "The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."

Talk to them in person if possible, rather than in writing (v. 20)

Paul says, "I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you."  His words, and the following from Luther, are relevant with a capital "R" in our day of emails, Facebook, and the Twitterverse...

A common saying has it that a letter is a dead messenger. Something is lacking in all writing. You can never be sure how the written page will affect the reader, because his mood, his circumstances, his affections are so changeable. It is different with the spoken word. If it is harsh and ill-timed it can always be remodeled. No wonder the Apostle expresses the wish that he could speak to the Galatians in person. He could change his voice according to their attitude. If he saw that they were repentant he could soften the tone of his voice. If he saw that they were stubborn he could speak to them more earnestly. This way he did not know how to deal with them by letter. If his Epistle is too severe it will do more damage than good. If it is too gentle, it will not correct conditions. But if he could be with them in person he could change his voice as the occasion demanded.

Finally, make sure your heart is right before you disagree with someone.  All these principles are dependent upon us actually having love in our hearts for others, and the only way we can get that love is from God.  Romans 5:5 says that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."  And Jesus taught that he who has been forgiven much loves much.  So I would like to end this post with a challenge (for our President and for all of us) to pray these words from David in Psalm 51:9-13:

Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
 and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
 and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
 and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
 and sinners will return to you.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Danger of Christian Idolatry (Martin Luther on Galatians 4:8-11)

"Christian idolatry" sounds like an oxymoron, because Christianity is a monotheistic religion that teaches we should worship only the one true God.  But ironically, Christians often find themselves in danger of creating and worshiping idols, even while they claim to be believers in Christ alone.  This is what was happening to the Galatians in the first century--they had left false pagan gods for the true religion, but now were being drawn back into a form of idolatry by thinking they had to become more Jewish in their spiritual walk and worship.

And the same kind of thing can happen to us in the twenty-first century.

In Galatians 4:8-11, Paul writes, "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain."

Martin Luther summarizes Paul's message well in his commentary:

He tells them: "You have taken on teachers who intend to recommit you to the Law. By my doctrine I called you out of the darkness of ignorance into the wonderful light of the knowledge of God. I led you out of bondage into the freedom of the sons of God, not by the prescription of laws, but by the gift of heavenly and eternal blessings through Christ Jesus. How could you so soon forsake the light and return to darkness? How could you so quickly stray from grace into the Law, from freedom into bondage?"

Then Luther raises a really interesting question about the text, and answers it in a way that highlights not only the danger of Christian idolatry, but the profound truth that there really are only two religions in the world--one of grace (true Christianity) and one of works (every other belief system that exists). This is what makes the biblical gospel truly unique, and why getting it right is so important and necessary.  Hear the great Reformer's comments about this...

Why does Paul accuse the Galatians of reverting to the weak and beggarly elements of the Law when they never had the Law? Why does he not say to them: "At one time you Galatians did not know God. You then served idols that were no gods. But now that you have come to know the true God, why do you go back to the worship of idols?" Paul seems to identify their defection from the Gospel to the Law with their former idolatry. Indeed he does. Whoever gives up the article of justification does not know the true God. It is one and the same thing whether a person reverts to the Law or to the worship of idols. When the article of justification is lost, nothing remains except error, hypocrisy, godlessness, and idolatry.

God will and can be known in no other way than in and through Christ according to the statement of John 1:18, "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Christ is the only means whereby we can know God and His will. In Christ we perceive that God is not a cruel judge, but a most loving and merciful Father who to bless and to save us "spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all." This is truly to know God. 

Those who do not know God in Christ arrive at this erroneous conclusion: "I will serve God in such and such a way. I will join this or that order. I will be active in this or that charitable endeavor. God will sanction my good intentions and reward me with everlasting life. For is He not a merciful and generous Father who gives good things even to the unworthy and ungrateful? How much more will He grant unto me everlasting life as a due payment in return for my many good deeds and merits." This is the religion of reason. This is the natural religion of the world. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. (I Cor. 2:14.) "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." (Romans 3:11.) Hence, there is really no difference between a Jew, a Mohammedan, and any other old or new heretic. There may be a difference of persons, places, rites, religions, ceremonies, but as far as their fundamental beliefs are concerned they are all alike.

God never promised to save anybody for his religious observance of ceremonies and ordinances. Those who rely upon such things do serve a god, but it is their own invention of a god, and not the true God. The true God has this to say: No religion pleases Me whereby the Father is not glorified through His Son Jesus. All who give their faith to this Son of Mine, to them I am God and Father. I accept, justify, and save them. All others abide under My curse because they worship creatures instead of Me. 

Without the doctrine of justification there can be only ignorance of God. Those who refuse to be justified by Christ are idolaters. They remain under the Law, sin, death, and the power of the devil. Everything they do is wrong. Nowadays there are many such idolaters who want to be counted among the true confessors of the Gospel. They may even teach that men are delivered from their sins by the death of Christ. But because they attach more importance to charity than to faith in Christ they dishonor Him and pervert His Word. They do not serve the true God, but an idol of their own invention. The true God has never yet smiled upon a person for his charity or virtues, but only for the sake of Christ's merits.

As we're thinking about Paul's and Luther's warnings (to professing believers!) about "inventing our own gods," I thought this would be a good place to reproduce something I wrote in a former post about the false gospels that even Christians can so often be influenced by...

The legality gospel.  This is what the Paul and Luther were most concerned about in their times, and the problem still exists today in different forms.  Something is added to grace and faith alone as necessary for us to be justified (declared righteous) before God.  We are told that we cannot be saved without Roman Catholic sacraments, speaking in tongues, water baptism, membership in a specific church, or a plethora of other "works" that are stated or implied to be necessary additions to faith in Christ.

The morality gospel.  This is similar to the first, but defined more by what is not included.  Moral virtues and cultural values are encouraged, while Christ's atonement is minimized or even excluded.  This kind of teaching has been called "Christless Christianity" and "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism," and has difficulty answering the question, "If your message was delivered in a Mormon Church (or even in a Muslim mosque), would anyone be offended by it?"

The immorality gospel.  This is the opposite extreme from the first two, saying that our repentance and obedience to God's law is unnecessary as a consequence or proof of saving faith, or even undesirable because we might somehow become legalistic or moralistic.  In other words, this false gospel says that people can be Christians and go to heaven even though they live a life of disbelief, disobedience and even disregard for what God has said in the Bible.  But although we should never think of our good works as the cause of our justification, we must realize that they are always the inevitable consequence of it.  As James said, faith without works is dead and cannot save.

The prosperity gospel.  Earthly "health and wealth" are not what God promised in His gospel--in fact Jesus said "in this world you will have tribulation."  That's not commonly thought of as one of God's promises, but it was.  And it's more realistic (and consistent with the true gospel) to expect and even embrace suffering and self-denial as an essential part of our journey down the narrow road, which is the way of the cross rather than the couch.

The universality gospel.  "All roads lead to heaven" is a slogan of this false teaching, which rejects the necessary element of exclusivity that is in almost all New Testament gospel passages (and illustrated repeatedly in the Old Testament).  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me," and anyone who contradicts that is promoting a damnable lie.

The individuality gospel.  This is the idea, which has no precedent in Scripture or church history, that people can be Christians but have no connection to the visible church.  Especially prevalent in American culture, this is tantamount to saying "I want God as my Father but I don't want to be in his family" (see 1 Timothy 3:15, where the local church is called the household of God).

The liberality gospel.  This used to be called "the social gospel," but the primary purveyors of it have exchanged the term "socialism" for "liberalism."  But they have continued to espouse the idea that salvation is essentially achieved by the practice and advocacy of works of mercy and social justice.  They quote the Golden Rule, but fail to recognize that it is a summary of the law of God (which cannot save), and need to hear Luther on the crucial distinction between law and gospel.

The doctrinality gospel.  While perusing our shelves of books recently, my wife unearthed one that had been given to us years ago by some friends.  It was written by a pastor who taught that only Five-Point Calvinists are really saved....if people believed that Jesus died for everybody, for example, they were not trusting in Him alone and would be lost.  Ironically, I fear that was an example of people trusting in their theology rather than in Christ alone.  And I'm concerned that more subtle versions of this problem exist (especially among "Reformed" people), where we think "If anyone is saved, it's surely me" because we've come to a particular understanding of doctrinal truth.