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On occasion I stumble across a title that catches my attention. Counterfeit Gospels is one of those titles. It reminds me of such passages as 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 in which Paul tells the Corinthians that he is concerned they will “been led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” by accepting “a different gospel” (i.e. a counterfeit gospel). Therefore, I am grateful for Trevin Wax’s desire to help his brothers and sisters in Christ see where they might be being led astray.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it to be both convicting and encouraging. Before I discuss the many things that I agreed with, I would like to address one point that I found issue with. The book is organized by viewing the gospel as a three-legged stool, dividing “the gospel” into three main sections: “The Gospel Story,” “The Gospel Announcement,” and “The Gospel Community.” By defining the gospel in this way, the author seems to blur the lines on what “the gospel” really is. Biblically, and as Wax acknowledges, the gospel is what he refers to as “the gospel announcement” – the good news about what Jesus has done through his life, death, resurrection, and exaltation. Therefore, to say that “the gospel” is also comprised of the story and the community is a little confusing.

I do, however, believe I understand where Wax is coming from. On one hand, he wants us to understand that the background into which the gospel is set (the gospel story) affects our understanding of the gospel announcement. Likewise, the gospel announcement is supposed to lead to something, namely the formation and building up of the body of Christ (the gospel community). These are valid points. I only wish that he would have communicated them in a different way.

This book is meant to help us “be ready to spot the counterfeits that creep into our own heart and lead you away from the glorious message of Christianity” (18). Wax wants us to consider how we may have distorted “the glorious message of Christianity” by changing the storyline of the bible (Gospel Story), tweaking the gospel message (Gospel Announcement), and/or misunderstanding the role and purpose of the church (Gospel Community). In each section, Wax first defines the aspect of the gospel he is considering before looking at two counterfeits. For example, he attempts to help us see how a Therapeutic Gospel or a Judgmentless Gospel reflects a misunderstanding part of the Gospel Story.

As the author examines each counterfeit, he explains what it is and presents some common “evangelical versions” of that counterfeit. He then helps us to see why the counterfeit is attractive and provides some helpful suggestions for countering the counterfeit. Each chapter concludes with “Scripture Truths” for the reader to consider to reinforce the content covered in each chapter.

I echo Wax’s closing prayer: “I pray this book will not be seen as the last word on the gospel or on the counterfeits that vie for our devotion, but that it will be a helpful addition to the ongoing reflection on the gospel and its power to change our lives. May the God who has acted so graciously on our behalf fill us with his grace as we spread his gospel to a lost world!” (218)



“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle,
set apart for the gospel of God,” (Romans 1:1)

In the opening salutation of his letter to the church in Rome, the apostle Paul establishes his authority in writing to them. From this single verse we can observer five marks of every minister of the gospel.

First, we see that author identifies himself as “Paul.” Now to the average observer that may not seem like such a big deal, after all there were likely a lot of men named Paul in his day. What makes his name significant is that he does not identify himself as “Saul.” Those in the church at Rome were likely to have heard of his Paul’s former life: how he had persecuted the church only to be converted by Christ Himself on the road to Damascus. Clearly, no one can be a true minister of the gospel unless they first have been converted. For how can one preach that which he has not first experienced? Those who attempt to minister without first submitting themselves to the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ are no different than those Pharisees of old, who were nothing more than white-washed tombs.

Second, we see that Paul saw himself as “a bond servant of Christ Jesus.” Paul understood that he had been called to a life of service in behalf of his Lord. Paul surrendered the control of his life to his master, so to must all ministers of the gospel. They must submit themselves as servants of Jesus Christ. It is important for them to remember that while their service may be toward others, either within the church or without, their service is always in behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Third, we see that Paul was “called.” Paul did not volunteer for the service that he now found himself immersed within, but God called him out of his life of sinful rebellion and religious self-righteousness to serve in calling other rebellious and self-righteous men to forsake their sins and return to the God which they had forsaken. It is significant to note that no man will ever return to God unless he is called back. As the rest of Romans 1 makes clear, men have chosen to run away from God and replace him with man made idols. If they are to be saved from their state of sinful rebellion they must be called back through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Fourth, we see that Paul was “an apostle.” What is an apostle? Many may think of an apostle as the simple term for one of the original inner circle of twelve, plus Paul. But what does the term mean? An apostle was simply a person sent out with a message on behalf of someone else. This was indeed Paul’s commission to carry the message of the gospel to the Gentiles, but that responsibility has been passed on to all ministers of the gospel (Rom. 1:5). Every believer bears a responsibility to share the gospel message with others…to be God’s message bears in every nation.

Finally, we see that Paul was “set apart for the gospel of God.” So too, every minister of the gospel must realize that they God has appointed them to the position that they hold. They have not chosen to set the gospel as the center of their lives; God has! It is God who called them, converted them, and then centered the ministry of the gospel as the focal point of their life. If they would have had their way, they would still be in their sins and suppressing the truth of God in unrighteousness.

So we see clearly that every minister of the gospel, in fact every believer, must be first called and converted by the power of God through the gospel. They must also realize that their lives belong to God and have been set apart for the gospel. This will be expressed through their service in behalf of their Savior and sharing of the gospel message with others in their life.