Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"
From almost the very beginning of the New Testament story of Jesus, there were counterfeit "gospels." They arrayed themselves under the condemnation of the apostle John who said, "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God. ... Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world" (1 John 4:1-3).
Many contemporary books and films professedly based on the Bible are a revival of those non-inspired "independent gospels." Simple curiosity may lead sincere people to want to "test" these "spirits" to see how they compare with the New Testament story. But you need to be sure you have read the New Testament first, or you may find yourself drifting helplessly in an ocean of lethal conjecture.
The solid rock truth is of course John 3:16--"God so loved the world that He gave [not lent] His only begotten Son ..." But right there is where the "falling away" began that has distorted and perverted the truth: the apostasy first attacked the word "love" that Jesus used there--agape. This was the initial step that led to the monstrous falling away that ate out the very soul of Christian faith and left only a helpless shell of professed Christianity that has succumbed to the revival of paganism. And Islam could never have succeeded in turning a billion-plus people against the New Testament had not this apostasy within the church triumphed first.
The truth of agape is the demonstration of a love willing to go to hell in its devotion to the salvation of a lost world. Paul tells the Romans that he could "wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren" (Rom. 9:3), that is, he would sacrifice his eternal salvation if only he could save them. That is agape-love, a different idea totally from the egocentric motivation that professes to be Christian love. Moses knew agape: he begged the Lord to blot his name out of the book of life if God could not save errant Israel (Ex. 32:32, 33).
The Lord Jesus Christ "poured out His soul unto death" (Isa. 53:12), "emptied Himself" totally (Phil. 2:5, 6, NASB), accepted the "curse" of God that meant the darkness of hell forever (Gal. 3:13; Deut. 21:23). His resurrection three days later does not negate the totality of His consecration--He died our death, which is the second death. That is agape, the commitment of every ounce of His divine-human soul poured out, emptied, to save a lost world.
--Robert J. Wieland
From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: March 30, 2006.
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