Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope
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Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope

Moody Publishers / 2011 / Paperback

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CBD Stock No: WW423375

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Product Description

* Has the good news of the biblical gospel been derailed by well-meaning believers over the centuries? Challenging you to accept no substitutes, Wax exposes six common contemporary versions of the gospel---therapeutic, judgment-less, moralistic, quietist, activist, and churchless---to clarify your understanding of the scriptural message of Christ and to empower you for ministry. 176 pages, softcover from Moody.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 176
Vendor: Moody Publishers
Publication Date: 2011
Dimensions: 8.00 X 5.25 X 0.37 (inches)
ISBN: 080242337X
ISBN-13: 9780802423375

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Publisher's Description

What if the biggest danger to the church of Jesus Christ is not blatant heresy, the moral failures of church leaders, persecution, the rise of Islam or the loss of our rights? What if the biggest threat is counterfeit gospels within the church, ways of thinking and speaking about the good news that lead to a gradual drift from the truth of Scripture?

The gospel is like a three-legged stool. There’s the Gospel Story – the grand narrative of Scripture (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration). Within that overarching framework, we make the Gospel Announcement about Jesus Christ (His perfect life, substitutionary death, resurrection, exaltation). The gospel announcement then births the Gospel Community: God’s church – the embodiment of the gospel, the manifestation of God’s kingdom.  A counterfeit gospel is like a colony of termites, eating away at one of the legs of this stool until the whole thing topples over. This book exposes six common counterfeits (Therapeutic, Judgmentless, Moralist, Quietist, Activist, and Churchless) that would get us off track.

The goal of Counterfeit Gospels is to so deepen our love for the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ that we would easily see through the many counterfeits that leave us impoverished. So come, love the gospel, recognize and overcome the counterfeits, and be empowered for ministry!

Author Bio

TREVIN WAX is the editor of TGM - Theology, Gospel, Mission, a gospel-centered small group curriculum developed by LifeWay Christian Resources. He blogs at and is also the author of Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals. He has served in pastoral roles in churches in the United States and in Romania. His wife is Corina and they have two children.

Of all the weapons used in modern warfare, perhaps the one with the most destructive power is counterfeit currency. Take away the confidence and spending power of your enemy, and a major victory has been won. Trevin Wax uses this comparison to introduce Counterfeit Gospels. The point is quickly driven home: if the gospel one declares is missing any element, it is a counterfeit – close in representation and presentation but ultimately worthless. Such counterfeits fail to satisfy the soul due to their failure to build confidence in God, represent Him clearly, and build a unified community. The accurate genuine proclamation of the Gospel, by contrast, will declare the story of the gospel while announcing the good news found in Christ’s work of reconciliation in such a way that transforms those who believe its message into people who live the good news. To neglect the gospel story, gospel announcement, or gospel community will produce a counterfeit gospel.

Wax then proceeds to dissect the popular trends in evangelical gospel proclamation to examine whether such gospel presentations are genuine or counterfeit. There are some elements that are untrue to the story of the Gospel. The “therapeutic gospel” is one such counterfeit, as it confuses the spiritual symptoms with the true spiritual disease presented in an accurate telling of the gospel from Creation to Restoration. A thorough job is done demonstrating why such counterfeits are attractive, how they draw in the unsuspecting person in search of truth, and how they fail to live up to an accurate representation of the Gospel. This is not theological nit-picking; this is an even-handed analysis of the many ways that one of the most important themes of Scripture is presented. With so much at stake, clear analysis is necessary!

The gospel announcement is also counterfeited through a gospel that is quietistic – a presentation that focuses more on the church's existence for herself rather than the church’s existence for the world at large. Such a focus can lead to an isolationism that pits "us" against "the world" and retreats away from having any impact on society. Again, the realities of the accurate Gospel are shown to have societal-altering consequences from which the church cannot shy away. As with the counterfeits to the gospel story, the counterfeits are handled lovingly yet honestly.

The truth of gospel community is counterfeited by movements Wax calls "the activist gospel." These are well-intentioned attempts that focus on the results of the gospel message rather than on the impacting message itself. An activist gospel is seen when the presentation of the Gospel becomes little more than a springboard for cultural warfare. To be fair, the Gospel will confront culture; but the Gospel is much more than a plan for cultural reform.

At the conclusion, Wax does a great job not only summarizing the counterfeit positions, but holding out examples of an accurate gospel presentation. He calls readers to a bold proclamation of the gospel story so that its message is announced in a way that invites people into a community of transformed people seeking to live out the transformation God has accomplished in their lives. Counterfeit Gospels is highly recommended. It is a book for every believer – not just those who ‘formally’ preach, teach or lead group studies. This is necessary reading for anyone who has ever been asked, or anticipates being asked, about the “hope that lies within” them. – Charles Eldred,

Editorial Reviews

"Evangelicals are rightly asking today, what is the gospel which we believe in and proclaim? Trevin Wax in this wonderfully readable and irenic book helps us sort out the issues, showing us that the gospel announcement is truncated if one does not understand the gospel story and if the gospel is not fleshed out in our churches."

Thomas R. Schreiner
James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"This book clarifies the message and mission of the church as much as any book in print today. It is rich in both insight and illustration, very-thought provoking and very readable. I can’t imagine a more helpful description of, and prescription for, contemporary evangelicalism. Return to the Gospel!"

J.D. Greear
Pastor of The Summit Church, Raleigh, NC, and author of Breaking the Islam Code

Perhaps the single greatest need in the contemporary church is for Christians to understand the gospel and its counterfeits. Our lost and broken world is desperate for such clarity. Trevin gives it to us with this clear and compelling book about the nature and implications of the greatest story ever told.

Darrin Patrick
Author, Church-planter, and Pastor of The Journey

"This book is a winsome, creative, and compelling analysis of the pitfalls of a non-gospel or less-than-gospel Christianity -- and a description of a full-orbed gospel Christianity."

Josh Moody
Pastor of College Church, Wheaton, IL, and author of No Other Gospel


"The biblical gospel of the atoning death and glorious resurrection of Jesus saves. Counterfeit gospels that leave out the bloody cross and neglect the empty tomb damn. It really is that simple. Trevin Wax makes crystal-clear which one is true and which ones are false. Unfortunately, this book is a much-needed corrective in an age seduced and deceived by imitations of the real thing. Eternity hangs in the balance when it comes to the gospel. There is no margin for error."

Daniel L. Akin
President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

"Trevin Wax has done the church an important service by exposing the subtle deceptions that have trapped countless people within the church. Few topics are more important than the gospel, and few books help us see what makes it uniquely challenging and powerful as well as this one.

Matthew Lee Anderson
Blogger at and author of Earthen Vessels

"'What is the gospel?,’ may seem an odd and perhaps unnecessary question. It’s not. It is an essential question that needs more, not less, discussion today. In Counterfeit Gospels, Trevin Wax has provided an essential tool for churches serious about the gospel and its implications."

Ed Stetzer
Vice President of Research and Ministry Development, LifeWay Christian Resources

"Trevin Wax has served the church by identifying and critiquing many false gospels that threaten to ensnare us. But this book does so much more. Wax helped me love the gospel of Jesus Christ more deeply, and I pray that God will do the same for you through this excellent work."

Collin Hansen
Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition, and co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir



"When the devil cannot get a church to explicitly deny the gospel, he pits one part of Scripture against another and then nudges the church to change the gospel's shape ever so slightly -- to re-configure it, to re-interpret it, to re-shade it. But Wax calls the devil's bluff. His Counterfeit Gospels surveys the landscape of these subtle reconfigurations, affirms what's true in each of them, and then helps us to separate the real thing from the imitators. A very helpful and insightful work."

Jonathan Leeman
Editorial Director, 9Marks

 ""In Counterfeit Gospels, Trevin Wax does a great job of showing the many ways we subtly counterfeit the gospel and why we do so. His diagnosis of six common counterfeits is fair, insightful, and helpful. Like a good gyroscope, his book helps keep us on the right path. But even more admirable than his keen evaluation is the way he lays out a full-orbed and robust view of the gospel that includes story, announcement, and community. If Christians and the church would just understand this, we would not be tempted by so many counterfeits and thus miss out on the real gospel. I hope Counterfeit Gospels gets a wide reading; its message is needed.

Jim Belcher
Author of Deep Church

"In a world filled with 'different' gospels Trevin Wax reminds us of the call to 'guard the deposit' that is the true gospel of Jesus Christ. If you teach, preach, share, or believe in the gospel of Christ, then you should read this book. It will remind you to maintain the simplicity and clarity of the gospel message that has been entrusted to us. I was both challenged and encouraged."

Anthony Carter, l
Lead Pastor, East Point Church in Georgia, and author of Glory Road

"My super-talented friend Trevin Wax joins a growing number of younger evangelicals who are calling the 21st century church away from moralism and back to the gospel. He rightly understands that the gospel doesn’t simply ignite the Christian life, it’s also the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing every day. Therefore, we must be clear on what the gospel is or else we will conk out. I pray that this excellent book will help you come to a better understanding of the length and breadth of the gospel so that you will be recaptured every day by the 'God of great expenditure' who gave everything that we might possess all."

Tullian Tchividjian
Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, and visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary


Product Reviews

5 Stars Out Of 5
5 out of 5
5 out Of 5
(5 out of 5)
5 out Of 5
(5 out of 5)
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5 out Of 5
(5 out of 5)
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Displaying items 1-5 of 5
Page 1 of 1
  1. Tulsa, OK
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    No book has so clearly crystalized the gospel...
    September 29, 2012
    Joey Cochran
    Tulsa, OK
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Sometimes in order to fully understand a complex concept, like the gospel, it is helpful to contrast the concept with its alternative. In theology there is a discipline of study known as apophatic theology. Here theologians describe God by understanding Him in terms of ideas that are in contrast to his character. For instance, God is infinite - not finite or God is immutable - he does not change. Both of these attributes are examples of an apophatic understanding of God's character where God is best understood by contrasting what He is not.

    Essentially, Trevin Wax has expertly engaged in an apophatic study of the gospel. He has properly defined the gospel and contrasted this gospel with six counterfeits. After having read this book the reader has a richer appreciation for the true gospel, because he or she sees the true gospel in contrast to all of the false gospels that are being promoted today. In Counterfeit Gospels, Trevin Wax reveals the beauty of the gospel, which shines like a flawless diamond of the best clarity and cut in comparison to all the counterfeits.

    Though I have read many books about the gospel during the last couple of years, no book has so clearly crystalized the picture of the gospel as Counterfeit Gospels.

    Trevin Wax contrasts the true gospel with the counterfeit gospels by explaining three aspects of the gospel and offering two counterfeits that corrupt each of these aspects. He illustrates these three aspects by providing the image of a three-legged stool, where each aspect plays a critical role in keeping the "gospel" stool balanced. The three aspects of the gospel are as follows: the gospel story, the gospel announcement, and the gospel community.

    According to Wax the gospel story is corrupted by the therapeutic and the judgmentless counterfeit gospels. The gospel announcement is corrupted by the moralistic and the quietist counterfeit gospels. The gospel community is corrupted by the activist and the churchless counterfeit gospels.

    With each counterfeit gospel, Wax deftly defines the counterfeit, demonstrates how it corrupts the true gospel, explains the different forms that this counterfeit might present itself, discusses the attraction of the counterfeit, and then offers ways to counter the counterfeit. He then closes each chapter with scriptural truth that defends the biblical gospel, exposes the counterfeit, and equips God's people to counter the counterfeit.

    Structurally speaking this book has an accessible and ingenious outline that helps one grasp the true gospel and see how the counterfeit gospels pervert the truth. Not only does one appropriate gospel understanding, but one also apprehends the urgency and importance of gospel studies after having read Counterfeit Gospels. Seeing the outcome and bankruptcy of the counterfeit gospels gives the reader a deep urgency to defend gospel truth and engage false teachers with gospel truth in an informed and confident manner. Counterfeit Gospels may very well be the corner piece of the gospel puzzle that makes all other pieces fall into place and gives clarity to all other gospel studies that a student of the Word might pursue.

    Not only does this book equip us with gospel truth, but it spurs us to participate in God's mission. Wax exhorts his readers, "A gospel that does not lead to mission is no gospel at all, for the biblical gospel reveals the heart of our missionary God_The gospel is a story to be entered, an announcement to be proclaimed, and it births a community to be experienced (Wax, 211, 218)."

    View more book reviews by Joey Cochran at
  2. Indiana
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    clear explanation of true gospel vs. counterfeits
    August 14, 2012
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This is a powerful explanation of the true gospel and provides help in recognizing and responding to six common counterfeits to it.

    The book begins by explaining the current crisis in the Church regarding the biblical gospel verses counterfeits , describes the three parts to the gospel (story, announcement, and community) and then details six counterfeit gospels that focus on one of those parts.el.

    For each counterfeit, Wax explains the background to it, other forms of it (often describing Evangelical versions of it), what makes it attractive, how to counter it, and key Scripture truths refuting the counterfeit.

    I found the structure of the book was really helpful in understanding Wax's arguments, and I especially appreciated the "what makes it attractive" portion of the description of the various counterfeits . It made it easier for me to understand how and why believers could fall for some of them, and to recognize areas that are especially tempting for me to slip away from the true gospel. Following that section immediately by ways to counter the counterfeit is very effective and helpful.

    Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own.
  3. West Virginia
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    The True Gospel or What We've Been Taught?
    July 3, 2012
    West Virginia
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    It isn't often that I don't fly through a book. I like to immerse myself in its pages, and leave a day or two later. There are only two reasons I don't do that -- one is because I don't like the book, or secondly, it is so filled with truth I can't read it quickly or I'll miss something. Counterfeit Gospels was the latter. Each chapter brought eye-opening revelations about how things have always been done and how the Bible presents truth.

    Using the analogy of a three-legged stool, Tevin Wax explains major components to the Gospel: Story, Announcement, Community. When I saw the subsections of this book, I wondered how someone like me, raised in the church, educated in Christian schools, and VBS teacher could get much out of this book. I was pleasantly surprised as the author tackles some of the most prevalent themes in American Christianity.

    For instance, in discussing sharing the Gospel, he makes the point that it used to be that every person in the United States was aware of the basics of the Bible. That is not always the case in this post-modern age in which we live. He explains it is important that we explain the why of needing a Savior. To someone like me who knew John 3:16 before I could read, it is hard to imagine people who didn't grow up looking at flannelgraph pictures of Adam and Eve covered in fig leaves talking to a snake, but there are people who don't realize that God created a sinless world and that because we sin we have fallen short of God's plan. The author of Counterfeit Gospels states that unless the problem is known (which started in the Garden of Eden) then how does one realize the solution (Jesus.)

    While he tackles six false gospels that permeate our society (therapeutic, judgmentless, moralistic, quietist, activist, churchless). He explains why each one of these cannot be the true Gospel by bringing story, announcement and community into each one of these ideologies.

    The one I really appreciated was the chapter on the activist gospel. He told the story, which to me was chilling, of a church that fought against the sale of alcohol in their community. When the ballot was brought before voters, and the county remained "dry", a deacon said it was the best victory their church ever had. Really? While I won't get into the debate of alcohol, if your church sees politics and activism as more important than people being saved, baptism, or discipleship, are you a church or a political party? I've seen so much activism in churches in the last few years, I sometimes wonder why those churches don't remove the cross and replace it with a ballot box behind the altar.

    This is a great book, and I recommend it to everyone, both new Christian, and those who have been in the church most of our lives. I promise you, though, if you take this book seriously, and you should, you will find yourself challenged as to if what you are believing is the Gospel God intended, or if it has been slightly distorted by what people have decided the Bible should say.
  4. Taylorsville, NC
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    "Counterfeit Gospels" Book Review
    August 21, 2011
    Da Panda
    Taylorsville, NC
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: male
    Ok, I'll bite.

    Despite the increasingly large amount of literature written recently with the title "Gospel" in it Trevin Wax, author of Counterfeit Gospels, has seen fit to write another one. The book is about...and get this...counterfeit gospels compared to the real one.

    Because of the prolific amount of literature written about defining what the "true gospel is", I will admit that I was somewhat skeptical and bored with the idea of yet another book written on this topic.

    I shouldn't have had any doubts about this book.

    It is really fantastic.

    Wax argues that the Gospel can be divided into three legs--the story, the announcement and the community. Each leg however can have distortions. Wax's book then divides nicely into three sections with an introductory chapter on the biblical position of the gospel story, the gospel announcement and the gospel community for each section. Also, for each section, Wax provides two chapters analyzing two common distortions for each section. Wax doesn't claim to be exhaustive, just relevant, with his selection of counterfeits and I found myself seeing examples of each distortion in the church today. This made the book very pastorally relevant for myself.

    Perhaps the best thing I can say about Wax's book is this--there is nothing new here. But really, is there anything new to say about the Gospel? While Wax faithfully applies scripture and the Gospel to today's church, he doesn't compromise on the essentials. He calls distortions of the gospel what they are. He does not throw the baby out with the bath water but finds the good, even in the distortions and explains why they are popular. Yet at the end of day, Wax doesn't move from the truth of the Gospel.

    So new? No. Faithful? Yes. Convicting? Definitely.

    In an age where it becomes increasingly easy to distort what is true from the pulpit, Wax's call is for preachers to remember what is our anchor. As a result, this book is a must read for pastors and laypeople alike.

    So I bit....and I hope you will too.

    *Thanks to Moody Publishing for providing me a free review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.*
  5. Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    July 27, 2011
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    A much needed book for today! I thoroughly enjoyed this book its full of good solid material. I would recommend this book to anyone who already has a through understanding of the gospel to help guide them away from counterfeit gospels.
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