Imagine that a young man named Tim is given a glass of living water. He drinks it down gratefully. It tastes clean and refreshing. He knows the moment he drinks it he has been given immortality. In addition, the moment after Tim drinks the living water he realizes that he has an urge to quit drinking all other drinks. He decides that he’ll give up tea, coffee, and sodas. In his exuberance, he grabs an extra glass of living water and excitedly carries it toward his loved ones. He wants his parents to have access to this purified life-giving drink.
Along the way he begins to wonder, Will the living water work if they don’t give up all other drinks first? He decides that he needs to convince his parents to give up tea, sodas, and coffee before they drink, just to make sure the living water has its full effect. At that exact moment, Tim trips. As he tumbles to the ground he is able to keep from spilling the glass of water, but the tumble kicks up a cloud of dust. He glances at the cup noticing that it now has become a little murky. It’s no longer clean and clear. He hopes it will still work. He takes the clouded water to his parents. He explains the conditions then gives them the water. They have to be convinced to drink since it doesn’t look entirely clean, but they take a cautious sip. They also wonder if it worked, since it was a bit cloudy.
After reluctantly swearing off soft drinks and a timid sip they decide they should share the glass with their neighbors. Though they know their neighbors won’t be able to give up their soft drinks easily. “Maybe they could if the water tasted more like a cola,” Tim’s mom says. So they decide to add some sweetener to the dusty fluid. They pour in a half cup of sugar. They carry the mixture to their friends next door. The neighbors are thrilled to have visitors. Under the strain of peer-pressure the neighbors say they will try to stop drinking soft drinks and then they swallow a few drops. Afterward the neighbors aren’t sure whether they have received immortality, but they are overjoyed to be part of a new group of friends.
The neighbors want to continue spending time with their new friends, but they realize they need to bring their kids into the circle as well. The neighbors also realize how hard that will be since their kids only like colorful drinks. The children, they think, won’t understand that they have to drink in order to be part of this new group of friends. They realize they have to find a different way to explain the community-giving drink. “Maybe they’ll drink it if it’s colorful,” they say almost in unison. So the neighbors grab a packet of Kool-Aid and dump it in. The parent’s tell their kids, “We really like our new friends but you have to drink this sweet colorful drink in order to be part of the group.” Not knowing what’s going on the kids down it, not realizing that it is supposed to have a life-giving effect.
On and on it goes, until the living water has completely morphed into something else; something it wasn’t intended to be. Tim, his loved ones, and their neighbors may have acted with good intentions but what they’ve created is nothing like the original drink.
This is what happens to the Gospel. Notice I didn’t say that it is what has happened to the Gospel. I mean to say this is what is happening to the Gospel constantly. There are always those who are ready to add a little of this and a little of that to the living water. When we allow additives to be applied to the living water something unwanted happens. Paul explains in Galatians.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different Gospel— which is really no Gospel at all.Galatians 1:6-8
The Galatians had received the living water. They had drunk it by this point. However, as they began to grow, they were adding things to the living water. In this case, they were adding the requirement of living by the Jewish law. Paul makes it clear that if you add anything to the living water, it’s no longer the living water. It’s no longer the Gospel if you add works.