Editorial: April 2009
Counterfeiting is prevalent in virtually all sectors-currency, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, petroleum products, jewelry, software, and even human relationships. In the market, 10-30 % of cosmetics, toiletries and packaged food are counterfeits. Counterfeiters produce look-alike products that resemble the original products. Sometimes, they misspell the trademark. Counterfeiters operate wherever they sense an opportunity to make profits. They have scant regard to issues such as consumer safety, quality or the nation's economic stability. In 8 out of 10 cases, customers do not realise that they have purchased a pass-off and they are cheated.
An estimated Rs. 90,000 crore or 15% of currency in circulation in the Indian economy is fake. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 2204 case of counterfeiting were reported during 2007 and roughly Rs. 10 crore worth of fake currency was seized. Over the last 3 years, the number of fake Rs. 1000 notes seized has gone up 300%.
The fake products hurt the integrity of the brand, harm the brand owner's reputation, and erode the sales of the legitimate product. "The bigger the brand, the larger the problem. The top two brands within any category, be it pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, soaps and detergents or tyres, are affected the most by counterfeiting and pass-offs." The Indian exchequer suffers a loss of Rs.1000 crores annually, just in the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) sector since these counterfeiters evade all taxes.
According to WHO estimates, drug counterfeiting is a big, deadly business, reaching $32 billion worldwide. They operate in squalid conditions to create mystery cocktails that match the genuine drugs in appearance, but lack their efficacy. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the US economy approximately $250 billion in annual revenues and have led to the loss of more than 750,000 jobs.
In our country, counterfeiting is yet to be recognised as a serious crime by the law enforcement agencies. The regulators remain paper tigers who are hardly able to prey upon the wrongdoers. According to Malcolm Forbes, "there are more fakers in business than in jail."
Unfortunately, this is not a phenomenon restricted to business and commerce. It has crept into the Church as well, right from the first century. The occasion for Jude's epistle was the intrusion of ungodly persons into the fellowship of the Church. Jude emphasised several facts about these intruders: they entered secretly, they were ungodly, they denied Christ as Master and Lord by their actions, and they are appointed to condemnation. They positively disbelieved what Christ testified about Himself. The fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is symbolic of the divine judgment executed by fire. The fate of "professing believers," who do not persevere in righteousness, is not going to be any different.
These ungodly men undermine the spiritual health of the whole Church and destroy their followers. These false teachers produce no fruit, and such trees, being doubly dead, are destined for destruction.
The apostle Paul describes them as false apostles, deceitful workers. They camouflage themselves as apostles of Christ. They have the outward appearance of a believer, but no inner change. They have a different spirit and preach a different gospel. (Paul used the word "gospel" by way of concession. Actually, there is no other gospel-no second gospel which one may choose and still have the divine message of eternal salvation.) Their preaching arose out of selfish ambition (self-seeking pursuit of office by unfair means). The young converts and those who are not rooted in God's Word are the most liable to be swayed by such false teachings.
The false apostles pervert the Gospel by changing it slightly here and there. The privilege of declaring the Gospel does not include the right to change it. If any one proclaims as the Gospel something contrary to the word given out by the apostles, he is accursed of God (1 Cor. 16:22).
Paul and all the other apostles were zealous guardians of the purity of the Gospel, as is evident from the warnings in their letters. As a servant of Christ, the apostle Paul could only make known the message of the Gospel (Gal.2). Though he preached it, he did not originate it, nor did any other man. Though he came late into the apostolic ranks, he came to possess it by revelation from Jesus Christ. He was not seeking to persuade men by being conciliatory, or seeking their favour. He was more concerned to be on good terms with God. Pleasing men by adjusting the message to suit their desires is inconsistent with being the servant of Christ. He was an apostle fully in possession of the truth of the Gospel from the Lord Himself. He therefore reiterated his strong statement against the false apostles in almost all his epistles.
The danger of deception was the fear of Paul for the Corinthian church. There were false prophets, a pseudo-gospel and a Judaistic trend. They were in danger of being deceived as was Eve by the serpent (Gen. 3:4,13). Their minds were being corrupted and so, they were beguiled from the simplicity of the Gospel.
Those who were the instruments of deception at Corinth preached another Jesus, implying another interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. This jesus, spirit and gospel did not exist among them when the church at Corinth was founded. Too soon, a gospel of contention, a carnal divisive spirit and a Jesus who was subject to the Law of Moses, developed among the members of that church.
While writing to the Galatian church, Paul expresses indignant surprise that they are so quickly removing from Him that called them in the grace of Christ to a different gospel. He tells the Galatians that "these false brethren have secretly brought in these teachings by stealth to spy out our liberty" in Christ (Gal.2: 4). The tendency to listen and be influenced by such teachings was frightening. Such wavering is so often the gate to apostasy.
There is only one Gospel-the Good News of salvation through Christ. To depart from that and to teach others so is not to bring Good News. Human inventors unwilling to obey the Gospel pervert the Gospel of Christ to suit their own benefit and convenience.
The Gospel is Good News to be proclaimed. The messenger is not permitted to add or subtract from the message. Departing from the facts will only mislead the public. Since the Gospel is God's message, to preach any other gospel, regardless of one's personal standing or qualifications, is to be utterly false and ruinous. "Any who tampers with the Gospel are pronounced outcasts from the faith and dead to the Spirit of Christ."
There are many who have denied Christ, starting with Peter himself doing it thrice. On the cross, Jesus said, "they know not what they do." Who are "they"? The soldiers who mocked and beat Him, the passersby who taunted Him, the officials who had sentenced Him, the spineless disciples who had fled, the disciple who had betrayed Him for a bribe and the several ungodly people who have intruded into the Church over the centuries to spread a different gospel, are all included in the group Jesus talked about. The difference is only that their number has increased several times nowadays. These counterfeiters do not know the gravity of their crime. They were "marked out for condemnation" long ago (Jude 4).
Today we are faced with a plethora, a virtual "legion", of gospels. All of them are garbed in the most alluring of dress and call to the believer in the most seductive of whispers. Irenaeus (2nd century) has warned us that error is never put forward in a manner that exposes its grotesque deformities. Instead, it is packaged in outward adornment so appealing that it appears more true than truth itself. A half-truth does far more damage than a bald-faced lie.
The Bible tells us that all Scripture is inspired by God, that it is the product of the Holy Spirit's work within the writers, that it instructs for salvation, and that it teaches, reproves, corrects, trains and thus equips God's people for right living (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet.1:21). We should accept the absolute authority of the Bible and come to the Bible with humility and allow it to determine our worldview. We should not approach the Bible with our predetermined notions about its content. We should bear in mind the historical context, cultural background, the kind of literature etc, when we study the Bible. We should let the Bible speak for itself. If we are not careful, we can become so committed to a creed or formula that we think people cannot know God and His Word unless they move along that path.
The basis of salvation is always faith, not knowledge. Faith means more than an acceptance of certain truths about Jesus. It means commitment to Him. Once we come under His rule, turn from our sin and commit ourselves in faith to God, He begins to transform us so that we start becoming more like His Son. "It is the heart, not the hands, that is the real source of the moral infraction." How do we detect these frauds in the Church? Just like the Tellers in the bank detecting fake currency. They do it by knowing the characteristics of the genuine product. We should know the Word of God to be able to identify and isolate those who camouflage. This emphasises the need to study God's Word systematically.
Paul has emphasised the primacy of four central truths regarding the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Cor.15: 3-5). These truths are:
- the vicarious, substitutionary, atoning sacrifice of Christ for sinful men, in accordance with God's revealed plan;
- the actual burial of Jesus Christ, according to the Scriptures;
- the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a fact, according to the divinely revealed plan; and
- the post-resurrection appearances of Christ to those who knew Him and were qualified to identify Him.
In these four facts rests the essential central saving truth of Christianity. None of them can be denied without wrecking the entire Christian system. Anyone who denies any of these is counterfeit.
The vicarious substitutionary death of Christ on the cross is the clear teaching of the Scripture to meet the redemptive needs of sinful man. Unless Christ actually died on the cross, He could have made no atonement for sin. His burial proves that He was really dead. Without His resurrection, His death would have been in vain -there would be no victory over death. His post-resurrection appearances to qualified witnesses were essential to the establishment of faith in His victory over death.
Christianity is not about pie in the sky by and by, but a "kingdom come on earth." The kingdom experience starts now for those who are born in the Spirit, while we are here on earth. The earlier we realise that and get rid of the counterfeiters who preach otherwise, the better. They are condemned for eternal destruction. Remember, we are called to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.