The tendency today, in many churches, is to present a gospel that is attractive to the unbeliever. It sounds like a great idea, but is it Biblical to do so? Paul tells us this:
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Cor 1:18
“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” – Rom 8:7
Horatius Bonar, in the 19th century had this to say:
“For we know that the unrenewed will is set against the Gospel; it is enmity to God and His truth. ~ It is the Gospel that the unbeliever hates; and the more clearly it is set before him, the more he hates it.” –
I personally don’t know anyone who would deem attractive that which they consider “foolish“. Do you? And if we try to somehow make the gospel “attractive”, do we still have the gospel in our message? If the unrenewed (unregenerated, lost in sin) human will is at enmity (hostility, antipathy, antagonism, animosity) to God and the truth of the Gospel, what must happen in order to have an “attractive” gospel?
That last question seems to have a two part, yet simple, answer. All we need to is remove that which is ‘offensive’ to the ears and hearts of unbelievers, and insert that which would be ‘attractive’ to the unbelievers we are trying to reach.
Well, what is it exactly that unbelievers find ‘offensive’? To answer that one, we need only consider the Apostle Paul’s definition of the Gospel:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, . . . For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” – 1 Cor 15:1-4
In that definition of the Gospel message, we have three primary elements – Christ’s death for our sin, His burial and His resurrection to knew life. Well, we tend to love the “resurrection to new life” part, and we don’t really mind the “Christ died for our sins” part, as long as it doesn’t get too personal. What is ‘offensive’ to anyone whose heart has not been opened to hear and believe the Gospel, is the need to personally confront sin, repent of it, and believe. Maybe Paul didn’t specifically articulate those requirements, but Jesus certainly did:
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:14-15
Jesus also told Nicodemus, during a well known confrontation, why personally confronting sin is, as Paul says, is offensive to the unbeliever – they love their sin!
“And this is the judgment: the light (Jesus) has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
No sweat, we’ll dump all that offensive sin, judgment and repentance stuff from our message and concentrate on the other half of Paul’s definition of the Gospel, the resurrection! It’s the part of the gospel message that appeals to everybody! We all want new, better, abundant lives and we all want to be loved! We’ll focus on all the promises God has for unbelievers if they just ‘accept’ Him. Get rid of the negative and accentuate the positive!
Well, that sounds good and gets lots of folks through the doors, but there’s one teeny weeny little problem. Unless the ‘negative’ is addressed first, unless the issue of ‘sin’ is dealt with, the ‘positive, God’s promises for the believer, just ‘ain’t gonna happen’. Sorry I have to tell you that, but it’s true.
Christ’s atonement was all about the ‘sin’ issue, from the Old Testament through the New testament, from Genesis through Revelation. As Paul states,”Christ died for our sins”. All the promises connected to Jesus’ bodily resurrection and out spiritual resurrection to new life in Him, are ‘gravy’ – promises contingent upon having heard and believed that which is ‘offensive’ to the natural mind and hearts, but a beautiful symphony to hearts and minds enabled by the Holy Spirit to hear, comprehend, and receive it.
What we have today in so many churches is a ‘gospel of addition’, as John MacArthur has called it, that’s all about the good things God wants to add to your life, but void of the initial need to confront sin, deal with it at the Cross, and ‘subtract’ the penalty and bondage of sin from our lives. Friends, that’s worse than putting the cart before the horse, there’s NO horse!
Sadly, an ‘offenseless’ gospel is what we have in so many churches these days – at least it seems that way. And it’s not confined to churches and ‘stages’. What comes from the man in the pulpit or on stage, is adopted by the vast majority of those in the pews and/or theater seats. I was told by a sincere believer recently that his ‘calling’ is to just spread the love of Jesus, while dealing with the ‘sin’ related issues was the calling of the ‘spiritually gifted’ evangelist. He really believes that, and I find it incredibly sad. Evangelism is merely being able to convey man’s problem with sin, God’s solution in Christ, and inviting the lost and hurting to the Cross.
Dear friends, we don’t need an ‘attractive’ gospel message that omits the ‘offense’ of the cross. We just need to tell the salvation story to others, and leave the rest to God. Half a gospel never has, and never will, save anyone.
Food for thought. . .