The Gospel Offends

The nature of the Gospel is to offend.  This is according to one who never backdown from preaching the gospel without reservation.  I’m talking the Apostle Paul here.

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  (1 Cor. 1:22-25 ESV, emphasis added)

For Paul, preaching Christ crucified offended many of his listeners: “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”  But Paul never adjusted the Gospel message.  He kept on preaching the unadulterated Gospel, so that “to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

However, we find ourselves in an age where preachers continue to adjust the gospel message, calling the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross cosmic child abuse, and removing the wrath of God from the gospel proclamation.

Again, we need to look to the Apostle Paul here, who rather be anathematized than adjust the gospel (Gal. 1:6-9)  As part of his gospel presentation, Paul preached both the substitutionary death of Christ and the wrath of God (Romans 2-3).

But when preachers today feel the need to adjust the gospel because they don’t want to offend their listeners, they are in fact offending the Lord Jesus.

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6 Responses to The Gospel Offends

  1. Scott says:

    TC –

    I very much agree that there is a call to proclaim the gospel and God’s truth, not so that we might offend, but even if we offend. A little difference between the 2 approaches. Some are a bit bent towards offending, and then just cover it with, ‘Well, we are called to offend with the gospel. I know that’s not what you are arguing, I just note it.

    I would also argue that the gospel message is first and foremost about the arrival of God’s reign in his Son. Jesus has fulfilled the story of God’s people and now reigns over all, through the most unique of ways, death on a Roman cross and resurrection. This is a lot of what NT Wright and Scot McKnight are trying to remind us. So the cross becomes part of the gospel account by which Christ becomes king of the world, but it is a part.

    Having said that, what I think Paul is getting at in 1 Cor is not so much a ‘presentation of the gospel’, but he is utilising the cross event to communicate this is how God shows his power and wisdom. This was absolute nuts to Greeks (who wanted sophia) and Jews (who wanted miracle power). Jesus showed God’s wisdom and power through humiliation and death. So when Paul comes in saying, ‘For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2), he is relating it to his own ministry coming via a weak vessel, yet still displaying God’s power and wisdom through the work of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:6ff). I hope that makes sense. I share a little more here on these thoughts on Paul’s words in 1 Cor 1-2.

    Let me know your thoughts.

    • TC says:

      Yes, I do agree with your assessment of the cross as displaying God’s power and wisdom against the backdrop of the Corinthian culture. But a “presentation” of the gospel is very much in view as well. I believe this is the import of the much debate kerygma of 1:21. It is this kerygma that gives puts on display the cross as God’s wisdom and power. My take.

      • Scott says:

        I’m still not sure Paul is trying to mainly ‘present the gospel’. The gospel is announcement that Jesus is king, which took place through his fulfilment of Israel’s story via his death on the cross, resurrection and ascension. 1 Cor 1:21 speaks of salvation, which is a result/benefit of believing the gospel announcement. It’s like what Scot McKnight challenges the church with – that we as evangelicals be evangel-proclaimers, not simply soterians. Have you been able to check out his book? The King Jesus Gospel.

  2. TC says:

    Scott, I like the coffee in hand in your new pic (reminds me of someone else ;-)) You’re correct. I don’t think it’s a mere presentation of the gospel he’s after. As interpreter of Israel’s Scripture and understanding how events have been reworked around Messiah’s death and resurrection, Paul was chiefly an evangel-proclaimer. Yes, I agree with this assessment.

    But when we read Paul’s recorded messages in Acts, we see him making something of an appeal (13:38-39 and 17:30, 31). Are you in agreement?

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