The Offensive Gospel

It’s hazardous to preach the Gospel these days, as any offense made in our culture of “openness and toleration” will eventually get you canceled. We see this happening where Pastors are imprisoned for preaching the Word of God, calling all sinners (including those caught in sexual sin) to the grace of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. We read of people being silenced on Social Media for holding to Biblical teaching on morality and decency, while pornographic messages are freely displayed and celebrated. Faithfulness to the Gospel will win you no friends in this world today.

But this cancellation doesn’t necessarily come from those outside the Church. Preach the Gospel faithfully, consistently, and boldly, and there will even be some within the pews that will not like what they hear, and will either leave or work to push the pastor out the doors. The Gospel, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians is folly to those who are perishing.

On this note I wanted to share something that I read in D. Lloyd-Jones’ message on Romans 1:16-17 on the Gospel of God. Lloyd-Jones writes,

The gospel of Jesus Christ is always offensive to the natural man. If you find the natural, unregenerate man praising either the preacher or his message then, I say, you had better examine that preaching and that preacher very carefully. There are many ways in which we gospel is presented which are not offensive. Have we not read or heard sermons from those who depict Christ as a great hero and example? No one has ever been offended by that; in fact the world likes it. You present Christ as a great exemplar, and people will say, “That’s fine, that is marvelous.” What they are really saying is this: “Now I am going to follow Him; I am going to be like that. I can, of course! I have simply to make the effort.” There he I, rise up and go after Him. And the people are ready to do it because they think they are capable of doing it. When you tell them that He is One whom they cannot imitate, that He condemns all, then they will begin to show their teeth and hate your for it; but present Him as a hero, it will not annoy them.

Or again, take Christ’s teaching. The teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ is presented by some people as the most beautiful teaching in the world. The world likes it for that reason; it believes that it can take it up and put it into practice. But when the Sermon on the Mount is truly preached, when a man begins to know that it is to be “pour in spirit” and to “mourn,” and to have a “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” when he faces the real spiritual exposition of the law, he hates it because it condemns him; he does not want to feel “poor in spirit.” If we preach the gospel as beautiful teaching it will never annoy; it will never hurt.

Or how often is the Lord Jesus Christ presented as someone who can help us with our problems? “Are you in trouble? Is some sin getting you down? He is waiting for you, and He will take all your troubles away.” That never offends anybody. Such a “gospel” cannot offend people, because they are in trouble and they want help, and here is someone who is ready to help them at any moment. They only have to come to Him and He will do everything for them. Oh, how often has the Christ, the Son of God, been preached as if He were but a super-psychologist, who can help people to resolve their difficulties and to solve their problems and put everything right, and make them happy once and for ever! That does not offend anybody.

Do you know it is possible to preach the cross of Christ in a way that makes people applaud it? It is possible to preach it in such a way that it does not offend anybody. When the cross is truly preached it is a stumblingblock to Jews; it is folly to the Greeks. They hate it. It is an offense. And it is an offense to the natural man today.

The offense of the cross is this – that I am so condemned and so lost and so hopeless that if He, if Jesus Christ, had not died for me, I would never know God, and I could never be forgiven. And that hurts; that annoys; that tells me I am hopeless, that I am vile, that I am useless; and as a natural man I do not like it.

D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 1, The Gospel of God. (The Banner of Truth Trust; 2020) Pages 26264-266.

What we have to come to terms with is the humbling, wounding, offensive reality of the Gospel. We must come to see it as God’s merciful truth, painful though it may be. Only then can we understand the fact that, though I am hopeless, vile, useless before God in my sins, God has laid upon Christ my sin so that through faith in Him I have forgiveness and peace.

Though the world will certainly block their ears and cover their eyes, though the Church will certainly face growing tribulation because of it, we must never be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is an offense to the natural man, but there is no shame in it, for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.


Lazarus, Come Forth!

In preparation for a youth group lesson tonight on the raising of Lazarus from the dead in John 11, I turned to A.W. Pink’s wonderful commentary. I thought I’d share some of his commentary on this passage for your edification today.

He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:43–44)

Lazarus was addressed personally for, as it has been well remarked, had Christ simply cried “come forth” Hades would have been emptied and every tenant of the grave would have been raised from the dead.

At the sound of that Voice the king of terror at once yielded up his lawful captive, and the insatiable grace gave up its prey. Captivity was led captive and Christ took forth as the Conqueror of sin, death, and Satan. There it was demonstrated that He who was in the form of a Servant, nevertheless, held in His own hand “the keys of death and hades.” Here was public proof that the Lord Jesus had absolute power over the material world and over the realm of spirits. At His bidding a soul that had left its earthly tenement was called back from the unseen to dwell once more in the body. What a demonstration was this that He who could work such astounding miracles must be none other than one “who is over all, God blessed forever” (Rom 9:5). Thank God for an all-mighty Savior. How can any sheep of His ever perish when held in such a hand.

Whether we view the raising of Lazarus as a figure of the regeneration of a sinner, or the glorification of the believer, the ‘grave clothes’ here and the removal of them, are equally significant. When a sinner is born again, God’s work of grace in his soul is not perfected, rather has it just commenced. The old nature still remains and the marks of the grave are still upon him. There is much to impede the movements of the “new man,” much from which he needs to be “loosed,” and which his spiritual resurrection did not of itself effect.

That the Lord invited the bystanders to “loose him” points a beautiful lesson. In gracious condescension the Lord of glory links human instruments with Himself in the work which He is now doing in the world… The Lord alone can speak the word which quickens dead sinners; but He permits us to carry that word to them. What an inestimable privilege – an honor not given to the angels! O that we might esteem it more highly. There is no higher privilege this side of Heaven than for us to be used of the Lord in rolling away gravestones and removing grave clothes.

Pink, Arthur W. Exposition of the Gospel of John. (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1981) Pages 205-210.

How have we come to be so blasé about this whole story. Jesus stood at the open tomb of a man who had been dead 4 days, and with the command of His voice He summons the dead to life. He signals the truth that He is the resurrection and the life, and that He would conquer death and hell, in fact, death had no claim upon Him. Not only that, but after giving life to a man who was dead, Jesus then sets him free from the trappings of death, that he might live and that to the fullest.

If the message of the Christian faith seems tried and uninspiring, then I think you have not really heard it. This is the stuff of life, of power, and of glory. If you read this and are not moved to wonder, then you fail to see that you are just where Lazarus was – dead in sin, incapable of doing anything to better your position.

Jesus still calls the dead to life. His Word still moves mightily. He calls us to proclaim salvation in His name, and to loose the bonds of those who have been raised. We share the Gospel, and in doing so we call the dead to life in Christ, and help the living be set free in Christ from the cords of death. What a wonderful word. What a wonderful calling.