God’S Offensive Gospel

And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.” (Galatians 5:11).

If only Paul had continued to preach circumcision he could have avoided persecution and been freed from the inevitable offense which is created by the message of the Cross. It is an obvious fact that wherever the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ has been faithfully preached it has not only brought hope and new life to some but also offended many more and aroused antagonism. The message of the Cross was a stumbling-block to the Jews and an absurdity to the Greeks in the first days, so it has ever since been unacceptable not only to men of the world but even to many so called religious people.

There is hardly a city in the world where the architecture, galleries of art and collections of literature do not give a prominent place to the symbol of the cross and yet the Cross has always been such a maker of trouble and cause of offence. Why is that the case? Because the Cross condemns the world.

The Cross Christ created a great divide between the world and the Church—two distinctly different systems, scales of value, standards of judgment, sets of laws, which stand contrasted on the two sides of the Cross. The system of each is not only quite different, but irreconcilable and forever mutually antagonistic. The cross demands an absolute distinctiveness of interest and objectives, relationships and resources. It draws the final distinction between the saved and the unsaved, between the living and the dead.

Paul’s Gospel had teeth. He didn’t make his message smooth and soft in order to suit the fancies of the religious majority—“with enticing words of man’s wisdom.” Paul’s Gospel was an offending message to many because it exalted Christ, lifted the cross, commanded total commitment to Jesus Christ, and completely stripped man of all self-reliance, shattering self-righteousness, tearing down false religion, and leaving men stripped bare before God.

And of course, with a Gospel like this, Paul suffered persecution wherever he went. Yet he didn’t dare water-down the potency of the truth of God. He didn’t compromise his message in order to make it more acceptable to the people. He didn’t pervert it to make it look pretty. He proclaimed, “This is the way, the only way! Walk ye in it!” and pronounced a thundering “Anathema!” on anybody that dared to tamper with the message and preach another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9).

Paul’s Gospel was offensive, highly offensive. He boasted that his message contained “the offense of the cross” and would not dare to cause such offense to cease. To him, the fact that there was such an offense was proof that he was preaching the true Gospel. He knew that the true Gospel would stir up devils and provoke the wrath of wicked men, and thus at times cause offense. And he continued to preach this true Gospel to the very end, even though it was “foolishness to those who are perishing”, because he knew that it was the power of God to those who believed and embraced it, resulting in salvation (1 Cor. 1:21). In addition to demolishing Satanic strongholds and turning multitudes from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God, the result of preaching this was angry mobs, getting stoned, being whipped and scourged, getting thrown into prison, being hated everywhere he went, and ultimately being beheaded in Rome.

Why then does so much preaching today lack in “the offense of the Cross”— sitting so well with the religious masses—because it’s not the sharp, two-edged sword that pierces hearts and slashes through false religious ideologies nor does it wound the consciences of hardened sinners and cause them to cry out in godly sorrow, “What must I do to be saved?” The result is that multitudes are trusting in a false “gospel” that pampers the flesh and are blindly walking down the wide road that leads to destruction.

The Spirit of Elijah is missing in so much of today’s preaching. Elijah preached an offensive message, a message of repentance and God’s judgment against sin. Elijah’s preaching caused Ahab to exclaim, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” Elijah was a troublemaker to the sin, false religion and Baal worship of that day. Elijah responded to Ahab: “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.”

This often happens today. When a preacher stands up and starts preaching of dying to self, of God’s judgment against sin he is often accused of being contentious, or factious, or as a troublemaker. Yet the true problem is the preaching of Baal’s “another Jesus” that is so often preached today that resembles a nice, soft, fluffy teddy bear that is the sinner’s accessory for life-enhancement more than He resembles the ferocious, triumphant Lion of Judah!

A soft “gospel” has been preached for so long where the multitudes of religious masses fill churches, comfortable in their sin, living at ease in Zion in lukewarm pleasure-seeking religion, serving a “Jesus” that is not the Jesus of the Bible. Today the need is for zealous men who burn with Holy Ghost fire that have not been tamed-down by the religious status-quo, who will turn over the tables of the money-changers in the house of God, who will by the might of the Spirit smash the idols of materialism and greed, who will tear down the altars of the golden calves they call, “Jehovah”, who will prophesy against the false prophets of “another Jesus.” We need those who love Jesus enough to take a stand against the Devil and be persecuted for preaching a sharp, convicting message, that even though it offends, it also gloriously contains real power to deliver from sin and save souls.

The true Gospel that Jesus came to herald was one that was so offensive that He pronounced a special blessing on all those who were able to receive it: “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Luke 7:23). It takes a special blessing not to be offended in Christ. This must mean that most people, if they hear and understand the true Gospel, and see and hear the true Jesus, will in some measure be offended or will be unable to believe and be saved. This is quite the contrast to the lukewarm “gospel” we hear so often today, that offends nobody, that is easily embraced by the sinful multitudes who love to hear these humanistic ideas about God preached and are never shaken from their complacency, never get alarmed over their sinful condition, never depart from their iniquity, and never embrace the cross of Christ in identification with His sufferings or bow the knee of submissive obedience to His Lordship –things which are essential characteristics of true faith and necessary evidence of the reality of the Gospel in one’s life.

This true, offensive Gospel, far from being accepted by the world, was a scandal to the world, and the world hated it! It ended up getting our Lord nailed to a tree. This true Gospel, according to early historical records, ended up getting the Apostle Peter crucified as well (that is, crucified upside down). It ended up getting all the Apostles martyred, except for John, who was banished as a condemned criminal to the Isle of Patmos. This true Gospel will never be accepted by the world and its ungodly system or the prince of darkness who oversees it. It will always be a scandal, an offense, a sword between those who follow it and those who refuse to (see Mat. 10:34-36). Where is this Gospel today? Surely, wherever it is, persecution tends to follow it in some form or another, but thank God; genuine salvation does too! And so does revival!

— glg —

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