When is the last time you sat down and actually thought deeply about the Gospel? Unfortunately, many believers see the Gospel as elementary teaching, which only goes to show they don’t understand it. The Gospel is beautiful to those who believe, but it is absolutely foolish to most of the world.
Have you ever had someone who does not believe repeat the Gospel back to you? Them: So you’re telling me that God, who is one, but not just one, He is also three, Father, Son, and Spirit—created the world but man has messed it up? Us: Yep. Them: And so the Father, who is God, sends the Son, who is also God and He puts on flesh like you and me while remaining fully God? And a virgin gives birth to this God-man? Us: Yep. Them: Okay. Let me get this last part. He lives a perfect life, but ticks off the religious people, so they kill him? And then on the third day he came back to life in his flesh and bone body and then floated up to heaven? Us: Exactly. Them: And then one day he is coming back so he can raise everyone from the dead in a real flesh and bone body in order to judge them and for those who believe, they will live forever with him on the perfected earth, to which heaven will descend on, but those who reject will be separated for eternity? Us: Yea. Want to join in?
This sounds loony—we are a weird bunch.
In Acts 18:1-11, Paul is building tents and witnessing to the people of Corinth. Luke describes Paul as diligently proclaiming the Gospel in the synagogue, pleading and reasoning with them in regards to Jesus as the Christ. Unfortunately, these men revile and oppose him, meaning they were literally making fun of Paul and calling him names because of what he was teaching. It gets to the point where Paul basically says, “Fine, if that’s the way you want it. I am guitless!” I get the picture of Showtime at the Apollo where the crowd begins to boo, mock, and laugh at the person performing. Take a look:
Like that, but more intense, violent, and not because Paul was a bad singer. Why the heavy name calling and opposition? 1 Corinthians 1 helps piece this together where Paul describes the cross as a stumbling block for the Jew and foolishness to the Gentiles. Seeing the Gospel in this light, I can understand why many pastors want to soften the blow by making God more cuddly, the Gospel less foolish, and people not so wicked. The problem is whenever that becomes your message, it becomes an entirely different message than the Gospel that Paul and the rest of the apostles are teaching! When you redefine God and the Gospel, you have a different god and a different gospel, neither of which actually exist. As Christians, we should be careful whenever we begin to redefine terms because it can quickly shift from a “different perspective” to all together NOT Christian. Thus, Paul is saying that when the Gospel is conformed to the “eloquent” wisdom of man it robs God of His honor and strips the cross of its power.
To those of us who are Christians, here is the peace and comfort. It is not up to us to save. In Acts 18:9-10, Jesus comes to Paul by night and tells him to press on. He says, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, because I am with you and no one will assault you to harm you, because I have many people in this city.” At this point Paul has seen two converts in Corinth, yet Jesus says, “There’s many more. Go find them!”
Believing in the true Gospel makes it impossible for you to be proud. When I become proud, I forget the Gospel.The moment that I start adding or taking away from the message, I begin to rest in a modified, powerless, soul-damning pile of fluff that is no gospel at all. The person and work of Jesus Christ, the wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, is the sole reason we boast—not in our eloquent, noninvasive, powerless gospel, but in the true Gospel that saves us to the Father, through Christ, and by the indwelling Spirit.