Today I had a conversation with a Facebook friend on whether or not the Gospel was offensive to lost people. There was debate over the words the Bible itself uses and I thought there was some insightful things said so I thought I would post some thoughts here for everyone (All 5 of you).
The Bible is clear in many verses that man is totally depraved by nature. Although some would debate that in and of itself that is for another post. It follows logically that the Gospel message would indeed cut through and offend all that heard initially. If you love sin in your depraved condition then being told you are a sinner is not going to sit well with you. Your reaction would be to coil and prepare to strike out in defense of your perceived goodness. We have seen this first hand, but also have seen people accept the Gospel with open arms in a loving way so how is that possible given the depraved condition?
The question was posed by a friend that people must have the ability to respond positively when they hear the message because she had seen it happen, therefore the Gospel message could not be offensive to those that do not believe. Well the confusion lies in regeneration which is a huge and often misunderstood topic all by itself. If the Gospel is shared and accepted in love then the person sharing must understand that there is nothing in their own power causing this reaction. The person accepting the message must have already been given a revealing through the work of another or God himself or the positive reaction would not have been possible. The Bible says that nobody seeks after God, and that the Gospel is not only not understandable by sinners, but actually a stumbling block to them as we read in 1 Peter 2:8 and Romans 9:33. Notice the word offense in some versions such as ESV. Although it does not mean to offend like we say it today in English, it clearly means “getting in the way”.
It is always helpful to keep things in context like this when we read the Bible so we don’t confuse the issue. We can’t look at the positive reaction of a person to the Gospel message and throw out the doctrine of total depravity, or Hebrews 4:12 that describes the Word as sharper then any two-edged sword that pierces sword and spirit, bones and marrow. But doctrine and verses aside which are too numerous for this post, we also can’t dismiss the reactions of those who are truly unregenerate and hear the true Gospel message. Their acts of violence toward Christians are seen through history starting with the Apostles and their martyrdom and continuing through to present day missionaries being persecuted in other countries such as India, China and others. We also see the reaction of unbelievers here in America with their various agendas to remove Christianity from the culture.
Not understanding scripture is the beginning of errors like my friend who thought a positive reaction to the Gospel meant it did not have to offend the unbeliever. Without a supernatural work of God in regenerating the unbeliever no other true reaction is possible according to the Bible, logic, and experience so don’t be fooled. If you get a positive reaction it has nothing to do with you, but all to do with the working of the Holy Spirit through the power of regeneration.
The only thing that might be attributed to you if you have received a positive reaction from a depraved soul is that you have given a false Gospel. The popular question “Do you want to go to Heaven when you die” or the even more popular statement “God has a wonderful plan for your life” Will almost always receive positive comments but of course this is not the Gospel message at all even though not altogether bad if put in the right context.
As Paul Washer said, “Everyone wants to go to Heaven when they die, they just don’t want God to be there when they get there”
The short answer to the question has to be that the Gospel must be offensive or stand in the way of sinners unless the very one who gave it makes it not so through the power of regenerating the soul.