Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Message of the Gospel.

Contemporary Evangelicalism in an attempt to make the gospel less threatening and more relevant has inadvertently muddled the message of the gospel. Evangelicalism is rapidly losing the ability to proclaim the message of saving faith with any clarity and boldness. Central to the gospel is the cross and it seems that there is a growing reluctance for the cross to be preached from the pulpits of our churches. To put it in a term that John MacArthur used as the title for his book, the church is “Ashamed of the Gospel”.

But the cross is central to the preaching of the gospel, and its emphasis in the presentation of the message of saving faith is crucial. However, the cross is offensive to the world. Scripture explicitly tells us that it is “foolishness to those who are perishing”. (1 Corinthians 1:18) Yet without the preaching of the cross, you really do not have the gospel at all. Any attempt at toning down or making it less offensive robs it of its power. The message of the cross is death, the death that Christ had to suffer to atone for the sins of man. Paul summarizes the key tenets of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5.

“1Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
(1 Corinthians 15:1-5, NASB)

Central to the gospel is the fact that Christ died for our sins and was resurrected on the third day. Christ died for our sins, not to restore our self esteem or merely to give us purpose in our lives. He did not come to merely carry our burdens in life. He died to provide the perfect sacrifice for the atonement of our sins. To preach a gospel that deemphasizes the centrality of the cross essentially makes the message of saving faith powerless. We must understand that we are guilty of sinning against a just and holy God and that Christ suffered greatly in our place in order for us to enjoy a restored relationship with God the Father. To diminish the significance of the cross grieves God.

“The Great Commission is not a marketing manifesto...We gain nothing but God’s displeasure if we seek to remove the offense of the cross.”
(John MacArthur; “Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World”, Pg. 18)

But even more disturbing are the latest attempts at re-thinking or to use a term gaining in popularity today, “re-imagining” the cross. I will be posting more on this topic in future posts.

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