God’s Word says, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15) This week we looked at the message of the gospel that the apostles shared everywhere they went. Their gospel varied in exact presentation, just like today, but it did not vary in the truth. The apostles had the same message everywhere. In Acts 14, we find one of the simplest forms of that message. Paul points to three things. First, he points to their history with God. He says, “In the generations gone by He (God) permitted all the nations to go their own ways.” (16) He also points to their need for salvation in verse 15. He then points to the proof that God both loves them and has the power to save them in verse 17. This is the simple gospel message: Our history, our need of salvation, and the proof that God can (and wants to) save us.
Why do some want to change this message? Some want to make the gospel message all about becoming good people. This removes the offense of the cross. Is that what it’s all about? Some change the message so that it is a social gospel concerned with social justice and taking care of the poor and needy. Again, the offense of the cross is removed. Is that what it is all about? Recently I read two books regarding salvation. One declared that God will save everyone. The other declared that salvation is primarily a sociopolitical message. In both cases, the cross is minimized. In the first example, the whole point of the cross is dismantled because we don’t need to respond to Jesus’ death to be saved. In the second example, it is Jesus’ teaching on Kingdom living that is important, not His death on the cross. There is a reason that the early disciples pointed to the cross. As Paul says, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18) In fact, Paul asked (regarding the great compromise of his day), “if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.” (Galatians 5:11)
Paul’s concern should be our concern. Paul does not want anything to detract from the message of Jesus’ crucifixion. What is that message? In his emotional declaration Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Paul’s gospel was that Jesus came to save sinners. This is why nothing would detract from that. Paul would not teach a social gospel or a political gospel or a good works gospel. Any of those would undermine the purpose for which Christ died.
What about us? Do you and I change or shift the gospel to suit some need in our culture? Do we change or redefine the gospel to meet some need in our own hearts? Do we feel a need to do good works and so we focus the gospel on doing good? Do we feel a need for social justice and so we focus the gospel on those issues? We might not write a book that undermines the cross or teaches universalism, but do we change things to suit our own felt needs? If the pure message of the cross is so important, shouldn’t we cherish and protect it in our own hearts?
Something to think about,