by Mike Ratliff
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (Galatians 5:6-12 ESV)
In Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians he delivers a scathing indictment against all who teach works salvation or any version of the Gospel that has been edited from the original. If these false gospels be true then, as Paul says, the offense of the cross has been removed. However, the Apostle, in fact, is declaring that the offense of the cross never has cease, and never can cease. Any attempt to soften the offense is folly. While genuine Christianity is peaceful, mild, and benevolent, history shows us that it has been attacked with the bitterest hate from the beginning. Why? It is clearly offensive to the unregenerate mind.
Even though men such as Rob Bell or Brian McLaren scoff at the concept of absolute, knowable truth, and sell their message to an eager post-modern generation, the fact is that the genuine Gospel has not been changed any more than the world has changed. They may claim to have some new ‘perspective,” but all they are doing is proclaiming a very old repackaged message of doubt.
In the introduction to his fine book The Truth War, John MacArthur quotes an article from Christianity Today about the “Emerging Church.” This quote features comments by Rob and Kristen Bell.
The Bells found themselves uncomfortable with church. “Life in church had become so small,” Kristen says, “It had worked for me for a long time. Then it stopped working.” The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself–”discovering the Bible as a human product,” as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat. “The Bible is still in the center for us,” Rob says, “but it’s a different kind of center. We want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it.” “I grew up thinking that we’ve figured out the Bible,” Kristen says, “that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means. And yet I fell like life is big again–like life used to be black and white, and now it’s in color.” – Andy Crouch, “The Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today, November 2004, 37-38.
These folks are leading a church. Could those people in it be hearing the genuine Gospel including the offense of the Cross? I doubt it since I have watched Rob’s video “Bull Horn Guy” where he attempts to discourage Christians from sharing that part of the Gospel about sin and separation from God without the atoning work of Christ on the Cross. Instead, he proclaims that his church is full of those who “Love Jesus,” but will have none of that sort of preaching or teaching. In other words, he is stating that repentance and submission to the Lordship of Christ are not necessary for salvation. He has also gone on record stating that God is not angry about anyone’s sin.
This sort of teaching or preaching or whatever it is no different than that of those who were troubling the Galatians. It is a works based salvation that decries the need to repent of sin. Instead, just do good works and love Jesus. I pray that you noticed the pride evident in the Bell’s comments. They both insist that their “relgion” is on their own terms. They refuse to submit to the narrowness of the Word of God. They attempt to defeat what it tells them by insisting that no one can understand it.
What makes up the offense of the Cross? Its doctrine of atonement offends man’s pride. Its simple teaching offends man’s wisdom, and artificial taste. Its being a remedy for man’s ruin offends his fancied power to save himself. Its addressing all as sinners offends the dignity of Pharisees. Its coming as a revelation offends “post-modern thought.” Its lofty holiness offends man’s love of sin.
How do Christians experience this offense? I wanted to post some of the email and comments I get from those who hate Christians and the Cross, but it would be in bad taste to allow some of that language here. Suffice it to say that I do wonder at these people’s ability to reason. We experience this offense by actual persecution. Right now it is verbiage, but I am positive that the physical and legal persecution will arrive here as it has in most other parts of the world. However, the majority of the time, we receive slanderous diatribes cast in a sneering tone that attempt to portray us as old-fashioned, foolish, weak-minded, morose, self-conceited, hypocritical, et cetera. Also, there is an overwhelming number of preachers today who omit the cross from the gospel in their sermons. These are simply sales pitches that are Christless and bloodless. They are not the Gospel. Also, these same people attempt to change the meaning of orthodox terms. These are all examples of how we experience the offense of the Cross my brethren.
That the unregenerate are offended by the Cross is folly. Why? They are offended at what God has ordained. In other words, they are refusing to subject themselves to the decrees of the Most High God. They reject the truth and turn their backs on what God has proclaimed will happen. They refuse to believe that judgment is coming. They reject the only thing that can save them. They also reject the offer of eternal life even though it is full of wisdom and beauty. This is the folly of being offended at the Cross.
However, those who do believe and repent and are saved have their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life and it is all by God’s grace. All of us whose names are therein were once offended by the cross, however, now we find it ot be the one hope of our hearts, the great delight of our souls, and the joyful boast of our tongues. That being so, we must continually search our hearts to discern if we are secretly offended at the cross. Perhaps we give no offense to haters of the Cross. Many professing Christians never cause offense to the most godless. I fear that our relativistic culture has numbed us to the urgency of the Gospel.
The cross is the strength of a minister. I, for one, would not be without it for the world. I should feel like a soldier without weapons, like an artist without his pencil, like a pilot without his compass, like a laborer without his tools.
Let others, if they will, preach the Law and morality.
Let others hold forth the terrors of hell and the joys of heaven.
Let others drench their congregations with teachings about the sacraments and the church.
Give me the cross of Christ. This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made men forsake their sins.
And if this will not do it, nothing will. A man may begin preaching with a perfect knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew; but he will do little or no good among his hearers unless he knows something of the cross. Never was there a minister who did much for the conversion of souls who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Rutherford, Whitefield, M’Cheyne, were all most eminent preachers of the cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Ghost delights to bless. He loves to honor those who honor the cross.–J.C. Ryle
Let us examine ourselves my brethren. Are we ashamed of the cross? Are we seeking to not offend the unregenerate all around us? Are we watering down the Gospel?
Soli Deo Gloria!