1 Corinthians 1:23-24
“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
According to Paul when he preached the Gospel to people there were three responses. The Jews stumbled, the Greeks laughed, and others both from the Jews and the Greeks marveled. Some saw the Gospel of Christ as weakness, some saw the Gospel of Christ as foolishness, and some saw the Gospel of Christ as both power and wisdom. Was that just how it was in his day or does that help us to understand our world now?
I am convinced that the basic response to the Gospel is no different today than it was in the first century because deep down people aren’t very different today than they were then. But before we talk about how different people respond to the Gospel, let’s make sure we understand what we mean by the Gospel.
The Gospel is the good news concerning Jesus Christ. It is the declaration that in the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Session of Jesus, the Son of God, all humanity now has the opportunity to be right with God. If we will confess that we have made a mess of it and trust that Jesus makes everything right, our Sin is transferred to Him and His Righteousness is transferred to us.
Jesus is God. He left Heaven and came to Earth. He emptied Himself of all of His glory and took on a human nature. He humbled Himself and went to the Cross in order to reconcile humanity to God and God to humanity. On the Cross, God the Father poured out all of His wrath against Sin upon Jesus. Now when anyone turns to Christ, when anyone stops trusting in their own ability to make things right and begins to believe that the only hope they have of being right is found in what Jesus has done, that person is made right with God.
Then the very presence of God in the Person of the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the person who believes in Jesus. That Holy Spirit begins to work and change the believer, bringing forth the “fruit of the Spirit” as the person trusts in Christ and in Christ alone. That person then goes out into the world and becomes a sign post of the radical redemption that is available in Jesus. That is, at least the basics of, the Gospel.
How do people today respond to that message? In one of three ways.
(1) Some people stumble at the message. They see the Gospel as a message for the weak. They think that if there is a God then what we have to do is serve that God. Deep down they believe that on some judgment day there will be a scale and if a person has done enough good they will be alright. You could call these people religious people as long as you understand that a great number of folks who call themselves Christians fall into this category.
On the surface religion looks so humble. But under the surface it is really just human pride masked in devotion. So anyone in this category thinks the idea of the Gospel is weak. They say, “Maybe really bad people need that kind of thing but not me.” They see themselves as stronger than they really are, they give themselves too much credit, and therefore they stumble at the message of the Gospel.
(2) Some people laugh at the message. They see the Gospel as foolishness. They say, “You really want me to believe that God became a man and went through all that suffering? You really want me to believe that the truth that stands above all other truth came from the lips of a Carpenter? It’s the 21st Century! We have moved past all of that foolishness. Man used to believe in God and the Supernatural when man was primitive and needed explanations for the world around him. Now we have Science and we don’t need God or the Supernatural anymore.”
(3) Religious people stumble at the message because they think they are too good for it. Other people laugh at the message because they think they are too smart for it. But fortunately some people can be honest about themselves.
Some people see in the Good News of Jesus Christ the Wisdom and Power of God. They realize that they are not wise nor powerful. They feel the weight of what the Apostle Paul said, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Therefore when the message of Jesus the Redeemer is preached they fly to Him for refuge.
I guess things now really aren’t much different than they were then. But that’s good news, because when the Gospel was faithfully preached then it changed the whole world. It can do that now too. The Gospel is “the power of God.” We shouldn’t be ashamed of the Gospel. We should marvel at it and realize that some will reject it. Fortunately, and this is the amazing thing, some will receive it!
Let me simply ask you, are you too good for your own good? Are you too smart for your own good? Or can you have the courage and objectivity to see yourself for who you really are and consider this great message that is just as powerful and relevant today as it was almost 2000 years ago?