Today I read an article called Why the Gospel is Offensive by Dustin Kensrue and my immediate thought was, “The gospel isn’t offensive!” I’ve used language in the past like, “We shouldn’t be the offense, let the gospel be the offense” thus giving credence to the idea that the gospel is indeed offensive (and yes, I believe we should not seek to intentionally offend others). But is this really what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23)? Is it really the gospel itself, the good news of Christ and Him crucified on behalf of sinners that is the cause of division and offense, or is it something else? I am reminded of the words of the Bishop J.C. Ryle who, commenting on Luke 13:39-43, wrote the following:
Let us never be moved by those who charge the Gospel with being the cause of strife and divisions upon earth. Such men only show their ignorance when they talk in this way. It is not the Gospel which is to blame, but the corrupt heart of man. It is not God’s glorious remedy which is in fault, but the diseased nature of Adam’s race, which, like a self-willed child, refuses the medicine provided for its cure. So long as some men and women will not repent and believe, and some will, there must needs be division. To be surprised at it is the height of folly. The very existence of division is one proof of Christ’s foresight, and of the truth of Christianity.
I think Ryle is absolutely correct: “It is not the Gospel which is to blame, but the corrupt hearts of man.” Otherwise, we speak of the gospel in a way that portrays it as something other than the good news that it is. When we understand the nature of man’s heart compared to the glorious gift that is ours in Christ Jesus, we begin to place the blame where it belongs – not on God and his “glorious remedy,” but rather upon man in his depravity. A subtle, yet very important distinction in my estimation…
(By: Nick Kennicott)