Have you ever tried to tell someone the gospel . . . and they got offended?
The gospel is the greatest love story ever told. It’s the story of how Jesus came down as a human baby, died on the cross, taking the sin of the world upon himself, and rose again three days later, defeating sin and death once and for all.
It’s difficult to imagine how anyone could be offended at such wonderful news, but as we know, it happens often enough.
I believe there are three main reasons that the gospel—while beautiful to believers—can be offensive to many people.
1. THE GOSPEL MEANS CONFESSING WE ARE SINNERS
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
When the Bible says “all have sinned,” it literally means all. No human being is perfect. Everyone has sinned in some way, whether that’s telling a “little white lie” or committing a mass shooting.
Every sin has the same consequence, for Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” Because of our sins, we have earned death. However, the verse continues: “But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In order to receive this wonderful gift of salvation, it means confessing that we are sinners.
The Bible already states it clearly: Everyone is a sinner. When we lay down our pride and confess that we are sinners in need of a Savior, we are promised eternal life.
But first, our pride has to be defeated. We have to admit that we are wrong. We have to admit that we are dirty, wretched sinners who deserve death and hell.
But not many want to believe that, let alone admit it. Everyone wants to think that they are “good” people bound for heaven.
2. THE GOSPEL MEANS CONFESSING WE CAN’T DO IT OURSELVES
In today’s society, everyone loves being self-reliant. People love being able to do things themselves without anyone else’s help. In fact, this is encouraged!
But when it comes to the gospel, the Bible says that we can’t do it ourselves. It is not by our own works that we can be saved. (And this is where most religions get it wrong.)
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Romans 3:28 says, “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”
These are only two of the many verses in the Bible that state that salvation is by faith alone, and not by works.
People want to be able to boast on Judgment Day that they earned their salvation and made it into heaven. They want to be able to boast about what they did, how hard they worked, and how God is going to let them into heaven.
We want to be able to earn our salvation in our own power and on our own terms, but it just isn’t possible.
The gospel is offensive because it means confessing that we can’t do it ourselves.
But praise God, there’s Someone who has already done the work for us. Before Jesus took his last breath on the cross, he said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30, emphasis mine)
3. THE GOSPEL MEANS CONFESSING THAT WE NEED A SAVIOR
Since we are utterly unable to save ourselves, we need someone outside of ourselves to take away our sins. We need a Savior.
Only a perfect person could pay for the sins of the world. And that person is Jesus. Jesus came down to earth as a baby, and he was a sinless human being his entire life. He was fully God, yet fully man.
“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh.” (Romans 8:3)
The gospel is such good news because it means we can have eternal life by accepting the gift of salvation by faith—not by working for it. As believers, we place our faith in Christ and in his finished work on the cross. We trust him for our salvation, for it is his righteousness that saves us, not our own.
But the gospel can be offensive because it means laying down our pride and looking to Someone else for salvation. It means trusting Someone else to take away our sins and set us free from the bondage of sin.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:18
Many unbelievers don’t see themselves as wretched sinners. They don’t see themselves in need of a Savior. Tragically, they see the gospel message as an absurdity, and not the good news that it really is.
I don’t know about you, but I am filled with overwhelming gratitude for Christ’s love for me. Because of our wickedness, we deserve to die. Yet Jesus Christ, out of his great love for us, willingly suffered and died in our place. He took away our sins at the cross and rescued us, paying the debt we owed because he knew we could never pay it ourselves.
Those of us who are saved understand this message as truly good news because we recognize our need for it. To us, the gospel is the most beautiful story ever told.
1 Corinthians 1:18 says it all: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”