But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offence of the cross has been removed. – Galatians 5:11
The Apostle Paul, when addressing his opponents, made something abundantly clear: the gospel is offensive. Paul was articulating a fundamental and core truth of how people are saved: through faith alone in Christ alone. Yet he was faced with many Jewish opponents who wished to preach a false gospel, namely, that the gentiles must be circumcised according to the regulations of the old covenant. Their boast was in the law rather than in the cross of Christ and their hypocrisy was astonishing as they sought to impose the law on the gentiles whilst they themselves failed to maintain the law. And Paul is clearly stating that the reason why they are persecuting him is because he is preaching the truth, the gospel, and it is a truth that they are offended at.
To the natural man, the gospel is offensive and this is something that Christians simply need to come to terms with and accept. You will be reviled, you will be laughed at it, you will be persecuted (whether in relatively minor or major ways) and you will be considered a fool. This is because the gospel is offensive and foolish to those who do not know God. As we are told in Corinthians:
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. – 1 Corinthians 1:18
It is thus foolish in itself to attempt to preach the gospel in a way that it won’t be considered foolish or strange or offensive to the natural man because if that is your aim, you will have to seriously compromise the gospel, even perhaps to the point where you are no longer preaching the gospel.
I have heard some Christians attempt to reach people with the gospel by reducing it to almost another self-help remedy and tragically, if the person or the audience “accepts”, they are thought to have “responded to the gospel.” But the problem is that the bad news, namely that we are sinners who are by nature deserving of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) and therefore must repent, is never communicated. It always puzzles me how we can present the good news of Jesus Christ as ‘good news’ without first communicating the ‘bad news.’ If I do not know the bad news, how can I ever appreciate, love and cherish the good news?
Saying anything about wrath, sin, hell and the need for repentance etc is bound to get you in trouble in our world today and will cost you popularity and this is something many are afraid of. In our western culture, we tremble at the thought of being labelled “judgemental” (and I don’t quite understand why) and sadly we hardly give any thought nor do we tremble at the thought of the judgement of God. It is the fear of man and the blindness to the rule and throne of God that entraps people. The temptation to fit into the present culture is all to alluring.
It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ – Galatians 6:12
The fear of man and the selfish sinful need to be held in high esteem at any cost led those to whom Paul is referring to compromise. And how often Christians are led to compromise and sin because of this very same fear of others and this very same selfish ambition! How often do we hear of individual Christians, and sometimes even pastors and entire churches compromising truth and tolerating or celebrating what God abhors so as to appear less offending or more likeable? They are aiming to remove the offence of the cross so as to avoid persecution of any kind yet they mask it behind a veneer of “love” or “acceptance.” It is exactly the attitude that Paul is criticising here in Galatians.
The love of God and the love of people will enable you to boast in the cross and not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By the grace of God and by the strengthening that comes from his Holy Spirit, we will be able to live boldly for Jesus Christ, regardless of the cost in this present age.
We will not dare to tamper with the word of God or attempt to remove the offence of the cross. We will even be able to say “if I’m considered a fool for Christ, then so be it.”