The gospel is an absolutely unbelievable message, a ludicrous word to the wise of the world. As Christians we sometimes fail to realize how utterly astounding it is when
anyone believes our message.
In a sense, the gospel is so far fetched that its spread throughout the Roman Empire is proof of its supernatural nature. What could ever bring a Gentile, completely unaware of Old Testament Scriptures and rooted in either Greek philosophy or pagan superstition to believe a message, such a message about a man named Jesus? He was born under questionable circumstances to a poor family in one of the most despised regions of the Roman Empire and yet the gospel claimed that he was the eternal Son of God who was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin. He was a carpenter by trade, an itinerant religious teacher with no official training and yet the gospel claims that he surpassed the combined wisdom of the Greek philosopher and the Roman sages of antiquity. He was poor and had no place to lay his head and yet the gospel claims that for three years he fed thousands by a word, healed every manner of illness among me and even raised the dead.
He was crucified outside of Jerusalem as a blasphemer and an enemy of the state and yet the gospel claims that his death as the pivotal event in all of human history and the only means of salvation from sin and reconciliation to God. He was placed in a borrowed tomb, yet the gospel claims that on the third day he arose from the dead and presented himself to many of his followers and 40 days later ascended up into heaven and sat down
at the right hand of majesty on high.
Thus, the gospel claims that a poor Jewish carpenter who was rejected as a lunatic and a blasphemer by his own people an crucified by the state is now the Savior of the world the Lord of lords and the King of kings and at his name every knee will bow including Caesar’s.
Now do you have any idea how impossible it is for anyone in Paul’s time to believe this message? It is impossible. Who could have ever believed such a message except by the power of God? There is no other explanation. The gospel would have never made its way out of Jerusalem, let alone the Roman Empire and into every nation of the world except that God had ordained to work through it. The message would have died at its birth had it depended upon the organizational abilities, eloquence or apologetic powers of
its preachers. All the missionary strategies in the world and all the clever marketing schemes borrowed from Wall Street could have never advanced the gospel, the foolish stumbling block of the gospel.
Martin Pengel writes on the ancient scandal of the cross, “To believe that the one preexistent Son of the one true God, the Mediator at creation and the Redeemer of the world had appeared in very recent times in out of the way Galilee as a member of the obscure people of the Jews and, even worse, had died the death of a common criminal on the cross, could only be regarded as a sheer sign of madness.”
Now this truth brings both encouragement and warning to those of us who preach the gospel. First, it is an encouragement to know that the simple faithful proclamation of the gospel will ensure its continued advance in the world.
Secondly, it is a warning to us that we not succumb to the lie that we can advance the gospel through brilliance, eloquence or clever church growth strategy. Such things have no power to bring about the impossible conversion of men. We must cast ourselves with
hopeful desperation upon the only biblical means of advancing the gospel, the bold and clear proclamation of a message about which we are not only not ashamed, but we believe in and glory in because it is the power of God until salvation for everyone who