What Happens When You Change the Gospel?
In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul writes that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing.”
Here’s what that means: When Christians are faithful to preach the gospel, many of those who don’t believe will consider their message “folly.” They may make fun of it, be offended by it, or respond in other negative ways.
If we survey the current landscape of our society, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that these are exactly the ways many people with a more secular mindset view the gospel.
So what should Christians do? How do we respond to the fact that the gospel is viewed as “folly” by so many?
Well, one option is to do what a lot of people who identify as Christians have tried to do and alter the gospel. We can stop talking about God’s holiness, sin, hell, the claims Jesus made about himself, and anything else that doesn’t make people feel good about themselves. That would be one way to avoid offending people.
But here’s the problem with that: whenever you alter the gospel in any way, you end up losing the gospel. You can’t change it without losing it.
Think about the Mona Lisa, commonly recognized as one of the most famous pieces of art in the world. Let’s say someone thought the Mona Lisa needed to be improved in various places. Maybe they didn’t like the expression on her face or the look in her eyes, so they take it upon themselves to alter the painting.
But once you do that, what you have isn’t the Mona Lisa. It’s something other than the Mona Lisa and, in all probability, something inferior to the Mona Lisa.
In the same way, the moment you change the gospel is the moment you lose the gospel. And what you end up with is something so powerless, it can’t save anyone.
You see, the different elements of the gospel work a lot like the different parts of an engine. What do you think would happen if you opened the hood of your car and randomly removed part of the car’s engine? How well would that car run?
Now, I’m no mechanic, but I’m guessing that it probably wouldn’t run very well—because every part of that engine was put into the engine for a reason. It does something. It’s needed in some way.
Likewise, whenever you start taking away parts of the gospel that offend people—again, like God’s holiness, our sinfulness, hell, or different things Jesus claimed about himself—whenever you take away those parts or even conveniently leave out those when you share the gospel, you no longer have a gospel that can save. And a gospel that can’t save is no gospel at all.
As a pastor, when I go up to the pulpit Sunday after Sunday and quite often talk about various things many people find offensive, I don’t do that because I enjoy talking about those things or because I enjoy offending people. I do it because I understand that the biblical gospel is the only gospel that can save people.
In Romans 1:16, Paul states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” The biblical gospel is the only gospel with that kind of power.