Addressing the Gospel to the 21st Century
Addressing The Gospel To The Twenty-First Century
Note: Creation Moments exists to provide Biblically sound materials to the Church in the area of Bible and science relationships. This Bible study may be reproduced for group use.
1.The Gospel of salvation from sin, death and the devil by grace through faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ for us has been revealed from heaven and does not change. Yet, when that Gospel is delivered to men, it must be brought to them in a way they can understand it.
This means that as they hear the Gospel, they must be able to understand the words as their own (which is why we have translations of Scripture from the original Hebrew and Greek). Part of understanding the language means that the message must do more than use words whose meanings we know. The ideas and concepts must be meaningful - full of content. As Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." The Holy Spirit uses the words in which the Gospel is delivered to stir the thoughts and feelings of the hearer that He might be able to create faith.
2.The Holy Spirit cannot do this, however, if the hearer cannot understand or identify with the concepts. For example, the concept of guilt is very meaningful to a woman who is burdened with guilt after having had an abortion. Release from that guilt is a very felt need - it is often in such a condition that women have sought out a pastor for the first time in their lives.
In such circumstances the Holy Spirit is using the testimony of her conscience to make her receptive to the Gospel, where is found not only the grace and forgiveness for this sin, but for cleansing of her entire life.
It is obvious that another woman whose conscience has been strangled and silenced by the support of friends and society will not feel the same need for forgiveness and grace for this sin.
3.Likewise, if a person has been taught to believe that there is no such thing as a personal God, and that sin and the testimony of conscience, is simply unnecessary "psychological baggage," there will eventually be little daily-felt guilt and the consequent felt need for forgiveness in the Biblical sense.
This is exactly what evolution does by offering an explanation that appears to explain reality without the need for God.
To stand on a street corner and preach repentance to such a person, no matter how Biblically faithful the words, is not a Biblically faithful practice since the Gospel is not being preached in a language which can be understood by the hearer.
In fact, such preaching dishonors Christ because since the message is delivered in an irrelevant manner, those who believe that the Gospel is irrelevant today are simply confirmed in that belief, rather than being pricked by a relevant message.
4.It was for this reason that St. Paul, followed by the other Apostles, made a distinction between how the Gospel is presented to Greeks and to Jews.
The Jews knew the ideas of God, Creator, sin, guilt, repentance, atonement, and they even looked for the Savior. However, since most Jews were looking for something more dramatic than a flesh-and-blood man, and something more earthly than salvation from sin, death and the devil, the proclamation that Jesus is the Savior they awaited was a stumbling block for most of them.
But the Greeks had little knowledge of ideas like sin, Creator, repentance, and they did not seek a Savior. Their attentions were turned toward more earthly things, which to them was the limit of meaningful reality. The proclamation of the Gospel to the Greeks had to begin with the basics which the average Jew already knew.
5.So, in writing to a congregation of Christians in Corinth, St. Paul begins his first letter by explaining this crucial matter to believers there. Because of the way in which the first churches were started, this congregation was probably mostly Jewish believers. Now they must relate the message of salvation to the Greeks around them.
So St. Paul explains to them in 1 Corinthians 1:22-23, that the Greeks are different from the Jews. The Jews know there is a God Who gets involved in this world, so they search for the signs which indicate His involvement. But the Greeks search for wisdom, the highest wisdom they can comprehend being earthly wisdom, since they have no idea of a personal God's involvement in the world.
6.For the Jew, Jesus as Savior was a stumbling block since they sought a heavenly Savior from earthly problems, rather than a flesh-and-blood Savior from Spiritual problems.
To the Greek, who could not identify with any of this, the Gospel is absolute foolishness in contrast to the wisdom they sought.
7.This distinction meant that the Apostles had to use a different approach from the one they used when preaching to Jews when their audience was Greek.
In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas healed a man at Lystra. The people thought that perhaps they were gods of some sort; but now that they had the people's attention, Paul did not begin by preaching repentance - for Greek gods were not concerned about mortals' morals.
So, in verse 15, Paul begins his preaching with a proclamation of the Living God "Who made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them."
In verse 16, he goes on to explain to the Greeks why this God has a claim on these people before explaining the nature of that claim in the message of repentance and salvation.
8.Likewise, on Mars Hill (see Acts 17), Paul begins, not with repentance and forgiveness, but with the proclamation of God as Creator, thus establishing His claim on these people. In the first five verses of his sermon as recorded here, seven times Paul establishes God as the Creator of all. He also establishes that this God is personally involved with the affairs of men (verse 26).
This message was in refutation of the two main Greek ideas of the day:
1) that the gods were not concerned about the affairs of men and
2) that, as many of the Greek writers had taught, the creation is the result of impersonal natural forces and principles working according to chance.
A careful, detailed study will reveal that this pattern of proclamation was used with non-Jewish hearers, while Jewish hearers were more immediately confronted by the message of repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ.
9.The implications of all of this are crucial for Christians in our day and age. If you will study most evangelism approaches used today against the Biblical pattern, you will see that these approaches are based on the Apostolic approach to Jews.
But most people in Western society today are like the Greeks: if they do have an idea of God, He is not seen as a personal Being Who wants to be personally and intimately involved in their lives. At best, He sat back and let the impersonal, natural forces and principles in nature, working according to chance, form the universe, earth and man.
And many today do not even accept the idea of God at all. If modern evangelism approaches today use creation at all, it is simply as an apologetic (a defense of Christian truth about God) rather than as a basis.
This may sound radical, but it is for this reason that the usual evangelism approaches are showing less and less effect. As Western culture is becoming more and more Greek in its outlook, classical evangelism becomes less and less effective.
10.There is a solution.
If Christians are going to carry out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, we are going to have to relearn from the Apostles how to make the Gospel proclamation effective in our Greek-minded culture.
To do this we must start by showing people how God has a claim on them because He is the Creator (despite what evolution says).
Once they know this they will understand why the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ is so important for their lives here and in eternity.
Enlightening resources on this topic:
1018-0 The Bible Has the Answer $11.95
1324-4 Defending the Faith $11.99
1378-3 Why won't they Listen $10.99
1019-5 Science, Creation and the Bible $19.95
For more information about these resources or to order
Contact Creation Moments 1-800-422-4253 or on the web at
Copyright Â© 1984 Bible Science Newsletter, Pastor Paul A. Bartz. Creation Moments, Inc. PO Box 839 Foley, MN 56329 800-422-4253 www.creationmoments.com