Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Scandal of the Gospel

I just began a series of sermons called More Than Conquerors in which I plan to look at Romans 6-8 and focus on the topic of Christian living under the shadow of the cross, and in the power of the Spirit.

This morning I preached from Romans 6:1 and quoted Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who insisted that all faithful preaching must be mistaken for antinomianism, saying, "There is a kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation."

You see, those who see the gospel primarily as a tool for individual or cultural transformation will inevitably be hesitant to give too much attention to something like grace. After all, if not even the law could cure our constant sinning, and then God just accepts us anyway, the conclusion that grace will curb our lusts sounds pretty absurd if you think about it.

"Give 'em an inch," as the fella said.

With all due acknowledgement of the dangers of the etymological fallacy, it is still interesting that the word from which we translate the "offense" that the scribes and Pharisees felt at Jesus' person and message is the Greek verb scandalizomai, from which we derive our English word "scandal."

I don't know about you, but if a person's understanding of the gospel isn't scandalous to my natural way of thinking, if it doesn't call into question everything I think I know, if it doesn't subvert the wisdom of this age, then when you preach it I can barely muster the energy to yawn.

Which is why my response to the idea that the gospel is simply the latest in a long line of self-help methods, or that New Urbanism is "kingdom work," is to wonder why Jesus had to be so attention-seeking as to die to accomplish such tasks.

If the gospel is as "earthy" as many claim, then I will echo the scandal of the scribes and protest alongside them the seeming overkill of the cross and resurrection.