“So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:18-20).
Beginning with the early church and continuing on to the present day, the gospel message has offended and angered multitudes of people. We should not be surprised. The bible tells us that we have a deadly condition known as sin. If no remedy is applied to this condition, we will surely die (Romans 6:23). The carnal mind simply does not embrace this message because it offends our prideful hearts. As the apostle Paul explains, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Fellow Christians, how will we respond to this? How will we respond to the offense of the gospel? Unfortunately, many pastors and Christian leaders have responded by “taming” the message of Christ. For example, pastor Joel Osteen has been quoted as saying he does not like to preach about sin. Instead, Osteen brings a feel-good message of prosperity to his audience. Some might say his approach is working. Osteen is pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, which happens to be the largest church in America. Indeed, this type of response is very appealing to Christian leaders, and many have followed the example of Osteen.
Let me suggest an alternative to the Osteen response. Rather than trying to find a “culturally acceptable” message, why not follow the example of Peter and John in Acts 4? When we look at the context of this passage, we see that they were facing immense pressure to tone down their message. They could have easily complied, but Peter and John knew they were accountable to a Higher Authority. Having been entrusted with the gospel, they were to faithfully proclaim the message wherever they went and no matter what the cost.
As they suffered time and time again, I am sure that Jesus’ words to them came to mind. “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:26-28).
As Christians, we must remember that it’s not our persuasive words that will win someone to Christ. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to faithfully deliver the gospel and never entertain the thought of tinkering with the message. It is my prayer that we might declare, along with the apostle Paul, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).