Diluting the Gospel

2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Every Christian who truly lives out their faith (is there any other kind of Christian, really?) will have their character called into question. Mark Driscoll reflected on what the apostle Peter noted in that many times leaders and Christians will suffer not from doing what’s wrong, but from doing what’s right. The apostle Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

Paul’s character was under attack. He was under hard accusations—the worst being that he was “practicing cunning or … tamper[ing] with God’s Word.” Some said that he wasn’t preaching enough of the Law of Moses (like the Judaizers who had, as C.S. Lewis said, a “Christ-plus” Christianity). Others said that Paul preached too much, saying that they must deny themselves and surrender. Some hated Paul’s message that they assailed his character.

So Paul says that he has renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. He’s not about being deceptive.

When our children were younger, we would give them juice—apple juice, grape juice, whatever. But we knew that their systems could not process straight juice, so we would dilute the juice so they won’t get overloaded with calories (lots of sugar in those drinks) and also to tone down the acidity.

The word ‘tamper’ comes from the word which means to dilute—specifically how wine merchants would add water to their wine to dilute the effect. They would cheat by taking away the thrust of the real product.

Let me ask you two questions. First, are you sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others? Sadly, the majority of church members across our land do not. We tend to gravitate inwardly. If we have a fellowship (Thanksgiving, watermelon, etc.), we pack the place out. If we have a time where we will go and knock on doors, only a handful show up. When we think of taking a fun trip, many will sign up. When we think of ministering at the Rescue Mission, very few show up. Fellowship with those we know is always easier than ministry to those we do not.

If you are sharing Jesus, what about Jesus are you sharing? Are you tampering with the gospel of our Lord? Are you diluting the Word so it’s not as strong, not as offensive? Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love says:

The American church is a difficult place to fit in if you want to live out New Testament Christianity. The goals of American Christianity are often a nice marriage, children who don’t sweat, and good church attendance. Taking the words of Christ literally and seriously is rarely considered.

If this is the type of Christianity we’ve surrendered to or are sharing with other people, then we need to quit tampering with the gospel. We are not called to be culturally acceptable, but committed and sold out for Christ.

Keep in mind, while Paul never intended to hide the gospel, that did not mean that there weren’t those to whom the gospel was hidden. Look at verses 3-4:

3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The gospel is veiled to a group that Paul calls both ‘perishing’ and ‘unbelievers.’ If you have not received Christ or have accepted a diluted Christ, who are an unbeliever—and you are perishing. The gospel is veiled. Paul uses this word back in 2 Corinthians 3 in referring to how Moses came down from the mountain when he spent 40 days in the presence of the living God. The Israelites were fearful of Moses because his face was shining, reflecting the glory of God (see Exodus 34:29-35). Whereas the glory of the Lord was meant to sanctify, the Israelites showed their unbelief by shying away from its splendor. That glory, as Paul tells us, fades!

But the glory of the light of the gospel of Christ never fades! But so many in the world have the same reaction: hardness of heart and an accompanying fear and hatred.

Have you never received Jesus Christ as your Lord? Has he saved you from your sins? Have you repented of those sins? No? Why?

  • Is there pride in the way? How many times have I talked to someone who is in an addiction, lifestyle, or the like who, though they need to receive Christ and find freedom say they just aren’t ready? They think they are OK, content in their life and their pride. Imagine standing before God in all His glory and saying, “Yes, Lord I heard your word, but I couldn’t and wouldn’t give up my bottle, my TV, my habits, my good upstanding way of life.”
  • Is there fear in the way? Are you confronted with the glory of Christ in the gospel, and it’s majesty is so great that you fear drawing near to be saved? I could dilute the gospel and say that all you need to do is make a decision to accept Jesus—even though there is no such verbiage in the Scriptures. Jesus must not simply be an add-on to your life—He must be your life. It’s a surrender. And when you count the cost, you are afraid you cannot do it! But we are not about following the law, we are about surrendering to the one who already kept God’s law, writing that law on our hearts, and sending th Spirit to empower us to obedience—not out of fear, but obedience out of love!
  • Is there hatred of God in the way? I’ve been reading up on the scandals with New Tribes Mission and how some of the missionaries at an international school were found to have been sexually abusing the native children. You may remember the sex scandals in the priesthood in Louisville back in 2002 and the devastation that brought. Some in the Caribbean hate the biblical God because of how those who came from Europe in his name enslaved them. Or maybe you, because of some horrible issues that have happened in a church where you grew up did you or your family wrong and you’ve had a hatred for Christ—or at least his wife, the church. I urge you to consider that these are evils that have no part of Christ or His church. He has called His church to be a spotless bride that seeks the NT simplicity of the gospel of Christ. Those who live outside of the glory of God and the gospel of Jesus should not be seen as true representatives of Christ.
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