Recently, the new governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, spoke in public at a denominational assembly and made the statement [to the effect that if you did not believe in Jesus or accept him as your personal Savior that you were not saved nor his brother and he wanted to be your brother]. This caused a firestorm of protest in the non-evangelical religious world. So, he then made an ‘apology’ in which he said he would not back down from his belief in Christ but that he is sorry for offending anyone. Curious… in 1 Cor 1:23, Paul said that the preaching of the Cross was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.
Nevertheless, the evangelical world thought this was brilliant in that he received another opportunity to ‘profess his faith’- and thought that by saying he is sorry if he offended anyone he was being very wise.
At this time, the blogs and news sites are trying to make something of all of this. Since Mr. Bentley is a Republican, and newly elected, the politically minded are trying to take the opportunity to attack politically. Those who are decidedly against any who would proclaim Christ as God and Savior are taking opportunity to claim defamation. Perhaps it might be better to take some time to see what could or should have been said by someone professing Christianity. For we all may face this one day – an opportunity to proclaim a belief in a public forum.
Back to 1 Cor. 1:23 – To offend in the biblical sense is to cause one to stumble. The Greek word is σκανδαλον (skandalon) from which we get the word, ‘scandal’. Thayer says
prop. the movable stick or tricker (‘trigger’) of a trap, trap-stick; a trap, snare; any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall, [a stumbling-block, occasion of stumbling]: Lev. 19:14; πέτρα σκανδάλου [A. V. a rock of offence], [tooltip text=”Thayer, J. H. (1889). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti (577). New York: Harper & Brothers.”]1[/tooltip]
Thus, we must conclude that any assertion of the events of the Cross – the assertion that there is only one way of salvation – will cause offense – will cause stumbling. To apologize for offending when speaking of Christ as the only way, is to totally retract any type of statement of faith (no matter how weakly interpreted it might be).
Further, the apology shows a weakness, especially to those who deny Christ. The Apostle of Christ, Peter, once denied his Lord three times in a very short period. His faith was weak. He had to learn that he had to give it all to become a true follower of Christ. This took him much time, but he finally got it.
I am not trying to denigrate Mr. Bentley, but to challenge the belief system to which he aspires. To follow a belief system that is based on a premise of being saved by faith alone – a phrase not contained within the Word of God, except to say that one is not saved by faith alone – Jas. 2:24 – means one has not fully embraced all that the Bible has to say about salvation. In our example, Peter could talk the talk, but he was far from walking the walk. Belief systems that say they profess Christ but lack the obedience and submission to the will of the Father, demonstrate weakness, like Peter did.
A follower of Christ must have the conviction to stand for the truth, even if politically, it may harm. I pray that true followers of Christ would not back down when their faith is challenged. I pray that I would not. But, if one is following a belief system that overly abundantly constantly asserts that no action (in religious-speak this is the term ‘work’) has any benefit whatsoever in effecting one’s salvation seems doomed to fail when deeply challenged. Paul continues in 1 Cor. 1:24 that the preaching of the Cross is the power and wisdom of God.
Consider in this context that the Cross as it relates to our daily lives means we may have to sacrifice our political future for the sake of the Cross. Paul had to. He was part of the government of the Jews. He had to throw it all away – the belief system that he was following told him he was serving God and was doing works that he thought were pleasing to God.
Peter, much later admonished Christians to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within 1 Pet. 3:15. The only qualification was to do it in gentleness and reverence. Then, he acknowledged that those who did that would likely be slandered for it. And, proclaimed that it would be good for such a one to suffer for doing right that for doing wrong. 1 Pet. 3:17
The real offense is in not proclaiming the truth – that there is only one way to salvation – through the Cross of Christ. The real offense is in denying the truth, and failing to proclaim it. Peter in 1 Pet. 2:9 says that Christians are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. To those who are not saved, what else can be concluded but that Christianity is for those who hear and obey. This will bother some people; this will offend some people. But, that is the way God has deemed to penetrate the stony heart of unbelief- through preaching the Cross.
The real offense is in not defending the Word of Truth. How does it make sense if one is truly saved (not in the way taught by most religious groups – a mere mental assent that acknowledges Christ as Savior – but real salvation as taught in the Scriptures and that being free from a template) by the obedience of faith, being buried with Christ – Rom 6:4 – in the watery grave of baptism, rising to walk in newness of life, how does it make sense for one who has realized the magnificent mercy of forgiveness of sins to proclaim Christ and then back away from it? May it never be.