by Chris Rosebrough
Relavant Christian, a blog dedicated to ‘staying current with today’s culture, has a post entitled ‘Why Christian’s Suck’ written by Timmy Gibson that rails against pharisaical Christians who violate John 8.
According to Timmy, John chapter 8, the story of the woman caught in adultery is a passage of scripture that teaches us that we are not to judge non-believers to a ‘fiery hell’ because Jesus didn’t judge the woman caught in adultery to a ‘fiery hell’. According to Timmy ‘faith works by love’ and ‘love leads people to faith’. But in Timmy’s way a thinking preaching a message of repentance of sins to non-believers violates the message of ‘love’ and those who do so are ‘sucky Christians’.
After reading his post I thought that Timmy’s reasoning contradicted scripture, especially as it relates to Paul’s preaching of the gospel. So I decided to ask him to clarify his position. I asked Timmy:
Do you think that the Apostle Paul is someone who you would label as a sucky Christian?
He told people they were sinners, preached Christ Crucified everywhere he went and every opportunity that he had. He openly rebuked other ‘christians’ who disagreed with the gospel that he taught, (See the entire book of Galatians and Acts 15).
He preached in the streets, in the synagogues, on Mars Hill. Got people so upset and riled up that they stoned him, rioted or both. They thought that he was such a dangerous nut job that they followed him from town to town trying to stir up trouble against him.
So if Paul were alive today, doing what he normally does what would you say about him?
Timmy’s response was astonishingly uniformed when it comes to the scriptures and this post is a response to Timmy and those who think like him. Here was Timmy’s response:
I think the time we are living in now is a bit different then in the times of Paul. I am thinking that those things were important in establishing the church - then. I think with each generation and in each culture you use different tools to effectively (this is a key word) reach people for Christ! I am for anything that works! I am not too convinced that street preaching is effective these days! Though I will tell you that we’ve done some creative “street” preaching of sorts even recently and it proved to be a positive experience… though we did not use a megaphone and soap box!
Oh believe me I am all for stirring people up… especially if it causes growth, change and reflection… and ultimately a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.
One thing to always keep in mind Chris, we (as Christians) are to be LIKE JESUS, not Paul! (emphasis mine)
Two things struck me about Timmy’s reasoning. The first is his assumption that preaching a message of repentance and the consequences of non-repentance is an unloving message. The second is the false belief that Paul’s message and the means he employed for spreading the gospel are different than Jesus’.
This post will address both of these issues by looking at what scripture says on the matter.
I will demonstrate four primary concepts from scripture. They are:
1. The New Testament gospels clearly show us that the core of Jesus’ message was a call to ‘Repentance’.
2. Jesus instructed his disciples to preach and teach this exact same message of Repentance.
3. The disciples obeyed Jesus in regard to preaching this message, including the Apostle Paul.
4. Jesus has instructed the Church to Preach the Message of Repentance to all nations, including 21st century America.
First. It is a false and Biblicically incorrect notion to say that telling unbelievers that they are sinners that need to repent is angry, hateful, judgmental or contrary to a message of love.
Instead, faithfully proclaiming the message of repentance is the very epitome of what it means to “love your neighbor”.
How do we know this?
Answer: Because Jesus, who is love incarnate, preached a message of repentance everywhere that he went and his disciples followed His example. Please consider these passages of scripture.
Matthew 4:17 - “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
This verse tells us that Jesus’ standard message from the time of John the Baptist’s arrest was a message of repentance. Therefore, unless one is willing to argue that Jesus was calling for people to repent of something other than their sins, Timmy’s argument already contradicts God's word.
This also means the tax collectors and prostitutes that Jesus 'hung out with' first heard Jesus' message of repentance.
Furthermore, unless one is willing to say that Jesus was unloving and uncaring when he told people to repent of their sins then Timmy’s argument is not based upon the full council of scripture.
So that you do not think I am engaging in sophistry I will provide more passages that bear this fact out.
In Mark 1 we see a cross-reference to Matthew 4:17 that confirms that the message Jesus preached to everyone called for repentance and belief.
Mark 1:14-15: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Not only did Jesus' message call for people to repent of their sins, Jesus actually reproached and called down judgement on those who would not repent. This is an important fact because Timmy tries to argue that John 8 should form the basis of Christian evangelism. But, Timmy’s argument falls flat because he’s ignored those passages of scripture where Jesus acts contrary to John 8. Matthew 11:20 is a prime example. In this passage we find out that Jesus reproached the inhabitants of cities that did not repent.
Matthew 11:20: “Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.
Furthermore, in Luke 13 Jesus told his listeners in no uncertain terms that they were sinners and that unless they repented they would perish.
Luke 13:1-3, 5: There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
These passages clearly and directly contradict Timmy’s argument about John 8.
In point of fact, if we are to truly follow Jesus example of evangelism and His treatment of un-believers then we need to look at more than just John 8. We must also look at those passages where Jesus clearly calls people to repent and threatens punishment to those who refuse.
The next fact to consider is that the disciples followed Jesus’ example and His instructions regarding the message that they were to proclaim and take to the ends of the earth. Their message, just like Jesus’ was a message of repentance.
Mark 6:7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.* 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.
From this passage we can also say with certainty that, it is an untenable position to argue that the message of repentance is either unloving, unkind, or hateful because the disciples were preaching the EXACT SAME message that Jesus’ preached.
We also have a blistering example of the Apostle Peter holding his audience responsible for murdering Jesus in the sermon he preached at Pentecost.
Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Acts 2:36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
If we were to believe Timmy and those like him, we’d have to conclude that Peter was a ‘sucky Christian’ and that he was being unloving, harsh, judgmental and contradicted the example of John 8. But if we believe the scriptures we have to believe that this was not only an act of love but that his words were prompted and empowered by the Holy Spirit. As a result of this powerful and blistering message, Peter’s audience was literally convicted of their sin and unbelief. Here is what the next verse in this passage says:
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter’s audience felt horrible. They were convicted and mortified of their sins.
Who convicted them?
Answer: The Holy Spirit. That means the Holy Spirit was the one who inspired Peter to say those blistering words and the Holy Spirit used those words to convict Peter's audience of their sins.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this because this is EXACTLY what Jesus said the primary job of the Holy Spirit is in John 16. Here is what Jesus said:
John 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me
In Acts 2 we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ words regarding the Holy Spirit. Far too many people get caught up by the fact that the Apostles were speaking in tongues when the Holy Spirit came upon them that they overlook the fact that the Holy Spirit was also actively convicting people of their sin and unbelief. This was just as much a miracle as the gift of tongues.
What was Peter’s response to those people who had been convicted of their sins by the Holy Spirit? Read for yourself:
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins...
Peter’s answer was the same as Jesus’. Once again we see a clear call to repentance.
Now it is time to dispel this false notion that Paul was not following the example and message of Jesus. As if Paul was some type of loose canon or renegade Christian who acted contrary to what Jesus would have done. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Here was the message that the Apostle Paul brought to the meeting of the Areopagus on Mars Hill.
Acts 17:29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Paul was in Athens and his audience was 100% pagan and he brought them a message of repentance from the sin of idolatry. The message of repentance was a core component of Paul’s gospel presentation. But, where did Paul learn to preach like this?
Answer: Paul received his ‘gospel message’ directly from Jesus Christ.
Gal. 1:11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.* 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Scripture even records for us the EXACT words that Jesus spoke to Paul upon his conversion. These words also confirm the message of repentance . Here is what Jesus told Paul.
Acts 26: 19 I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
If Timmy is correct and Paul acted in a way that was contrary to Jesus’ example and his message was different than Jesus’ then we’d expect that Jesus or the other Apostles would have rebuked or corrected Paul. Instead, we have clear passages of scripture that tell us that Jesus not only approved of what Paul was preaching and doing, but that Jesus didn’t want Paul to stop.
Acts: 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
Paul never did stop. He was NEVER silent. He was even bold enough to proclaim the message of repentance to governors and kings.
Acts 26:19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
Scripture clearly shows us that the message of repentance from sins is not an optional part of the proclamation of the Gospel. Instead it is a core, non-optional component of the Christian message.
In fact, the Christian church is under direct orders from Jesus Christ to preach the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations.
Luke 24:45 Then he (Jesus) opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
Notice the Jesus commands that the message of repentance be preached to ALL NATIONS this includes early 21st Century America.
Repentance was Jesus’ message. This was the message He taught his disciples to preach. This was the message that the Apostles proclaimed. This is the message that we are bound to.
The only ‘sucky Christian’ is the one who refuses to obey his Lord and preach the message that Jesus has commanded the church to preach.