For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
With the rise of theological liberalism in the nineteenth and twentieth century’s, American Christianity found itself in danger of losing the biblical gospel. Any student of that age can document how scholars, first in Europe and then in the United States, began to question the Scripture and its teachings until an entirely different gospel emerged.
What most do not consider, however, is that these men who denied the atonement and the necessity of mankind to have personal, saving faith in Christ, they were not trying to destroy the gospel in the process. No, if one reads the writings of these men or sees transcripts of their messages, one will find that these men actually believed that they were saving the gospel. They were updating the message of the Bible for a new, enlightened humanity who believed more in science than superstition. Liberals did not intend to destroy the gospel at all; instead, they wanted to save the church.
The problem is, the gospel does not itself need to be saved. Any tweak of the gospel in order to make the message of Jesus Christ more palatable for the lost is actually going to end up stripping the message of, well, the gospel. The cross is foolishness to the lost. The blood of Jesus is an offense to those who do not know Christ and have not come to him for grace. Anything that will sweeten the gospel to the lost is very likely a removal of the heart of the gospel.
I’m not here speaking of contextualization, speaking the gospel to people in words and ways that they can understand. I’m not saying that missionaries cannot learn to dress and speak like the people to whom they are witnessing. But when the changes come in the fundamental message of the gospel, the changes are devastating to the cause of the missionary. As Paul said, trying to please man makes one no longer a servant of Christ.
The gospel is very simple. God is. He is our Creator and Judge. God is holy and loving. We have all rebelled against him, failing to live up to his standards. We have earned, through our rebellion, his wrath for our sins. God must punish our sins because he is perfectly just. God sent Jesus Christ, God the Son, to earth as a man to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Jesus took our place, paid the penalty for our sins, and satisfied the wrath of God for our rebellion. Anyone who will believe in Jesus and turn from their sins will be forgiven by God—salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This is the gospel, and it must not be changed.