Very familiar to us is Paul’s affirmation of the power of the gospel. He expressed his ardent desire to preach the gospel to those who were at Rome, explaining, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rm. 1:16). James agrees, saying that, when the implanted word is humbly received, it has the power to save souls (Jas. 1:21). We believe this intellectually but, sometimes, our willingness to allow God to work through His powerful word is hindered by our desire to protect others from the force of the gospel.
Influenced as we are by the overly tolerant and non-judgmental philosophies of the world, we are driven to protect those in religious error from being exposed to the convicting power of the truth. God’s word “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hb. 4:12). While we must “preach the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), there is no Bible precedent for withholding truth for the sake of avoiding personal offense? When we shield people from the penetrating power of God’s word, we are walking on dangerous ground. Who are we to withhold the soul-saving power of the gospel when it is within our power to enlighten souls? There is great value in teaching the gospel in a logical, orderly fashion. Some matters are better approached after laying a proper foundation. But this is part of the teaching process—a process which includes difficult moments of self-reflection and conviction of wrong-doing. No one is converted to Christ without risking personal offense. Driven by a spirit that seeks first not to offend, we may soon find ourselves preaching a message void of the power to save sinners.
The lost are best served by those who simply trust in God’s power to save. We are planters and waterers; but God is the One who causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-7). In the Parable of the Seed, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know” (Mk. 4:26–29). We do not know how the seed grows. Therefore, it is not our place to protect people from the truth but to preach the gospel and allow God to give the increase. Otherwise, we may find ourselves doing very little preaching and a whole lot of protecting. It is only by preaching and teaching the gospel that souls be given opportunity to accept or reject the salvation which is available in Christ Jesus.