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September 20, 2023

Why The Gospel Offends Unbelievers

To the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

–Romans 4:4-5

At the CNN World Report Contributors Conference in 1989, Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, famously called Christianity “a religion for losers.” He went on to say, “I don’t want anybody to die for me. I’ve had a few drinks and a few girlfriends and if that’s gonna put me in hell, well, then so be it.”

Turner’s words illustrate one reason human philosophy rejects the truth of the gospel: the message of the cross assumes the sinfulness of man. To say Jesus Christ died for our sins assumes there is a moral standard in the universe to which we are all accountable, and we have deviated from that moral standard. Not only that, but our deviation is so serious that we deserve to spend eternity in hell for disobeying God.

Unbelievers will have none of that. Even if they concede that they have broken certain rules, they do not believe sin is that serious. I am reminded of the words of Charles Spurgeon: “Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore think lightly of the Saviour.” If you do not believe there is real sin in the world or real sin in your heart, you certainly see no need for a Savior.

People also reject the message of the cross because it rejects self-effort. That is perhaps the most offensive thing about the gospel to unbelievers–the message that we are spiritually bankrupt, and there is nothing we can do to atone for our sins.

The story goes that nineteenth-century preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne was passing out gospel tracts when he gave one to a well-dressed woman. She was offended by the tract and said, “Sir, you must not know who I am!” M’Cheyne reportedly replied, “Madam, there is coming a day of judgment, and on that day it will not make any difference who you are.”

Unbelievers reject the gospel because they are offended by it. They reject the gospel because it implies the existence of a God to whom we are accountable, it assumes the sinfulness of man, and it rejects self-effort to atone for our sin. That is why the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Foolishness of God” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

Ted Turner, as quoted in Ed Bark, “Ted Turner’s Excellent Adventure,” Dallas Morning News, May 20, 1989; “The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon,” vol. 1, “1834-1854” (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1989), 76; Robert Murray M’Cheyne story from Warren Wiersbe, “Be Right” (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 125.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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