Why does the Word of God offend so many? Why did Jesus’ words often offend the religious leaders?
He is the Truth
Satan can’t handle the truth. That’s why he is so enraged when the Word of God is taught, preached, or studied. He knows his end is coming, and that his fate will be fast and furious (Rev 20:10), so the enemy doesn’t like to hear the truth, but that doesn’t mean people who refuse to hear the truth are our enemies. We ourselves were once opposed to the things of God because we did not have His Spirit. The Apostle Paul said that “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Rom 8:5), however, “to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom 8:6). That means believers are at peace with God (Rom 5:1), having been justified by Christ, and now there is no more condemnation (Rom 8:1). A person’s mind, without the Spirit of God, “is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:7-8). Paul reassures the church at Rome (and all believers) that they (and we) “are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rom 8:7), but “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom 8:8). God’s children don’t have to guess to whom they belong because it says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). The Spirit is not in unbelievers so He cannot bear witness to them. The Word of God is written for the children of God, so if unbelievers are offended by it, it shouldn’t surprise us. They’re reading someone else’s mail!
He is the Way
Just prior to Jesus’ going to the cross, and His subsequent ascension back to the Father, He told the disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). By Jesus saying that He is the only way to the Father, He is saying that He exclusively is the one and only way. Not a way or one of many ways, but “the” way. If there is one thing that offends people of other religions or people who don’t believe in God, it’s the truth that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), and there is no other way to the Father than through Jesus Christ (John 6:44). It’s no coincidence that the early church was called “the Way” (Acts 9:2), with the author (Luke) even capitalizing it (Acts 19:9, 23; 22:4, 24:14, 22). Regardless of that, people will still get angry at that truth, even though it’s straight from Jesus’ lips. I notice no one gets angry that 2+ 2 = 4, but Jesus said it unavoidable that offense will come (Luke 17:1; John 15:18-25).
Persecuted for the Word
The Apostle Peter said we should “not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12), If you believe what Jesus taught, then that’s going to offend people. Again, we should not be surprised by that. When Jesus had just finished speaking to the Pharisees, rebuking them for their making their own traditions equal to God’s Law, “the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying” (Matt 15:12)? I don’t think Jesus was concerned about offending them because He always spoke the truth, but Jesus said to “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20). These are not our words that offend, but Jesus’ words. If Jesus’ words offend others (and they will!), it’s not so much the messenger they scorn, but the message. You don’t beat up the postal carrier for delivering your bills, so it is what Jesus said that offends, however, if we believe it and accept it, it will offend people. You just can’t help that.
The truth sets you free or it makes you really mad, but we do not ever want to make people mad intentionally. Jesus wants us to rejoice when persecuted for His name’s sake, telling us to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:13), so “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet 4:14). Who wouldn’t want that? Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:10-12). All we can do is to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15). Without gentleness and respect, the truth won’t even matter to them.
We know that Jesus always spoke the truth. He was sinless, and as God, He could not lie, and if He states that He is the truth, the way, and the life (John 14:6), we cannot dispute His Word. People might not like the truth, but the truth is still the truth, even if you have a head cold. Instead of seeing this is a very narrow way, we should rejoice that there is even “a” way! Jesus made the way possible, so at best, there is only one way to the Father, even though there is another way to Christ, but that’s the road you don’t want to take. It is the judgment seat of Christ, so either you believe that Jesus is the one and only way today, or have your own way, but I urge you to reconsider, because that road leads to destruction (Rev 20:12-15). Jesus Himself said we must “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt 7:13-44). Jesus gives one of the most sobering warnings in the entire Bible in Matthew 7:21-23, saying, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” One way or another, believe or not, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11). It is far better to do that today than at the judgment (Dan 12:1-3). Besides, it doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not. It’s still true. He is the only way. You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own truth (John 14:6). Jesus is, and He alone the way, the truth, and the life.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.