Do Unbelievers Really Just Not Understand the Gospel?
From my readings through a devotional book (Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, volume 2), comes this excerpt from the Feb. 21 reading:
Many of the lost fail to embrace the gospel because no one has presented it clearly to them. That’s because many Christians communicate a muddled gospel that emphasizes lots of secondary issues, thanks in many respects to their leaders’ digressing from the genuine message. A sure way for Satan to weaken the gospel is simply to prevent its clear and accurate presentation.
Sometimes I think, that people think that if the Lord Jesus were the preacher everyone would respond. If the Apostle Paul were preaching in Believers Chapel there would be much better results. Well, I’m willing to grant there would probably be some better results, but let me assure you it would not be because when a man gives a clear presentation of the gospel and gives it in a greater spirit of love, that there must therefore be a response. Just think for a moment, who was preaching? The Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever gave the gospel message more clearly than he? No one would debate that. Whoever spoke out of a greater sense of divine love than the Lord Jesus? What was his response? Well he was crucified. … The facts are that men are unresponsive to the word of God. They are unable to come. They rebel against the Scriptures, for the mind of the flesh is enmity against God. … So when those who were listening to the Lord Jesus said, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” they were really representative of human nature.
This reminds me of something that the man who led me to the Lord said when I was just a brand new Christian. I came to him and spoke to him about a friend of mine with whom I had spoken about the Lord Jesus, and whom I’d sought to bring to faith in Christ, and was totally unsuccessful. And then he said, Lewis, you’ll notice this about dealing with the lost. They frequently will come to you with six or eight intellectual reasons why they should not believe the gospel. He said, you ask them to list them, and they do, and you answer the first objection, and the second objection, and so on down through the six or seven. And he said, “Lewis, you will notice that when you finish answering the seventh, the last one, they won’t say, ‘well then I’ll become a believer’; as a general rule, they’ll go back to number one again.”
From SLJ’s own experience:
I can remember when I was like that. Whenever spiritual things would come up, and I would get involved in the conversation, I had about half a dozen things that I thought were things that prevented me from responding to the gospel. I was in the insurance business, and I prided myself on thinking fairly logically. And so I had a series of reasons that I would lodge against the Christian faith as it was understood by my mother-in-law and by others. I usually reduced her to tears. I won the arguments, and lost the ultimate battle of course. But anyway, this is what I would do. I would start with reason number one, why is the Bible the word of God? How can we know the Bible is the word of God? And I would go one, two, three, four, five, six. And if we were in a large group of people, everybody would pounce in and they would answer my question. So I would move on to number two, number three, number four, number five, number six. And when I finished number six I would go back to number one again, number one, two. That’s the way we are.
Unbelievers don’t have a problem of not understanding the gospel. Jesus perfectly explained it and they still rejected it. The greater issue is not so much that Christians do not clearly present the gospel and instead present a “muddled gospel” due to being sidetracked into non-essentials, but that unbelievers themselves, by nature, do not want to hear the gospel and will use such “defensive” tactics to distract away from the presentation of the gospel message.