Acts 18:4…”Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” Paul spent each Sabbath in Corinth preaching the gospel, and arguing for the truth of the gospel. This likely involved contextualization, which is a hot topic today. Contextualization in our evangelism is needed based on differences in culture, language, and age for example. We need to pray for wisdom in this regard, especially in light of 1 Peter 3:15-16 – Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
However, the actual gospel message should never be contextualized, because it does not change. Here is where we have allowed the culture to subtly affect the content of the message, particularly in the US. In a culture that assumes that all are “OK,” and that truth is relative, it is absolutely necessary that the gospel be clear and true to scripture. So, a gospel which minimizes the separation between God and man because of sin is very dangerous. The Holy Spirit is not at work in someone who doesn’t see the massive chasm between creator and creation. Recognition of depravity is a sign of supernatural revelation, and is used by the Lord to drive people to repentance and faith in Jesus out of desperation. A gospel which presents our eternal state in a casual way will produce casual disciples or even worse; false converts.
1 Corinthians 9:22 has been cited as a verse defending gospel message contextualization:
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
But, this really has to do with the way that we live, and how we spend our time with non-believers. There is no reason to believe this verse has anything to do with contextualizing the gospel message, which should always include the following four key elements:
God – Is our creator and is perfectly holy and perfectly just. He made us to obey him as His creation.
Man – We have all chosen to disobey him and sin against Him. He punishes sin with eternal torment and separation from him in hell.
Christ – Jesus lived a perfectly obedient life and died on the cross for our sins. On the cross, he took on the punishment we deserve, was raised from the dead and is now seated at God’s right hand interceding on our behalf.
Response – We can be saved from God’s wrath and have Christ’s perfect life counted as ours, bringing us into a right relationship with God if we repent and believe in Him. Those who repent and believe will enjoy God forever in heaven.