Question: if you were asked to share the gospel in 60 seconds, do you think you could do it? Do you think you would be able to clearly articulate the key aspects of the good news of Jesus Christ? I am not looking for the standard, “God has a wonderful plan for your life, so you need to accept Jesus into your heart.” That answer, though often given, falls short of the breadth of the gospel message.
As you know, this is an important question. The apostle Peter reminds us, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being 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 Peter 3:15). Being prepared to articulate the good news is important not simply for apologetics (defending the faith) and evangelism, but also for your own understanding and edification. I fear, however, that many professing Christians would have a hard time giving a basic explanation of the gospel.
I was recently listening to a Christian radio station where the DJ quoted what is often attributed to Francis of Assisi. “Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words.” The DJ quoted this as a way of encouraging listeners to participate in “Make a difference Monday!” Certainly we should “let our light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). I am all for lifestyle evangelism, but the problem is that all too often we use this as an excuse “not” to share the gospel. We think, all I have to do is be a good person, and then I’ve done my job. However, no matter how good you are and how many good works you have, when another person see’s you, they still see a sinner. And when they see me they still see a sinner. They might think us to be noble, honorable, pleasant, and kind, and a bunch of other nice things but that still doesn’t help them.
Therefore, at some point we need to open our mouths. Whether you like it or not, the gospel message is content. There is a message to declare. Granted, we are to share it with “gentleness and respect,” but we still must share it. As the apostle Paul argues, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Romans 10:14) I have never heard a story of an unbeliever who, upon seeing a Christian repented and believed in the Lord Jesus without even hearing of Him. Without a doubt, the godly life of the messenger serves to confirm the authenticity of the message, but it never stands alone. That is why we must share the gospel with those around us.
In any gospel presentation, there should be 4 key elements. I am not talking about the 4 spiritual laws, popularized by Bill Bright and Campus Crusade, although there are some parallels. But a biblical gospel message includes the following – God, man, Christ, response.
- God – This is the only natural place to begin. Most people have some idea of God, even though most of the time it is unbiblical. We need to clarify that we are talking about the God of the Bible, who created the heavens and the earth. We are not talking about Allah or any other false God. We have in mind the One, True, Eternal God.
- Man – It is important to state that we (humanity) have rebelled against God and went our own way (Genesis 3 and Romans 3). At the core of our being, we are sinful and evil. This rebellion has separated us from God and unless Someone intercedes for us, we are doomed to die in our sins and spend eternity separated from God. This is the bad news.
- Christ – The good news (gospel) is what follows. In short, Jesus died in our place (Romans 5:8). We could not save ourselves, but God sent His Son to save us. Paul writes, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
- Response – People need to know that a response is needed. The Scriptures tell us that while Christ’s offer of salvation is available to all, it is not effectual for all. Therefore, we must respond appropriately. We must repent (turn from our sins) and believe. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Then we must follow Jesus the rest of our lives, living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I hope you don’t think that I am pushing for a packaged presentation of the gospel – one that has more confidence in the power of words than in the power of the Holy Spirit. What I am saying is that when you share the gospel with a friend (or anyone for that matter), you need to touch on these 4 key elements.