Explaining the Gospel by Michael Bryant, Ph.D., Associate Professor; Dean of the School of Christian Studies

February 23, 2016

If someone asked you to explain the gospel, what would you say? What would be your key points? What Scriptures would you use? All believers should know how to share the gospel. Below we’ll look at one possible way to explain it.

God created people in his image.

In the beginning God created Adam and Eve (Gen 1:26-27). The first humans were unique compared to the rest of creation, for they alone were made in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). Practically speaking, this meant that Adam and Eve could live in a personal relationship with God and they were to serve as stewards of his creation (Gen 1:26-30).

Adam and Eve rebelled against God.

In spite of God’s blessings Adam and Eve rebelled (Gen 3:1-7). Their sinful rebellion had terrible consequences not just for themselves, but for all people: sin entered into the world (Rom 5:12a), death (physical and spiritual) spread to all people (Rom 5:12b, 15), divine condemnation came to all (Rom 5:16, 18) and people’s relationship with God would be marked by alienation and hostility (Rom 5:10a; Eph 2:3; Col 1:21). Regretfully, God’s perfect creation was marred. Future generations would be born spiritually dead (Eph 2:3) and enslaved to sin (Rom 6:6, 17, 20).

God took the initiative to bring his salvation through Jesus.

In response to the problem of sin God took the initiative to bring his salvation to humanity through Jesus, his Son. As Genesis 12:1-3 shows, God revealed himself to Abraham, promising to bless him with land and many descendants. In addition, he told Abraham that through his descendants “all the families of the earth would be blessed.” (Gen 12:3b) As Paul write in Galatians 3:8, God was announcing the gospel in advance to Abraham, for Jesus Christ came from Abraham’s descendants, the Jewish people. Christ would reverse the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin through his death and resurrection and provide the way for sinful humans alienated from God to become part of his family (Gal 4:4-5).

One should reflect carefully on Jesus’ identity, teaching and work.

In light of what God has done through Christ, we should reflect carefully about Jesus’ identity, teaching and work. In regard to Jesus’ identity, the Gospels present him as the Messiah (e.g., Matt 1:1; 16:16), the Son of God (e.g., Mark 1:1; 15:39), the Savior (e.g., Luke 1:69; 2:11) and the divine Christ and Son of God (John 1:1; 20:31).

The central theme of Jesus’ teaching was the kingdom of heaven. In his first recorded sermon he declared, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17) Also, the kingdom of heaven served as the main theme in his most well-known message, the Sermon on the Mount (e.g., Matt 5:3, 10, 19; 6:33). In his teaching about the kingdom Jesus proclaimed that God is the sovereign king to whom people must submit. Jesus provided many examples of what submission looks like, including loving God more than all people and things (Matt 22:37) and loving one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt 22:39).

The Gospels’ respective portrayals of Jesus also describe his most important work: dying on the cross as the substitute for sinners (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45). Jesus took God’s wrath upon himself that we might not suffer divine condemnation.

To receive God’s salvation one must respond on God’s terms.

To receive God’s salvation we must respond on his terms. First, we must repent of our sin (Acts 2:38; 3:19). Repentance involves a change of mind about one’s sin that leads to a change in behavior. We must acknowledge that our sin is offensive to a holy God and seek to follow his righteous standards. The prodigal son serves as a model of repentance (Luke 15:18-19), as does Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8). Second, we must put our faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah whose substitutionary death saves us from our sin (Matt 16:16; Mark 10:45). Third, we must submit to the Lordship or authority of Christ and obey his commands (e.g., Matt 7:21-23). As Lord, Jesus holds the rights to one’s life. Those who would be saved by him must also submit to his authority. Our obedience should ideally be motivated by a wholehearted love for God and people (Matt 22:34-40). The proper response to God’s salvation in Christ, then, should include repentance, faith and submission to Christ as Lord. The evidence of a proper response to God’s salvation is wholehearted love for God and others.

Christian discipleship should follow salvation.

Those who respond to God’s salvation should live as Christian disciples, which includes abiding in his word (John 8:31-32), loving others (John 13:34-35), bearing fruit (John 15:8) and living under the Spirit’s control that he might produce his fruit in one’s life (Gal 5:16, 18, 22-25; see also Eph 5:9-10). The fruit of the Spirit includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Discipleship also involves seeking to make disciples of the nations (Matt 28:19-20) and remaining faithful and watchful until Christ’s Second Coming (Matt 24:42-51; 25:1-13; 1 Tim 6:13-15).

Believers will join God in his eternal kingdom, while unbelievers will be excluded.

Three important events have already taken place, Creation, Fall and Redemption. The final event to occur is God’s restoration of his creation. God will transform this broken world by creating a new Eden that will serve as the final, eternal state for believers (Rev 22:1-5; see also 21:1-3).[1] The new Eden will be superior to the first in that no sin or evil will exist within it. However, before God establishes the eternal state he will send Jesus back to the earth to judge those who opposed him and failed to respond to the gospel (1 Thess 4:13-17; Rev 19:11-21). God will exclude them from his kingdom forever (Rev 20:11-15; 21:8). In contrast, he will allow believers to enjoy eternal fellowship with their king as citizens of his kingdom.

Reflection

  • Are you able to share the gospel? You don’t have to follow the explanation above word-for-word, but you should be able to share the gospel in a way that is faithful to Scripture and natural to your communication style.
  • Salvation always begins with God taking the initiative (e.g., he revealed himself to Abraham and he sent his Son). What does this fact tell us about God?
  • Jesus’ death is the means of salvation. What does this reveal about him? What does it say about our attempts to save ourselves through good works?
  • God requires that humans respond to his gift of salvation on his terms (i.e., repentance, faith, obedience, love). Why is a human response that excludes one of these less than satisfactory?
  • Becoming a Christian means more than just “getting saved.” Why is it important to understand that discipleship must follow salvation? What are several biblical expectations for a disciple of Jesus?
  • The gospel presentation above discusses the eternal state of believers. What will this future existence be like?

       [1] For the new Eden’s similarities and differences to the first Eden, compare Revelation 22:1-2a and Genesis 2:10 (river), Revelation 22:2b and Genesis 3:22 (tree of life), and Revelation 22:3 and Genesis 3:17 (curse).

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