The Gospel message of Jesus Christ is the core of Christianity. Yet, there are too many Christians that have misunderstood or under-defined this life saving message. If you ask every Christian you know to repeat the core elements of the Gospel message, I’m sure you would hear a plethora of different responses:
The Death, Burial and Resurrection of Christ…
The Birth, Life and Death of Christ…
The fulfillment of Davidic prophecy in Christ and the Lordship of Him as Savior…
Repentance and Faith…
The Death, Resurrection and continual reign at the right hand of God…
The forgiveness of sin…
All of these are true statements as to what the Gospel message speaks of, but what is essential for a person to hear in order to come to a decision of faith? Let’s discover that now.
As I sought to find out what other theologians thought the essentials of the Gospel call were, I found that many in the reformed view divided the gospel call into three parts: (1) Explaining the facts of the gospel; (2) giving an invitation to respond to Christ personally in repentance and faith; (3) telling of the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. After evaluating the gospel presentations we see given by Peter, Paul and other Apostles in the book of Acts, I do find that these three essential parts communicate the fundamentals of the Salvation message. Now allow me to further explain the way that these three areas encompass all of the basics of the Gospel message of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
1. Explanation of the facts concerning salvation
For a person to understand all that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is, they need to first understand Jesus Christ. Why did Jesus come to earth? Who is Jesus really? Why was His death so important? Was He really God? Was He man at all? Why is it so important that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day? Most of these questions about Christ and His role in our salvation can be understood when we grasp the following four broad categories:
- “All have sinned” Romans 3:23
- “The wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23
- “Christ died for us” Romans 5:8
- “Christ rose again and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” Hebrews 12:3
The order of which the facts of the gospel are shared is important because they are a part of God’s salvation story-line. It must begin with explaining that mankind is totally depraved, making clear the need for Jesus’ life and death as the only way to God. When explain Christology (the theology of Christ as a person and Savior) it is vital that the person sharing stays true to Scripture and drives for the personal application of the hearer. The believer needs to explain that we are all sinful by nature. The unbeliever needs to understand man’s (specifically their) need for God. This depravity of man can often come across as offensive and even irrelevant, but the truth is that without explaining the corrupt state of the soul, there is no urgent need to repent and run to Christ. Also the importance of making a salvation decision is clear when the deserved penalty for our sin is explained.
The Punishment for our sin is hell, in this life and in the next.
As a part of the gospel call, the person sharing the gospel must explain that we are all sinners under the wrath of God. The punishment for us is hell in this life and the next. Hell is an eternal separation from God and all His goodness. There is nothing that we can do within our own power to appease the wrath of God. No works or even obedience to the Law outside of faith will make up for our sin. When this fact is explained it must be clear that the sin we are talking about is against no one but God; our sin is a transgression against our creator. Consequently, an offense against an eternal God deserves an eternal punishment. The punishment for those who defy God and neglect His salvation is damnation for all eternity and separation from Him.
Sharing the fact of sin and damnation seems hopeless without the fact that follows, which is that God gave us a way out. From the beginning of time blood has had to be shed as a sacrifice for the sins of people. The entire Old Testament speaks of times when animals were sacrifices of atonement for sin. The reason that we no longer give animal sacrifices is because, in the end, the only perfect sacrifice was God himself. It was through the death of Christ, the God-man, that God’s wrath was held back. The sins of those who are under the sacrifice are no longer seen by God in their wretched status but are seen as righteous in Christ. Thus, the fact that Christ was our propitiation on the cross is again an essential fact of the Gospel that must be plainly stated. Truly it is hard to understand and explain that someone would die for us; even more so, it is inconceivable for our minds to grasp that the God-Man, nearly two thousand years ago, would die on our behalf as a sacrifice. No Matter how hard it may be to explain and conceive, communicating it is completely necessary. Finally it is only the powerful work of the Holy Spirit that will be able to make these facts of the gospel clear to the hearers.
2. Invitation to respond to Christ personally in repentance and faith.
When the evangelistic message is given, it is clear that it is not the person sharing the truth, but Christ, who is calling them. When Christ states the wonderful words “Come to me…” (Matthew 11:28) or “Come!” (Revelation 22:7) He is giving a genuine personal invitation that seeks a personal response. When John 1:11-12 speaks of “Receiving” Christ, a personal response of acceptance is implied. Even if one is to hold to a Calvinistic view point, Christ is not seen as forced upon an individual. It is clear that there is a point of decision and accepting of Christ and His calling. This receiving is the person making a choice of emotion, intellect, and will, to repent of old sinful ways and place their faith in Jesus.
Repentance can be explained as “willingly denouncing sin and genuinely leaving behind those things that are unholy and immoral.” Often when speaking of repentance it is important to give explanation to what sin is. Sin and repentance are not just some mystical items, but are the spiritual currency of the soul that leads to either total loss or total gain. Therefore, sin and a person’s repentance of sin are vital to the sharing and receiving of salvation (Acts 3:19).
The fact of Christian faith is that it asks for your life.
Once true repentance has come, it is then imperative that the unbeliever makes a believing decision in faith. The repentance is to God, and the faith is in Jesus Christ the Son. These two elements go hand-in-hand. Faith is more than just believing in Jesus; it is believing upon Him and trusting Him to the point of obedience in all aspects of life. If the hearer thinks that simply believing in Jesus (like believing in Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny) will save them, then they must be corrected. The fact of faith is that it asks for your life. This must not be watered down or made “appealing” at the stake of losing the Biblical truths.
3. A promise of forgiveness and eternal life.
This third component of the gospel message is very important and gives the person hearing the call an understanding of the abundant gift of grace that they are to receive. The one that is sharing the gospel message needs to explain to the hearer that through their repentance and faith in Christ they will receive eternal forgiveness of their sins and are promised fellowship with God forever.
As grace and forgiveness is explained, it important that the deliverer makes clear that this is a qualified promise; the only way that anyone can have the guarantee of forgiveness and eternal life is if the person first repents and believes. This is not to imply that salvation is conditional and therefore cooperative on the part of man and God. On the contrary, it is only God that can open the ears and heart of the person to make them want to repent and believe. This gives us a great understanding of the place that prayer has within evangelism. We need to pray for the “lost” that God will make clear to them their need for Him and give them the power to repent and believe upon Christ. This also points us to God and all of His glory, for in the end we know that it was nothing on the part of man that saved us, but it was God’s good pleasure that allowed us to enter into a relationship with Him.
Forgiveness explained as a part of the gospel call should naturally flow from speaking of the facts concerning salvation. If the sharer is declaring the facts of the gospel, then it should be clear that Christ came as the perfect pardon for our sin – both in the past and in the future. Grace is the core of God’s forgiveness. He gives each person who makes a decision of faith the free gift of grace which is total forgiveness for the sin nature that lies within the heart of every man. God’s forgiveness is refreshing but also regenerating as he takes the corrupt desires of our heart and replaces them with a heart that seeks Him.
Eternal life is God’s life divinely joined with the Human Soul through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Eternal life is the deep desire each regenerate person receives as a product of God’s grace and forgiveness. This life is not simply the ability to live beyond physical death; it is the gift of the Holy Spirit a human receives when placing his or her faith in Jesus Christ. This “Eternal life” starts the moment a person declares Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. This is God’s life divinely joined with the human soul.
The greatest call a believer has on his or her life, besides salvation, is to share with others the good news of the Gospel message. Yes, it can be intimidating and even downright terrifying. But, when done intentionally and with a deep understanding of what is being shared, proclaiming Christ to an unregenerate person can be rejuvenating and absolutely exhilarating. The gospel message is simple, yet not simplistic. While it is simple enough for a four-year-old to understand, it is not a message that is to be underestimated and under-defined. The Gospel call to salvation has the potential to change a person from the inside out; this must be taken seriously and always handled with care.
Dear Soul-Winner, please do not take this message lightly. Please do not piece-meal it to make it sound more relevant or appealing. Just share the truth, the whole truth and nothing but it. You may be able to share all three of these major parts of the message in one sitting with a person; for others it may take a life time. Nevertheless, share the facts of salvation, invite them to respond in faith and repentance and declare to them the promise of eternal life and soul-penetrating forgiveness.
May the joy of your salvation be your strength.
(Download this What Must I Say Article by Josh Weidmann Here)
Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, inter-varsity Press, Leicester, England, Zondervan, Grad Rapids, MI, 1994