What is the Gospel?

GospelEver since I became a Christian twelve years ago, there has been a phrase or saying that I have heard many times with regards to following the Great Commission. Over and over I have heard some form of the statement, "Just give them the Gospel."

I don't know about you, but I have wondered for years just what the heck that meant. As often as it was said, it was never clearly articulated what "the Gospel" actually is. Have you ever wondered about this? Has it driven you crazy like it has me?

Some short time ago, listening to Greg Koukl on the Stand to Reason podcast, he talked about an interaction that I thought helped me to understand more about what "the Gospel" is than anything I had heard up to that time. For those of you who know me well, I'm sure you are very surprised that I would reference Koukl again.

I will try to summarize Koukl's experience here as he has described it. Forgive me if I miss a few details, but I am fairly confident that I can get the gist of it.

On one occassion, Greg had gotten into a conversation with a man who had identified himself as an attorney. He had asked Greg a question about how a good God could condemn people to eternal torment for simply not believing in Jesus. Greg's careful response, I think, was a magnificent presentation of the Gospel (which, this may be a good time to point out, actually means "good news").

Greg began by asking the man if he felt that people to behave immorally should be punished. It was only at this point that the man revealed his profession as an attorney. As such, he predictably responded that he did indeed believe that immoral behavior should be punished. Greg responded with a winsome, "Me too!"

Next, Greg really maneuvered masterfully. Without being accusatory, he asked the man, "Have you ever done anything immoral?" Now what could anyone say to that? Obviously nobody in their right mind could possibly say No to that. So, of course, he responded by saying "Yes." Again, Greg's response was, "Me too!"

This may be a good time to digress just for a moment. I want to make sure you catch how Koukl carefully builds rapport by identifying himself as being in the very same predicament as the person to whom he is talking. Part of Stand to Reason's core philosophy is is about being a good ambassador for Christ. One of the components of that is to maneuver with wisdom, or an "artful method" as they put it.

Now, back to the conversation...

Once Greg had established that both he and his companion were both in a similar position with respect to their moral situation, he concludes the first aspect of the conversation by slyly asking, "You know what I call that?.....Bad news!"

From there, he goes on to discuss how the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus ultimately paid the debt that we owed so that we no longer have to pay the debt of our immorality ourselves. He briefly outlines that we all have moral crimes for which we owe a penalty to the One against whom these moral crimes were committed and that, in His grace, He sent His own Son to pay that price on our behalf so that the righteousness of Jesus could be imputed to us.

After this brief explanation, he finishes up with (and I can only imagine him having a sly grin), "Do you know what I call that?.....Good news!!"

So, in the end, what have we learned about the Gospel and what it is? When we share "the Gospel" with someone, there are essentially three things that we need to share. Following Koukl's example, let's break this into three, simple steps:

  1. Respectfully lay out the "bad news" that we all sin and that sin requires justice.
  2. Relate to them by identifying yourself as being in the same position of having sinned (and continuing to sin).
  3. Share how the death, burial and resurrection solves that problem...the "good news"
It should be said that, for some time (particularly in this country), one really only needed to go directly to Step 3. The society we are in today requires that we do not skip the first two steps. Many Christians may not realize this because they feel as though we are living in a society similar to Acts 2 where we are surrounded by people who's fundamental core beliefs are similar to our own. Unfortunately, we are not living in an Acts 2 society any more.

It would be more accurate to compare our society today to the people Paul talked to in Acts 17. We live in a society in which the people with whom we are surrounded do not understand where we're coming from. Because of this, it is vitally important today that we make sure that we shed light on the fact that there is "bad news" before we can approach them with the "good news."

The problem is, most people today in our society think that people are generally good, that as long as your goodness out-weighs your badness, you'll be fine and you'll go to heaven. It is difficult, and understandably so, for people to grasp the idea that their neighbor who brings their trash cans back from the curb for them, helps them fix their car, watches their house when they're on vacation, etc. but who does not accept Jesus might spend eternity in hell.

I will admit, that's a tough pill to swallow. But part of the problem with that is the fact that they think that it's because they don't believe in Jesus that people go to hell. I've already discussed whether or not that is the case in a previous post.

The Gospel is simple. It is not something that requires years of study to understand. The concepts are simple enough for anyone to understand. And hopefully now, you have a better understanding of what it is we're supposed to share with people.

For other resources regarding the Gospel:

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