Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Simple Gospel - Four Suggestions

The Simple Gospel

Advice for Parents and Evangelists

In recent dialogue with an internet friend of mine, who goes by the handle Doveflight, I was reminded of the need to express the gospel in clear, understandable (but correct) terms to those who listen.

DoveFlight wrote:

I am finding myself stumbling all over how to explain to my children salvation faith without saying the words "make a decision." I have presented the gospel many times before my 'reformation' but now can't seem to find the right words in correlation with God's election.

My first two suggestions to parents and evangelists are these:

1. Keep it Simple: the discussion of the issue of election is not a simply issue that should necessarily come up in every presentation of the gospel. While it may come up in some gospel presentation, and especially if someone has mistaken ideas about the strength of their sin to separate them from God, nevertheless, in most cases, the glorious truth of individual election is more properly classified as meat than milk, and is something that believers should be grateful for, not something that convicted sinners should be fretting about.

2. Keep it Real: don't try to suggest that it is a choice, because it is not a free choice: God is applying the most powerful possible coercive, eternal punishment. You'd have to be incredibly stupid or insane to refuse God's "offer" once you realize the reality of your predicament. It's not so much an offer as a command: "Worship Me!" says God, "Or Die!"

DoveFlight continued:

Anyway, the best I can come up with is repent of your sins, believe Christ alone is the answer and confess Him as your Lord and Savior.

DoveFlight's solution is very Biblical, after all that's the very message Christ preached: "Repent and Believe!"

That's my third suggestion to parents and evangelists (including missionary-evangelists):

3. Keep it Biblical: preach Repentence and Faith

If you're looking for other ways to express it:

  • Acknowledge the guilt of your sins to God and trust in the Son for mercy.
  • Turn from your evil and worship the living God.
  • Confess your wrong-doings, and cast yourself upon Him.

Another Internet poster, TheoJunkie, whose site is linked over on the left, chimed in:

Terms like "turn from evil" and "repent" have gone the way of "evangelical" and "born again" in meaning (that is, they may or may not mean what you meant for them to mean (more likely not), depending on the ears they fall on).

TJ makes a great point, and this leads me to my fourth suggestion:

4. Keep it Clear: try to avoid using terms that are laden with connotation that will confuse, and stick with unambiguous words, especially if they contradict the person's preconceptions. If the person has been fed a steady diet of pluralism, make it clear that God's name is Jealous: He demands to be worshipped alone, and that he declares that all the other gods are dumb idols, the works of mens imagiantions and hands, or else demons. If the person has been fed a diet of works-righteousness, point out the requirement of perfect obedience, and the consequent impossibility of doing works of supererogation.

After all, the key is to convey what you mean - that can mean not speaking in Latin to Americans nor in baggage-laden terminology to post-modern pluralalists. With that in mind, you might be able to make the alternative expressions above even plainer by adding more words:

Admit to God (and yourself) that you have broken God's law, and deserve eternal punishment for (each of) those violations; beg God for mercy[, and learn to loathe breaking the law of God, because you know it offends Him (not because you can ever make the violations right yourself)].

I put the last part in brackets, not because it should be omitted, but to point out that sanctification is not a part of justification.

I would love to hear what other suggestions readers may have for relatively simple, real, Biblical, and clear expressions of the Gospel message.

May our Holy and Just God be praised in the Glory of His Excellency!



Anonymous said...

My only addition is that the expression "accept Jesus" or "accept Jesus into your heart" neither of which you mention, are frankly unbiblical phrases. True the Bible says that "as many as "received" Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God..." but that is a different term than "accept". The key points you make is that belief in Christ is a command, not an "offer" which all its worldly connotations. Excellent points; all great stuff. I cannot understand why people do not talk about "believing" in Christ (and all the Bible says about Him)rather than just trusting in Him or accepting Him. Belief seems more biblical.

TheoJunkie said...


Enjoy your break. Thanks for dragging this discussion over here.

It occurred to me on further reflection, that it isn't the Gospel without the Gospel. I think you touched on it under your point #3.... but at the same time, I think we need to be more specific in teaching kids (and adults for that matter) "what to believe". We can say "repent and believe" (but: "believe in WHAT exactly?")

My pastor said this at Easter this year... it's Gospel on 10 fingers... the "what" that God commands all men to believe... the "what" that is the basis for the mercy that the believer begs God for... and the reason why we can trust Him to deliver on His promise.



Turretinfan said...

Speaking of groups of ten, Luther's Catechism has an interesting chart of:

10 words of God to man (i.e. the ten commandments) and
10 words of man to God (i.e. the Lord's prayer).

Incentivizing one's children to commit both of those 10 words to memory (and providing them with an explanation of what they have memorized) can be an immesurably beneficial aid in the process.