What will you say when the door opens for communicating the gospel?
Imagine for a moment a co-worker asks you, "What is this "gospel" you Chrisitans keep talking about?" You're both taking a quick break, and you don't have long to explain. He is wanting the best one-minute summary you can muster. What do you say?
Granted, this is hypothetical, but it's not far-fetched. This is typically how we have opportunity to speak the gospel in one-on-one situations. Keep it short and get to the heart of the message. The gospel is, after all, a message. It is delivered in words and can be summarized without having to summarize all 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.
Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert offer some helpful clarity in their book, What Is the Mission of the Church? In chapter four they explain two lenses through which we understand how the gospel is talked about in Scripture. There is the wide-angle lens that considers all of God's promises to restore righteousness and remake the world. And then there is the zoom lens that focuses on the death and resurrection of Jesus to save sinners.
These two lenses are both focused on the gospel, just from different vantages. Both answer the question of what the gospel is, but in a more detailed form. On this more granular level, DeYoung and Gilbert explain that the wide-angle lens answers, "What is the whole good news of Christianity?", while the zoom lens answers, "What is a message a person must believe in order to be saved?" (93). Both are important questions, and both are answered by the word "gospel" (euangelion), used some 76 times in the New Testament.
Here's breakdown of these two categories:1
But there's more. Of both these lenses, one must necessarily always be part of the other. The zoom lens, that is, the gospel of the cross, must always be part of the broader explanation. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus to save sinners, there's no remaking of a new world. Without the forgiveness of sins — my sins and your sins — because Jesus died in our place, there's not really a "whole good news" of anything. The cross is, as it were, the heartbeat, the key. It is the thing you must say.
And then when you can — summarizing both ways the Bible explains the gospel — you can tap into both. The Jesus in whom we are united in Romans 6, with all its personal implications, is the Jesus to whom we are ultimately conformed in Romans 8, with all its cosmic effects.
So back to that co-worker. I might say something like this:
The gospel is that Jesus Christ came to the earth to die for our sins, that he was raised from the dead, and is enthroned as Lord of all, and that when we repent and believe in him he brings us into fellowship with God by his Spirit and makes us new creatures fit for a new world.
1This table is adapted from DeYoung and Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 91–115. Important texts include 1 Corinthians 15:1–5; Acts 13:32–33, 38–39; Matthew 4:23; Luke 4:18–19; Acts 10:36–43; Romans 1:16–17; 1 Corinthians 1:17–18; Colossians 1:15–23.
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