31 Days of Evangelism Day 4: 2 Ways to Think of the Gospel

I’m currently reading again The Soul-Winner by Spurgeon. How rich, how encouraging. Get this and read it if you’ve never done so. I will be posting more from this vital work as a part of this series. Here’s a quote:

People have often asked me, “What is the secret of your success?” I always answer that I have no other secret but this, that I have preached the gospel,—not about the gospel, but the gospel,—the full, free, glorious gospel of the living Christ who is the incarnation of the good news.*

We must share Jesus, and we must share him effectively in our time. In an increasingly unchurched, biblically illiterate culture, we must help hearers to see the beauty and wonder of the gospel. I heard Tim Keller say when we share Christ, we should do so in such a way that even if they reject its truth they would wish it were true.

Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright argues the whole biblical revelation focuses on mission, requiring what he calls a missional hermeneutic:

A missional hermeneutic, then, is not content simply to call for obedience    to the Great Commission (though it will assuredly include that as a matter   of nonnegotiable importance), nor even to reflect on the missional implications of the Great Commandment. For behind both it will find the Great Communication—the revelation of the identity of God, of God’s action in the world and God’s saving purpose for all creation. And for the fullness of this communication we need the whole Bible in all its parts and genres, for God has given us no less. A missional hermeneutic takes the indicative and the imperative of the biblical revelation with equal seriousness, and interprets each in the light of the other.[i]

One of the reasons evangelism has waned in its place in the contemporary church comes from the way we have compartmentalized it into a program or department in a local church, or an occasional activity in the life of the believer. Further, we have at times shared the most bare bones, skinny version of the gospel instead of telling its wonder. It is true that a weak gospel presentation is generally better than none at all, but it is more true that we owe it to God and to others to share as much of this rich, good news as possible.

This starts from the very way we see Scripture. If for you or me the commission to tell the good news to the world comes only from a few passages in the Gospels and the start of Acts (as vital as those are), we can easily push the witness of the church to the side. If we reduce our Lord to the Gospels and some mentions in the epistles, we fail to see the richness of a Christ-centered Bible. What if the message of redemption, and the spreading of that message, was central to the whole of Scripture? I believe it is. Our approach to Scripture has much impact on the conclusions we draw. We must give much attention to understanding the whole council of God’s Word, not just an occasional story here or memory verse there.

Read 1 Corinthians 15: 1– 4, where Paul argues for the importance of the gospel as first priority. Paul shows us the gospel at its heart, or what I call the gospel in its essence: Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again (vv. 3– 4). While our gospel is not less than this, it is more, or what I call the gospel as an epic story. The entire Bible unpacks the larger, glorious story of the gospel.  In Luke’s Gospel in 24:44-48, Jesus starts by explaining to the disciples everything in Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. What’s he talking about? What we call the Old Testament. This was the Bible of the first century. Jesus demonstrates here how the gospel is central to the entire Bible, not just to the Gospel writers. And what about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians? Note how twice Paul says “according to the Scriptures”; that is, according to the Old Testament.

In an increasingly unchurched culture I’ve found helping people both in and out of the church understand the gospel both in its basic propositional truth, or its essence, and as the epic story as great as the whole Bible both matter. And, I’ve seen more unchurched young adults (the folks we aren’t reaching very well) come to faith as they understood the rich, full story of the gospel centered in the work of Christ. This is why missionaries in unchurched cultures story the gospel from creation to the cross. We now live in a mission field, and sharing the whole story matters. That’s why in our classes I use The Story and the 3 Circles, both of which share the essential truth of the gospel in the context of the epic story of Scripture. The more rich the gospel is in our understanding, the richer it will be in our sharing.

[Taken from Evangelism Handbook and Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out]

[i] C. J. H. Wright, The Mission of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 61-62.