Evangelism in a Christianized Culture: Articulating the Gospel
Being a Christian is not about a list of standards, emotional or mental ascent to an orthodox Christian Confession, or an emotional experience. It is not about a changed life, new commitments, a new church, or religious slogans. Though some of these elements will be evident in all true believers, I fear that in the “Christianized” world, has degraded “Christianity” to a show of formal, external religion. If we will reach this “Christianized” world view, we must faithfully articulate the following fundamental questions: What is the gospel, what must we understand to embrace this gospel, and what response does it demand? The “Christianized” culture has a general knowledge of gospel facts, yet the application and significance of these facts has been lost. Articulation must precede communication.
So then what gospel, justifies the sinner and sanctifies and glorifies the saint? What message is foolishness to those perishing and the power of God to those being sanctified, that reconciles sinners to God, and makes rebels, saints? Is it the good news that God has a wonderful plan for my life, wants me to be happy and successful, as I become healthy, and rich? Is it deliverance from some mystical, spiritual bondage brought upon me by my ancestors, or that I will get married and have a large family? Paul clearly defines it in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 he says, “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” The gospel contains four fundamental components. First, it is good news, because it saves. He says that it provides our standing before God, and saves us. In this context, he refers to two of the three primary ways that the gospel saves us. It is not physical; focusing on health, riches, or prosperity, rather on our relationship to sin and God. It delivers us from sin’s wage, eternal death, and God’s wrath, vindication of His holiness. Secondly, the gospel is for sinners. Paul says, “Christ died for our sins.” It is for sinners, and all men are sinners. Thirdly, the gospel is about a unique person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not simply a good man and a prophet. He is the sinless, eternal Son of God, in human flesh. Every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will one day confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Fourthly, the gospel is about a great exchange. Both Old and New Testament reveal Christ, as our sin bearing substitute. “He who knew no sin became sin for, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” “Christ died for our sins, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” The gospel emphasizes the agony of the cross and the triumph of an empty tomb. It emphasizes Christ satisfying God’s wrath and righteousness credited to the sinner. Think about it. Christ the one of a kind, Son of God, died for my sins, taking my guilt upon Himself and satisfying God’s judicial wrath, that through His sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection I can be forgiven of all my sins, declared righteous as I receive a righteousness that come from God through faith, apart from the law, God begins changing me into Christ-likeness through the process of sanctification, and I have full standing before God, as a son anticipating an eternal inheritance.
Let us carefully articulate each aspect of the gospel, because a deficient message is no gospel at all. If we “glamorize” the gospel by presenting a physical deliverance it is a powerless gospel. If we soften man’s rebellion and the offense of sin to remove the sting of the gospel, then we lose it. If Christ is made anything less than Lord of all who is both God and man, we pervert the gospel. If the offense of the cross of the glory of the resurrection are not unashamedly articulated, we preach a worthless message. We must not soften or domestic the gospel by taking the sting and offense from it. A gospel that does not offend is a gospel that does not save. As we continue our study, we will see the importance of articulating the content of the gospel, because this message will become the object of the faith of those we seek to evangelize.