An unnecessarily complicated gospel

My interns and I have been discussing the gospel in regards to this question: What is the core of the gospel message? Or, in other words, what is essential for a person to know and believe in order to be saved and, conversely, what is not necessary to know for salvation to take place?

Their discovery is that there is usually a lot of extra “stuff” thrown into the plan of salvation that does not pertain directly to the gospel, as well as many ambiguous phrases to explain “key” aspects. For example, “Just accept Jesus into your heart and you will be saved.” What does it mean to accept Jesus into your heart? I’ve heard it all my life and, although it’s apparently figurative, I’m still not sure what that means. Or how about, “You must make Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life.” That sounds like more of a dedication/discipleship statement than a salvation statement.

Back in Bible College I had Dr. Charles C. Ryrie for Soteriology and he challenged us with a story that went something like this:

You’re walking along on the sidewalk when suddenly there is a massive car accident and a man is thrown out of his car, lying on the street pavement dying. Someone rushes over to help him, sees that he only has 30 seconds left to live, looks up and recognizes you as a Christian. They beckon you over and say, “This person only has 30 seconds left to live. Quick, share the gospel with them!” What do you say?

This definitely got me thinking back in college and is provoking many thoughts in my interns, too. What needs to be communicated to the dying man in that 30 seconds and what can be left out? What’s essential for him to know and believe for salvation and what’s not?

Unless there’s a lot of extra “stuff” thrown in, thirty seconds is more than enough time to fully explain the gospel in clear terms that any unchurched person can understand. The gospel is a lot simpler than most Christians make it out to be.

Posted on April 20, 2006

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