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

  • First of all, I've always disliked the ask Jesus "into your heart" phrase. I can't find that anywhere in the Bible. But it's so cliche these days. I'm not saying it's theologically inaccurate, but I just can't find it anywhere.

    But with 30 seconds to tell the guy what one must do to be saved, I guess it's confess w/ your mouth and believe with your heart (there goes that heart again) that Jesus is the Son of God and Lord of all. And that such a belief (if you had more than 30 seconds to live) would be evidenced by a life that attempts to live as Christ lived.

  • Tim, this is a great issue. I'm with Blake on this too. It's tough to define 'heart' but I think we all understand this to some extent. The seat of all that one values – Jesus is given power over it. For a middle eastern person it may be 'liver' – that just plays with the symbol when we know the reality. For some that kind of 'letting go of power/authority is a quick declaration and then the longer process of living it out. For others, they begin to live it first and then confess it. But for those on their death bed, I am sure a confession and belief is what ushers in salvation. As you know, testimony (how one lives authentic Jesus in community) is important to salvation too (Faith without action is dead says James.) So the old death bed conversion is tough again because its hard to see it lived out. For the death bed person, I trust in God's ability to discern a giving over of lordship to Him. In those that "convert" and live to testify, Awesome.

  • Tim

    I understand what it means to “believe in your heart,” that kind of belief that differs from the intellectual belief that even demons possess. It’s the “invite Jesus into your heart” thing that I don’t understand. There’s definitely a clearer way to explain the gospel than with cliche’s like this.

    If someone can explain the “invite Jesus into your heart thing,” please feel free.

    • Aby

      Inviting Jesus into your life to save you, is what is actually meant.
      But then you may ask why should I be saved ? and from what ?
      To answer that ask yourself : Will you go to heaven ? And why do you say so ?
      The answer is as follows as explained in the Bible:
      1. In God's standard, as explained in the Bible, no one is righteous.
      2. All people need a saviour to save them from their sinful nature.
      3. Jesus Christ is God's solution to a righteous life.

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99