“Thanks for sharing this. I’ll pray for you.”
Doubtless you’ve heard those words before, or even said them yourself. They usually come after someone has confessed sin, or had a painful circumstance, or shared about a loved one going through a hard time. The “I’ll pray for you” line is generally a good ‘Christian’ thing to say – it shows sensitivity and care in a time of need, and it shows we have a theology that can more or less respond to the situation. Unfortunately, however, those words lack substance and strength, because they are not spoken out of the gospel.
Furthermore, though it is good and biblical to encourage people through prayer, it is not giving them the gospel, because we merely are helping people through what we will do for them temporally in prayer, not what Jesus has already done for them eternally in salvation. In the good news of Jesus, we have the most compelling and potent truth on the planet, yet we often neglect to speak this news, especially in times when it is most needed.
How do we speak the gospel to people? How can we encourage them not just through statements of care, but with the essential truths of the gospel? In this two-part series, I will demonstrate a few ways to speak the gospel in everyday life. In part one, I will show how to do this with specific doctrines and implications of the gospel. In part two, I will discuss a few of the contexts as well as useful things to remember when speaking the gospel. My hope is that in these two posts, you will be equipped with the tools and encouragement to speak the gospel for the sake of the building up of the church. (Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 3:12-14)
Speak the Essential Doctrines of the Gospel
We can speak the gospel to one another by focusing on one or more of the core doctrines of the gospel: Adoption, Justification, Salvation and Regeneration. In this way, we are keeping in line with the biblical gospel as we speak it. Here is a paraphrase of each of these doctrines:
Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus…
- we are children fully loved and accepted by our Father, adopted into his family – Adoption
- we have been fully pardoned from the punishment of a holy God on our sin, now declared righteous – Justification
- we are completely saved from the clutches of Satan and hell, given eternal life with God and will one day be fully restored – Salvation
- we have been given a whole new life and identity by the Holy Spirit who lives in us – Regeneration
Speak the Implications of the Gospel
Another way to speak the gospel is to connect its truths with everyday life. This helps to remind us of how the gospel works to change us and send us on the mission to make disciples. Here are implications for the core doctrines mentioned above:
In the gospel…
- we have nothing to prove since we’re already fully loved, approved and valued by our Father in heaven. Therefore we can love and serve all people, even our enemies, with no strings attached. – Adoption
- we do not need to defend our rights or control others’ opinions of us since we are no longer condemned in our sin. Therefore we can live with deep humility, yet much confidence and joy. – Justification
- we have nothing to fear or worry about since nothing can separate us from our heavenly Father. Therefore we can love and reach our neighbors with great courage and resilience. – Salvation
- we do not need to look to anything else for identity and purpose since we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore we can re-orient our whole lives around the mission of Jesus to make disciples – Regeneration
As you begin to practice this, you may find how often some of us will dance around Jesus and move to some secondary topic, but never actually deal with Jesus. I became aware of this when I began to speak the gospel to some men in my discipleship group. I proclaimed the simple truth that Jesus loves and cares for them deeply, and one of the guys derailed the moment, immediately responding with a reflection on how interesting the various names are for Jesus in the Bible. Instead of dealing with Jesus, he wanted to discuss Jesus. Now, discussing the biblical names for Jesus is not a bad practice. We want to ensure we have accurate theology. However, having a discussion about Jesus – even a robust theological discussion – is not the same as speaking the gospel of Jesus to them. You may have dissected and defined the gospel a little more, but you did not proclaim him in the biblical way that he is meant to be proclaimed.