I want people to accept the good news about Jesus. I also want people to share the good news about Jesus. However, before either of those things can happen, people have to understand the good news about Jesus. Many have set out to define and explain the good news about Jesus. In my opinion, none has done better than JI Packer. In his short but powerful book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Packer poses this question: “What is the evangelistic message?” Packer’s response to this question has helped me think about the gospel, preach the gospel, share the gospel, and train others to share the gospel.
According to Packer, the gospel message has “four essential ingredients.”
- The gospel is a message about God. In particular, it is a message about the holy, holy, holy, God. Yes the God of the Bible is loving, and yes he is righteous. Of course people need to know these things. But most basically, people need to understand that the one true God is a holy God.
- The gospel is a message about sin. People need to understand sin and guilt. They need to grasp the helplessness of our situation. They need to feel the weight of the wrath of God. They need to see that we sin because we are sinners (not that we are sinners because we sin).
- The gospel is a message about Christ. Many gospel presentations just rush through this point, assuming that people know who Jesus is and what he accomplished. In our culture, you cannot make the mistake of assuming people have an orthodox understanding of the person and work of Christ.
- The gospel is a summons to faith and repentance. We’ve had enough rote prayers. Too many people have walked an aisle. Please don’t tell people to slip their hand in the air while everyone bows their heads. Just call people to faith and repentance. Tell them to turn from sin and turn to Jesus.
I’ve found that people who understand these concepts don’t need me to lead them in a canned recital of the sinner’s prayer. I’ve also found that Christians who understand these concepts don’t need me to train them in a canned approach to evangelism. When a person truly understands these concepts, they are ready to accept the gospel and they are ready to share the gospel.
Originally published April 11, 2016 on landoncoleman.com.