“Christ not only died for all; he died for each.” – Billy Graham
The vast majority of us are not called to be full time evangelists. Yet, God calls each of us to various vocations, which change with the seasons of life, such as child, parent, grandparent, spouse, student, worker, employer, and citizen. In these vocations, we will have opportunities (or as parents, the responsibility) to share the Gospel with family, friends and neighbors.
(1) How do you understand the Gospel?
(2) If you had a half hour to share the Gospel with your neighbor over a cup of coffee, how would you describe Christianity and, more specifically, the Christian Gospel to your neighbor?
What follows are my thoughts on these questions. I would love to receive your thoughts in comments.
“Gospel” can be defined as a loving, kind, gracious message, fitted to gladden and cheer the heart.
In Paul’s letter to Titus, Paul provided Titus with a succinct summary of Christianity and the Christian Gospel:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” (Titus 2:11-15 ESV)
In keeping with Paul’s instruction to declare these things, I would like to put forward this short text as an excellent outline for understanding and teaching the Gospel and basic Christianity. Due to space constraints, I will only highlight the major elements of this text.
The grace of God” appears in two ways. The grace of God first appeared in the person of Jesus (in his incarnation, life, suffering and death, and resurrection) who gave himself for us to redeem us…. Jesus brought God’s grace into a wicked and lawless world. Today, the grace of God continues to appear (or is revealed) to each one of us by His means of grace: through the ministry of God’s Word and Sacraments. For example: “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’” (Mark 16:15-16)
The grace of God is a gift; it is His unmerited favor towards people because of the redemption (i.e., ransom) paid by our Savior Jesus Christ who suffered and died for our sins. A gift must be received; by definition it cannot be earned or forced upon a recipient. The grace of God is received by faith in our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
The grace of God brings salvation for all people. God desires that none should perish, but that all people would be saved (see 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). At the same time, however, this Gospel also teaches that without God’s grace, people are ungodly and under lawlessness. Therefore, the Gospel teaches neither universalism nor any path to salvation other than through the grace of God in Jesus our Redeemer.
In order to bring salvation to a person, the grace of God through means must convert (or repent) the ungodly. Since Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness, the ungodly is a prisoner of sin and the devil who, therefore, is unable to redeem himself. This Gospel leaves no room for the free will or synergism of the ungodly.
The Holy Spirit’s work of conversion (or repentance) is implied quite clearly in verse 12: training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. In order to renounce something, one first must confess that he suffers the condition, which here is ungodliness and worldly passions (i.e., sin). This is the first work of the Holy Spirit: “when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin” (John 16:8). The second work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in the saving work of Jesus through His means of grace: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17) It is the Holy Spirit who turns a person around from the darkness of ungodliness to the light of Christ, kindling faith and the desire to live a self-controlled, upright and godly life. The Holy Spirit’s work of repentance in the life of the Christian, by the grace of God through means, is ongoing. Paul here uses the word “training”, but the sense of the word also includes “teaching” and “leading.”
To renounce ungodliness and worldly passions is a serious matter. It can place the Christian outside of social circles, create enemies, carry financial penalties, and in some countries could mean prison or even martyrdom. “To live right in this present world, mark you, is like living soberly in a saloon, chastely in a brothel, godly in a gaiety hall, uprightly in a den of murderers” (Martin Luther).
in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
The present age, this age of ungodliness and lawlessness, is only temporary.
Those who have received this grace of God have a blessed hope at the appearing of the glory of Jesus. Our hope is in the resurrection of the body and eternal life. When Jesus returns, it will be in glory, not like his first coming, which was in humility. When Jesus comes in glory, He will judge the living and the dead. All ungodliness and lawlessness will be judged and banished from the glorious kingdom that Jesus will bring in its fullness upon His return. Faith and hope will vanish, and only love will remain when we meet our Lord face to face.
Jesus gave himself to redeem us. The work of redemption is on His shoulders, not ours. The devil and the world will tempt, accuse and attack, but will have no dominion over His redeemed.
Jesus, through means of grace, sends the Holy Spirit who will purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. This also is God’s work. “[F]or it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13)
In conclusion, Titus 2:11-14 does a great job of hitting the basic elements of Christianity and the Gospel. In order to bring the Trinity into better focus, the Apostle’s Creed, which distinguishes the Triune God into three distinct articles, also could be used alongside this text as a teaching or evangelistic tool.
May we joyfully and confidently declare the grace of God for the world. And, may we continue to receive the grace of God, which He continually offers each one of us, as he purifies for himself a people who are zealous for good works. Amen.