The Scriptures indicate no single way for presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to another person. Our Savior used various approaches with differing people. However, He always presented Himself as central to salvation. He also stressed the importance of His impending death and resurrection. These truths must be presented when sharing the gospel. The Spirit of the Lord alone can give us perception as to what must be emphasized. For example, do we need to point to God's love when a soul is despairing? Should we stress confessing sinnership when another is self-righteous? Is repentance needed in one who makes sin a casual thing? Does a Christ-denying cult member know that Scripture affirms that Jesus is God? Is there a problem with understanding saving faith? The Lord Jesus always touched on the most critical point in dealing with each individual.
The story of salvation is broken here into its varied parts for better understanding, not for prescribing a formula presentation. One should spend time with people on the areas of their greatest need. Key verses should be memorized. Exact quotation from memory is impressive. The one with whom we deal should have the open text before him whenever possible. Remember these simple rules in sharing the Gospel:
1. Be prayerful and depend on God.
2. Assume nothing about the other person.
3. Ask good questions. Find out his spiritual condition.
4. Listen and observe thoughtfully.
5. Do not move beyond his understanding.
6. Make the Lord Jesus the major focus.
Opening the Door of Communication
Building a bridge of understanding or winning the right to be heard is the necessary first step in evangelism. Take the conversational initiative and show a sincere interest in others. This opens doors. Have a life that is respected by others (1 Pet. 2:12). They will more likely listen to your witness. Be enthusiastic about what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for you. They may sense that He also can help them. Speak about Christ in a natural way during normal contacts with others.
The Lord Jesus used good questions as openers. You can do the same with everyday topics that interest other people such as what we eat, where we live, or what we do. News events can be starters. Home backgrounds can be discussed even with strangers. Help someone practically. Smile or give a cheerful greeting. Ask for advice or assistance.
Practice These Things In Daily Contacts. Pray for divine appointments. Our Father knows where the fish are that can be brought into His net (Luke 5:4-10).
Making the Transition
Move from an ordinary subject to the spiritual area. Practice doing this in daily contacts with others. A transition to spiritual discussion involves three elements:
Start Where They Are. Use the subject they have been talking about. If someone speaks of current events, you might say, "The news has been very disturbing."
Move Toward A Spiritual Subject. Relate the subject at hand to a spiritual observation. Using the starting sentence above, say, "It makes me thankful that I have a brighter hope."
With A Question. Ask a question that directs them to respond to the spiritual subject you have introduced. Still following the example above, say, "In what way do you see a hope for the future?" Do not let them merely agree or disagree. You are seeking a discussion.
Making the Presentation
The Gospel can be discussed under these major headings. Other divisions are a convenient way to keep in mind various important truths so they will not be overlooked.
Offer Made. God has made the greatest of all proclamations. God's salvation is available to "whosoever will" (John 3:16; Rev. 22:17). He is willing to receive and forgive even the worst of sinners. That is the "good news." This is what our word "Gospel" means. He is not willing that even one should perish (2 Pet. 3:9).
Abundant Life. Tremendous blessings are freely offered: abundant life, peace, joy, rest, forgiveness, and eternal life. "I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10b). You can have everlasting life even now (John 5:24).
Love of God. Ask others, "Do you know that God loves you?" (John 3:16). He loves even sinners (Rom. 5:8).
Is there any interest in these abundant blessings freely offered in Christ? Do not keep trying to explain salvation to a person who shows no interest and no sign of the working of the Spirit. Responders to Jesus in the four Gospels displayed considerable interest and even eagerness to come to Him.
Offer Needed. We cannot understand the origin of hate, war, suffering, violence, and evil unless we understand the greatest of all problems, that of SIN. We cannot rightly come to Jesus and ignore the problem of personal sin. The only person who needs a Savior is a sinner. The reason that Jesus came was to "save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21; Luke 19:10). Do not encourage people to come to Jesus only to solve their earthly problems or have greater meaning in their lives. People need to come to Christ to be saved from their sins and to escape the eternal judgment of God (John 3:36; 1 Thess. 1:10).
What is Sin? This must be measured by the standard of a holy God. Many think only the vilest of crimes are sin and believe they are innocent. A child or young person raised in favorable moral surroundings is as much included in Romans 3:23 as a murderer or an offender of the vilest sort.
All have sinned. The heart of sin is turning aside to do what we want, not what God wants (Isa. 53:6). Sin is having self on the throne of your life. Acknowledgment of sinnership before God precedes God's act of justifying us (Luke 18:13-14). Jesus came to call sinners to repentance, not those who classify themselves as righteous (Matt. 9:13).
Death and Separation. Only one thing pays the debt of sin—death (Rom. 6:23). All sin demands the supreme penalty. One cannot pay for sin simply by asking for forgiveness. Going through church rituals or attending services will not make things right with God. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" is the verdict of a holy God (Ezek. 18:20). Physical death separates the soul and spirit from the body. Our bodies may decay, but the spirit remains conscious. Sin also separates the spirit from God's spirit (Isa. 59:2). If a person dies physically while he is still separated from God, he faces the "second death," which is separation from God for eternity (Rev. 20:14-15). This is the most terrible punishment of all and should make an unbeliever tremble, c.
Need to Repent. Consider how many times even a "good man" offends God in word, thought, and deed. The goodness of God is intended to lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). The simple meaning of repentance is "change of mind." This change of mind involves a
turning from sin as well as a
turning to God. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord" (Isa. 55:7). The Old Testament word was "turn" (Jer. 26:3). Some have denied the necessity of such repentance by saying this step would involve working for salvation; yet early Christian preaching included a call to repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30). Jesus said that without repentance we will perish (Luke 13:3). Unless someone genuinely wants to turn from his sins as well as turn to God, there can be no salvation (Acts 20:21). True repentance does not require a prolonged period of sorrowing or agonizing. A saved person will be delivered from continuing in sin. Is there a sense of spiritual need in the life of the person hearing the Gospel? This is a mark of the Holy Spirit's work in convicting of sin (John 16:8). Do not offer a remedy when there is no consciousness of need. 3. OFFER JUST. If God were not perfectly holy, righteous, just, and unchangeable in His character, then He could overlook our sin. He "will by no means clear the guilty" (Exod. 34:7). How can God execute His holy command and yet save the ones He loves. How can He be both "just and justifier" (Rom. 3:26)? God has wondrously worked out a plan where "mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psa. 85:10). This means that at the cross Christ reconciled seeming opposites in His character. God's offer of salvation is the greatest solution of man's greatest problem.
Substitutionary Death and Resurrection. The solution is death for the sinner by substitution. Our debt is paid by another. Study 1 Peter 2:24 and 3:18. Christ bore our sins. He died for us, "the just for the unjust." The significance of the many animal sacrifices of the Old Testament is the way they point to Christ's death. The Passover lamb that was slain memorially by the Jews finds its true fulfillment in "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Jesus was "smitten of God" when He died in our place. "With His stripes, we are healed" (Isa. 53:4-5). We have "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7). By seeing that death alone pays for sin, we can understand why Jesus died and what He accomplished. In addition, we must believe that Jesus rose from the dead (Rom. 10:9b). The resurrection of Christ was a vital part of early Christian preaching (Acts 4:33; 17:18).
The God-Man. It is necessary to understand the identity of the Person who took our place. Jesus asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" (Matt. 16:13). Since only a man could die for another man, our Savior is "the man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). He was also the Word and that Word was God. That Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is God, being so called many times (John 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Heb. 1:6-8). He took the Divine title "I AM" (Isa. 43:13; Exod. 3:14) and said that those who refused to acknowledge Him as such would die in their sins (John 8:24). Denying that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh is evidence that one is not of God (1 John 4:2-3; Jude 4). Every saved person must acknowledge the deity of Christ, c.
Grace, Not Works. The Divine Person who took our place in death did all that was necessary for our salvation. No human works or church activities can add to it. Salvation is by the unmerited favor or grace of God, not of works (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5). When Jesus died on the cross, He cried, "It is finished" (John 19:30). The one sacrifice for sins that He made on the cross settles forever the sin question (Heb. 10:10, 12). Those who preach a salvation that requires something in addition to His work are under the curse of God (Gal. 1:6-10; 2:16). 4. OFFER ACCEPTED. Christ died for all men (1 John 2:2), but not all will be saved. Why not? The answer is that His work must be appropriated personally (John 6:50-57). This requires that we hear and then believe the Gospel before the Spirit of God enters our lives (Eph. 1:13). Salvation is like a check which must be endorsed before it can be cashed by an individual. Salvation is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who must be received if we are to have life (1 John 5:12). Study carefully the following points.
Believe the Gospel. The Gospel is "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16). It is carefully stated for us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and includes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ on behalf of sinners. It is by hearing the word of the Gospel that we believe (Acts 15:7; Eph. 1:13). We must hear, understand, and then believe the Gospel to be saved. The heart of the Gospel is a Person, the Lord Jesus. The simplest definition of a Christian is one who
has the Lord Jesus Christ. "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:12).
Trust, Receive Christ. How do we have Him? We have Him by
faith, not by sight. This faith is in a Person (Acts 20:21; John 6:29). The basis is the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 10:17). Believing leads to action (Matt. 12:13; John 9:7). Reality is evidenced by a changed life (Jas 2:14-26). See the faith actions in Hebrews 11. Faith is the channel through which the grace of God flows. Faith has no merit to earn salvation. John 1:12 and Revelation 3:20 are helpful in demonstrating that by a definite act of the will we receive the Lord Jesus Christ. A further example is that of marriage, to which Scripture likens our relationship to Christ (Rom. 7:4; Eph. 5:23-25). Just as the bridal couple take one another as man and wife, so the sinner takes Christ as Lord and Savior by faith.
Submit to the Lord. Receiving Jesus is to receive Him as
Lord and Savior, not omitting either the one or the other. Romans 10:9-10 and Philippians 2:10-11 make this necessity clear. One day even condemned sinners will acknowledge His Lordship. Christians will not delay this action until then. When saved, the rebel bows the knee to Jesus Christ. To pass into the kingdom of God, we must acknowledge the authority of the King. We may not fully see all the implications of His Lordship, yet we submit to His rule. The authority of Jesus is the point of stumbling with many who want sins forgiven but say "we will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). The soul-winner must be satisfied that someone acknowledges his sinnership when expressing a desire to turn to Christ. The sinner must repent and believe the Gospel. Salvation comes not by merely saying a prayer, although it is helpful to have one who turns to God pray aloud. It is not a series of "yes" answers to questions, but a personal coming to Christ. The decision to turn to Christ is not something to be hurried through in our eagerness to get someone to pray. It is the most important step of life and deserves the most careful attention to the issues stated above. It is a transaction that results in eternal life. When a sinner repents and turns to Christ, the angels of heaven rejoice (Luke 15:7, 10).
Offer Rejected. The Lord has made full provision for the salvation of any who will come. Yet most seem to refuse our sorrowing Savior (Luke 13:34). Rejecting Him is a calamity when the refusal persists until death. Such a person faces the wrath of God (John 3:36; 2 Thess. 1:8-9).
We should pray for those who are not ready to receive Christ but show stirrings of response. We may need to be patient over an extended period of time. Our task is to sow the seed of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit alone brings about regeneration.
Presenting The Gospel
Before answering the following questions, carefully read the NOTES and then study John 4:1-42, a classic passage on personal evangelism.
1. What are some things that Jesus did to "build a bridge" to the Samaritan woman (vv. 1-9)? How did the woman respond?
2. How did Jesus make the transition into the gospel (vv. 10-12)? How does this illustrate the principles under "Making the Transition" in the NOTES?
3. How did Jesus present the offer of eternal life (vv. 13-14)? How did the woman respond (v. 15)? Why didn't Jesus immediately tell her how to be saved?
4. How did Jesus cause the woman to see her need (vv. 16-18)? Why do you think the woman responded as she did (vv. 19-20)? How is what Jesus told her relevant to her need (vv. 21-24)?
5. What aspect under the Gospel outline heading "OFFER JUST" did Jesus deal with (vv. 25-26)? How do we determine how much to tell a person about "OFFER JUST"?
6. The section in the Gospel outline entitled "OFFER ACCEPTED" deals primarily with the will. Why did Jesus omit this step (vv. 27-30)? In what instances would we not spend so much time in this area? How did Jesus stress this area in the case of the rich young ruler (Matt. 19:16-22)?
7. Jesus did not stress the area of eternal retribution ("OFFER REJECTED") with the woman. With what type of people did Jesus emphasize this point (Matt. 11:20-24)?
8. In what ways did the woman demonstrate true repentance and salvation (vv. 27-30, 39-42)? What things might we look for as a sign of saving faith?
9. For each of the situations below, outline how you would build a bridge of communication and make a transition to spiritual things in order to present the gospel.
You are at a gasoline station getting directions from the attendant.
You are at work and a fellow employee makes a vague reference to religion.
You have neighbors several houses away and all that you know about them is their names.
You are having dinner with a relative.
10. List actual situations in your life that might be opportunities to witness. (Hint: think of your daily schedule, family members, neighbors, daily personal contacts, etc.)
What are some specific ways you will seek to build bridges and share the gospel in each of these situations?
Research the Gospels studying the various approaches Christ used to present the Gospel. Record at least four cases where Jesus started His presentation with something other than the concepts described under "OFFER MADE." Indicate which of the five points of the Gospel outline He emphasized the most in each instance and why.