A Gospel Conversation (Reprise)

Oh NoThe adult Sunday School Class at the local church I serve has recently taken up the topic of evangelism. In this class we are all seeking to better understand the concept of evangelism and what it is as well as what it is not. During the first part of our study of this topic we are focusing on answering the question “What is the Gospel?” by utilizing the book of the same name authored by Greg Gilbert (reviewed here). As part of this endeavor each week we look to provide biblical answers to questions which arise from our study. This week part of the assignment is to answer a series of questions which explain to whom man is accountable, what is the chief problem facing man, what is the solution to this problem as provided by God, and finally how do we respond to this information. 

Although I am leading/teaching this particular class, I am completing the assignments along with the other participants. So I thought I would use all of you readers of Parking Space 23 to help me check my work. The rest of the blog is my answer to these questions, supported by Scripture. Your job is to read the blog and provide me with helpful Feedbackcomments to improve my answer/presentation. The remainder of the blog is written as a fictional conversation between me and an unbeliever.

A Gospel Conversation

It is best to start our conversation with God and a few specific things about Him in order to introduce the need for a Saviour, likewise I will take the time to explain why Man has that need. 

God is the creator of everything that exists as is primarily evidenced by the opening lines of the Bible (Gen 1:1), but even more pointedly as it pertains to our discussion we must recognize that God definitely created man(kind) (Gen 1:26; 2:7, 21 – 23). From this point it is not a far leap to acknowledge that if God has created everything, including mankind, that He must own what He has created, which is exactly the point made by the psalmist in Psalm 24:1.

CreationIt should be easy to see at this point that God is different from us in that He is the One who has created and owns us, for simplicity’s sake we will refer to that difference with the term “holy.” Holy or holiness is a means of encompassing in a single term the idea of God’s separation from us or His otherness. As a matter of fact the Bible tells us that there are angels in heaven whose sole job is to announce the holiness of God to all the host of heaven (Is. 6:2 – 3) and even that He commands that we be like Him (Matt 5:48).

So following along this line of thinking, if God has created and therefore owns everything, us included, and He calls upon man to be perfect as He is as we just looked at; is it unreasonable to believe that God has a right to hold man accountable as his possession? I am glad you agree for that is exactly the point James the apostle made in his letter to the church (James 2:10).

Now let us look to see how man has done in obeying God. Man’s track record goes south very quickly on the timeline of redemptive history recorded in the Bible, remember I told you a moment ago that Genesis 1 & 2 recorded the creation of the world and the specific creation of man and woman – well in the very next chapter, three, the first sin is recorded. You have probably even heard the story of Adam and Eve and the “apple.” Well the Fall of man was the beginning of spiritual separation between God and man as well as the beginning of mankind’s slide into degradation which even resulted in the destruction of the world by a flood (Gen 6 -7). Even after such events as these the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman church that “none is righteous, not even one” (Rom 3:10) demonstrating that man has not kept in the past nor will he keep of his own accord, God’s Law. However, the Bible also teaches that there are consequences for this lack of obedience, called sin (Rom 6:23).

Perhaps at this juncture you are thinking that God views your life as a balance sheet of Scalessome sort where He lists all your good deeds in one column and your bad ones in a parallel column, and that as long as the “pros” outweigh or outnumber the “cons” in quality and quantity then you will be okay. If this indeed is what you are thinking, and I must admit it makes sense logically by our way of thinking, you would be wrong. The same Apostle Paul, wrote a letter to a young pastor in which he addresses this very idea (Titus 3:5). As you can see, in the Bible right here, Paul very simply states that your good works are not what reconciles you to God. So if not good works then what; or better Who can reconcile man to God?

In a word, Christ! I know from some of our previous discussions that you at least attended Sunday School from time to time as a child. As such, I am sure you remember hearing what is sometimes called the Christmas Story detailing the birth of Jesus the Christ (Luke 1:26 – 2:39). What you probably did not know back then is the Christmas Story is the detailing of the events that God used to come to earth as a man (John 1:14) without giving up His divine nature (Col 2:9). 

Jesus GodIt is important that we understand that Jesus is God or the next point will not appear to be nearly as significant as it actually is; not only did God come to earth as a man – Jesus – but He also paid the penalty for sin in order that we might be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:21; Col 2:13-14). That is to say, that Jesus who never sinned actually stood in the place of sinners to take upon Himself all the punishment that was due to them/us so that they/we might be reconciled to a Holy God and found blameless and pure. 

Christ accomplished this by going to the Cross and actually suffering physical pain and death at the hands of men, as well as separation from God the Father in receiving the penalty for our sins. What’s more He did all of this while almost the entire world reviled Him and thought Him to be a liar and a fraud (Rom 5:8). It would seem that not much has changed in the way of man’s consideration of Jesus even today.

As amazing as all this is, it is not all that Christ accomplished on our behalf. He even defeated death! For it was not enough for Him to die, He was also resurrected from the grave (1 Cor 15:4) and was seen by His followers afterward (Luke 24:13 – 49). Furthermore these witnesses saw Him ascend into heaven (Luke 24:50 – 53) where He is living still at the right hand of the Father (Heb 12:2).

Pay UpEarlier we spoke about the necessity of man, as a sinner, being required to pay the penalty for his sin (Rom 6:23). What we did not focus on as much at that moment was the gift of eternal life which is Christ Jesus; however we have just discussed the wonderful act of sacrifice Christ endured willingly so that the gift would be available. Now we must take a look at the means by which a sinner can lay hold of that same gift.

There are really only two things that a sinner must do in order to be saved; repent of his sins and believe that Jesus is Lord and Saviour. I want to make the point abundantly clear that repentance, or forsaking all your past sins, especially the sin of unbelief, is a REQUIREMENT of salvation. This means that you actively and purposefully leave behind your past actions in order follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). As a matter of fact Jesus began His earthly ministry with the call to repentance (Matt 4:17). 

The sinner must believe that Jesus is who He says He is, namely God. And that He has Hopeaccomplished salvation on your behalf (Rom 10:9). Likewise, if Jesus is God and has accomplished your salvation on your behalf, then He must be in position to make claims upon your life – that is what it means that Jesus is Lord as well as Saviour. See Lord is another word for Master and that is exactly who Jesus is. 

Now if you truly believe everything we have discussed concerning God, man (yourself) and Jesus then I invite you to repent of your sins and acknowledge Jesus as Lord over your life and Saviour of your soul.

  • If repentance is a requirement for salvation how do protestants hold to “faith alone” if its faith + repentance how exactly is it faith alone? (never understood that)

    • Jason

      Matthew,

      I think some do not explain this well. 2 Timothy 2:25 says, “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” Scripture clearly says repentance is a gift from God. When someone repents, he is doing exactly what someone changed by God would do when confronted with sin, God, and God’s will. Repentance is a turning around, or changing of mind.

      Looking at the believer and unbeliever, I’d say here is a difference between true salvation and false salvation. The saved person believes and then responds to saving faith by repentance. There is a mental knowledge, affirmation, placing of trust, and submission to Christ. We know his saving faith is legitimate because he then repents from his sin and does a 180 turn. Not to say he won’t sin again or struggle, but his will and desires change, especially when confronted with Scripture. It is the correct response from a true believer.

      The unbeliever may ascribe and confess Christ, but confronted with sin does not feel the need nor turn from his sin and turn to God. So this is more of a mental assent with no action. No action would prove no genuine salvation.

      • Thank you Jason, this makes it a bit clearer, and I agree completely that repentance is a gift from God, we can’t come near God without God first calling us to himself and giving us graces to respond to Him.

        So in your language you would say that repentance and faith and the fruit of that faith ( what we call good works, not to be confused with works of the law or self righteous works) are all gifts from God without which we can’t be saved?

        I am still not clear as to how exactly is that “faith alone”. Maybe if you clarify what your tradition means by “saving faith”.

        • Jason

          I think Ephesians 2:8 is the clearest teaching . . . no believer contributes anything to his or her salvation.