What Are The Dangers We Should Avoid When Presenting The Gospel?

Promise Of a Better Life

The promise of a better life is NOT an element of the Biblical gospel. The opposite, is in fact, more true. True Christianity has always led to misunderstanding and persecution by the world. This is developed more fully in our Man Centred Gospel Page

Deceitful Invitations

man in hatInviting a friend or neighbour to a social event which turns out to be a gospel presentation will not endear you to your friends. An invitation to hear the gospel should be given as such, since the Lord does not honour dubious practices.

A False Gospel

amrtyrs in rome colosseum

So many gospel messages today are "man-centred" rather than Jesus centred. "God has a wonderful plan for your life" is not the gospel. The early Christians who were fed to the lions in Rome would rightly have felt deceived over such an evangelistic message! God has a wonderful plan for your lifeIndeed, the phrase "God loves you" is not a feature of the biblical gospel either. While it can be appropriate to tell hurting and damaged people that God loves them (I've done it myself with battered wives and other vulnerable, abused people), it doesn't form part of the gospel message in the New Testament . Check it out for yourself, don't accept my word about it. It is true that God draws the sinner out of love for His creation, and that Christ died as an act of love to make it possible for him to be saved. It is not however true that God has a wonderful plan for every lost sinner. His plan for lost sinnners who reject Jesus Christ is that they will be cast into Hell. That is not very wonderful!

These phrases are "man-centred", consequently when they are used they serve only to "lift up" man as being of value to God, whereas the opposite is in fact the case: GOD IS OF INFINITE VALUE TO MAN.

When man is "lifted up" in this way the gospel is being hindered, so be careful how you speak when you give out the gospel!

In truth, the way Jesus evidenced God's lovingkindness was not simply word-based, but emphatically action-based. "He healed all those who came to him". If we are offering a "words only" gospel without healing then we are offering "another gospel" and not the one Jesus taught his followers to practice. John 14:23: "Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching." John 14:24: "He who does not love me will not obey my teaching." See our page on healing in evangelism for more on this.

True and False Evangelism

The following quotation comes from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount". As he prepares to discuss Matthew 5:27-30, Lloyd-Jones pauses to discuss sin and evangelism. Below is what he has to say about true and false evangelism:

quote"This doctrine [what sin is], therefore, is absolutely vital in determining our conception of true evangelism. Three is no true evangelism without the doctrine of sin, and without an understanding of what sin is. I do not want to be unfair, but I say that a gospel which merely says, ‘Come to Jesus,’ and offers Him as a Friend, and offers a marvelous new life, without convicting of sin, is not New Testament evangelism. The essence of evangelism is to start by preaching the law; and it is because the law has not been preached that we have had so much superficial evangelism. Go through the ministry of our Lord Himself and you cannot but get the impression that at times, far from pressing people to follow Him and to decide for Him, He put great obstacles in their way. He said in effect: ‘Do you realize what you are doing? Have you counted the cost? Do you realize where it may lead you? Do you know that it means denying yourself, taking up your cross daily and following Me?’ True evangelism, I say, because of this doctrine of sin, must always start by preaching the law. This means that we must explain that mankind is confronted by the holiness of God, by His demands, and also by the consequences of sin. It is the Son of God Himself who speaks about being cast into hell. If you do not like the doctrine of hell you are just disagreeing with Jesus Christ. He, the Son of God, believed in hell; and it is in His exposure to the true nature of sin that He teaches that sin ultimately lands men in hell. So evangelism must start with the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the demands of the law, the punishment meted out by the law, and the eternal consequences of evil and wrongdoing. It is only the man who is brought to see his guilt in this way who flies to Christ for deliverance and redemption. Any belief in the Lord Jesus Christ which is not based on that is not a true belief in Him. You can have a psychological belief even in the Lord Jesus Christ; but a true belief sees in Him one who delivers us from the curse of the law. True evangelism starts like that, and obviously is primarily a call to repentance; repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

John Wesley likewise emphasised the importance of preaching the law:
( From Sermon XXXIV – The Original, Nature, Properties, and Use of the Law):
quote"To slay the sinner is, then, the First use of the law; to destroy the life and strength wherein he trusts, and convince him that he is dead while he liveth; not only under the sentence of death, but actually dead unto God, void of all spiritual life, “dead in trespasses and sins. The Second use of it is, to bring him unto life, unto Christ, that he may live. It is true, in performing both these offices, it acts the part of a severe school master. It drives us by force, rather than draws us by love. And yet love is the spring of all. It is the spirit of love which, by this painful means, tears away our confidence in the flesh, which leaves us no broken reed whereon to trust, and so constrains the sinner, stripped of all, to cry out in the bitterness of his soul, or groan in the depth of his heart, I give up every plea beside, — Lord, I am ***’d; but thou hast died".

Why Do We Need The Gospel?question mark

The Gospel is only "Good News" to those who have heard, and believe, that there is a diagnosis of "Bad News" about themselves to start with. If we simply present the Gospel as a route to a better life, we are deceiving people about their true condition. More importantly, we are mis-representing God's holiness and His serious view of their sin.

quote"The true ministers of Christ bring men to the law; now this condemns them, and shows them to be under the curse: He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all (James 2:10). As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them (Gal 3: 10). (William Tiptaft as recorded in "A Sermon preached on 25th December 1829 at the Great Church, Abingdon (St Helen's)")

The acknowledged "Prince of Preachers" Charles Spurgeon put it this way:
quote"But more, there is war between you and God’s Law. The Ten Commandments are against you . . . . The First one comes forward and says, 'Let him be cursed, for he denies me. He has another god besides me; his god is his belly, he yields homage to his lust.' All the Ten Commandments, like ten great pieces of cannon, are pointed at you today, for you have broken all God’s statutes, and lived in the daily neglect of all His commands. Soul! You will find it a hard thing to go to war with the Law. When the Law came in peace, [Mount] Sinai was altogether on a smoke, and even Moses said, 'I do exceedingly fear and quake.' What will you do when the Law comes in terror, when the trumpet of the archangel shall tear you from your grave, when the eyes of God shall burn their way into your guilty soul, when the great books shall be opened, and all your sin and shame shall be published? Can you stand against an angry Law in that day?"

quoteCharles Spurgeon states elsewhere "Lower the law and you dim the light by which man perceives his guilt; this is a very serious loss to the sinner rather than a gain; for it lessens the likelihood of his conviction and conversion. I say you have deprived the gospel of its ablest auxiliary [its most powerful weapon] when you have set aside the Law. You have taken away from it the schoolmaster that is to bring men to Christ." Another relevant Spurgeon quote: "They will never accept grace until they tremble before a just and holy law".

quoteFrancis Schaeffer says this: "If I had one hour with every man, I would spend the first 45 minutes talking to them about God's law, and the last 15 minutes talking about His great salvation."

A friend of Spurgeon, the Baptist pastor Robert Schindler, in tracing the state of evangelicalism from the Puritan age to his own era, noted that every revival of true evangelical faith had been followed within a generation or two by a drift away from sound doctrine, ultimately leading to wholesale apostasy. He likened this drifting from truth to a downhill slope, and thus labeled it "the down-grade."

quoteJOHN WESLEY: "Before I can preach love, mercy and grace, I must preach sin, Law and judgment".

quote"The church has had this illusion somehow, that we can wipe out everything that offends and somehow influence people to be saved in an inoffensive way. Eventually, you've got to get to the offence. You might as well start there, because until they're offended about their own sin and their violation of the holiness of God, they aren't going to come penitently to the Savior." -John MacArthur

quoteDarren Smith observes: "When you look around at all the teaching in the modern church, how much true faith can you find? ... Before we tackle being born again, we must go further back to get clear on what was the reason for Christ going to the Cross, which, I might add, is missing from most modern teaching. Why did Christ have to die on the Cross? The most common answer I get when I ask people is to "save us." That brings about the question- What is He saving us from? When this question is asked most people reply from hell or the devil, which is not true at all! Jesus came to save us from the wrath of God!! But wait a minute, isn't God loving and kind and full of grace and mercy? Yes, that is why He sent Jesus to take the full cup of Gods' wrath for man's sin. Without His blood covering you, God's wrath will pour out on you!

It's simply not popular. We must not look for popularity, but hold onto truth. One day we will stand before God and give an account for our life and being popular will mean nothing on that day. I believe that the reason most do not share their faith is that they are not sure what their faith is! If all you know is to tell people to ask Jesus into your heart and you will be saved, then you don't have the true faith and can't share true salvation. There is nowhere in the Bible that says to invite Christ into your heart and you will be saved. This is a man-made doctrine that will not stand, a convenient message designed to make men feel better about themselves".

A Summary Of The Bad News

kneeling man

The harsh truth is that all of mankind is fallen because of Adam's sin and God's curse on mankind. All are therefore totally depraved and corrupted and this is seen in our desire to honour and give glory to ourselves rather than God who created us. In this state all we deserve is God's anger and wrath.

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him". John 3:36. Our sinfulness separates us from a holy God and of ourselves we can do nothing to remedy this situation. Blaise Pascal said: "The main object of the gospel is to establish two principles - the corruption of nature, and the redemption by Jesus Christ.

"..for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

The "Bad News" must therefore precede the "Good News" because man's true nature is evil rather than good, and people need to know that this is why they need Christ's salvation. This comes as a surprise to many, since 21st Century man and woman think of themselves as basically "a good person". John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles all warned people of the need to deal with the sin problem at the outset. Their common opening message was: "repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins".

The analogy of visiting the doctor with an illness is relevant here. The fact that there is a life-saving cure for your very serious illness is only good news because you have heard the diagnosis of the serious illness first!

The Gospel is NOT an invitation; invitations can be declined, without any real consequence resulting. The Gospel is GOOD NEWS to be OBEYED. Acts 17:30 clearly says: "God COMMANDS all people everywhere to repent". Rejection of the true Gospel is rejection of Jesus and as such has eternal consequences! "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him on the last day." John 12:48

The cross is meaningless apart from the law. In Galatians 3:24 the Apostle Paul says:"the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith". The 10 Commandments diagnose our spiritual sickness by showing us how far short we all fall of God's Law. "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore, no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."

Once the law has alerted us to our serious condition, only then are we prepared to look for a cure. However the law has limits because, although it makes us aware of our sin, it cannot provide a cure. "On hearing this, Jesus said to them: "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17)

What Is The Good News?

jesus paying a bill

The "Good News" of the gospel is that Jesus is the cure for the sin problem revealed to us by our failure - indeed our INABILITY -to keep God's law.

William R Newell says: "Now the Apostle Paul in his wonderful revelation declares that God has reconciled the world to Himself; that God was in Christ (at the cross) reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5;19). Men do not know this, but they conceive that something stands between them and God, before God will accept or forgive them. If you tell a man that God is demanding no good works of him whatsoever, no religious observances or church ordinances, that God is not asking him to undertake any duties at all, but that God invites him to believe a glad message that his sins have already been dealt with at the Cross, and that God expects him to believe this good news and be exceedingly happy about it - and if you tell an unsaved man such a story as this, he is astonished and overwhelmed - yet this is the Gospel!

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us" Romans 5:8

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works so that no-one can boast" Ephesians 2:8,9

saved by grace

THE GOOD NEWS - Tell Me More!

It is ALL ABOUT JESUS, for example:

The good news that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5:42)

The good news about Jesus (Acts 8:35)

The good news of peace through Jesus who is Lord of all (Acts 10:36)

The good news about the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20)

The good news that God has fulfilled his promise by raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 13:32)

The good news about Jesus and his resurrection (Acts 17:18)

The good news concerning God's son, who also was man, raised from the dead (Romans 1:1-4; 2 Tim 2:8)

The good news of Christ (Romans 15:19, 1 Corinthians 9;14)

The good news, which has to do with the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:17)

The good news of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4)

The good news of your salvation, the word of truth (Ephesians 1:13)

The good news of the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8)

The gospel is also:

The gospel of the Kingdom (John 3:3)

The gospel of God (John 3:16)

The gospel of his son (Galatians 1:15-16)

The gospel of Christ (Acts 2;36)

The gospel of the grace of God (Romans 11:6)

The gospel of the glory of God (John 17:5)

An everlasting gospel (Hebrews 1:8)

Jesus is alive forever

BELIEVE the Good News!

The only condition of salvation is "faith alone in Christ alone". God says that if you believe and hold firmly to the biblical Gospel you are saved; if you believe that Christ died for your sins, that He was buried and that He rose again, God says that you are saved. Read again Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15 verses 1 and 2: "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you."

The Hymn by A.M. Toplady "Rock of Ages" sums up how God gives us the faith, by grace, to believe:

"Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me Saviour, or I die."

LIVE the Good News!

Steps to Faith in Christ may be summarised as:
1. Knowledge of the facts of the Gospel, leading to
2. Agreement with the facts of the Gospel, leading to
3. A heartfelt commitment to entrust yourself to Jesus Christ, leading to
4. Joyful obedience in the life of the believer.

"About a year ago, I heard a speaker say that he was not trying to get people to make a decision for Christ, rather he was trying to get them to make every decision for Christ. This is the biblical perspective." (Source: Dr Gerald Chester)

SHARE the Good News!

READ a sample Gospel message

SADLY, some are only motivated to share the gospel for money

© Brian Johnson www.whatisthegospel.org.uk 2007 - 2020

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