September 25, 2017

Articulating the Gospel

Jeff Musgrave

The very essence of soulwinning is articulating the gospel. While men must be 1302.MarApr.coverconvinced of the gospel before they can embrace its Savior, the Holy Spirit promises to convince them (John 16:8–11). Our role in the process is to “teach” (Matt. 28:19) or “preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). Among those in our pews who understand the gospel well, how many of them can articulate it clearly, concisely, and compellingly to the lost? The “Romans Road” may have been an effective tool years ago, but most unbelievers today live in Bible ignorance. They don’t understand why redemption is necessary, let alone who procured it and how it is provided. I am convinced that a more thorough and theocentric gospel presentation must be taught in our churches.

Focus on the Gospel

The gospel must be our focus if we are to reach men in this postmodern world. While apologetics (the discipline of defending Biblical truth through the systematic use of Scripture and logic) is a wonderful encouragement and certainly has a place in evangelism, it is a mistake to depend on apologetics (by definition a defense) to the exclusion of the clear articulation of the gospel.

Mark 4:14, 15 teaches that the Word of God is seed that produces life and the heart is the place of ministry. The gospel seed is so powerful Satan attempts to pluck it out of even the hardest hearts. Using an apologetic approach to evangelism instead of carefully articulating Bible truth creates several problems. First and most importantly, we tend to depend on human logic and our own arguments, while God has promised to use His Word to produce faith (Rom. 10:17). Another unintended consequence of overemphasizing the role of polemics is the alienation of a majority of Christ’s laborers. In our weekly ministry of training and mobilizing believers for Great Commission living, many Christians express that they are intimidated into silence by the fear that they will be asked questions to which they don’t know the answers. I smile as I assure them this fear will become a reality, and answer, “Let your friend know that’s a great question, but you don’t know the answer. Agree to do a little research and get back with them. Then go ask your pastor. He knows all the answers!” Imagine adding to their fear the weight of having to learn enough intellectual arguments to convince their friends that the Bible is true and God exists. Is it possible that many believers do not witness because it has become too complicated for the average layperson?

Thirdly, when we aim our logic at the mind, we miss the target of the heart. Education is not the answer. Holy Spirit conviction is! There is certainly nothing wrong with apologetics, but we dare not allow it to take the place of a simple explanation of the gospel, expecting the Holy Spirit to use the Word to convince our friend of its veracity.

The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

My word . . . shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it (Isa. 55:11).

Is not my word . . . like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? (Jer. 23:29).

Some, understanding that the sinner comes to the table with less Bible understanding than in years gone by, have insisted that we must precede a gospel presentation with a Biblical explanation of Creation, the fall, and human history. While all Scripture is profitable, the Holy Spirit has promised to convince the lost world of the teaching of sin, judgment, and righteousness, which is the message of the gospel.

Articulate the Gospel

The gospel at its very essence is the story of God and His redemptive relationship with mankind. Because God is holy, He cannot tolerate our sin. Sin is anything that offends God’s holy character. God gave us the law to show us our sin. Because every person has sinned and has come short of God’s glory no one can have an intimate relationship with God. The news about God’s perfect nature as it applies to man’s sinful nature gets worse before it gets better. Because God is just, He cannot overlook our sin. As the just Judge of all the earth, He must judge every sin, and the wages of sin are death. Nothing unclean can enter Heaven, and thus all sinners will be given their place in the eternal lake of fire. Many argue that a loving God would not send a man to Hell. Just as an earthly judge executing justice cannot acquit a guilty relative because he loves him or her, even so God must pronounce the just verdict and penalty. Love doesn’t undo the necessity for justice.

But God is loving and has reached out to us. He has provided a way for us to be close to Him that satisfies His holy and just nature. That perfect way is Jesus. Jesus is God. He came to earth as a human. He lived a perfect life and earned a right standing with God. He came to give Himself in exchange for us because we could not earn our own right standing with God. When He died, He was crucified as an innocent man in the place of a guilty race. God made sinless Jesus to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Imagine two records—a sinner’s record and condemnation and Jesus’s perfect record and right standing with God.

Now imagine crossing out the name of the sinner and replacing it with Jesus’ while crossing out the name of Jesus and replacing it with the sinner’s. This is the reality of the exchange God offers us. Through His resurrection, Christ conquered death, delivering us from the penalty of sin—death and Hell. He offers full pardon Musgrave.Graphic1and full relationship with God, but we cannot earn this through religion or good living. These are not good enough, but God is gracious and offers salvation from sin and Hell as a gift. He promises to give the benefits of His wonderful exchange to those who repent of their sin and believe in Him and His promise of forgiveness, Christ’s righteousness, and eternity in Heaven.

Trust the Gospel

So, does a simple articulation of the gospel work? Over the past three years, the Intentional Exchange in Indonesia has seen over three hundred unbelievers, forty percent of whom were Muslim, accept Christ. The founder, Mike Redick, says, “We use the same simple gospel to reach the Muslims of Indonesia as the Catholics of the Philippines.”

Read this story of a scoffer’s conversion.

“Do I have to believe this Adam and Eve stuff to have a relationship with this God of yours?” That was the first question Karlton asked me. He felt God was a crutch, a figment of weak men’s imagination. Though Karlton seemed very skeptical, his questions were sincere, and after our initial visit, he and his wife Michelle agreed to do the Exchange Bible study with us.

As we left our first Bible study, Michelle apologized for Karlton’s skepticism, and Anna suggested that I get him a book on apologetics that might lend some credibility to our witness. We reminded ourselves of God’s promise to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Bible study we were doing dealt with these very topics through multiple Bible passages. We agreed to stay the course and let the gospel show itself powerful in Karlton’s life.

The second session of the Bible study was only slightly better. Instead of saying, “That can’t be true because . . .,” he was now saying, “Well, if that’s true, what about. . . .” Karlton came to me before we could meet for our third Bible study. His words this time were very different. “I don’t need to finish the Bible study. I know it’s true. I want to make that exchange you’ve been telling me about.” That was 2004. Karlton continues to grow and is faithfully attending church and leading his family to serve the Lord.

“The gospel of Christ . . . is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” It behooves all of us to become better articulators of God’s powerful message of reconciliation.


Musgrave.Graphic2Jeff Musgrave started and pastored Highlands Baptist Church in Centennial, Colorado, for twenty-six years. He is now the director of The Exchange. He and his wife, Anna, travel to local churches all over the world training and mobilizing God’s people in relational evangelism and discipleship. You can contact Jeff at .

This article is an excerpt from the just released March/April 2013 issue of FrontLine magazine. More information about this issue is here. Subscribe to FrontLine here.


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