[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: VII. Salvation

Lesson: A. Gospel Message

Objective: To know the basic elements of a Gospel presentation and followup.

We begin our study of salvation with a look at the basic message of salvation. We should know the basic parts of a salvation message, which are the the steps to take in leading someone to the Lord, and the basic ideas to present as a followup.

1. Gospel Presentation

Every person is different, which means that we each have our own story to tell about our salvation, and every person we meet will react differently. But we still want to have a plan in leading the discussion to the point of a person being able to understand salvation and how to accept salvation through Jesus Christ. We also want to be able to tell new Christians what the basic steps in growing in the faith are.

"But your will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."(Acts 1:8) Jesus commanded the early church, and us, to be witnesses throughout the world. We may say that our 'Jerusalem' is where we live, or perhaps our home is part of the ends of the earth in Jesus' day, but either way we are to be witnesses. This chapter is an effort to define the content of that 'witness', which is how to introduce people to salvation through Jesus Christ.

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."(1st Peter 3:15) Peter tells us to be prepared. When we are persecuted, the Holy Spirit is to give us the words to say. But here, Peter tells us to be prepared to explain why we have the hope and faith which we have. This is why we prepare a presentation. I would simply try to lead through the four steps of this outline. Should we memorize this? I would advise memorizing this or another presentation. We should at least know the key verses, so that the discussion is based on the Bible and not our own ideas.

I remember an enthusiastic young man on his first day at work handing everyone a tract titled, "You are going to Hell!" His intentions were good, he wanted people to take judgment seriously and to ask how to be saved. But his tracts simply got everyone mad. Peter warns us to witness with 'gentleness and respect'. We must obey this command no matter how angry people might make us or how difficult it is.

a. God's Plan for You.

"... I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."(John 10:10) The first step is to tell people that God is personally interested in them. Jesus wants everyone to have a full life, or as the King James says it, the abundant life. It is sometimes hard for someone who has problems, who may be ill or who has difficult relationships, to believe that God wants them to have a full life, but this is an important part of the Gospel. A question for ourselves, and those we witness to, is, "Are you living lift to it's fullest today?". Jesus came to make it possible to live this full life.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."(John 3:16) Believe means trust. I may believe that a man can carry a person over a waterfall on a tightrope. This is intellectual belief. When I volunteer to be the person carried over the waterfall, it is trust or the type of believe the Bible talks about, belief that leads to action. Anyone who will trust in Jesus will receive this eternal life. Eternal life is not only life that lasts forever, it is a good life. It is a life with the quality of knowing God and living in harmony with him. While some people are burdened by sin, or afraid of death, many others are not concerned about these problems. They may be concerned with whether they are missing the purpose of their life, and we must let them know that God has a plan and purpose for them. The question is, "Are you sure that you have eternal life?"

b. The Sin Problem.

The second step is to address the sin problem. Many people just don't think they are bad, or not bad enough to be forever separated from God. But lets look at the basic commandments of God. "Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ... Love your neighbor as yourself."(Matthew 22:37,39) These verses tell us what God expects us to do. You may ask if your friend obeys God. They may say, 'I don't steal or lie.' But that is not enough. Can they say that they love God with their whole being? Or that they love their neighbor as much as they love themselves? This is a very high standard. Understanding this, can you truly say that you obey the commands of God?

"... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ..."(Romans 3:23) Paul states that everyone has sinned. Even our best friend, who may live a better life than us, has sinned. In sinning, we fall short of the glory of God. We are unable to reach up to God, we fall short. "For the wages of sin is death ..."(Romans 6:23) The wages of sin, of not loving God and our neighbor, is death. It is spiritual death now, physical death sooner or later, and eternal death or separation from God for all of eternity. The pair of questions are, "Have you ever sinned? What is the penalty of sin in your life? The second point is that sin separates us from God, and prevents us from knowing Him and following His plan for our lives.

c. What Jesus Did.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."(Romans 5:8) Paul wrote that God shows His love by having sent Jesus to die for us. He died for us while we were ignoring God. Many people look to Jesus as a great teacher, but he came primarily to die for our sins. Yes he was a great teacher, but he was not only a great teacher but a great sacrifice for sin."... Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ..."(1st Corinthians 15:3) This verse clearly shows that Christ died for our sins, and that this is a central teaching of the whole Bible (the Scriptures), not an afterthought or a minor event. It was the central event of human history, which the whole Bible points to.

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except though me.'"(John 14:6) John tells us that Jesus is the only way. This is a strong claim, and many object to it. It is fair? God is God, and He is always fair, but He choses the way to save people. Jesus said that there is no other way to come to the Father.

Why did Jesus have to die? Because we were condemned to death because of our sin. He, who never sinned, died in our place, so that we could have eternal life. Is there any other way to God? Perhaps other religions? Jesus said that there is only one way, because of our sin. He said, "No one comes to the Father except through me."

d. Your Decision.

It is not enough to believe the first three points, that God has a plan for each person, that sin separates us from God, and that Jesus died for our sins. The fourth point, that we must decide to receive Christ, is the point at which a person is 'saved' and becomes a child of God. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God --"(John 1:12) Jesus said that he gave the right to become a child of God to all who received Him. We must receive Him. This means to trust in the fact that He died for our sins and will forgive us. We receive Christ by simply thanking Him for dying for our sins and asking him to forgive us. We invite Him into our life. We may need to lead a person in a prayer, it could be like this one. "Lord Jesus, I thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive me and come into my life as my Lord and Savior."

2. Followup

We follow up on someone who has made a decision, because the New Birth creats a spiritual infant. We want these new believers to grow to become mature believers who can serve and honor God, not to remain as spiritual infants.

a. Assurance.

As soon as a person sins or gives in to an old habit, they may wonder if they were truly saved. "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."(1st John 5:13) John said that he wrote the Gospel of John so that people could believe, and that they could KNOW, that they have eternal life. This is assurance. The believer who is in doubt is saved forever, but does not know or feel that it is true. Assurance comes from reading God's word (the Bible), at least that is why John wrote the Gospel of John. It also comes from walking with the Lord over time.

"... God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" God made a promise, to never leave nor forsake a believer. We are to say with confidence that the Lord is our helper. We may not always feel this, but it does not depend on what we do or how we feel, it depends upon the fact that God promises never to leave us. And God always keeps His promises, even if we don't.

b. Growth.

In following up with a new believer, if you are able, try to meet with them on a regular, perhaps weekly, basis for a while to get them into the habits of prayer and reading the Bible. They may need help in understanding how to take what they read in the Bible and making it happen in their lives. Encourage them to obey what they KNOW God wants them to do. They need to be with God's people, and a believing church is the best place. And finally, they need to tell others what has happened in their life. Let us remember that our growth also depends on our being in prayer, reading the Word, obeying God, spending time with God's people in worship and service, and telling others the truth that we know about Jesus.

Written Assignment:

1. Do you think this is a good method for presenting the Gospel?

2. Would you include anything else?

3. Is it a good idea to memorize a presentation?

Reading Assignment:

None for this chapter.

Key Verses:

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."(1st Peter 3:15)

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."(John 3:16)

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except though me.'"(John 14:6)

All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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