Explaining the Gospel to an Unbeliever

Jesus-Risen-croppedWhen I really started to focus on taking my part in the fulfilling of the Great Commission seriously, I realized that oftentimes people rejected the wrong Christianity. The more I talked to them the more I realized that almost without exception, the nonbeliever disbelieved an incomplete or wrong gospel that has nothing to do with real Christianity. When I asked them what they thought the gospel was, they either did not know or had it completely wrong. Sadly there are many people who believe that they are Christian who are just as incapable of explaining the gospel as those who know they disbelieve. These Christians believe in their own gospel and not in the gospel that saves souls.

I have two aims with this blog post.

1) If you are a nonbeliever (or incomplete believer) who has stumbled onto this post, I hope to show you what you are really rejecting. I want to make sure that you know that your concepts of what being a Christian is and the reality are most likely not the same. I want to also show you that rather than rejecting a god that demands perfection, you are rejecting a God who forgives wretchedness.

2) For those of you who are wanting to get better at witnessing, I want to give you some short responses to the most common misconceptions of what the gospel truly is.

Before I go too far down the rabbit hole, I want to say that I find it astounding how difficult it is to place myself in the shoes of the nonbeliever even though I was one less than two years ago. I believed the things that I am about to mention, but for the life of me, I can’t understand why. This new creation thing is truly miraculous. Ok, let’s get to it.

Sinners go to hell and the righteous go to heaven. – This is one of those partially true concepts but one that must be unpacked to be fully understood. In a sense, what this sentence says is correct. Sinners go to hell and only the righteous go to heaven, but the only person who has ever been righteous was Jesus. Everyone else has fallen short and everyone is a sinner deserving of punishment. A wholly righteous and pure God cannot abide by the breaking of even one of His laws. A man who breaks even one of the Ten Commandments is guilty and God either sees him as guilty or innocent. There are no mitigating circumstances and your good works does not make it ok.

Judgement-DayThink about it this way. You are in front of a judge facing murder charges. You are guilty. Could you go to the judge and say, “I know I am guilty of this crime but I fed poor people and worked to save the planet. I don’t believe I should go to jail” The fact is that you are guilty of murder and all the other stuff doesn’t change that. God has two judgments He can hand down for your crimes, heaven or hell. If you are guilty of breaking God’s laws (and we all are), where do you think you will go when you face judgment?

The good news is that God understands that we inherently are incapable of fully fulfilling His laws because of our fallen nature. What God did was send Jesus (a literal part of Himself) to earth to serve as a pure and holy sacrifice to pay the penalty that we deserve for the sins we committed. In a sense, just as the judge is about to hand down the sentence that we deserve for committing murder, a man jumps up from the back of the room and says, “We all know that this man is guilty of murder, but I would like to take his punishment!” God’s glory demands justice to be met out for the crime, but He chose to take the punishment himself rather than impose it on those who believe in that sacrifice and who repent.

It isn’t about being righteous, because we are unable to be righteous. It is about allowing Christ’s righteousness to be placed on us and our guilt to be placed upon Him. It is about understanding how broken and rebellious we are and begging for forgiveness. It is accepting a gift that is so priceless as to make us weep in gratitude. It is a belief in the gospel that shows the perfectness of God and everything He did for us. Here is the gospel as explained by the Apostle Paul.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures – 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. – Romans 10:9-10

In short:

1) God is holy
2) We are sinners deserving of punishment
3) Christ died and rose again to pay the punishment for sin.
4) This salvation is given to those who believe and have faith.

This is not being perfect and being good enough. In truth it is the exact opposite. It is the belief that you are horrible as anyone and realizing that you need help.

hethatiswithoutsinYou have to be something or not be something to be saved. – I don’t know how many times I’ve heard nonbelievers say, “Christians believe that you can’t be gay and get into heaven.” If you look at the previous section, you will realize that we are all sinners. When we repent and turn away from our sins (not embrace them or try to justify them) it is reflective of a person who has put their faith in Christ. It is placing our faith in the revealed truth (scripture) and submitting to God’s goodness. It is the understanding that our sins don’t define us and that through Christ we are made new. We are all sinners and one sin doesn’t make you anymore spiritually dead than any other. That is the reason why we need Christ. Only when we stop trying to justify our rebellion against God can we accept salvation. This is for liars, thieves, people who don’t honor their parents, murders, adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, or any other person who breaks God’s law. BTW if you aren’t any of those things (haven’t done any of those things) you are Jesus and I want to give a personal thank you for checking out our blog!

With all that in mind, please realize that being a Christian is like playing chess. It is easy to learn the rules, but you can take a lifetime to fully unpack what that means. The joy that comes from following and loving Jesus is beyond understanding. Those who have come to a true faith in the true gospel can tell you all about this. This is a faith in the God of the universe and not the god we think we want. It is a faith in the God that loves, but also a faith in a God that hates sin so much as to demand the crucifixion of Jesus to atone for that sin.

Hearing the true gospel will either make complete and total sense or it will be insulting. There is no in between.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18

That is the reason why there are so many lost people who wish to know Jesus but are unwilling to accept what it means to truly follow Him. They simply believe in a watered down and more palatable version of Him. This is why our nation is awash in false teachers who make up false or partial gospels. Unfortunately for them, the gospel as explained in scripture is the only one that saves.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:8

Michael Davis
Senior Editor of Veterans to Christ. Served as a Cavalry Scout from 2005-2009. Iraq Veteran.