Evangelism Principles

Clarifying the Gospel Issue

John Rittenhouse


The gospel, as defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3 6, consists of two facets: (1) The judicial act of forgiveness by God on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross. (2) The result of accepting this payment, the impartation of new life on the basis of the resurrection.

We’re good at communicating about the new life, but we are sometimes not very clear on the basis and motivation to live that new life — Christ’s payment for our sin. It is the aspect of Christ’s death for sin that we want to concentrate on here.

We want to make the gospel as clear and easy to grasp as possible, so that people will understand the basis for their salvation and be gripped with the fact that Christ died for them. We expect the benefits to be that:

  • More people will understand the gospel and so more will become Christians.
  • These new believers will more profoundly grasp the meaning of Christ’s payment for their sins and be freed from legalism, compelled to live for Him out of gratitude.
  • Believers sharing their faith will have a constant reminder of the basis of their salvation and the love of God demonstrated by Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. They will be increasingly encouraged to love and serve Him more, as well as want to share their faith more.

How does this fit in when you are sharing the gospel using the Four Spiritual Laws or Knowing God Personally booklets?

It is most important that we develop the mindset that a person becomes a Christian by trusting in Christ’s death to pay the penalty for his sins — NOT by asking Jesus to come into his life.


After you’ve established rapport with the person, use a couple of questions to help the person see how he stands with God and create a felt need if he is not a believer.

Question : “If you were to die today, on a scale of 0 to 100%, how sure are you that you would go to heaven?” “If you were to die and stand before God, and He were to ask, ‘__________, why should I let you into heaven?’, what would you tell Him?” (In other words, you want to know their basis for going to heaven.)

LAW 2.  At Romans 6:23, explain that what we deserve for our sin is death (or that the penalty for our sin is death).

Question : After Romans 3:23: “What do you think sin is?”

The word “sin” comes from a Greek word that means, “to miss the mark,” as in the sport of archery. When someone would shoot at the target and miss the bull’s eye, the distance from the arrow to the bull’s eye was called the “sin.” In the same way, we may do good things, but we still miss the mark of God’s perfect standards. Basically, sin is man’s going his own way apart from God.

Illustration : Trying to swim to Hawaii from California. In relation to the goal, we don’t make it. In relation to others trying to swim the whole distance, we may do better, but still not reach the goal. We can’t make it on our own effort.

LAW 3.  At Romans 5:8, underline: Christ died for us, and show how Christ’s death paid what we deserve (or our penalty) as you refer back to Romans 6:23. Ask: “Why did Christ have to die for you?” In other words, link Romans 5:8 with Romans 6:23 to show how Christ’s death is the payment for what we deserve.

Question : After Romans 5:8: “Why did Christ have to die for us?

Illustration : Traffic Judge. Someone else paying the penalty in our place. “Let’s say you were driving down the street at 70 mph. You were stopped by a traffic policeman and taken in before the judge, who happened to be your father. Now, your dad loves you very much, but he is also the most honest judge in town. He sees you walk in and says, “Oh, no, what are you doing here?” The policeman says, “driving 70 mph in a 35 mph zone.” Your dad, the judge, says, “How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?” And if you’re honest, how do you plead? Guilty, right? So the judge says, “$50 or five days in jail.” You reach in your wallet but don’t have the $50, just a crumpled football ticket stub. You know you’re broke and can’t possibly pay the fine, so you turn to leave with the policeman.

But wait! Just then, your father stands up, takes off his robe, steps down where you are, reaches in his own wallet, takes out the $50, and offers it to you as payment for your fine.

This is a picture of what God has done for us. We are all guilty before Him. He is a just and fair judge. We have a penalty to pay that we cannot pay. He stepped down out of heaven through His Son, Jesus Christ, and has offered the payment for each person’s sin.

LAW 4. At Ephesians 2:8-9, read out loud, then say, “How about reading this over to yourself and tell me what you think that means in your own words?” If he can give a good answer, then he probably understands the gospel. If not (if he has no idea or simply parrots back the verses), then ask, “Why did it have to be gift?” If there is any question about whether the person understands, then go back to Laws 2 and 3 or use supplemental verses you know, showing how our efforts cannot earn God’s acceptance, it is a free gift. It is on Christ’s righteousness, not our good works.

Illustration : You can refer back to the judge illustration and pick up where it left off.

“If you just looked at the $50 bill, but never took it to pay your fine, your fine wouldn’t be paid. In the same way, we must receive the gift that God is offering us of Jesus Christ – the payment for our sins.”

Illustration : George Wilson and the presidential pardon. In 1830 George Wilson was tried by the U.S. Court in Philadelphia for robbery and murder and sentenced to death. Andrew Jackson, President of the U.S., granted him a presidential pardon. But Wilson refused the pardon, insisting that it was not a pardon unless he accepted it. The question was brought before the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the following decision: “A pardon is a paper, the value of which depends upon its acceptance by the person implicated. It’s hardly to be supposed that one under sentence of death would refuse to accept a pardon, but if it is refused, it is no longer a pardon. George Wilson must die.” And he was hung.

You must accept your pardon.

At Revelation 3:20, explain that this is a picture of what happens when a person accepts Christ’s death to pay for his sins, and the person can open the door by accepting Christ’s death, then His Spirit comes to live inside him.

CIRCLES : Again, emphasize Christ’s death as the issue – “The circle on the left shows a person who hasn’t trusted in Christ’s death to pay for his sins. The one on the right has. Everyone is born in the first circle. When we accept Christ’s death to pay for our sins, we are born into the second circle. Which circle?

Other questions: “Who is paying for the person’s sins on the left? (he is) On the right? (Jesus is). “How many sins does the person on the left have forgiven? (none) On the right? (all) “Where will the person on the left spend eternity? (hell) On the right? (Heaven). “Which circle are you?”


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