What is the gospel and how do I share it?
If you want to share your faith, you need to have a working understanding of the gospel. This can be an obstacle for people who worry that they might somehow get the message wrong. But take heart! Understanding and sharing the gospel isn’t as difficult as you may think, and once you feel equipped to engage in discussions about it, you’ll discover it’s pretty easy—and rewarding.
There are many places in the New Testament to look at that communicate the message of the gospel, but we’re going to focus on 1 Corinthians 15:3–4. I’d recommend committing these two verses to memory. They will definitely help you remember all of the necessary components of the gospel message.
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, New International Version).
“For what I received I passed on to you”
Those of us who follow Jesus can trace that decision back to someone who shared the gospel with us. We might have heard the message from our parents, a friend, a pastor, or an impassioned stranger (or even a film!), but at some point we heard it and believed.
Jesus commands His followers to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). This means that the gospel message doesn’t stop with us. We need to ensure that it touches more lives. As Paul says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
“as of first importance:”
Once we make a decision to follow Christ, the gospel becomes the lens through which we see our entire world. The fact that Christ would lay aside His divinity so that He may walk among us and ultimately reconcile us to God (Philippians 2:6–8) is the most important message anyone could hear.
“that Christ died for our sins”
In Revelation, Jesus tells us that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). He wasn’t simply a man; He is God and His passion to be reconciled with His creation led Him here to die on our behalf.
Mankind lives in outright rebellion against our Creator. There isn’t one of us who who could approach God based on our own righteousness (Romans 3:10, 23). We fall short in our actions, intentions, and thoughts—and the natural tragic outcome of our sins is death and separation from God (Romans 6:23).
Jesus became a man and lived a perfect sinless life, was arrested and sentenced to death. And like Isaiah prophesied, our sins were laid upon Him (Isaiah 53:6). The man who knew no sin took on our sin so that we could inherit the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“according to the Scriptures,”
As we look back at the Old Testament in the light of the gospel, we recognize how clearly the Bible predicted every aspect of Jesus’ ministry in hundreds of prophecies:
He would be born in Bethlehem.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times” (Micah 5:2, NIV).
He would be born of a virgin.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel”(Isaiah 7:14, NIV).
He would be executed as a criminal.
“Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great,
and He will divide the spoils with the strong,
because He poured out His life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For He bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12, NIV).
He would be resurrected.
“…because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay”(Psalm 16:10, NIV).
He would be the sacrifice for our sin.
“But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all”. (Isaiah 53:5–6, NIV).
“that He was buried,”
The gospel writers go out of their way to make sure that readers understand that Jesus died on the cross. John tells us that a Roman soldier pierced Jesus’ side with a spear to ensure he was dead (John 19:31–34).
His body was placed in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57–61). It’s important to note that the gospel writers made sure readers understood this wasn’t some anonymous tomb. It belonged to a real, verifiable person. And Roman guards were placed around this tomb to secure the scene (Matthew 27:66).
“that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”
The gospel isn’t simply about Jesus’s death on our behalf. If Jesus hasn’t been raised from the dead, we’re all in big trouble. The Resurrection is proof that sin and death have truly been conquered. As Paul puts it, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17, NIV).
It’s interesting to note that as a first-century movement started growing based on Christ’s resurrection, all Rome had to do was produce a body. Proof that Jesus was still dead would have stopped Christianity in its tracks. But they had no proof that he was dead.
The Resurrection is the gospel’s exclamation point. Christ died for our sin, but more than that, he “…was appointed the Son of God in power by His resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). In His resurrection, we experience the promise and empowerment of new, eternal lives.
“You can share your faith”
Once you familiarize yourself with these points, sharing your faith stops being such a frightening prospect. Remember, you don’t have to have an answer for every question or a response for every objection. You only need to be able to communicate these core truths.
If you’re interested in leading a Bible study or small group study on sharing the gospel, download a free copy of “We’re All Missionaries: A Small Group Curriculum for Sharing the Gospel”. This easy-to-use, four-week curriculum will stimulate powerful group dialogue about sharing the gospel.
by Jayson Bradley