How do you explain the gospel to a non-Christian in two minutes?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Here’s my attempt, then we’ll see an expert do it.

I hope that everyone who reads my blog is passionate about the gospel and understands it enough to explain it to others. It is so practical, you can see the need for it immediately when you talk to people in any detail. People are in rebellion against God. We want to seek our own happiness from rational constraints, moral constraints, judgments and feelings of shame. We want to not have to care what other people think of us (unless they agree), and this goes double for the God of the universe. This is literally infuriating to God, since he is the one who gives us so many blessings. It is proper for us to to recognize and respect him in our decision making – even if we find his greatness offensive to our pride. Instead of respecting God, we attribute the blessings to blind luck. We refuse to acknowledge God in our decision-making, and not just in moral issues but in everything we do. This is just astonishing ingratitude, and for this we deserve to be punished. However, God has given us a way to be reconciled with him, by allowing his own Son to be punished in our place. This punishment of Jesus pays the debt that we owe to God for our rebellion against him. If we acknowledge this sacrifice by Jesus, and put him in place as our leader and mentor, then God will forgive us and we will be reconciled with Him. And so, a relationship with God can begin, and it lasts forever. That is the gospel.

Here is famous evangelist Ravi Zacharias explaining the gospel in two minutes:

For those who don’t want to watch the video, here’s a good thought about the gospel from J. Warner Wallace at Please Convince Me.


A “just” God does justice, which means to punish or reward appropriately. In the Western tradition, we punish people for the actions they commit, but the extent of punishment is dependent also on the person’s mental state, and a person’s mental state is reflective of his or her beliefs. Premeditated murder is worse than manslaughter, and is punished more severely, and a hate crime is a sentencing enhancement that adds more punishment to the underlying crime. In both examples, a person’s beliefs are at play: the premeditated murderer has reflected on his choices and wants the victim dead; a hate crime reflects a belief that the rights of a member of the protected group are especially unworthy of respect. So, considering a person’s beliefs may well be relevant, especially if those beliefs have motivated the criminal behavior.

But the challenger’s mistake is even more fundamental. He is wrong to assert that people are condemned for not accepting the gospel. Christians believe that people are condemned for their sinful behavior – the “wages of sin is death” – not for what they fail to do. The quoted challenge is like saying that the sick man died of “not going to the doctor.” No, the person died of a specific condition – perhaps cancer or a heart attack – which a doctor might have been able to cure. So too with eternal punishment. No one is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus. While Jesus can – and does – provide salvation for those who seek it, there is nothing unjust about not providing salvation to those who refuse to seek it. After all, we don’t normally feel obliged to help someone who has not asked for, and does not want, our assistance. So too the Creator has the right to withhold a gift – i.e. eternity spent in His presence – from those who would trample on the gift, and on the gift-giver.

The quoted assertion also demonstrates an unspoken belief that we can impress God with our “kind” or “generous” behavior. This fails to grasp what God is – a perfect being. We cannot impress Him. What we do right we should do. We don’t drag people into court and reward them for not committing crimes. This is expected of them. They can’t commit a murder and then claim that punishment is unfair, because they had been kind and generous in the past. When a person gets his mind around the idea of what perfection entails, trying to impress a perfect Creator with our “basic goodness” no longer seems like such a good option.

I think it’s very important to get all of this clear, and nothing makes it clearer than when you get to know a non-Christian and really hear their reasons for not looking into whether God exists. Ask them what they think life is really about, and what motivates them, and see where God is in it. I think we get confused by non-Christians because they can sometimes be very nice to other people. But the real standard is whether people recognize and acknowledge God as he really is, and respond to him in a relationship.

2 thoughts on “How do you explain the gospel to a non-Christian in two minutes?”

  1. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. The hardest part of the Gospel to explain these days is that the wages of sin is death, or that the wages of sin “should be” death. Most people don’t believe their sins warrant the death penalty. We Christians say God is just, and he must punish sin. Non-Christians cannot accept a punishment they see as too harsh relative to the crime. And if they do believe in God, they just don’t think God would punish them. Thus, the core issue is persuading people they actually do deserve to die for their sins, and that they cannot escape that harsh judgement without the grace and mercy of God through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christs. I have a hard time thinking it through myself – I believe it to be true, but I can forget how much I deserve death. Let’s face it, how many people at our churches actually believe they truly deserve eternal punishment in hell for the sins they have committed? If we did come to grips with the fate we deserve, I think it would change us. Instead, we hear a lopsided Gospel about how much God loves us and wants to bless us and heal us, but we don’t often hear a convincing sermon about what wretches we are, wretches that deserve death. In our country nowwe have lots of people who don’t believe in the death penalty for murderers, so why would we expect them to believe they deserve eternal damnation when they didn’t commit murder in this life?

    The closest I have come to understand it is the analogy that we are “cosmic traitors”. Most people can accept that a true traitor, a person who actually switches sides in an armed conflict and helps the enemy kill his own countrymen deserves the death penalty. Even when Great Britain ended the death penalty for murder in 1965, it wasn’t until the 1990s that they ended the death penalty for traitors. Let’s not think of some vague traitor who sells techno secrets, but someone who literally gives away critical military info in a war that helps the enemy kill thousands of Americans in battle. Can we agree that person deserves the death penalty? So are we cosmic traitors? Have we aided and abetted Satan, and hurt our fellow Christians? Have we fought against the glory of God? Have we abandoned our post? Have we rejected our orders from our Commander?

    This is why we sinners need to be drawn to repentance by the Holy Spirit, and why the Bible says nobody actually seeks God. We are self-justifying creatures, and we need God to convince us of our need for forgiveness and salvation.

    1. I’m not an annihilationist, I take a traditional view on Hell. But your analogy to treason is useful. It seems to me that Christ has a claim on our allegiance since he died in our places.

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