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.

Excerpt:

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.

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

  1. Sadly Ravi Zacharias passed away yesterday. He was a brilliant and influential apologist, no doubt.

    Although I do recognize his general depiction of the gospel, what I miss is there is only a superficial mentioning of “sin”. A gospel without “sin”, “repentance”, and “atonement”, can hardly be called the full gospel.

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    1. Amen!

      Where there is no Lord, there is no Savior.

      I fear tens of millions inside of the churches in the West will discover this truth too late.

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  2. WK,

    I linked to this post at my blog and one of my readers is trying to contact you with questions. I’d hope that you would be open to answering his questions in some form or another.

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  3. These are the questions that the commenter is asking, any answers would be appreciated.

    “And I don’t disagree. If a god does not act justly or “do justice,” then in what sense are they a Just God?”

    “But then, what is “punish or reward appropriately…”?”

    “Or so it seems to me and, I suspect, most people.”

    “Do you agree?”

    “This raises the question, for me, about the “punishment” part, then. Sure, an entity can withhold a gift, but is there also a punishment involved that the Creator (in this case) is placing upon the individual in question?”

    “Or is Zacharias saying that the default end of humankind is an eternity of torment… BUT that a Just God will sometimes, on a whim, decide to choose an occasional “sinner,” from their natural destination?”

    “If it’s the latter, it raises the question, Who set it up this way? That there is a humanity that is, by design, destined for an eternity of torment? Is it not the creator god that Zacharias is speaking of?”

    “If so, then where is the Justice is deciding/designing, beforehand, to make an eternity of torment the default destination for all of humanity?”

    “IF God is a perfect being and God created humanity NOT perfect, then God knows full well that they were created NOT perfect. To expect a humanity designed as imperfect to be perfect… well, that’s neither reasonable nor just. And then, to say, AND, if you’re NOT perfect (and you won’t be!), then the punishment is an eternity of torment for even the smallest of misdeeds. Is that proportionate to the crime/misdeed?”

    “Who says people are in rebellion against God?”

    “I know of very few (if any) people I’d characterize that way.”

    Where is the data that says humanity, by and large, wants to have their “own happiness from rational constraints, moral constraints, judgments and feelings of shame…”? I don’t know of any rational adults who want to be free from “rational constraints” or “moral constraints.”

    WK… even if we find his greatness offensive to our pride.

    Any support for this?

    WK… 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.

    By this, does WK think that because we don’t “acknowledge God” (a God that we can’t physically see or touch or hear) and that some people, not knowing there is a God, don’t acknowledge that God… that such people “deserve” to be “punished” by an eternal torment/torture?

    Where is the reasoned justice in that? Is that not a punishment way beyond rational measure to the “crime…”?

    Do you see, Craig, how these are reasonable questions, even if you think WK or you have an answer to them?

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