Where should we start? What should we include? How should we finish? Thankfully we have the example of the apostles themselves to follow. In the Book of Acts we find nine apostolic sermons which give a summary of the Gospel.
- Acts 2:14-40 Peter at Pentecost
- Acts 3:12-26 Peter to Jewish citizens
- Acts 4:8-12 Peter to the Jewish ruling council
- Acts 5:29-32 Peter to the Temple Captain and Chief Priests
- Acts 10:34-43 Peter to Cornelius and his kinsmen and friends
- Acts 13:16-41 Paul to Jews and God-fearers at Antioch
- Acts 14:15-17 Paul to the Farmers at Lystra
- Acts 17:22-31 Paul to the Greeks at Athens
- Acts 26:2-23 Paul to King Agrippa at Caesarea.
'The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead - whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him' (Acts 5:30-32).The essential elements of the message can be summarized as follows:
- God has revealed himself in history through
a) fathers ie the prophets and patriarchs of the OT and
- The essential facts about Jesus are that he was
a) killed - (crucified) and
b) raised to life - (resurrected)
- God has thereby made Jesus
a) Prince (Lord and Judge) and
- God is asking us to
a) Repent ie turn from our old way of living and
b) Obey ie put our trusting belief (faith) in Jesus
- He will then give us
a) Forgiveness (by the blood of Christ) and
b) the Holy Spirit (to enable us to live a new life)
These are the essential points of the Gospel. An accurate presentation should leave people in no doubt that they have a choice to make, to accept or reject God's offer. Also the consequences of rejection (ie. judgment - 2 Thes 1:7-10; Jn 3:36; 5:24; Acts 17:31; Rom 2:5) should be clear.
The most common mistakes are to leave out the need for repentance and the reality of judgment. A Gospel message without a call for repentance can leave people falsely reassured that they have saving faith. A Gospel message without warning of judgment can leave people thinking they don't need to make a decision. It takes courage to tell the whole story but if we don't, how are people to know, and thereby come to faith?
The teaching of the apostles gives us a clear indication of what the Gospel message is. We should know it thoroughly and declare it faithfully when God gives us the opportunity.