Choose your words carefully

How do you tell someone the gospel? Perhaps something like this:

“Because the world is full of unrighteousness, lasciviousness, and debauchery, we all stood in a state of moral condemnation, needing justification, reconciliation, and propitiation. Jesus Christ willingly offered Himself in a sacrificial act of substitutionary atonement, dying by crucifixion for our sanctification. Yet the earliest inspired and inerrant kerygma also affirms His resurrection on the third day and His ascension/exaltation forty days later. This proves that He ever lives as our mediator and eternal sovereign and that He will someday return as our Vindicator and the world’s Adjudicator.”

Should you be surprised at your friend’s glassy stare or stammering, “Say what?” I used $1000 worth of fifty-dollar words to help you feel the effect our technical jargon has on non-Christians. They can’t get past the tear gas of our theological vocabulary to meet the plain-talking Carpenter of Nazareth.

How could we say the same thing in the language of the street like what the apostles used?

“You know that all of us do wrong. We stop at nothing to indulge our cravings, throwing off all restraint. In this condition God would punish us as His guilty enemies, worthy of His wrath. But Jesus, the Chosen One, volunteered to take our place, suffering the punishment we deserved, even dying on the cross. He did this to transform us into the special objects of God’s love.

But the death of Jesus is not the end of the story. The preaching of those first-century prophets revealed this unmistakable truth: on the third day after He died, God made Jesus alive again, and only 40 days later He brought Jesus back to His rightful place as Ruler of the Universe. Even now Jesus is alive, constantly gaining for us God’s approval. Someday Jesus will return to rescue us and to judge every sinner on the planet, living and dead."

Some of us may have trouble translating our ecclesiastical terminology. Even words as common to us as “repentance,” “church,” and “deacon” may not communicate to others as we intend. But we will be amazed at the results of translating for them. The glazed stare will give way to the light of understanding, and “Tell me more!” will replace the “Say what?”

—Steve Singleton