Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Gospel in 7 Words or Less

I read an interesting post this morning that I've been pondering all day.  It has to do with the challenge to summarize the gospel in seven words or less.  In other words, are you able to communicate the message of the gospel - that all people have willfully sinned against God and deserve the punishment of hell but can receive forgiveness for said sin by grace through faith in the Christ God sacrificially gave to die on your behalf, thereby accepting the punishment you so richly deserve, but being raised from the dead on the third day, all of which was for the glory of God - in seven words or less?  Seven words?  That's a challenge.  Even the sentence that I used to (inadequately) summarize the gospel contains 63 words.  Good luck with seven.

Apparently this question was posed to people in the form of a survey, and the attempts from several people to summarize the gospel in seven words are interesting, to say the least.  In most cases, the summaries fell far short.  But given the immensity of the task, I have sympathy for those who perhaps came up short.  The author of the post says that the summary he believes to be most adequate is actually a quote from 2 Corinthians 5:19: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world."  Some of the other attempts completely miss the essence of the gospel.  Some don't even mention Christ.  And some are downright legalistic. (Such as one person who attempts to summarize the gospel as "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Uh, that's no gospel.  That's a law.)

Like I said, I've been thinking about this all day, trying to come up with my own summary.  But each time I come up with something, I quickly find a reason that it's not enough - there's just too much to communicate in seven words.  The author of the post seems to think that it's important to also communicate a sense of God's sovereignty in the statement - that it was God who instigated the gospel story for his own glory.  I agree.  This just makes it harder, however!  I like the approach of using scripture to summarize the gospel, because I certainly can't come up with something adequate.

I guess the point is that it would be a good exercise to think about how we would share the gospel succinctly, briefly, and adequately in a short amount of time or words.  Preach the gospel, in season and out of season - not just when it's convenient, or when we're prepared, or when we've done enough studying.  What would you say if you had limited time and limited words to communicate the truth of the gospel?  This is something I'll continue to ponder.

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