The gospel is the greatest news and it is the Christian’s honor to announce it to all people everywhere… if only it was that easy. So often, we simply don’t know how to “bring it up” or deal with the rejection.
As we read through the book of Acts, we see how the apostles preached and applied the gospel in their ministries and there’s much to learn. I am particularly fond of Paul’s example in Acts 17 where he’s in Athens, the academic and philosophical center of the Roman Empire.
Christians today can learn from Paul’s example, discerning which “Gospel Motif” connects with the people to whom he is ministering, and then using that motif to lead them towards the gospel.
Four Gospel Motifs (aka: Salvation History)
`1. Creation (Origin)
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Genesis 1:1 ESV
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Colossians 1:15-17 ESV
The question of origin and creation is asked by all people everywhere. We simply want to know where we came from and how everything got here. Jesus is the incarnate Word by which all creation was spoken into existence (John 1).
2. Fall (Brokenness)
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
Genesis 3:6-8 ESV
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
Romans 5:12 ESV
How many of the stories we tell revolve around the idea of paradise lost. We know something has broken in our world… and every person has some idea that shapes what went wrong and why it went wrong. I am yet to meet anyone who genuinely believes the world is “as it should be.” This is an obvious and clear invitation to affirm our need for a savior, and then point to who he is.
3. Redemption (Salvation)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
John 3:16-17 ESV
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Romans 10:9 ESV
If it is commonly believed that the world is broken, then what is the solution? Is it merely, “Try harder?” Or are there certain gods who need to be appeased? Should we simply live a good life, marked by kindness and compassion? Is there something we need to do to earn salvation and freedom?
When we listen to culture, we hear the false gospels that promise hope, joy, peace, and love that only comes through Jesus Christ. What is the Gospel: The announcement of forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ because of faith in who Jesus is and what he accomplished. The message of the gospel is the greatest news. Believe it. Learn it. Cherish it. Proclaim it with confidence and wisdom.
4. Glorification (Hope Fulfilled)
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
Revelation 21:1-5 ESV
Whether it’s Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or Divergent, most beloved epic stories end with some form of hope fulfilled. In the stories where hope remains denied, tragedy abounds and salvation has never happened. These stories show us our innate need and hunger for a salvation story and for a better world where hope is real.
Finding the Motif
As you talk with your friends, family, coworkers, whoever… listen. Listen carefully for what is behind their hopes and disappointments.
- Do they love the creation more than the Creator? Encourage humility before the powerful One who spoke creation into existence with a word.
- Is there despair and hopelessness? Acknowledge our sinfulness and point to the sinless Christ to replaces our guilt with holiness.
- Do they believe being a “good person” or religious devotion is necessary for salvation or enlightenment? Ask “How good is good enough?” and proclaim the complete sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice to clothe us in the righteousness of Christ. (Ironically, Christians get accused of self-righteousness, while Christianity is the only non-self-righteous religion out there.)
- Are they longing for security and peace? Paint a picture of the New Heavens and New Earth to demonstrate that we have a greater hope than we could imagine (or just read for them Revelation 21-22).
The gospel proclaims salvation has been secured, and Christ will return to finish the good work he has begun.