Is This Really the Way to Present the Gospel?

Recently I read an account of a Gospel presentation by a man who is identified as a friend of the man who was writing.  The man who was relating the encounter is named Charles Price.  The retelling of this story can be found in his book, Real Christians (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1987, pp. 55-56).  I had never heard anything quite like it and was really terrified by it.  Here is what he wrote:

After we had talked from a couple of hours, the young man seemed to be prepared to give himself to Christ.  My friend, no doubt sensing that asked him a question: “In light of all we have talked about this evening, can you think of any reason why you should not become a Christian tonight?”

The young man sat for a few minutes, then looked back at him and replied, “No, I cannot think of any reason.”

I was excited by this but to my amazement, my friend leaned across the table and said, “Then let me give you some!”  For the next few minutes he began to explain the cost of being a Christian.  He talked about the young man’s need to surrender his whole life, his future, his ambitions, his relationships, his possessions, and everything he was to God.  Only if he was prepared to do this, my friend explained, could Christ begin to work effectively in his life.

…My friend then leaned even further across the table and asked, “Can you still not think of any reason why you shouldn’t become a Christian tonight?”

After another moment, the reply came, “I can think of some now.”

My friend responded, “In that case, do not become a Christian until you have dealt with every one of those reasons and are willing to surrender everything to Christ.”

Is this really the way that the Gospel is to be presented?  I don’t know the rest of his gospel presentation, but is this even part of the Gospel message?

When the Philippian jailer brought Paul and Silas out of the jail he fell down at their feet and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  Then Paul and Silas said to him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.” (Acts 16:30-32)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship (creation)…” Ephesians 2:8-10a.

“(John the Baptist) came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him (his testimony)” John 1:7

“Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. . . He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:14b-16, 18

When I read the account of Jesus’ ministering to the Samaritan woman at the well, I don’t read about how He gave her reasons to not believe in Him (John 4:7-30).  Furthermore, I read what Paul identifies as “the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, . . . by which also you are saved…” in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and I find a similar lack of pronunciations as to why they should not believe in Christ.

So I again pose the question concerning the presentation of the Gospel as presented by the friend of Price; is that really how we should present the gospel?  In case you are wondering what MY answer is, I say no.

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10 thoughts on “Is This Really the Way to Present the Gospel?

  1. What about the rich young ruler? And the man who wanted to bury his father? Did Christ not give them reasons not to follow, and then require them to put those reasons aside before following? I do not know whether the approach above is proper, given that we do not have the authority or ability to determine when a person is “ready” to trust Christ, but in light of the two stories I have referenced, there is certainly precedent for warning new/potential believers of the costs of Christianity.

    • GJR, thank you for your interest in this particular post. I understand your concern over the topic. There is no more important issue than this and it has eternal ramifications if we come to the wrong conclusions. Please allow me to say that you have done just that; you have come to the wrong conclusion. These two examples do not give any indication or credence, nor do they set a precedence for one to attempt to give reasons for not putting one’s faith in Christ.

      Jesus Christ did not attempt to talk him out of following Him. On the contrary, Jesus was simply pointing out to the young man that he was trusting in his own self-righteousness to earn eternal life. The test that Jesus gave was to prove to the young man that he was not interested in eternal life as much as he was in hearing Jesus say that he was “complete” (Mt. 19:21) or perfect and needed to do nothing else. My fear for you is that you are reading your beliefs into the text and not practicing sound hermeneutic methods.

      As to the other example you gave it must be recognized that Jesus was not calling him to salvation in the same way that we would understand it. Jesus had not yet gone to the cross and he was a Jewish man who was called to follow his now present Messiah. Instead of following he asked to postpone following for an unknown period of time since in the Jewish customs the father could very well still been alive may have lived for some time. The invitation found in Luke 9:59 initiated by Jesus was not to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31), but simply come with me and join me in my work. That is an invitation better suited for one who is already a believer. Again, I believe that you are reading your view into the passage, which is a dangerous practice in which to engage.

      The truth is that we are to present the gospel as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Christ died for our sins according to Scriptures (prophetic) and He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to Scriptures (prophetic). The invitation then is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. The Gospel of John never introduces any hint of trying to show someone the “cost” of believing in Jesus. There is no cost to be saved. The cost was paid by Jesus on the cross. There is a cost in being a full on disciple after salvation, but there is no cost to be saved.

      God bless.

      • As I stated above, I do not think the practice from your story is proper. I was simply saying that following Christ requires your life. cf. John 12:25. I did not say that Jesus “talked him out of following Him.” The man was inquiring how to enter the Kingdom, and Christ replied that it will cost him the thing he held dearest in his heart, his money. I agree with you that the “test” was to show the man that he was not interested in following Christ, but rather interested in “checking the box,” so to speak.

        Again, in the second example, the point was essentially the same. The man did not want to follow because it would cost him the respect of his family. Jesus replies to the two with excuses, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” You say that this is a call to work as a believer, but is not this the same type of call as the Twelve received? Matt. 4:18-22. Were they believers prior to Jesus calling them? Id. I do not think the scriptures support that. When you read Jesus’s reply to the men’s excuses in light of Ephesians 2:10, it sure seems as if it was a call to belief as well as work. In these examples, as you recognize, Jesus calls attention to the reasons these men put forth preventing them from following Him wholly in their hearts.

        Of course we should have a negative visceral reaction to the story you posted. However, we must also recognize that teaching someone the Roman Road and walking away sets up a new believer for trouble. Was the man here pointing out to the hearer some reasons why he could not follow Christ wholly? Certainly it should be done differently; with grace, hope, tact and a little better timing. But new believers must understand what it takes to follow Christ, and be trained to do so. Evangelism should not end when a person trusts Christ, but this is where it should begin. The solid foundation on which His house is built. Furthermore, given items IV & V in your doctrinal statement, and Eph. 2, you should also recognize that we are just tools. Sometimes blunt, sometimes sharp, but never determinative in the outcome.

        My post was simply meant to get you to address this aspect of the topic, since your initial post did not. It was not an invitation for you to make unfounded accusations of not practicing proper hermeneutical methods and questioning my beliefs. You tread dangerous ground when you decide what a person believes and how he practices based on a 4 or 5 sentence post meant to get you to think about the topic a little more. It also seems to me that you are guilty of the same thing of which you accuse me. Have you not interpreted scripture to support your conclusions? Or at least chosen to cite scriptures that support your conclusion? As an apologist, surely you recognize that one cannot interpret anything without relying on his presuppositions. I was just trying to get you to think about it a little more fully. Nothing else.

  2. GJR, I’ve never been called a tool before (Ha). Obviously I have unintentionally insulted you. Please forgive me. It was not my intention (a little redundancy never hurt anyone) to level unfounded accusations at you. What I was attempting to point out is simply that I believe that your hermeneutic method seems to be askew in your interpretation of the passages that you offered as illustration.

    For example, I don’t believe that you are taking into account the full context of the message of Christ to the man who would not immediately follow Him. This occurred before the crucifixion. Christ was present as Israel’s king calling Israel to turn and follow Him as their King. In the particular incident Christ was not offering salvation, which was the topic of my blog, not discipleship. To use that instance as an example of Jesus teaching that you must first count the cost before you can be saved is to miss the meaning and overlook the context. That is how I took your usage of that particular passage. Forgive me if I misunderstood and misrepresented what you were saying.

    As to the relationship between salvation and discipleship the two are intimately related in that you can’t be a disciple without first responding to the Gospel. However, as a dispensationalist, which I am and which you have seen from reading my beliefs, I believe that Scriptural evidence is overwhelmingly clear that you can be a believer, Christian (to use the term loosely), how about saying saved or redeemed, and yet not be a full on disciple of Christ. Believers can be “infants…of the flesh…still fleshly” (1 Cor. 3:1,3) even after a long time or perpetually after salvation (Heb.5:12-14). Thus you also see that I am not a Lordship salvation proponent. Therefore, as a dispensationalist, I see the distinction between the Gospel message of Jesus – “Repent (Israel) for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near” (Matt. 4:17) – and the Gospel message of Paul – “Believe in the Lord Jesus (Israel and the nations), and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). In the example you gave, Jesus was telling one of the members of what would be His Kingdom, “Follow Me, your King, and become my disciple,” but not not giving him a Gospel invitation, at least not as we would understand it in this dispensation.

    To answer your concerns about the presentation of the Roman Road to a person then leaving that person alone. You reminded me of what I believe in statement V and I will refer back to it. If I truly believe that God is sovereign then I have to leave the results of my Roman Road presentation in His hand. If that one is elect, which I cannot know, then either he responds in faith, or he completely rejects the message and I’ve planted a seed that may or may not bear fruit. It is in God’s hands. If I cannot stay with him and help him grow as a disciple I must also leave that in God’s hands. If I can remain active in the new believer’s life I must still leave the growth in God’s hands because I cannot control whether the believer will grow or not grow. All I can do is attempt to sow seed, water said seed, and tend to the newly formed shoot of the Christian plant that may spring up. God causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6).

    The “Gospel” is also a term that I believe we need to be careful with when engaging in these conversations. When I use Gospel I am referring to the good news of the salvation message. In your rebuttal of my response to your reply (I think I’ve forgotten where I am with that statement) you seem to use the word “Gospel” to mean the whole of Christian/Church-age teaching. Although there is no prohibition against using “Gospel” in this way, I believe that at the very least it begins to introduce an element of confusion. The saved do not need to continue hearing the Gospel message to the same extent (notice I am not saying we never need to be reminded – 2 Peter 1:12), but we need to be led from the first stages of infancy in Christ to the fullness of maturity in Christ. This comes from learning the deep doctrines of faith and learning what it means to truly follow wholeheartedly while at the same time experiencing the Holy Spirit’s ministry in us to cause us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

    What I am trying to say is that from what you said in your original reply I came to the conclusion that you are confusing the message of salvation to a lost man (believe and be saved) with the message of discipleship to a believer (take up your cross and follow in the power of the Holy Spirit). The Gospel message (message of salvation) in Scripture does not contain the call to count the cost. It simply isn’t there. The message is, “you are headed for eternal punishment and the cost has been borne for you. Believe in the Lord Jesus who paid that cost, and you will be saved.” There is no cost for a lost man to count in that message other than if he doesn’t accept the free offer then he is bound for eternity in hell.

    Again, please forgive me for the insult. I should have been more careful with my words and the tone. I hope nothing that I’ve written in this response will come across the same way. Your words have humbled me. May God’s blessings be abundant in your life.

  3. Good response. All is well. Though I still disagree with you on the Luke passage, I agree on your other points. Thanks for the thorough reply.

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