22 May 5 Reasons Not To Begin The Gospel With Sin
What I am not saying:
I am not suggesting avoiding sin.
I am not saying that the Gospel can be preached without addressing sin.
I am not saying that you HAVE to start a Gospel presentation with Genesis 1.
What I am saying:
It is certainly acceptable, if not more beneficial to start the Gospel presentation in Genesis 1 with the image of God, rather than Genesis 3 with sin, so long as sin is still addressed.
We have become very sin focused as a Church (universal not local body). One area in which we have become sin focused, perhaps detrimentally so, is our presentation of the Gospel. Hear me. I am not saying that we should(or even could) preach the Gospel without addressing sin. What I am saying is that the primary message of the Gospel is the good news of our redemption in Christ, not the bad news that we are sinners. Yet, most Gospel presentations begin with sin. But what if that’s not always the best place to start a Gospel presentation? What if another presentation would reach more of the lost, create a healthier start to the life of the new believer, and was even more scriptural?
What is my evidence for this claim?
1. Paul Started It
Lest ye think I’m a heretic from the start, I best begin with a scriptural precedence. Therefore, point one is simply: Paul did it. Paul, and the other apostles, presented Christ to different people groups in different ways. There was no singular 3-5 point Gospel presentation that they recited to each and every group. They had an understanding of different worldviews and listened trusted the Holy Spirit to guide that understanding in specific encounters.
One of the groups that Paul addressed was the intellectual elites of Athens in Acts 17. Many scholars suggest that this is probably the closest cultural parallel to our modern Western cultures. They were both spiritual and intellectual. They viewed themselves as highly intelligent even though their worldview was terribly inconsistent with itself. Sound familiar? If you listen to Paul’s words, you will see that Paul points to creation (v.24). Then he addresses the fact that humans were created as children of God (v. 26-29). Then once those two things have been established, Paul addresses sin (v. 30). Finally, Paul brings the call to repentance (v. 30-31). Hopefully this biblical precedent will help you to relax if this idea makes you uncomfortable.
2. This is where the Bible Starts
The Bible does not begin its narrative with sin. It begins with the creation and culminates in the creation of humanity. In fact, it covers the creation twice. Once in chapter 1 and then again in chapter 2. It is not until the third chapter that sin enters. It’s probably a safe bet that if the word of God begins here, we are safe to do the same.
3. People need context
If I tell someone that they are a sinner and need to be reconciled unto God, they probably have no concept of what they are being reconciled back to. They have no frame of reference about their own identity as a being created in God’s image. So, if I begin by telling them that they are responsible for sinning against the God that created them, but have not addressed the fact that God did in fact create them, then I am putting the cart before the horse and it’s hard to go anywhere when the cart is before the horse that is meant to pull it.
4. We Need To Understand The Significance of Humanity To Understand the Tragedy of The Fall
This one is my favorite. Think of how Jesus approached people. He communicated to their heart with His words and actions. What does the Bible say about our identity? We are created in the image of God, we are sinners, and we are offered eternity in heaven. Skipping the whole “created in the image of God thing” seems like a big point to miss, especially when communicating to a generation in the middle of an identity crisis. Nancy Pearcey, one of my favorite apologists, says it beautifully, “It’s only because humans have such high value that sin is so tragic.” For those who would be sin-centered in their Gospel, understand that you cannot capture the fullness of sin without first capturing the full beauty of the crowning jewel of God’s creation – us.
5. The Great Commissions
I can’t go into this here, because it takes a good deal of Scripture, but God has not only reconciled man unto God, but also unto man’s original purpose. Part of the Gospel is the good news that we have been/are being restored and even made better than our original state. If we don’t understand why God originally created us and what he originally created us for (all found in Genesis 1), then we can’t fully grasp the Great Commissions. (See: GOSPEL AND GREAT COMMISSIONS CHAPTER IN EKKLESIA RISING: THE ORGANIZATION FORMERLY KNOWN AS CHURCH )
6. Bonus Response: Romans is not written to the lost
I can hear readers now, “What about Romans?” People often follow the Romans road, which, by the way, generally begins in chapter 3 with Romans 3:23. This is not wrong, but Romans was not written to be an evangelism tract. It was written to believers who were already operating in faith that was impressive enough to bring rumor across the known world (Rom 1:8). Again, Romans has great doctrine and this doesn’t invalidate the usage of Roman’s Road. However, trying to take pieces of Roman’s and turn it into THE standard for gospel presentation is probably not the most hermeneutically sound decision. If you read Romans 1, when Paul discusses the sin of the world, God as the creator of people is already assumed. His audience knew this and therefore did not need to be taught it again. Potential proselytes likely do not have this foreknowledge of God’s original relationship with humanity. It’s up to you to give them the full picture. In the words of Romans 10, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” It’s up to you to introduce them to God our Creator, to His design in us, to our sin, and to Christ’s redemptive work.
The biblical narrative follows a pattern: Good news… bad news… better news. More specifically, we are created beautiful- in God’s image. Sin corrupts that image. Jesus restores that image. The Gospel is wrapped in good news. It’s up to you if it is presented that way.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Should we make an effort to introduce people to their identity in the image of God? Leave a comment below and share to get your friends in on the conversation…