In 1 Cor. 15:3-6, Paul recounts his gospel. Those who would participate in evangelizing the world, do well to consider this passage. First, notice the brevity of Paul’s statement. In just 25 words, Paul relates the crucial elements of the gospel – “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Notice also the repetition of the phrase, “according to the Scriptures.” Paul didn’t expect blind faith in his assertions. He took the trouble to point out the Old Testament allusions and prophecies pointing to Christ. This approach commends the message as true when compared with other religions. Take as an example a Muslim friend of mine. Though he won’t admit it, he has worked hard to convert me. In response I have challenged him by saying, “I can prove the gospel with only the Old Testament. Can you prove the truth of the Qur’an with only the New Testament?” His honest response was, “No, I can’t.” A God who claims to live above time ought to be able to give us a heads up about what he’s going to do. Not only so, but if the gospel is true then we ought to find passages in the Old Testament which make no sense apart from the fulfillment in Christ. Isaiah 53 is such a passage.
Not only did Paul call the Scriptures to testify about his message, he also could point to a contemporary witness of these events – Peter, The Twelve, the 500, and then James. One might say, “Okay, so that was good for Paul since many of these people were still alive in his day but what about us at the first part of the 21st century?” The answer can be found in the final witness he listed, “Last of all to me.” Because Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision, we can expect him to continue to express himself in various other ways – changed life stories, healings, dreams, and visions. Everyone who has encountered the risen Christ has a story to tell.
So, to preach the gospel like Paul we should 1. succintly share the facts, 2. support them with Scripture, and 3. weave our own experience and that of others into an effective gospel presentation. See my attempt at covering these elements below:
The world is a messed up place. The Bible says that it’s messed up because people rebelled against their creator and did things that were wrong – they sinned. God plans to fix the world but he must first deal with sin. God’s messenger, Isaiah, foretold that God would send his Chosen One to die as punishment for sins, be buried and rise again to turn people away from living sinful lives. 700 years later Jesus Christ came and did what was foretold by dying on a cross for our sin and rising to life again. I’ve accepted his death as payment for my wrongs. He’s set me free from the guilt and power of sin. Now I’m looking forward to his return when he’ll fix this broken world where his people will live forever.