What is the Gospel?
The Good News is that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). So why did God become a man? “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God came to us because in our sin, there was no way we could go to Him. Ultimately, Jesus birth is important because of His death.
God became one of us, lived a perfect life, and was executed on the Cross to pay for our sins. Then, He rose from the grave to show His victory over Death. That’s why He was born! It wasn’t to be a “good teacher” or a “moral prophet”. It was to save the world from Sin by giving His life in exchange for ours.
We Are Called to Share the Gospel
But there’s a twist here: Jesus’ death on the cross didn’t give everyone in the world an automatic free pass to Heaven. His last words on Earth were a command to to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Paul put it this way in Romans 10: “for ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ “ (Romans 10:13-15).
Everyone who trusts in Jesus will be saved, but first they have to hear about Him! God has given us the responsibility to go and tell everyone the Good News. Paul presents two key principles about sharing the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 7 and 9: “become like” and “stay like.”
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says that he “became all things to all people so that by all possible means [he] might save some” (v. 22). This principle of “become like” means that a follower of Jesus should enter into the culture (or social structure) of those he is trying to reach, taking on their practices and customs that do not conflict with God’s commands.
By entering into the culture of those far from Christ, a believer can be a witness of Christ’s love without the complication of “cultural” hindrances. This is especially true in the college setting, where many people are averse to joining our college ministry or church cultures, but are very open to hearing about Jesus when it comes from someone in their own culture such as a fellow student in engineering, business, liberal arts, etc. As a student, you have a unique opportunity to reach the campus community from within.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul teaches that “each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned them” (v. 17). Specifically in the passage, Paul was saying that new believers did not need to become circumcised and enter the Jewish culture, which would have alienated them from their Gentile peers.
In the same way today, we must encourage new believers not to leave their old social circles. This principle of “stay like” shows that new believers should not extract themselves from their native culture, but should live as redeemed believers within it. By remaining in their culture, they can have a huge impact on their peers by showing them Christ’s love lived out in their own context. We can allow new believers to experience Christian community without yanking them out of their native social structures.
These principles make some Christians uncomfortable because we want others to become like us, and we don’t want to become like them. We may seek to change a new believer to make them just like us, but that extracts them from the community they are already a part of. They can have a much bigger impact by socially remaining a football player, frat guy, artist, engineer, etc rather than becoming a “church person” in the “Christian bubble”. We must learn to “become like” the lost to reach them better, and we must let new believer “stay like” those who know them best so they can be more effective witnesses.
Note: The principles of “become like” and “stay like” are fleshed out in the articles “Become Like, Remain Like” by Harley Talman and “A New Creation” by David Anthony, which are published in the reader for Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (http://www.perspectives.org).