In college, when my pledge class went through the fraternity’s initiation week, we had to carry around a cigar box painted white with the fraternity letters in blue. We were required to put in the box anything an active member told us to put in. One of the things I was given for my box was a copy of Campus Crusade’s “Four Spiritual Laws” booklet.
Technically, actives weren’t supposed to evangelize pledges during initiation week, but I wasn’t going to make a scene. The active member asked me if I knew what the gospel was, and I quickly responded with an answer that shocked him. I could actually articulate the gospel message, thanks to having memorized it when I was in catechism class several years before (I had a reputation for memorization skills).
The active, who was a Christian, didn’t know what to say. He likely expected me to fumble for an answer or look dumb. More to the point, my normal behavior – LSU was known for being a party school – wouldn’t have led anyone to the conclusion that I knew the gospel message.
Two-and-a-half years later, when I had become a Christian, I thought back to initiation week, and realized that my memory skills had outstripped my heart knowledge. And now I that understood what it really meant, I could still articulate the gospel but knew I was an infant when it came to living it.
In The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges gives one of the most complete and succinct explanations of the gospel that I’ve read or heard. More importantly, he points out that the gospel is as important to the believing Christian as it is to the non-Christian.
In many respects, the gospel is not only God’s “good news;” it is also how we are to live our lives. Using Romans 3: 19-26, Bridges cites seven critical elements of the gospel as contained in the Bible passage:
- No one is declared righteous before God by observing the law.
- There is righteousness from God that is apart from the law.
- This righteousness from God is received through faith in Jesus Christ.
- This righteousness is available to everyone on the same basis, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
- All who put their faith in Jesus Christ are justified freely by God’s grace.
- This justification is through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
- God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.
My articulation of the gospel during initiation week was not quite that full or eloquent, but it did cover most if not all of the key elements.
The cigar box is long gone. But I kept the copy of the Four Spiritual Laws, and if I remember correctly (my memorization skills aren’t what they used to be), it is in a small jewelry box in our basement.