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David Otten: The gospel in seven words

By David Otten
Contributing writer
updated: 2/21/2018 6:00 PM

Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.

I gave my congregations a Lenten assignment. They are to express in a seven-word sentence the Gospel of Christ. This in the business world is sometimes called an "elevator speech." It is the amount of words you can say in an elevator ride to one floor, depending on the elevator.

Being able to write a good elevator speech, even if it is only seven words, means that you understand what you're talking about and choosing words that fit your listener. It is about keeping the message simple.

What is the Gospel?

First, the Gospel is God's loving acts and promises toward us. Therefore, any statement that speaks of our responsibility ie "Love your neighbor," is not the Gospel. That in fact is the law. The Gospel is a God thing, not a human thing. It is dependent on God solely from beginning to end. It does not ask anything of us. It is like a father and mother telling their new born, we love you and we will watch over you. The infant is not asked to do anything as it is all in the hands of the parents.

Second, the Gospel is centered in Jesus Christ and His act of redemption. Included in this is His incarnation and humble birth in Bethlehem, His baptism, His preaching and healing ministry, His instituting the Lord's Supper, but is most clearly expressed in His death and resurrection. Again, none of these acts are what we do or have caused. They give glory to the Father and are for our salvation.

Third, the Gospel declares our sins forgiven, our spirit and body ransomed from sin, death, and the devil. It declares us righteous and holy, a child of our heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ. This He won for us by his death on the cross and his resurrection.

Lastly, it declares that we will go to Heaven when we die and be resurrected on the last day and live with God forever and ever.

If this is not understood, you will not be able to succinctly proclaim the Gospel in seven words.

The second part is that it needs to fit the hearer. I may choose one set of words if talking to a grade schooler and another set to a man in prison. Not everyone has the same vocabulary skills. Not everyone understands words to mean the same.

If you look at the great creeds of the church the words were chosen carefully. The council of Nicaea had both Greek and Latin speaking delegates. The creed had to be written so that both would understand the words whether in Greek or Latin and most of all it needed to reflect God's Word, not the Emperor's or bishops.'.

What might your seven words be that express the Gospel if someone asks of you, "The Gospel, what do you mean?

Blessings in Christ, Pastor Otten.