The Stickiest Issue of the Gospel Message

Posted on July 30, 2020


By David Ettinger

Basic Truths
Though I’ve always known it, I now feel it. The Gospel, ultimately, cannot be accepted solely on an intellectual basis. It can be communicated intellectually, but cannot enter the heart that way. We can preach for decades, but unless God opens the heart of the hearer, there is no accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior:

  • “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).
  • “You did not choose me, but I chose you …” (John 15:16).
  • “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).

Yet, believers are called to preached the Gospel:

  • “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations …” (Matthew 28:19).
  • “[Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42).
  • “For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

The Reality of Hell
The first part the Gospel is that individuals are born separated from God and destined for eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire (Hell). The second part is that Jesus died on the cross, taking the sins of the world upon Him, and those who bow the knee to Jesus will have their sins forgiven and hence spend eternity in Paradise with Him.

Any communicating of the Gospel must contain these truths. This is why the Gospel must be communicated – without its knowledge, individuals will spend eternity in Hell. However, this is the aspect of the Gospel people most balk at – either the reality of Hell, or that anyone but the Hitlers of the world actually go there. Yet, this is not the stickiest issue concerning the Gospel.

The Stickiest Issue
The stickiest issue as I’ve experienced it through actual discussion, is that to accept the Gospel is to admit that beloved deceased family and friends are perishing in Hell.

Back in the late 1980s, my best friend at the time, who was Jewish, told me point-blank after I shared the Gospel with him: “David, I’m not against anything you said, but if I were to admit you are right, it will also be admitting that my parents are in Hell.”

Same, too, with my brother and two sisters. My parents both died in their 50s and from the best I can tell, there is no way they confessed Christ on their deathbeds. Therefore, for my siblings to even consider the claims of Christ is to accept that our parents are perishing. Over the years, I’ve had other such discussions. Of course, this objection to eternal damnation neither changes reality, nor does it excuse people for rejecting Christ, but on the intellectual level, I have found it to be the stickiest issue in sharing the Gospel, particularly with people I know.

God’s Glorious Will
I suppose the primary point of this post is that ONLY God can open the hearts of individuals to believe in His Son Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:18).

And yes, for whatever reason, He uses we sinners-turned-saints to carry this Gospel – this Good News – to the lost that they too may receive eternal life in Christ Jesus. But He never said it was going to be easy. We do our best to deliver the saving message of Christ, even when the stickiest objections of the intellect strive to muddle it up.

May God help us to deliver a saving message to the lost and perishing souls among us, and may we trust Him to work out His glorious will in the process!