The gospel in four lines

This is one way I help people grasp the wonder of the gospel:

When you stand before God on the great day of judgement and God says to you:

“This is my holy law. Now look at your life. How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?”

What will you say?

With your head down and with a heavy heart, “Guilty, my Lord”

“Now” says the Lord, “what is your plea?”

With your head up and with a faithful, joyful heart, “My plea is Jesus Christ. I know he loved me and gave his life for me. He died so that I might be forgiven.”

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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5 Responses to The gospel in four lines

  1. étrangère says:

    Surely this misses the fact that God’s declaration is TRUE: I am not guilty, but declared righteous! So my plea is not ‘Guilty,’ but ‘Righteous in Christ‘. Hm?

  2. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Rosemary, I’m not sure we disagree. I take your point that the answer I gave to the second question does not include imputed righteousness. So could be worded: “my plea is Jesus Christ who died for me.” or “my plea is Jesus Christ who bore my sin on the cross and made me the righteousness of God.” or “my plea is Jesus Christ who has justified me by his blood through faith.” or “My plea is Jesus Christ who is the propitiation necessary for my pardon and I am righteous in him by faith alone and your grace alone alone.”

    The exact words of the second sentence can be expanded in discussion with someone. The point of the exercise to get people to look at God’s law, their lives, the predicament that puts them in before the holy judge and then to find that the solution to their dilemma is not found in themselves but in Christ.

    Does that make sense?

    With love


  3. étrangère says:

    Thanks Neil. Sorry I wasn’t clear, because I used the language of ‘plea’ rather than ‘plead’ which you had distinguished (it’s the noun of the verb – can’t make a distinction!) It’s not that I was questioning the second question, but rather, the first answer! (Clear as mud?) In other words, if the second exchange is true, then I cannot plead guilty, even initially, on that day. I’d prefer the whole exchange to be the first Q&A of the Heidelberg catechism 🙂

  4. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Rosemary, thank you. I see what you mean. The justified are declared “not guilty” from the moment of faith union with Christ. The situation above is therefore not true or unhelpfully hypothetical.

    Is there another way the point be made that the law condemns us before the judgement seat of God but that Christ exonerates without conflating the two questions into one event?

    Or, can we use the hypothetical as a preaching tool as an illustration, knowing that illustrations often make one point but, when picked apart, fall apart on others?



  5. étrangère says:

    ‘Tis true, it’s tricky to illustrate. I think faith union is soooo important though that it’s worth trying to get right. Lots of people intellectually or simply emotionally reject substitutionary atonement because of a lack of grasp of faith union with Christ.

    I suppose we could conflate the Q&A: ‘I would be guilty, my Lord, by your law and my life; but that life died a long time ago in Christ and you declared its guilt nailed to the cross in charge against Jesus, and paid for. The life I now live I live by faith in your Son, who loved me and gave himself for me – I plead Jesus Christ, my righteousness!’

    [Which is just another way of saying: I plead your Word – in every sense.]

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