What do People Hear When You Say that the Gospel is a “Free Gift”?

What do People Hear When You Say that the Gospel is a “Free Gift”?

The free offer of the gospel is critical to our faith. We must understand that we are saved through what has been done for us by Jesus and his work and not by our work. But as we try to communicate that with others, we must consider how our message is heard. What we think we are communicating might not be what is being received.

It is very common to describe the gospel as being a free gift. Salvation is something that is done for us rather than what we do. It is a component in my favourite gospel presentations because it resonates with me. The idea of getting a gift I don’t deserve makes sense and helps me understand grace.

Of course, this is not only a modern way of explaining the gospel; the language of receiving a gift from God is all through the Bible. Jesus uses this language when speaking to the Samaritan woman in John 4:10. Peter and John rebuke Simon the sorcerer when he tries to purchase the gift of God with money in Acts 8:20. And, famously, Paul describes justification as a gift in that incredible passage in Romans 3:24.

Yet it has occurred to me lately that when we describe the gospel like this to people, it is possible that they are not understanding it in the way we might intend it. I minister to many people who have grown up in Asian cultures. Gifts are common in these cultures but there are also obligations attached to many of them. You must give a gift to certain relatives on Chinese New Year.

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