In Chronology

Written by Stephen Cox


During the week, I had the pleasure of joining the Newcastle Mission team as they visited Glenfield Park for an evangelism effort. Our outreach was a little old-fashioned: we knocked on doors and talked to people, hoping the Lord would draw some to himself through the gospel.


Evangelism door-to-door has many challenges in the modern context. Rejections of the gospel run the gamut from angry to flaky. One gentleman remarked that he was reluctant to come to Church because of the way Pastors ignored the people while they puffed on cigars and sipped whiskey from the comfort of their lounge rooms. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what my role was at church. Still, I am thankful that God’s gospel can subdue our rebellious hearts, whether seething or silly. 


It’s great to have a good outline to help us recall the gospel when we are talking with others. Indeed, many thoughtful, careful, and biblical outlines have been used effectively—Two Ways to Live immediately comes to mind, and I know there are others.


Recently, I have discovered an excellent and pithy approach to the gospel, one that is fully biblical and establishes both man’s universal dilemma and God’s antidote in Christ: Charles Spurgeon’s “Three R’s”: Ruin, Redemption, and Regeneration. Charles Spurgeon was a highly influential Christian preacher in the 1800‘s. I like Spurgeon’s outline for several reasons: it is simple, the alliteration makes it easy to remember and the biblical texts all surround the number three (another aid to memory for the throes of nerve-busting, face-to-face evangelism).


Also, the three R’s cover three things a gospel presentation needs to establish: the problem, the solution, and the response. 




(Gen. 3:14-15). This is what man has done. “How did man get in this miserable condition?” Spurgeon asks. In our post-postmodern culture, we must begin with Creation and the Fall. Biblical illiteracy appears to be spreading, so many have never considered that there is something desperately wrong in our world. Beginning here establishes the problem into which God has launched his rescue mission: man has rebelled against his Maker, broken His law, and now lives under a curse that will one day incur the white-hot, unmediated wrath of God. But in the second half of verse 15, we hear the faint promise of God’s solution, one that will grow louder as history advances and as the redemption story of the Bible unfolds. The seed of the woman will crush the head of the seed of the serpent. The serpent will bruise the heel of the woman’s offspring, but this promised one will deal the death blow to the snake, killing him as one must a serpent: a smashed head. As Spurgeon pointed out, this background leads quite naturally to the good news of God’s rescue mission.




(Rom. 3:21-26). This is what God has done. This is the good news that trumps the bad news. In the scope of five verses, Paul articulates what some commentators have called the thesis of Romans or the magna carta of salvation. In these glorious verses, Paul establishes the demands of God’s law, the futility of salvation by works, the law’s definition of sin, the righteousness of God received by faith in Christ, justification by faith through the redemption of Jesus Christ, and his satisfaction of God’s wrath against sin. This paragraph contains the entire matrix of the work of Christ that he accomplished on the cross, work that provided full pardon from the guilt of sin for every sinner who believes. It is perhaps the most glorious paragraph in human history.




(John 3:1-8). This is what God must do in sinners to enable them to believe. God changes the sinful human heart, sets it free from bondage to sin, and enables it to believe that Jesus is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. Regeneration, like the entire work of salvation, is a unilateral work of grace. The reality of regeneration urges us to call sinners to repentance and faith while resting in the work of God who alone opens blind eyes and unstops deaf ears. It removes the pressure from us and frees us to boldly share the gospel while knowing that the results are in the hands of a sovereign, gracious God. Thus, I hold out hope for the person with the Jewish background and all others with whom I have engaged over the years.


You may not be out door knocking this December but I’m sure you’ll have lots of opportunities over this joyous season to share your faith with others. I trust this might help you as you seek to share the good news of Jesus’ birth.


Stephen Cox 


(with Charles Spurgeon)

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