Taken out of context and simply quoted to nonbelievers often doesn't produce the results we hope for because these are summaries and reminders. (Of course this is not to say we shouldn't share these verses with nonbelievers. We should and we should seek to provide the big picture and context.)
Allow me to use the movie, "The Empire Strikes Back" as an illustration. Imagine you've never seen the movie or the one that came before it. All you have is a 2 minute clip from the film. You see a young man walk into a strange industrial area. Suddenly a large, black, robotic looking warrior in a cape enters the scene. They fire up their light sabers and engage in battle. The young man eventually gets his hand hacked off and his weapon plummets far below. He's defeated yet still manages to crawl out onto a catwalk far above an endless pit. The darker character says something about the two of them ruling the galaxy together and something else about the power of the dark side. (Whatever that is?)
Then the dark character speaks with a deep voice and says, "Obi Wan never told you what happened to your father."
The younger man says, "He told me enough. He told me you killed him!"
Then the other character says, "No, I am your father!"
If we had see the entire movie, we'd gasp in shock and horror. Having seen the the previous movie as well as this one up to this point, we can easily understand this absolute plot-twisting shocker. If you've seen this movie, emotions and thoughts may already be welling up from this single summary clip. (I mean really, what voice did you use when you read that last line?) Cultural references have been made from this scene for years, to include a scene where the character, "Tommy Boy" is speaking the words "Luke, I am your father" into an oscillating fan, just as many of us have likely done in our own lives. But without understanding the movie, the clip is not as valuable. So it is the case with the summary gospel verses of the Bible.
Those who don't know the Bible should ask many questions about these verses. Who is this Jesus? Who is the 'he' being referred here? Why is this sin so series that we need rescued from it? What is so significant about the death of this one man? What is so amazing about the grace being referenced in this verse? Salvation from what? What do I do with this summary verse? These are important questions, which is why believers should strive to understand these verses in their proper context, know the bigger story, and strive to explain these verses in greater detail to those who don't know the Bible.
But the gospel is for Christians. We should be reminded of it often. We should be spurred on by it, driven and motived by the gospel. So the summary verses serve a great purpose. They remind us of the bigger picture. In one or two lines, these highly loaded statements fuel us. They are very significant.
Listed below are a sample of the many summary verses that remind us of the Good News of Jesus Christ. (They are quoted in the ESV.)
Isaiah 53:5 - But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Mark 10:45 - For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Jared Jenkins and I discuss John 3:16 on Salty Believer Unscripted. Listen here.)
Acts 10:43 - To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Acts 13:38-39 - Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Romans 4:24-5:1 It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:7-8 - For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 Corinthians 15:3-6 - For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 - All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:21 - For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Titus 2:11-14 - For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Hebrews 9:27-28 - And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
1 Peter 2:24 - He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
1 Peter 3:18 - For Christ also suffered nonce for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
1 John 4:10 - In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
*Photo by flickr.com user, Ihar, is registered under a creative commons license.