Key Truths of Evangelism

Dr. Brian Allison

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The Purpose of Evangelism:

The Glory of God

And Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal...Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour?' But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy name." Jn. 12:23-25,27, 28a

We need to be concerned about, and interested in, the salvation of souls. The Lord wants us to have a burden for the lost. As Jesus was coming to the end of His life, and the fulfilment of His ministry, a delegation of Greeks came to Him in order to make inquiry, which for Jesus was a sign that His hour of departure from this world had come. So, we read in John 12:23, "And Jesus answered them, saying, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.'" Generally speaking, this glorification refers to the exalted and majestic state into which our Lord was to enter, via the cross. Christ had to suffer the death of crucifixion before entering into His glory, as the illustration in the subsequent verse of John 12 pictures. This illustration has a twofold significance. It relates to our Lord's life and what He was to accomplish, as well as to the life and ministry of His disciples who would follow Him. We read in verse 24, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Through death springs abundant life.

Our Lord had to die because of sin in order for eternal life to be possible for a hell-bound world; and those who receive eternal life through His death must, in turn, personally identify themselves with that death, and thus experience personal death to self, so that further life (i.e., spiritual fruit) may be realized. The road our Saviour had to walk is the same road His disciples must walk. Accordingly, having alluded to His own death, Jesus instructs His disciples, "He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal" (Jn. 12:25). If you are concerned about enjoying the pleasures of this life, if you are concerned about your own personal needs, if you are simply endeavouring to satisfy yourself with what this life has to offer, Jesus says that you will lose your life; but, on the other hand, if you surrender your life to Christ, and sacrifice yourself for the sake of the kingdom, then you will experience the fulness of life in Him, both now and for all eternity.

Hence, as the Son of Man had to give up everything and die so that through His death, life would come to the world; so we too must die to ourselves so that we might not only enjoy life, but that through us, His conduits, life might come to the world. Now, that is a staggering thought – that in our death, there may flow life, not only for us personally, but also for others. Practically, speaking, God is pleased to save sinners through His people. We are to serve God in the spirit of Jesus. Jesus speaks more plainly about this truth in John 12:26, "If anyone serves Me [i.e., does Christ's will and work], let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be [if we give ourselves over to Christ, wanting to serve Him, He will lead us; in our surrender, which will entail following Him, we have this assurance that where Jesus is working, that is where we, His servants, will be]; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him." Not that the Father is obligated to honour us, but this certainly is an incentive, a reward – if we truly serve Christ, which will entail following Him, the Father will exalt us.

God is glorified through the salvation of sinners

Jesus further says, "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour [of death]'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy name [i.e., magnify Yourself]" (12:27,28a). Let's focus for a moment on this fact of the Father being glorified, His name being magnified. Notice the divine response to this prayer of Jesus. We read, "There came therefore a voice out of heaven: I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again" (12:28). Now, the question is this, what is entailed in the Son being glorified (that is, wherein is the Son's glorification to be realized – see Jn. 12:23 above), and how is the Father to glorify His own name again, because the glorification of both go hand in hand? John 13:31ff. reads, "When therefore he [Judas Iscariot] had gone out, Jesus said, 'Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately.'" For the Son to be glorified means that the Father will also be glorified; and for the Father to glorify His name means that the Son will also have His name glorified. But how is the Father to glorify Himself? One of the primary ways by which the Father is pleased to glorify Himself is in the salvation of people. Thus, we further read in John 12, "The multitude therefore, who stood by and heard it, were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, 'An angel has spoken to Him.' Jesus answered and said, 'This voice [from heaven] has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgement is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself'" (vv. 29-32). Through His death and resurrection, Christ has entered His glory and has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He is now the Lord. As the Lord, He is pleased to draw people to Himself from every nation, tribe, and tongue; and His name is exalted in the salvation of these people; and God's name is magnified in that salvation as well, for He is acknowledged and worshipped as the true Creator and Father.

So, the Father and the Son are glorified through the salvation of sinners. John 17:1-5 reads, "These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son [bring Your Son into that pre-incarnational majesty, that preexistent glory], that the Son may glorify Thee [how?], even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life [i.e., salvation]. And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee [may enter into intimate fellowship], the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" How did Christ glorify God while on the earth? Christ glorified the Father during His ministry in the earth mainly through two ways: healing the sick and preaching the Gospel; the emphasis being on preaching the Gospel, and declaring the kingdom of God, and calling sinners to repent and believe.

The primary work of Christ is the salvation of sinners

John 4:34-37 reads, "Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work [But notice what our Lord says here with respect to the work in view]. Do you not say, "There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest"? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest [an allusion to the ripeness of gathering in souls]. Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for eternal life; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, "One sows, and another reaps." I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.'" Again, the work of Christ is the salvation of souls.

Now, the disciples of Christ are to carry on His work of gathering in souls. Again, through death comes life. In John 14:11,12 Jesus says, "Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me [he who is one of My disciples], the works that I do shall he do also [the works concerning the kingdom, primarily the work of sharing the Good News and gathering in souls]; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father." As you read on in this passage, Jesus makes reference to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who is to empower us and give us boldness, and give us effectiveness in our ministry. I suggest to you that the 'greater works' in view here is primarily that which pertains to evangelism, to witnessing. Accordingly, the following verse in this particular passage is key in understanding how we may carry on the work (and even life) of Christ in doing 'greater works'. How may we engage in influential and effective preaching or witnessing, labouring thus to further extend the kingdom? We often look at John 14:13 in isolation from verses 11,12 (as quoted above), but it must be viewed in connection with doing the 'works' of Christ, as well as the 'greater works'. Jesus says in verse 13, "And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son [in the salvation of sinners]." We accomplish the 'greater works', which pertains to the preaching of the Gospel, and which glorifies the Father, through the means of prayer. Practically speaking, in asking in the name of Christ for God's power and help to evangelize, we are assured that we will receive. Through prayer, we should see many souls saved, through which the Father's name will be magnified.

The Father's glory is at stake, and God is concerned about His glory. Jesus prayed, "Father, glorify Your name" (Jn. 12:28a). This language may sound somewhat self-focused, self-interested, self-concerned, but the Father replied, "I have glorified it and I will glorify it again" (Jn. 12:28). Our God delights in the glorification of His name; and thus our God delights in the salvation of sinners. Again, through the salvation of sinners, His name is more extensively honoured and worshipped. In doing evangelism, do you believe these words of Jesus, "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." What I am suggesting is that when we come pleading before God with clean and sincere hearts, in and through His Spirit, for the salvation of sinners, God will answer us. We, as believers, are thus challenged to take up the work of intercessory prayer for the salvation of souls.

Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his book True Evangelism, writes some very helpful and insightful words:

In view of the appalling absence of personal concern on the part of the multitude of unsaved, in spite of much faithful preaching and exhortation, every serious soul-winner will, sooner or later, raise the question, 'What then hinders the Spirit from performing His office of convincing the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement. The answer to this central question in modern evangelism is...the PRAYER OF INTERCESSION...There are but three possible ways in which the believer can fulfil the God-appointed human part in seeking the lost. These are prayer, personal effort or influence, and giving...All evangelism must begin with prayer. And no human service, or device, can take the place of the intercession of a priest who is cleansed, and "acceptable to God," even in the holy place "by Jesus Christ."...It must only be borne in mind that prevailing prayer necessarily accompanies all other ministry; for it commands the power of God, and secures the needed illumination of the mind toward the Word that may be preached. Without prayer there will be little understanding and vision of the Gospel, even though faithfully presented...Thus, in the Scriptures and in experience, it is revealed that God has honored man with an exalted place of cooperation and partnership with Himself in His great projects of human transformation... He is pleased to work through preaching; but His mighty undertakings are conditioned on prayer. Effective preaching is one of the necessary means in answering faithful prayer...It is necessary for man, therefore, in the interests of his own understanding of God and truth, to come directly to God, acknowledging His omnipotence, and, looking to Him as alone sufficient to do the thing for which he may be praying...and this is the secret of all true evangelism...Where believing prayer has been offered with expectation toward God alone, there has always been evidence of the power of God unto salvation, according to His covenant promises...The present failure on the part of Christians to enter the holy place in intercession, according to the appointment of God, is sufficient to account for the lack of Holy Spirit conviction and conversion in the church...Fundamentally then, the personal element in true soul-winning work is more a service of pleading for souls, than a service of pleading with souls. It is talking with God about men, from a clean heart and in the power of the Spirit, rather than talking to men about God. But let no one conclude that such intercessory prayer is not a service demanding time and vitality. If faithfully entered into, this ministry, as has been pointed out, will result in an opportunity to direct Spirit-moved men [and women] to the faithful provisions and promises of God (pp. 82,88-93).

Do you believe what God's Word says? – "You will do greater works than Me, because I go to the Father, and if you ask anything in My name, I will do it." Our greatest desire and joy should be the glory of God. God is glorified in the salvation of sinners who, as the redeemed, will praise and thank Him for His matchless grace. Let us be zealous and bent on glorifying our God.

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The Nature of Evangelism:

Christ Seeking the Lost

And Jesus said to him, "Today [in light of this response to the invitation] salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Lu. 19:9,10

Have you ever been lost? The first recollection that I have of the feeling of being lost was when I was about three years old. My mother had taken me to Washington, D.C., on a trip, and we were staying with some friends. When I was in one room in their house, my mother called me. I did not know how to find her. I walked out into the hallway and into another room. I just could not find her. I felt tremendously anxious.

Now the state of lostness describes the state of unbelievers. Luke 19:1-10 reads:

And He [Jesus] entered and was passing through Jericho. And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; and he was a chief tax-gatherer, and he was rich. And he was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. And he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to Him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house." [A divine appointment; it did not happen by accident]. And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly. And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.' And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much [as the Law requires]." And Jesus said to him, "Today [in light of this response to the invitation] salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Zaccheus was a lost man before Jesus encountered him. Now, the question is this: In what sense was he lost? As we consider how the Gospels use this term, we can say, first of all, that lostness presupposes a prior state of possession or association, rather than simply the state of not being able to find one's way or destination. I was lost when I was three years old; I could not find my mother. It is true that I could not find my way; but we may also understand my lostness in light of the fact that I sustained a particular relationship with my mother, a particular association. I was lost and I had to be found. My mother had to retrieve me, and give me again that sense of security and safety again which I had once experienced. So, Luke 15:3,4 reads, "And He [Jesus] told them this parable, saying, 'What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them [those once in his possession], does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost [which belongs to the fold, and with which it has an association], until he finds it?'" Verse 8 of this same chapter reads, "Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins [they are in her possession] and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?" The term 'find' correlates to the term 'lost'. Again, lostness presupposes a prior state of possession or association. Now, everyone born into this world is somewhat lost; everyone outside of Christ is lost in a general way – that is, they are without God, they are in a spiritual wilderness. But in a particular way, this notion of lostness refers specifically to the sheep.

The lost sheep are to be found

We should keep this truth in mind – that the sheep are the lost ones – when we are engaged in the work of evangelism. We are not simply looking for the lost in general; we are looking for those who belong to the Father, to Jesus Christ; and that can give us a different attitude, and thus a different kind of motivation, as we engage in evangelism. Considering the account of Zaccheus again, notice the logical sequence. In seeing the response of Zaccheus, and thus noting the fruit of salvation, Jesus makes this affirmation, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham" (Lu. 19:9). Zaccheus received salvation because he held a prior status, which Jesus here acknowledged. On account of the fact that he was a son of Abraham (this a special designation), he was destined to receive salvation. Similarly, we read in Romans 9:6ff, "But it is not as though the word of God had failed [not all Israel was responding, not all Israel was coming to know the Lord; how do we explain this?]. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: 'THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.' That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants." The ones who respond to the message and call of salvation are the true children of Abraham, the sons of Abraham – the spiritual seed.

Matthew 10:5,6 is the Gospel version of the above reference in Romans. At a first reading, it might seem that Jesus is discriminating; and that would be a correct observation. Notice how Jesus instructs His disciples who were to go out and prepare His way, and engage in the work of missions and evangelism. We read, "These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, 'Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'" The phrase 'house of Israel' simply means the nation or covenant community. Similarly, we read in Luke 15:24, "But He answered and said, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'" Jesus makes a marked distinction. There are sheep within the nation of Israel. There is a spiritual Israel within physical Israel; that is, there is an elect within the nation. Someone may retort, "But the term 'sheep' refers to anyone who believes." Is that a tenable position? Many people argue that way. But do you notice that it says, "the lost sheep"? You are a sheep before you actually believe. Only the sheep are considered lost; and they need to be found. Thus, only the sheep actually experience salvation.

John 10:25-27 reads, "Jesus answered them, 'I told you [speaking to the Jews], and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep [that is, in order to believe, one must first be a sheep]. My sheep [these ones belong to Christ] hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.'" These Jews could not believe because they were not of the sheep. The term 'sheep' is synonymous with the notion of the elect, those chosen for salvation. The sheep are lost in that they belong to the Father, and they need to be spiritually found by Him with Whom they have sustained a prior and eternal relationship. The Father has known His elect people from all eternity.

The sheep will be found

The parable of the prodigal son clearly teaches this truth of a prior relationship. After the prodigal son returns home, the father rejoices and holds a banquet for him; and we read the father's words, "For this son of mine was dead [notice that he was a son before he 'died'; there was a prior relationship], and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found [found by whom? the father].' And they began to be merry" (Lu. 15:24). Verse 32 of this same chapter reiterates the point, as the father explains the matter to his older irate son, "But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found [has come to realize that for which he was destined]" (Lu. 15:32). And so it is with the elect, we come to realize that for which we were destined.

We actually experience our 'finding' by God at the point of repentance. Thus, we read Christ's words, "And when he has found it [that is, the lost sheep], he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'...I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (vv.5,7). One is found at the point of repentance. The prior relationship is restored. How do we repent? God gives us the grace to repent. God gives us the grace to hear and understand the Gospel, and thus to humbly respond to it. He draws us back to Himself that we might, as it were, enter into that which God originally designed – the joyful experiencing of our sonship. Again, we read in Luke 15:9,10, "And when she has found it [the lost coin], she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!' In the same way [this is a staggering thought], I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." We cannot even begin to fathom the excitement that takes place in heaven over the salvation of a sinner. The angels can rejoice over the true repentance of a sinner, and yet many of us are hardly moved at such good news. I suggest to you that it is not only angels who rejoice over such an event, but also God Himself. He is filled with holy laughter when another son or daughter comes 'home'. We need to think about that. It is the salvation of sinners that moves and warms the heart of God, and causes Him to rejoice; and we can be used of our God (if we are willing) to cause His heart to laugh. That is tremendous! If that does not motivate us to evangelize, I am not sure what will. We ought to engage in the holy work of preaching, witnessing, and evangelizing, because the fruit of this holy work rejoices the heart of God; and through which, as we have said, He is glorified.

Jesus seeks the lost sheep through the found sheep

Consider again the words of Jesus in Luke 19:9,10, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Jesus continues to seek and save the lost. This holy activity is taking place today; and God has given believers the holy privilege of being a part of Jesus' seeking. Jesus is pleased to seek and save the lost sheep through us. Recall, for instance, that Luke opens up his second treatise, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, by affirming that Jesus, after His resurrection, continues to work, and to accomplish the Father's will, through His Church. I am not sure that we really appreciate this awesome and divine privilege. Jesus says in John 10:16, "And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd." Jesus says, in effect, "I have more sheep to bring into the one fold, and I will do that through My people as they go out witnessing, being obedient to the Word; and as they are witnessing, I am seeking, and in seeking, I will find My sheep, and everyone of them will be found."

We can be a part of this holy activity or we can choose not to be a part of it; but in any event, Jesus will find His sheep. It is a great calling, and it is a tremendous responsibility. We do not need to get frustrated and upset when someone does not respond to the Gospel. Why? Jesus' seeking of His sheep will not be thwarted nor frustrated. He says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish" (Jn. 10:27,28). If that family member does not respond, or if that colleague or neighbour does not respond, do not get upset. Weep, but do not get upset, because Jesus will find His sheep. To me that is encouraging and should deliver us from frustration and discouragement when few souls are being saved. Jesus simply calls us to be faithful, and He allows us to be involved in this great task of the Son of Man seeking and saving the lost. Similarly, we read Paul's words to Timothy, "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned [Paul, why do you submit to such suffering? Why have you given up everything to serve Christ, sacrificing everything to preach the Gospel?]. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen [the elect], that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory" (2 Tm. 2:8-10). Paul says, in effect, "I want to be a part of God's saving plan. I want Jesus to use me as a vehicle for His seeking of the lost. Jesus is pleased to seek the elect through us. Praise His holy name for allowing us to cooperate with Him in this glorious task!

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The Accomplishment of Evangelism:

Christ Sends His People

Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." Jn. 20:21

In John 16:5, we read the words of Jesus, "But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are you going?'" Throughout John's Gospel, Jesus emphasizes this matter of having been sent by the Father. The Father commissioned the Son to enter the world, to perform miracles in order to authenticate His message of salvation, and to die a sacrificial death for sinners. Christ came to do the will of God and to perform the works of God. With these things accomplished, Christ was to return to the Father. Now, what Jesus was given to do, He, in turn, gives His disciples to do. So, in John 17:18, He says, "As Thou [Father] didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." That is a reference primarily to the apostles, but also includes all believers (see below). We are the sent ones. With the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, we read in John 20:21, "Jesus therefore said to them again, 'Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.'" Again, that is primarily a word to the apostles, but it also relates to us.

Jesus seeks through His sent ones

Jesus sends His people. He seeks and saves the lost through us; and He is able to do so because He first sends us. His seeking will take place because His sending is realized. Now, do you, believer, think in terms of being sent? Do you have a self-conscious awareness that you are a 'sent one', even as Christ was the 'Sent One'; that when you rub shoulders with that co-worker, or colleague, or that family member, you do so as one who has been called and commissioned? Jesus sends us so that He may seek. John 16:6,7, reads, "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away [and He goes on to tell us why]; for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Paraclete] shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." Jesus was sent; and He sent the Holy Spirit; and He sends us. The Holy Spirit was sent to fulfil a particular ministry, and Jesus goes on to tell us what that particular ministry is. But a critical point to remember is that the sending of the Spirit parallels, and relates to, the sending of the disciples – that is, the ministry of the Spirit will not be fully realized independent of the ministry of the disciples. So, we have the fulfilment of the will of the Father concerning salvation, as well as the realization of the role and work of the Spirit, in so far as Jesus' disciples endeavour to fulfil the will of the Father by complying to Christ's commissioning – that is, in one sense, the Spirit's ministry is coextensive with the disciple's ministry. And Jesus says, in effect, "It is expedient that I go away. You have a mission to fulfil, and it is with the coming of the Spirit that you will fulfil that mission." The mission pertains to the salvation of souls, which is the fruit of Jesus' own seeking. Chafer aptly writes,

Every soul-winner becomes aware, sooner or later, of the fact that the vast company of unsaved people do not realize the seriousness of their lost estate; nor do they become alarmed even when the most direct warning and appeal are given to them. They may be normally intelligent and keen to comprehend any opportunity for personal advancement in material or intellectual things; yet there is over them a spell of indifference and neglect toward the things that would secure for them any right relation to God. All the offers of grace with the present and future blessedness of the redeemed are listened to by these people without a reasonable response. They are, perhaps, sympathetic, warm-hearted and kind; they are full of tenderness toward all human suffering and need: but their sinfulness before God and their imperative need of a Saviour are strangely disregarded. They lie down to sleep without fear and awaken to a life that is free from thought or obligation toward God. The faithful minister soon learns, to his sorrow, that his most careful presentation of truth and earnest appeal produces no effect upon them, and the question naturally arises: "How, then, can these people be reached with the Gospel?"

The answer to that question lies in a right understanding of the cause of their indifference, and in an adjustment of methods in work so that there may be co-operation with the Spirit in following the divine program in soul-winning. True Evangelism, pp. 53,54.

The saving work of the Spirit through the sent ones

Yes, the Spirit has come to comfort; but one of the primary reasons for His coming is the saving of souls for God's glory. Thus, in John 16:8, we read, "And He [the Holy Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment [incidentally, this is the only reference which mentions the Spirit's activity and ministry with respect to the world]." Now, the question is this: In what sense does the Spirit fulfil this particular ministry? How does He carry on this convicting work? I suggest to you that it is through our witnessing, our evangelizing, as we fulfil the mandate to take the Gospel into all the world. It is in that context that the Spirit fulfils His primary ministry of glorifying Christ through His work of convicting sinners. The term 'convict' has the idea of exposing, rebuking, reproving.

In John 16:9, Jesus gives the rationale, or the basis, for this particular kind of convicting activity which is to be performed by the Spirit. First, the Spirit convicts the world concerning sin – "Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me." There is a need to believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ. John 8:23 reads, "And He [Jesus] was saying to them, 'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.'" The cardinal sin of humankind is not to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour of the world; and the Spirit is pleased to convict sinners of this horrendous unbelief. Belief in Jesus is at the heart of the Gospel, and the sine qua non of salvation. Now, the Spirit, through our witnessing ministry, is pleased to awaken sinners to the fact that they are living in unbelief, that they need to put their faith in Christ. Second, the Spirit convicts the world of righteousness – "and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me" (v. 11). What is the connection of the conviction of righteousness and Christ returning to the Father? How is the latter statement a rationale or basis for the former one? Well, we have Christ's own righteousness primarily in view here (that is the only way we can make sense of what follows in this passage). Now, admittedly, the logical structure of the language is not patently clear here because the parallel symmetry of the three statements breaks down. There is, on the one hand, a negative emphasis, the convicting of judgment – the world is to be judged; the convicting of sin – the world is in sin; and on the other hand, a positive emphasis, the convicting of righteousness, but the world does not have righteousness. Rather, the Spirit will convict concerning the need for righteousness on grounds of the righteousness of Christ. Jesus came into the world to fulfil the Law. He became the sin-bearer and He absorbed the wrath of God; and it is on the basis of His perfect obedience, and thus His perfect righteousness, that we may even have righteousness – an imputed righteousness. It is because He was raised from the dead and ascended on high, having accomplished atonement, that justification is possible for sinners – "because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me."

Men and women who are dead in trespasses and sin can now be declared righteous on the grounds of the finished atoning work of Christ and on the basis of His righteousness. In this connection, John 7:18,24 reads, "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the one who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him....Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." The Jews condemned Christ, even accusing Him of sinning; and He retorted, "Who are you who accuses Me of sin?" He is intrinsically righteous. John 15:22 reads, "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin [of course, sin is the opposite of righteousness, lawlessness], but now they have no excuse for their sin [they stand condemned because the righteous One has come]. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well." It is the perfect obedience and impeccable righteousness of Christ which condemn the world; and it is the Spirit Who bears witness to this very fact. So, we read in John 15:26, "When the Helper [the Advocate] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me [My person, My work], and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning." Again, the witnessing of the Spirit coincides with the witnessing of God's people; and it is a witnessing that focuses in on the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is now a way open for sinners unclean, and that is the good news of the Gospel. There is a way that rebellious lawbreakers can be righteous, based on the righteousness of Christ. We have a life-giving, life-transforming message to give to the world; and as we are pleased to share the Gospel, to talk about the righteousness of Christ, it is the Spirit that will lay hold of a sinner's heart, impressing and confirming the fact that people stand in need of His righteousness in order to be acceptable before God.

Third, the Spirit convicts the world of judgement – "and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged" (Jn. 16:11). The Spirit is pleased to convict sinners that final judgement is coming. Why is it coming? Judgement, since the fall of Adam, has always been coming; but God, through an act of grace and mercy, has judged the world in Christ on the cross; and He now offers reconciliation and peace to sinners who will believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Believers are reckoned to have been fully judged in the judgement of God upon Christ on the cross. Either we participate in the judgement that took place on the cross, or we will participate in the judgement that will take place at the end of the age (which is the judgement of eternal damnation). The Spirit convicts sinners of the fact that there is a hell to be shunned and a heaven to be gained; and that they need to repent of their sin before the wrath of God comes. John 12:31,32 records Jesus' words, "Now judgment is upon this world [with His death anticipated]; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."

The apostle Paul witnessed before governor Felix. Notice what took place while Paul was bearing witness to Christ. We do not have any mention here of the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit was nonetheless performing His convicting work. We read, "But some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control [the lack of which is sin] and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, 'Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you'" (Acts 24:24,25). We have here an illustration of the imperceptible work of the Spirit through human witnessing. Have you ever been in a situation in which you shared the Gospel, talking about sin, righteousness, and the judgement to come, and an uneasiness or fear gripped the hearer? A few years ago, I was ministering the Word of God, and one night the Spirit began to convict a young man. He said to me, "You got me into this mess, now get me out of it." He was terrified. It was not me, but in speaking and witnessing of Christ, that was the context for the Spirit to do His great and glorious work for which He was sent; and through that conviction of the Spirit, this person was brought into the kingdom. And, as Chafer, again writes, "No understanding of the illuminating work of the Spirit on the minds of the unsaved would be complete apart from the recognition of the important agency or means used by the Spirit in that work...THE WORD OF GOD...The skill of the evangelist...is manifested in the ability to present the particular body of redemptive truth repeatedly, yet with freshness and variety" (True Evangelism, pp. 70,71). Believer, you are a sent one, with a an eternal message. As the Father sent Christ, so Christ sends us; and as we speak His Word, we give the Spirit [and I do not mean to be sacrilegious here] the opportunity to transform hearts (the Spirit will only convict and save as the Word is being presented). That is a staggering thought that God deigns to use us, in cooperation with Himself, for the salvation of souls. What a glorious calling and privilege!

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The Method of Evangelism:

Speaking the Word

"For 'WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!" Rm. 10:13-15

Evangelism glorifies God. He is exalted, He is magnified, in the salvation of sinners. Jesus Christ is continually seeking sinners. He has come to seek and to save that which was lost. Accordingly, Christ sends His people to go into the highways and byways, as it were, and to compel sinners, through love, to come into the kingdom. So, Christ's seeking is realized through His sent ones. He is finding sinners through us. These truths are foundational for understanding evangelism. But, practically speaking, what is the actual method of evangelism, what is involved in one actually evangelizing? The method is simply this: We are to speak the Good News.

Christ is seeking and, therefore, He sends; and being sent, we are to speak. There are some who would argue that they witness quietly, they witness by Christian example, they try to live as a faithful believer, trusting and hoping that through their lifestyle, one will come to know the Lord; and so they endeavour to win the lost by how they live, rather than by what they say. Accordingly, they turn to a verse like 1 Peter 3:1, "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives." And these ones argue, "You see, we can be silent Christians, and just live the life and be an example; and that way we can win the lost, especially the lost within our spheres of influence." But do you notice that 1 Peter 3:1 teaches that we may employ this strategy of being an example after there has been a refusal to hear the word – "...so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word..." We could thus paraphrase this verse, "Don't continue to nag or badger him with the Good News. If you have spoken the Good News, and there is a cool or hostile reaction, then demonstrate the reality of the faith, and maybe that will soften his heart, and eventually conquer it." Being an example of the truth is not to be seen independent of speaking the truth. There are no Biblical grounds for being a silent Christian, for having a quiet witness.

God has ordained the method of speaking because it is in actually hearing the Good News of the atoning work of Christ that one experiences salvation. So, Romans 10:13-15 succinctly states, "For 'WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.' [As one cries out in his need, 'Lord, save me; Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner,' which is really the expression of belief in his heart, then he or she will be saved.] How then shall they call upon Him [for salvation] in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher [someone to share the message]? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!'" Now, the term translated 'glad tidings' is euangelizomai, and it simply means to speak the Good News.

Speaking the Good News should be a lifestyle

There is only one method that God has ordained by which He is pleased to save, and that is through the foolishness of the thing preached; there must be a communication, particularly speaking. Christ is seeking, but He will not find without us speaking the Good News. I suggest to you that the Scriptures teach that this speaking of the Good News is to be a way of life. It is to be a lifestyle, as opposed to being a part-time endeavour, something we do occasionally, hit-and-miss. We need to take advantage of every opportunity. Of course, we need to be wise in our witnessing; we need to be discerning. For instance, we cannot say to our colleague at work, "So and so, let's sit down here. I know we are supposed to be doing our work, but let's sit down for half an hour and talk about the Gospel." No, if we are paid to work, then we should work. Yet, we are to take advantage of the 'open doors', through the providential leading of the Lord.

In Acts 8, we have the account of Philip preaching in Samaria; and those in Samaria received the Good News and were baptized. Subsequently, John and Peter came down, and through the laying on of their hands, the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. Now, consider Acts 8:25, "And so, when they [Peter and John] had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans." Obviously, speaking the Word was the early Christians' way of life. However, you may react, "Hold it! These were the apostles; they were supposed to do this kind of stuff. The leaders in the Church are supposed to witness, they are supposed to evangelize. It is expected of pastors, elders, or spiritual leaders to evangelize; that really does not have anything to say to me." But consider Acts 8:40, "But Philip found himself at Azotus; and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea." Again, you may react, "Hold it! Philip was a deacon, another kind of spiritual leader, and so what this verse seems to be telling me is this: As with pastors, deacons are to evangelize, and to continue to preach and teach about Jesus, but I do not think that this verse refers to all Christians." But in this same chapter, we read, "Therefore, those [the believers in Jerusalem, and not just pastors and deacons] who had been scattered went about preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). All believers are to preach the Word, all are to evangelize. It should be a way of life for all of us. There are those who still believe that evangelism is just the pastor's role, and maybe the deacon's role. That is not the teaching of the New Testament. It is everybody's role to witness the Gospel within the particular sphere in which God has placed him or her. Within your sphere of influence, you are to evangelize, as God gives you opportunity. Why? Because you have been sent, and through your speaking, Christ is seeking.

Speaking the Good News about Jesus Christ

You may ask the question: What are we to speak, what is the Good News? This should be self-evident, but let me simply state: We are to speak about Jesus. We are not primarily to share how God has blessed us, though that may figure into the conversation. We are not primarily to share what God is doing in our life, nor are we to primarily share how Jesus saved us, though these items may figure into what we have to say. We are primarily to talk about Jesus – Who He is and what He has done. We are not to focus on ourselves. Further, we should not be preoccupied with different points and views of theology, arguing about creationism versus evolutionism; or whether Christ will return before the millennium or after it, or whether there will even be a millennium; or why there are different religions; etc. These may be very interesting topics, but really unnecessary 'at this stage of the game'. These kinds of topics can become 'rabbit trails', and the devil knows that, for he tries to mislead and divert us away from the real issues. We must talk about Jesus. He is the focal point – His person, and His work.

Consider the account in Acts 5. Here we have some insight into what should be the substance, the primary content, of New Testament preaching of the Good News (again, euangelizomai is used). Acts 5:42 reads, "And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ [as the Messiah, as the Saviour]." That was the focus. Similarly, Acts 8:35 reads, "And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him." It is this Jesus who delivers us; He saves us. In speaking the Gospel, we do not focus on tradition, nor on an institution, nor on a denomination. There things do not save us. Only Jesus saves us. Salvation is in a person. Acts 10:34-36 reads, "And opening his mouth, Peter said: 'I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all).'" Again, consider Acts 11:19, 20, "So then those who were scattered because of the persecution [refer back to Acts 8:4] that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus."

The centrality of Jesus' resurrection

Now, in our speaking about Jesus, focusing on His person and work, we are to specifically speak concerning His resurrection. To be sure, we are to talk about His death, for Christ died for our sins; but we must equally emphasis His resurrection, because with His resurrection, we have justification unto life. With Christ's resurrection, we have the confirmation and seal of the merit and sufficiency of His atoning death. With the resurrection, we witness that the demands of God's justice were fully met, and that now salvation may be offered to all. This was the emphasis of the speaking of the Good News in the early Church – the realization of the Lordship of Jesus Christ by His resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is an announcement of the Lordship of Christ; that He Who has perfectly met the demands of the Law and has offered Himself as an acceptable propitiation for sin, and has thus extinguished the wrath of God, is now the resurrected Lord of Glory; and He now offers salvation to all. It is the resurrection that distinguishes the Christian faith from other religions. It is the resurrection that highlights the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus over against all other alleged saviours. All other alleged saviours have died; only this one Saviour, Jesus Christ, has arisen from the dead. That is the amazing thing! Only the Christian faith teaches and believes in a living Saviour, and that is what we should emphasize in speaking the Good News. Again, through the resurrection of Christ, we have justification to life. For instance, on his first missionary journey, Paul ministered in the city of Antioch, and he exclaimed, "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'THOU ART MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE.' And as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: 'I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY and SURE blessings OF DAVID.' Therefore He also says in another Psalm, 'THOU WILT NOT ALLOW THY HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.' For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, [here is the emphasis] that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. Take heed therefore, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you" (Acts 13:32-40). Similarly, when the apostle Paul was preaching before the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in Athens, he focused on the resurrection – "And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him [Paul]. And some were saying, 'What would this idle babbler wish to say?' Others, 'He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,' – because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection" (Acts 17:18).

We are to speak the Good News of Jesus and His resurrection with a view to repentance. People need to be reconciled to God. Acts 14:14,15,21 reads, "But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, 'Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM....And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch." So, we are to preach Jesus, with the goal of bringing people to repentance. We ought to be thinking, "My co-worker ought to repent...my unbelieving brother or sister has to repent...my neighbour must repent...." They will only repent when they are faced with the claims of Jesus Christ; that as the resurrected Saviour and Lord, He demands complete obedience and submission.

Are you speaking the Good News? Is speaking the Good News a way of life for you? Do you wake up thinking, "The Lord has sent me to witness; this day is to be a day of evangelism"? The only reason why we are left on the earth after our spiritual conversion is that we might complete Christ's work. What work? – The work of bringing in the kingdom through the saving of souls. You are not left on the earth to save money, to accumulate your RRSPs and GICs so you can have a comfortable retirement. The only reason why you are left on the earth is to faithfully serve God; and when your service is done, He will take you to your eternal home. Jesus is continually seeking. Therefore, He is sending; and through that sending, we are to be speaking, speaking boldly for Christ and about Him; to the end that our great and awesome God may be glorified.