Much of what we see in the name of evangelism today is far from the biblical model. Some call what we see “easy believism” some call it “one two three, repeat after me” and some call it by other names. I call it “sloppy soul-winning.”
A good place to start our study of biblical evangelism is with the Great Commission. It says, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
The Commission starts with a reminder that the power behind biblical evangelism is the Lord Jesus Christ, not us. It ends reminding us that He is with us, with all of the power in heaven and in earth, right up until the end of the world. Saving souls is His work, not ours. We are but tools in His hands to preach the good news (evangelize).
It is also important to remember that the Commission has three parts: 1) teaching the lost world, 2) baptizing those who get saved, and 3) teaching the saved to obey all that He has commanded us.
I want to focus on the first part but before I do I would like to say a word about the third part. I have heard many preachers say this means to teach them to win souls, baptize them, and to teach others to win souls, baptize them and teach them to win souls etc. That is not what it says. It says to teach them to observe “ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.” That includes a lot more than soul-winning, baptizing, and teaching them to be soul-winners. It includes teaching them to live holy lives, proper respect for those in authority, proper work relationships, how to have a good family, how to raise children, etc. If you read your New Testament with an open and honest mind you will see that it spends more time teaching us how to grow good Christians than it does on soul-winning.
I took the time to say this because Christ-likeness is an important part of soul-winning. If the lost world can’t see the power of God to change those who profess to be Christians, why should they want what we have?
The first part of the Commission is to teach all nations. Although it may be implied it the Commission, it doesn’t say win all nations, it says teach them. While winning them is the ultimate goal, biblical evangelism must start by teaching who God is, man’s guilt before God, and God’s coming judgment upon sinners. Until these things are understood there will be no conviction of sin and no real repentance.
Acts 17:16-34 give us a good look at the Great Commission in action. Paul was in Athens, a city given over to idolatry. What he saw broke his heart (stirred his spirit). Biblical evangelism starts with a heart that is broken over sin in the world. Much modern evangelism starts with a desire to see how many souls can be won. The difference is Paul was concerned about the lost and the modern soul-winner is concerned about the number of notches on his gun.
Paul started his message to the men of Athens with an introduction to the God of the universe. They called Him the Unknown God. No one can come for salvation to a God they don’t know. If they don’t know God they won’t understand their guilt and responsibility to Him.
Most soul-winners today introduce God as a God of love. He is a God of love but they forget to introduce Him as a God of judgment and wrath against sin. Paul presented God as the Creator to whom we are all responsible. He presented Him as the Judge of the universe to whom all will give account. He presented Him as the Judge who will judge in righteousness.
Paul talked to them about their idolatry in making gods of gold and silver. He told them of their need to repent and turn to the true God for mercy.
Although we are saved by grace, through faith, without works (Ephesians 2:8-9), there is something else that is needed to bring us to Christ. We find it mentioned twice in the Psalms:
Psalms 34:18 “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”
Psalms 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
The heart is broken when one sees God as He is and ourselves as we are. Just look at what effect seeing God as He is had on a man of God in Isaiah Chapter six. On the day of Pentecost 3,000 souls were save, not because they saw God’s love, but because they saw their guilt before a holy God and were “pricked in their hearts.”
Most soul-winning today goes something like this: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. All you have to do is admit that you are a sinner, believe in Christ, and pray the sinner’s prayer, and you will be saved.”
That is not what Paul preached. That is not what Peter preached. That is not what our Lord preached. They preached to bring conviction of sin (not just admitting being a sinner) and a repentant and broken heart because of their sin.
The love of God can only really be seen against a background of our sinful condition and God’s holiness. When we see how great our sin is, how much we have offended God, and how much we deserve His judgment, then we can see how great His love is. When we understand how great our sin is we start to understand God’s great sacrifice in sending His Son to pay our sin debt. Without this background God’s love cannot be understood.
When we start with God’s love it causes people to think that God will just capriciously forgive just because we asked Him to. They will never see the seriousness of their sin. There will be no reason to live a holy life because God forgives so easily.
II Corinthians 5:17 tells us that a saved person is a changed person. It says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
I have heard this preached to get professing Christians to change their lives. That is not what the verse says. It say that any man who is in Christ IS a new creature. It does not say he is to be working on becoming a new creature. It says old things ARE passed away. It says all things ARE become new.
In light of this, and other passages, I ask, what are we doing wrong? We are getting supposed converts who have to be constantly urged to live as they should. We see many churches lowering standards to keep unchanged members in their churches.
Many Christians see God as a buddy instead of a holy God. There was a time when, out of respect for the house of God, people dressed the best they could when they went to church. Today many dress like they were going out with friends to play a game of softball. They excuse this by saying that it is not the outside that counts, it is what is inside. It seems to me that if there is real respect for God on the inside it should show on the outside.
The bottom line is that biblical evangelism will result it changed people. The sloppy evangelism we see today has resulted in many lost but religious people in our churches and a few saved people who have no real respect for God or His precepts. Something needs to change.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved