In my previous two articles, I laid the foundation that Christians need be built up in study of the word, in prayer and in worship in preparation for sharing the gospel. These are essential to Christian wisdom and growth; it also equips us through God’s power, rather than our own feeble efforts. I also discussed unbiblical methods of evangelism and why Christians should not use them. Today, I want to share the biblical method of evangelism and why a Christian should be sharing the gospel in this manner.
First, let us understand what the gospel actually is. In 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul writes, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” In Romans 5:8, he writes, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And in John 3:16, Christ Himself states, “For God so loved the word, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That is the gospel, that Jesus Christ, the eternally begotten Son of God, who took on human flesh, came to die for sinners, so that, through repentance and faith, they could be granted eternal life! That is the message that we as Christians want to share with a lost and unregenerate world, that their sins can be forgiven if they would but repent and trust in Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice for their sins. But before a sinner can repent, they must understand that they ARE a sinner!
Law to the Proud
Most gospel presentations today are devoid of any actual effort to tell the sinner they are in fact a sinner. Those who propose such unbiblical methods argue that doing so is judgmental or legalistic. However, the apostle Paul did not agree with that. He stated, “…Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin…” (Romans 7: 7). It is by the very law of God that mankind is made aware of his sin. In fact, Romans 3:19 states, “Now we know that whatever the laws says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” So the first thing that a Christian needs to address with the unregenerate sinner is the fact that he or she is guilty of breaking God’s law.
Before we start running out into the world and making wild accusations of everyone we meet, please understand, I am not advocating Westboro Baptist style, “God hates you,” hellfire preaching. In no way should any Christian slam down the ten commandments and start telling people just how wicked they are. Any presentation of the law and gospel message must be tempered with mercy, compassion and grace. It must be with the remembrance that we once were in the same position as the person we are speaking to. Never should it be filled with hate and vitriol, never should it be with the appearance that we see ourselves as better than someone else. Always in love and compassion should the law be given.
The law is essential to break up the stony ground of the unregenerate heart. The best way to illustrate this is by asking the average person if they thought they were a good person. The vast majority will tell you that they believe they are good. They pay their taxes, occasionally help the neighbor, they take care of their kids, they don’t sell drugs and certainly never murdered anyone. So, in their eyes, they are really good people. The problem is that they are comparing themselves to others in the world. They comparison they must make is against the holy righteousness of God. Against His perfect standard none are “good” (see Romans 3:10-20)
Often times, a good way to expose this is to simply illustrate their sins through the use of the Ten Commandments. While there a great many more laws written in the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments are most familiar to people and speak directly to the conscience, the law God has already written on their heart. By leading a person through the commandments, by asking simple questions such as “How many lies have you told? How many things have you taken that did not belong to you? How often did you disobey your parents? Have you ever used God’s name in a low or filthy way? Has God always been the most important thing in your life?’ we can lead a person into the understanding that, in the eyes of God, they are not a good person, but a sinner.
Often times, the sinner will still attempt to justify themselves by stating their good deeds outweigh their bad, but we need to remind them that God is a good judge who will by no means ignore their guilt. As God is perfect, holy and righteous, to be able to earn His favor and enter Heaven, we must be likewise. In fact Christ said, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:20). And, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48).
Other times, the person may appeal to God’s mercy and say that if they just ask for forgiveness and He will let them in because He is good. We must help them to see that if God is indeed good, He cannot let the guilty go free. Imagine a judge in a courtroom allowing a murderer to walk away, even though he confessed to his terrible crime, simply because he said, “I’m sorry.” That would be an unjust and capricious application of the law. And if we can see that in this sin filled world, how much more can we expect a perfectly holy God to uphold His laws? The law of God must be upheld, judgment of the guilty must happen or God is not good at all.
When the sinner understands that they are guilty in the courtroom of God, that their “good deeds” cannot wipeout their guilt (and are actually filthy rags in the sight of God, see Isaiah 64:6) and that they will be justly sentenced to condemnation for eternity, it is then that we can truly proclaim the goods news to them!
Grace to the Humble
When the lost sinner sees him or herself as justly condemned before a holy, righteous and perfect Judge, it is truly a humbling experience. Yet, there are many who will still proclaim their self righteousness, or will deny the right of God to judge them. For those who arrogantly stand in opposition to the law, I do not encourage the proclamation of God’s grace. I say this because “…the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith,” (Galatians 3:24). If one does not see they are justly condemned through their violations of the law, then they cannot receive the grace of Christ by faith. For those, I would say it is better to allow them to consider the law alone until such a time as they are humbled and understand their need for a savior.
But for those who are known humbled and broken, we can proclaim the good news! We can explain to them that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, who took on human flesh, lived a life of perfection in every thought word and deed. This is extremely important. If Christ is not God eternally, then He is only a man or a created being. If He is a created being, then His life and death are only applicable to Himself and has no bearing in our lives. Yet as God, as the Creator of the entire universe, every aspect of who He is has bearing on every aspect of our lives. And Christ as God eternally, took on human flesh! He now has two natures, divine and human. Not only is He our Creator and Lord, but He is the perfect Man, our perfect representative before God. Remember that our first representative, Adam, fell in the garden and all mankind fell under the power of sin. Yet, our second representative, the last Adam, lived a life of perfection in every aspect of the law! Never once did He sin!
Christ’s perfect obedience to the law is essential to understanding the gospel. You and I are justly deserving of judgment because of our sin, yet Christ, in His perfection was undeserving of any judgment whatsoever. But Christ willingly presented Himself as a sacrifice. He willingly allowed Himself to be arrested, put under an illegal trial, was falsely charged despite no two witnesses being present who could agree, and was brought before Pilate for execution. Despite all this, Christ made no defense of Himself, much to the Roman governor’s surprise. And He allowed Himself to be beaten, mocked and crucified (the most horrible form of execution ever devised). He was guiltless yet He willingly died. Why? Because “…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23) and “…without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins,” (Hebrews 9:22). In other words, every sinner is condemned to an eternal death and torment. Yet, through the shedding of the blood of the perfect sacrifice, through the blood of the Son of God, mankind can receive forgiveness. Because Christ took on the debt that we all deserve, because He paid the fine we cannot pay. He is guiltless, we are guilty. We deserve judgment, He did not. Yet, He willingly took our place on the cross and shed His blood so that the judgment of God could be satisfied. The law could be fulfilled and the debt paid, the guilty made guiltless before God.
But that is not the only thing we need to share! See, three days later, Christ rose Himself from the grave! He defeated death and provided a way of eternal life. Now, not only can the guilty have the slate wiped clean, they can be granted eternal life, not based on their merits, but on the perfect and righteous merits of Jesus Christ. Sins can be forgiven and life eternal can be granted!
However, before the sinner can have access to this, they must acknowledge their sinfulness before God and must turn from it. In other words, they must repent! See, it is not enough for the sinner to just merely assent he or she has sinned and Christ died for that. Imagine a man who has committed adultery but wants his wife to forgive him. Would she simply receive him back if he merely said, “yep, it was wrong,” with no indication that he had changed his ways? Of course not. And anyone who makes a mere assent without a life indicating they have turned from sin has not truly repented. This is not to say that salvation will only come after a lifetime of repentance, but that one who truly repents will evidence that by an ongoing life of repentance.
The sinner must also fully trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ at the cross alone for their salvation. Imagine being in Court and sentenced to a billion dollar fine. Someone pays that fine for you, yet you attempt to come in each week and pay back a measly nickel to add your works to it. You would not esteem the sacrifice of the one who paid your fine, you would be trusting in your own pitiful works to justify yourself. Thus the sinner cannot justify themselves by their works, but must trust in Christ alone. They must surrender the entirety of their lives into the hands of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Through repentance and faith alone can a sinner be saved.
A truly biblical presentation of the gospel is one that uses the law to break up the stony heart and exposes the wretched sinfulness of the hearer. It brings them to the courtroom of God where they will see themselves rightly condemned. It then transitions to the glorious grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who died to pay the debt that they owe. It presents the sinner with the fact that if they would but repent and trust in the Savior, they can be saved.
I encourage every person who has read these articles to understand the great command they have been given by our Lord. We have been given the duty to share the greatest possible news in the world, the Christ came to save sinners! No other task is greater than this. No other duty has greater honor than to serve our Lord and Savior on the front lines of a spiritual battle. But remember this, we are only the tools in His hands. Victory is Christ’s alone. While we must fully prepare ourselves, while we must rightly present the truth, salvation is by Him alone. Thus present the gospel and do so fervently and urgently. Yet trust in His power alone to save the lost.