Very rarely today is the study or work of evangelism kept within a Biblical perspective. By that I mean that most of the books that I have on the subject talk primarily about two things: Most stress the work of the evangelist. That evangelist must have X number of scriptures memorized in X number of areas. He must carry a marked soul-winner’s New Testament, or else a huge Bible – a dagger or sword. He or she must know and practice certain principles of sanctified salesmanship. He must have memorized dozens of answers to the most common arguments of the unbelievers. He must have spent at least an hour in prayer prior to this particular evangelistic visit. And of utmost importance he must have a breath mint in his mouth and a few more in his pocket. Despite a few half-hearted statements, most of those books leave little room for the work of the Holy Spirit.
Can a person be rescued from a burning building by someone who isn’t a fireman? Can a person be saved who has been pointed to Christ by someone with halitosis? If the only verse of scripture that a person knows is John 3:16, can he be used of the Lord to point some sinner to Christ? Must an evangelist know the theology of I John 4:10 before he can lead someone to Christ? (What???) “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” How might the modern emphasis on the qualifications of the evangelist hinder the work of evangelism? 95% of the books and articles that I have read on evangelism, seem to make the success of the work entirely dependent upon the evangelist.
Another mis-placed evangelical emphasis is on the person being evangelized. I recall dozens of messages in Bible School chapel, in missions conferences and soul-winning conferences stressing the desperate need of the Hottentot and the local lost man. How many souls are there in this world who need Christ? The answer is not a number – the answer is that everyone needs Christ. How many of those lost souls are eternal and eternally lost? How many of them have a need to hear the gospel? How many of them have a right to hear the gospel? But does the Bible reveal the lost nature of the soul without Christ? (Sure it does.)
Let’s say that through the witness of some Christian, the child of an unbeliever repents of his sin and trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Redeemer. Will that new believer ever be glorified? Who should be more glorified, the evangelist or the new believer? Who should be more praised, the evangelist or that new believer? Who actually should be the only One praised and glorified for the salvation of that child?
I admit that in our lesson this morning we will see the line between evangelism and salvation blur somewhat. That’s all right, because evangelism is the business of spreading the good news about salvation. In some ways to talk about one is to talk about the other.
For example, why is it that the emphasis in modern evangelism fails to fall on the only One who deserves the praise involved in salvation? Why is it that not more than 10% of the books and articles written emphasize God’s roll in evangelism? Can God save a soul without the work of an immediate, personal evangelist? Can an evangelist save a soul without the direct involvement of the Lord?
Who is the author and originator of salvation? Who is the author and originator of evangelism? What is evangelism? (Telling others about salvation.)
God the Father is the Author of Evangelism.
It is probably arguable, but one of the favorite scriptures of the evangelist is John 3:16. This is without a doubt a rich treasure chest of information about salvation. What does it say about God the Father’s relationship to the work of salvation? There is nothing particularly special about the Greek word “didomi” – it means “to give.” Describe what usually takes place when something is given- really given. The next verse says, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
Is this relationship between God the Father, or the God-Head, and salvation a common Biblical theme? What about God the Father and His relationship to evangelism? (All depends on your point of view.) I John 4 – “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Galatians 4 – “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Romans 8 – “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Matthew 10 – “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” Luke 4 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,” and to give my life a ransom for many. Luke 9 – “Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.” Luke 10 – “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.”
The book of John is full of references to the sending of Christ to do the work of the Father in saving us. John 4 – “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” John 5 – “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” John 6 – “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 8 – “And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” In the Lord’s prayer in John 17 He talks about that commission which He received of the Father.
Since Christ Jesus was sent by God to save us, might we say that God is Author of salvation? If God is the author of salvation, do we have any right to say that He is also the Author of the gospel? If He is the author of the salvation and the gospel, might we say that He is the Author of evangelism?
We can also say that God the Son is the author and source of evangelism, too.
Turn to Philippians 2:5-11: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” When verse 8 says that Christ became “obedient” unto death, what does that word mean? Despite that obedience, was He coerced, blackmailed, threatened or in some other way forced into giving his life for our salvation? “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it written of me) to do thy will, O God” – Hebrews 10:7. Christ Jesus willingly, voluntarily became the source and substance of salvation. Not only that, He is the source and substance of our evangelism.
Where do we find the so-called “Great Commission”? (Matthew 28:18-20.) “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.” What did Christ mean when said that “all power” had been given to Him? Does this commission include evangelism? Judging from this scripture alone, who would we say authorized Biblical evangelism?
When Paul said, “We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20) what did He mean? Not only is the Lord Jesus the quintessential evangelist, it was Christ who ordered and ordained any and all subsequent evangelists. Evangelism is the work of the Lord’s churches, because He has so ordained it.
But God the Holy Spirit is also the source of Biblical evangelism, in a little different way.
On the Day of Pentecost, when Peter and others arose to preach the gospel, by whose power did they do it? In talking about the work of God in the world, Zechariah 4:6 says, “Not my might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” When Paul and Barnabas were chosen to go out as missionaries, Who chose them? When Lydia of Philippi heard the gospel, Who was it Who opened her heart to receive it?
Despite what the bulk of the evangelism text books tell us, the work of evangelism is the work of the Spirit. He calls the evangelist; He equips the evangelist; He prepares the sinner’s heart. And He takes the evangelist’s witness into that heart, accomplishing His foreordained purpose.