Then Jesus said, ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:19-20)
What is a biblical approach for evangelism?
Advent gives us a wonderful opportunity to evangelise. What a story we can tell in the run up to the Christmas story itself! We have Old Testament prophets foretelling that the Messiah will come to save us from sin and thus reveal the power and nature of God’s love for us, His creation.
Then there’s John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, who came to prepare the way with a call of repentance for “the Kingdom of heaven is near”. Then there’s the story of how Mary became pregnant, her visit to Elizabeth, her cousin, the mother of John the Baptist. John’s own conception and birth was a miracle too. In this rich and vibrant story, full of intrigue, wonder and mystery we see God at work in miraculous and wonderful ways. Plenty to get our teeth stuck into for evangelism! A new era was about to break. How do you greet a new era; with joy, or with fear and trepidation? This new era is about God sending His Son Jesus to save the lost.
Numerous theories abound on the best way to evangelise the lost. The best way is to go to the source; Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus laid out the best method of biblical evangelism as He evangelised those He met while on earth.
When Jesus evangelised the lost, He began by challenging people with the statement “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). Repentance of sin is the very first step in biblical evangelism. Those who would come to Christ must first understand that repentance from sin is required. This means explaining three realities:
- the inherently sinful nature of mankind
- the holiness of God
- the existence of heaven and hell
The only means to escape the punishment of sin is faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. While many Christians begin their evangelistic efforts with God’s love, that is really the second half the story. The message of God’s love is lost on unbelievers unless they first come to grips with sin, judgement, and punishment.
There is no doubt that God is a loving God. But He is also a holy and righteous God who hates sin. Therefore, our sin separates us from Him. Because He is holy, God is “a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day” (Psalm 7:11). A crucial element of true biblical evangelism is the understanding of the holiness of God. Isaiah caught a glimpse of God’s holiness in his vision of angelic beings around God’s throne praising God’s holiness (Isaiah 6:3). When we understand just how holy God is, we can begin to understand His hatred of sin and His holy wrath against sinners.
Evangelism is helping the unsaved person to accept the fact that they stand in the direct line of fire of the wrath of a holy and just God. Hebrews 10:31 warns, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” There is nothing anyone can do to appease God’s wrath, nothing of value they can offer to God to mitigate their sin. No amount of good works or good deeds can bridge the gap that separates a holy God from a sinner. Every good work that humanity thinks can be done is as “filthy rags” in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). No amount of good living will make us acceptable in God’s eyes because the standard is holiness which no one can achieve, and without holiness no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14).
This is why the acceptance of the realities of personal sin and the holiness of God is so important. Without that the readiness for the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is lacking. What no one can do is to save themselves, yet the Good News is this: by His death on the cross, Jesus exchanged His righteous, holy nature for our sinful one, making us completely new creations with a new nature that replaces the old sin nature (2 Corinthians 5:17–21). The truth is this: Christ accomplished on the cross something we can never accomplish by ourselves!
And this is where God’s love comes into play. Because of His great love and mercy – not because we deserve or earn it – God provided the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin (Ephesians 2:8–9). Only those whose natures have been changed can escape the wrath of God and experience His love and grace. If we believe these things, we will live eternally with Him in the joy of heaven. If we do not, our eternal destiny is hell.
This is the truth, from the Bible. If we are to truly evangelise people according to the Bible, we have to tell them the whole truth, even if some react badly to it. This is telling the truth in love, and I spoke about speaking the truth in love last week (see Discipleship 2). And some people will react badly! But others will be relieved and grateful. As Paul said, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:15–16). Evangelism involves living out the command to be “living sacrifices” through agape love, a self-sacrificial love that works for the benefit of another over the benefit of self.
Evangelism is a challenge, but we have an amazing story to tell of Jesus, how He was born, and that God sent Him so we can be saved! We are to share how He has changed our own lives, how confession and repentance of sin sets us free to live and love more fully for God, and how this shapes our attitudes about God, His world and our role in it. By the power of the Holy Spirit we can share the truth, and thus show the love of God by calling others to repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.
Time to think
Read Ephesians 2:1-10 and John 1:6-8 & 19-28. With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand consider the following questions. Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.
- Why did John the Baptist and Jesus both call people to repent of their sin? What does “the kingdom of heaven is near” mean?
- People invest time and energy into developing their career, their bodies and relationships, but often neglect the spiritual dimension of their lives. How do you actively pursue spiritual growth?
- How did you establish a personal relationship with God? Perhaps you could write this down using the following outline: Before–What characterised your life before you trusted Christ. During–How you came to trust Christ. After–How you are different now.
Digging Deeper into God’s Word
- What is your concept of God? Do you view Him positively or negatively?
- Do you find that faith and spiritual values play a role in your work, day, marriage, perspective on life? What is the difference between religion and relationship?
Lord of the Harvest, we see that Your harvest field is ripe and ready all over this nation and the world! We long to see Your kingdom come on this earth, so may we allow you to strengthen us to obey Your commission to go into all the world. May we as individuals, as families and as Your Church allow you to show us how you want us to serve You, to respond to Your command in whatever way You call us, so we answer Your call to go. Show us how to pray effectively for the protection, boldness, clarity, health, and fruitfulness in your mission and ministry here in our communities. May we actively seek to align ourselves with Your heart so that our hearts would be obedient to the desires of Your heart, and the whole earth come to a saving knowledge of the truth–the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose powerful name we pray. Amen.