We are not to be a terminus point for the gospel, but rather a way station in its progress to the ends of the earth. God intends that everyone who has embraced the gospel become a part of the great enterprise of spreading the gospel.
It is not the main part of [the evangelist] to tell men to make their peace with God, but to tell them that God has made peace with the world. At bottom, the Gospel is not good advice, but good news. All the good advice it gives is summed up in this – Receive the good news!
Clarity with the claims of Christ certainly will include the translation of the gospel into words that our hearer understands, but it doesn’t necessarily mean translating it into words that our hearer will like. Too often, advocates of relevant evangelism verge over into being advocates of irrelevant nonevangelism. A gospel that in no way offends the sinner has not been understood.
We do not fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not subsequently converted; we fail only if we do not faithfully tell the gospel at all.
If one sees oneself as being saved without the obligation to be saving, then clearly one needs to grow in salvation. The evidence of salvation – that God’s grace has taken effect in one’s life – is to be found in one’s participation in bringing salvation to others.
Our works don’t replace the verbal preaching of the gospel, but in them we demonstrate, tangibly, the love and grace that we proclaim with our mouths. Effective gospel preaching is explaining with our words what we demonstrate with our lives. In our service, we make visible the invisible Christ.
Therefore, any genuine gospel proclamation must include an invitation to make a conscious decision to forsake one’s sins and come to Christ in faith, asking Christ for forgiveness of sins. If either the need to repent of sins or the need to trust in Christ for forgiveness is neglected, there is not a full and true proclamation of the gospel.
Are deeds “necessary” for raising the dead and freeing the enslaved? From the standpoint of the Spirit’s work, no. From the standpoint of Christianity’s public credibility, generally yes. The Spirit’s work will produce evidence in our deeds. And every good deed becomes one more witness who testifies on behalf of the gospel’s truth and power.
No man is interested in a piece of good news unless he has the consciousness of needing it; no man is interested in an offer of salvation unless he knows that there is something from which he needs to be saved. It is quite useless to ask a man to adopt the Christian view of the gospel unless he first has the Christian view of sin.
You’ve got to get people lost before you can get them saved.
We are not encouraged to forsake our sin by having our senses amused or our preferences coddled. The Gospel is inherently and irreducibly confrontational. It cuts against our perceived righteousness and self-sufficiency, demanding that we forsake cherished sin and trust in someone else to justify us. Entertainment is therefore a problematic medium for communicating the Gospel, because it nearly always obscures the most difficult aspects of it – the cost of repentance, the cross of discipleship, the narrowness of the Way. Some will disagree, arguing that drama can give unbelievers a helpful visual image of the Gospel. But we have already been given such visual images. They are the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper and the transformed lives of our Christian brothers and sisters (Mark Dever and Paul Alexander).
The way we understand the Gospel will inform the way we do evangelism. The way we do evangelism will inform the way our hearers understand the Gospel. The way our hearers understand the Gospel will inform the way they live the Gospel. The way our hearers live the Gospel will have a direct bearing on the corporate witness of our churches in our communities. The corporate witness of our churches will in turn make our evangelism either easier or harder, depending on whether that witness is a help or a hindrance. And difficulty, or lack thereof, in evangelism will come to bear on our church planting efforts, which brings us back to laying foundations (Mark Dever and Paul Alexander).
So what are the essentials of evangelism? We can sum them up in four words: God, man, Christ, and response. God is our holy Creator and righteous Judge. He created us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever (Gen. 2:7, 16-17; 18:25; Matt. 25:31-33). But mankind has rebelled against God by sinning against His holy character and law (Gen. 3:1-7). We’ve all participated in this sinful rebellion, both in Adam as our representative head and in our own individual actions (1 Kings 8:46; Rom. 3:23; 5:12,19; Eph. 2:1-3). As a result, we have alienated ourselves from God and have exposed ourselves to His righteous wrath, which will banish us eternally to hell if we are not forgiven (Eph. 2:12; John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; Matt. 13:50). But God sent Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, to die the death that we deserved for our sins – the righteous for the unrighteous – so that God might both punish our sin in Christ and forgive it in us (John 1:14; Rom. 3:21-26; 5;6-8; Eph. 2:4-6). The only saving response to this Good News is repentance and belief (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 3:7-9; John 20:31). We must repent of our sins (turn from them and to God) and believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of our sins and reconciliation to God (Mark Dever and Paul Alexander).
The Gospel is “Good News,” but we can’t get to the good news until we talk about the bad news because apart from the bad news we will see no need for the good news. Awareness of our sinfulness is the motivation to seek the cure of forgiveness found only in Christ.
Think about it. If love is the dominant mark of our lives as it should be, what does it say about us if we claim to believe the Gospel, but fail to share it with others? In other words, we acknowledge that in Christ we have abundant life and the fullness of joy (Jn. 10:10). We accept the fact that Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14:6). And we believe the wages of sin are an eternal death in hell (Rom. 6:23). Once again, what does it say about us if we claim to believe the Gospel, but fail to share it with others whereby they might experience the same blessings?
I have a friend who was sent to plant a church in a hostile city, in a neighborhood dominated by sexual perversion. While making the rounds, introducing himself to pastors already serving in the city one pastor warned him that so many others had sought to minister to that demographic, but, the pastor reasoned, they just weren’t reachable. My friend, though he had served in the special forces, and could well be Chuck Norris’s younger brother, broke down in tears. He explained to the pastor, “If the gospel has no power to save them, it has no power to save me.”
What then should we say when we are trying to lead someone to Christ? I think a better picture is simply what the New Testament uses as its normative word – πίστις/πιστεύω. The noun form (πίστις) can be translated “faith,” “belief,” or “trust.” The verb can be translated “I believe,” “I have faith,” “I trust.” In some contexts the object of belief is emphasized (namely, Christ); in other contexts, the kind of belief is emphasized (namely, a genuine trust, an embracing). Thus, πίστις has this twofold force of content and conviction. To be saved, one must have the right object of faith (content); and one must truly put his trust entirely in that object (conviction).