The Necessity of Evangelism
To be biblical is to be evangelistic because the gospel is the central message of the Bible. From beginning to end, it points to the Savior who was to come, has come, and will come again. The only way to be acceptable to the Father is through faith in Him. Since people cannot believe in Him unless they know about Him, someone must tell them (Rom. 10:14). That requires evangelism. That is why the apostle Paul, evangelist and missionary par excellence, insisted that, if he did nothing else, he would preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:2). John Calvin said, “We must, as much as lies within us, endeavor to draw all men on earth to God” (Commentary on Deut. 33:18, 19), adding that nothing could be more inconsistent with the nature of our faith then to withhold the truth about God from others (Isaiah 2:3).
God wants all people everywhere to hear the gospel. There is and always has been a definite multi-national dimension to His plan for redemption. When He made His covenant with Abraham, promising to make his descendants a great nation, God also promised to bless all the families of the earth through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). Israel was God’s select nation, but Israel was also used by God to attract others to Himself, such as Ruth the Moabite, Naaman the Syrian, and the people of Nineveh. In time God promised to send the Messiah as a light for the nations living in darkness (Isaiah 60:1-3). The Messiah would become the perfect sacrifice for human sin, bringing cleansing to the nations so that the salvation of God would be carried to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 53:10, 15). The temple itself was a house of prayer and worship for all the nations (Mark 11:17, 18).
The Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations has roots in the Abrahamic covenant. At Pentecost the multi-national thrust of the gospel appeared as the Holy Spirit made the believers witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and the far parts of the world (Acts 1:8; 2:5-15, 17, 21). All nations will be represented in heaven (Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 21:22-26). Therefore, Christians have an enduring obligation to communicate the gospel to everyone everywhere in the world. That requires missions.
The Responsibility of Every Believer
Clergy and Christian leaders are not the exclusive agents of evangelism, rather every Christian, as opportunity arises in the ebb and flow of daily life, is to be a witness to Christ, confessing Him in word and deed. Evangelism inevitably accompanies the presence of the Holy Spirit because He is the Spirit of truth and witness to Jesus (John 15:26, 27). The Book of Acts describes ordinary believers actively evangelizing as a natural result of their conversions and circumstances (Acts 8:1-4; 11:9, 20).
Moreover, the transformed life of the believer is, in and of itself, insufficient to bring anyone to an understanding of the gospel. It may testify magnetically to the grace of God, but it is incomplete if not expressed in words. It is necessary to live the Christian life so that others can see the difference it makes, but that does not satisfy the responsibility to evangelize. Just as general revelation is inadequate to reveal Christ to unbelievers, requiring God’s special revelation in the Bible to explain who He is and why He came, so Christian behavior must be augmented by an explanation of the gospel.
What Is the Evangelistic Gospel?
The mission of Christ the Savior makes no sense apart from the problem of sin He came to deal with, and sin makes no sense apart from a realization of the majesty and holiness of the Creator to whom we are accountable. God wants everyone to be holy and perfect (1 Pet. 1:16; Matt. 5:48). Failure to conform to God’s will means a person is unacceptable to Him. And no one conforms: “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8, 10). The consequences of sin are death and judgment (Genesis 3:3; Romans 6:23). No amount of effort and no plan of improvement can restore innocence before God.
Since human beings are unable to save themselves, how will anyone be saved? God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to live the perfect, sinless life necessary to please Him. Jesus was without sin. As a human being, He could identify with us and become our substitute. Christ died on the cross to suffer God’s punishment against sin. He was a substitute for those who believe in Him (Romans 5:12-21; 2 Cor. 5:21). Having accomplished His mission, He conquered sin and death in His resurrection and ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He now rules with all authority and power.
God requires everyone to respond to the gospel with an acknowledgment of sin and its consequences, accompanied by genuine repentance, the sincere desire to turn away from sin. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9). When anyone trusts in Christ as Savior, God forgives and accepts that person as covered completely with the righteousness of Christ. The believer becomes a child of God and is assured of everlasting life with Him (John 3:16).
The Sovereignty of God and Evangelism
As the Lord’s people obey His command to take the gospel into all the world, they do so with the confidence that their efforts will be fruitful and that His word will not return empty (Isaiah 55:11). The success of evangelism does not depend on human effort alone, but on the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. In witnessing, Christians are humbly and prayerfully dependent upon God’s superintendence and help. A Christian must be patient, waiting on God’s timing, realizing that the most important thing is to be faithful and diligent in carrying out God’s commands. When someone is converted and confesses Christ, Christians will rejoice in the Lord and give Him the glory (I Cor. 1: 31; 2:5).