Recently, Timmy Brister
(of the Together for the Gospel: Band of Bloggers fame)
published a post on the new Strange BaptistFire
blog addressing the claim that "Calvinists" [those who emphasize a biblical view of the sovereignty of God in salvation] "are not passionate about evangelism."
This post was especially interesting to me as I attend a Church congregation where the leadership is firmly committed to a Calvinist [or "Reformed"] view of soteriology. ["Soteriology" indicates a belief system about how people are saved from the wrath of God that they have earned due to their sins (Romans 1:18; 6:23a) and are made acceptable in the sight of God.]
Calvinist soteriology is based upon the Bible truths that since the Fall of Man into sin as recorded in Genesis 3, natural Man is dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1), alienated and hostile toward God (Colossians 1:21), utterly unrighteous (Romans 3:10ff), and unable to come to God (John 6:44, 65). Due to the truths related in the last sentence [known together by such nicknames as "Total depravity" or "Radical corruption"], the only way that we may be saved from sin- and thus saved from God's wrath against sin- is if the Holy Spirit does a supernatural work on our hearts, making us spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:5), delivering us from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13), granting us righteousness through faith- which faith is also a gift from God (Romans 3:21-22; Ephesians 2:8-9), and drawing us irresistibly to Jesus (John 6:44, 65). The Holy Spirit does this work in our lives based on the fact that Jesus Christ has, by His death on the Cross, already paid the penalty of God's wrath against our sin [please see my previous posts on the subject of "Limited Atonement
", as well as Hebrews 9:11-10:18
and Hebrews 10:14
]. Once saved, we are "kept by the Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 1) so that having come to Jesus, it is certain that He will "raise [us] up at the last day" (John 6:44), and that once God begins a good work in us, we can be confident that He will "perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6) [please see my previous posts on the subject of "The Preservation of the Saints
"]. Taken together, these truths [along with the doctrine of "Unconditional election", which I did not go into] teach us that salvation is, as the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said, "all of grace
Now, many people charge that a consistent proclamation of the truths above will give people an excuse not to witness. They say that if we insist that salvation is God's work from start to finish, that people will use this as an excuse to slack off in their zeal to spread the Gospel. They claim that most Calvinists are not evangelistic. And they're right. The truth is (as my friend Luke Stamps recently quoted a seminary professor of his as saying), most Calvinists don't evangelize- but it is also true that most Arminians [those who deny Calvinist soteriology] don't evangelize. In fact, most Christians
don't evangelize. And why is it that most Christians fail in their duty to proclaim the Good News of who Jesus is and what He has done? It is important, first, to identify a lack of evangelism as sin
so that we understand that this is something for which we must repent
. This sin can be rooted in a weak faith, which leads us to anxiety rather than thankful dependence upon God (Philippians 4:6). We may also sin by not being diligent in having our minds renewed so that we are transformed into what God would have us to be (Romans 12:2). Often for Calvinists, the problem is that we have become convinced that the evangelistic methods we previously learned were bogus, but we have not been diligent in finding out what true, biblical evangelism should look like. And so, finally, I come to the main subject of this post.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of leading the Thursday night Bible study for my congregation, Grace Heritage Church
. Usually on Thursday nights we studied through a book of the Bible, but I took the opportunity- since I'm not the usual teacher- to lead the class in a discussion on biblical evangelism. My primary resource for an overview of what the Bible has to say about evangelism was the book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
(see Tim Challies' review
of this book), by J.I. Packer (who, as far as I know, is no relation to Alferd Packer
, written about earlier on this blog). While ESG is not necessarily perfect (see John Piper's argument
against Packer's use of the word "antinomy" in describing the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the reponsibility of Man) this book is, in my opinion, one of the greatest works on the subject of evangelism ever written.
What follows below is an outline of what I taught from the chapter in ESG titled "Evangelism":
Evangelism (Adapted from “Evangelism” in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer- a discussion on the meaning, message, motive, and methods of biblical evangelism.)
- Evangelism is proclaiming the Gospel: The Good News of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Evangelism is declaring a specific message with a specific application.
- Evangelism defined through the ministry of the Apostle Paul:
- Paul evangelized as the commissioned representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- In evangelism, we act as Christ’s stewards.
- Scripture proofs: I Cor. 4:1-2; I Cor. 9:17
- Our position of stewardship highlights our accountability to evangelize.
- In evangelism, we act as Christ’s heralds.
- Scripture proofs: II Tim. 1:11; I Tim. 2:7
- Our position as Christ’s heralds highlights the authenticity of the evangelistic message.
- In evangelism, we act as Christ’s ambassadors.
- Scripture proofs: Eph. 6:19-20; II Cor. 5:17-20
- Our position of ambassadorship highlights our authority to proclaim the evangelistic message.
- Paul’s primary task in evangelism was to teach the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Scripture proofs: Acts 9:29;18:11
- Paul primarily engaged the minds of his listeners.
- Paul’s ultimate aim in evangelism was to convert his hearers to faith in Christ.
- The New Testament speaks of preachers converting people, as they are His means for converting (Lk. 1:16; Acts 26:15-18; Jas. 5:19-20).
- Paul’s aim in evangelism was not just to spread information, but to save sinners (I Cor. 9:22).
- Evangelism is the proclamation of a message about God.
- Primarily, our message is about God as the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer (Acts 17:24-29).
- As God is our Sovereign Creator and Sustainer, we are shown to be entirely dependent upon Him and subject to His will.
- Evangelism is the proclamation of a message about sin.
- We proclaim God as the Holy Lawgiver and the Law as a reflection of His holy character.
- By God’s Law, we are revealed to be lawbreakers- sinners against His holy character.
- Conviction of sin is essentially an awareness of a wrong relationship with God Himself.
- Conviction of sin always includes conviction of sins.
- Conviction of sin always includes conviction of sinfulness.
- Evangelism is the proclamation of a message about Christ.
- The person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Heavenly session
- Evangelism is a summons to faith and repentance.
- Faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises of mercy which Christ has given to sinners, and on the Christ who gave those promises. (Jn. 3:16)
- Repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving Christ the Saviour as king in self’s place. (Lk.9:23-24)
- Our primary motive for evangelism is love for God and concern for His glory.
- Loving God:
- Love for God is the first and greatest commandment. (Mt. 22:37-38)
- We demonstrate love for God through obedience. (Jn. 14:21; I Jn. 5:3)
- Glorifying God:
- The Westminster Shorter Catechism: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. (1 Cor. 10:31; Ps. 73:25-26)
- Jonathan Edwards: “God infinitely values His own glory and finds His infinite joy in that glory…His greatest glory is displayed in the work of the salvation of sinners and therefore it is His highest joy… God has greatly glorified Himself in the work of creation and providence. All His works praise Him and His glory shines brightly from them all. But as some stars differ from others in glory, so the glory of God shines brighter in some of His works than in others. And amongst all these the work of redemption is like the sun in his strength… Christ has done greater things than to create the world in order to obtain His bride, and it is the joy of His marriage with her… God’s single end in redemption is His own joy.”
- Our secondary motive for evangelism is love for others and concern for their welfare.
- We should pray for the salvation of specific sinners.
- We should be alert for opportunities to evangelize and we should be enterprising in making full use of the opportunities God has given us- initiating situations and conversations in which to share the Gospel.
- H.C. Trumbull: I determined that as I loved Christ, and as Christ loved souls, I would press Christ on the individual soul, so that none who were in the proper sphere of my individual responsibility or influence should lack opportunity of meeting the question whether or not they would individually trust and follow Christ. The resolve I made was, that whenever I was in such intimacy with a soul as to be justified in choosing my subject of conversation, the theme of themes should have prominence between us, so that I might learn his need, and, if possible, meet it.
- In our witness, we must have “confident humility” (Al Mohler) [The reference to Mohler was my own].
- Thoughts on methods we can use to evangelize.