A Biblical approach to evangelism
“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” —1 Thessalonians 1:5
Understanding God’s plan for evangelism will help you know how and when to witness in a natural way. It will also give you confidence and contentment in evangelism. Additionally, applying God’s plan for evangelism will cause you to depend on the Holy Spirit, both to empower you to witness and to open the unbeliever to the gospel. And, finally, understanding God’s plan for evangelism will help you avoid giving people a false security.
The Big Picture
1. What is God’s desire for every person in the world, according to 2 Peter 3:9?
2. Read Matthew 5:16 and Mark 16:15. What is the believer’s role in God’s plan for evangelism?
3. What did Jesus promise would happen to enable believers to fulfill God’s plan for evangelism?
(a) Luke 24:47–49
(b) Acts 1:8
4. Read John 16:8. What role does the Holy Spirit play in the life of the unbeliever?
Belief and Repentance
5. After reading the following verses, how would you describe saving belief?
(a) 1 John 5:12
(b) John 3:16
(c) Romans 10:9, 10, 13
6. Read John 3:36. Is saving belief required for salvation?
Saving faith goes beyond mere agreement with the historical facts of the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Saving faith springs from the heart, rests in the person of God’s Son, and calls upon the Lord for deliverance. Salvation depends on more than an assent to certain truths about Jesus Christ: it requires trust in the person of the Savior.
7. Read Luke 24:45–48. Did the Lord command that repentance be part of our message of forgiveness?
8. Did Paul include repentance in his gospel presentations? See Acts 26:19 and 20.
9. Read Acts 26:20 and 2 Timothy 2:25. How do people become aware of their need to repent?
10. Read Luke 13:3 and Acts 17:30 and 31. Is repentance required for salvation?
Repentance is a turning, or changing, of one’s mind. It involves a new perspective about God’s holiness, sin’s horribleness, one’s own lostness, and Christ’s uniqueness as the Savior.
11. What do the following verses in John reveal are the consequences for those who choose not to repent and believe?
(a) John 3:18
(b) John 3:36
(c) John 8:24
Why do some people profess a faith in Christ yet show no evidence of salvation?
Matthew 13 sheds considerable light on this paradox. It records Jesus’ parable of the sower (vv. 3–9) and His explanation of its meaning (vv. 19–23).
12. According to Matthew 13:19–23, in the parable, what did the following represent?
(a) Seed sown by the wayside
(b) Seed sown in stony places
(c) Seed sown among thorns
(d) Good seed sown into the ground
Roles in Evangelism
Sometimes in our eagerness to see people saved, we press for a decision instead of waiting on the Spirit to convict them of their need of a Savior. A person may say words but lack saving faith toward Christ in the heart. Matthew 7:21–23 warns: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Who saves the sinner? Is it the Christian witness? Is it the church? Is it God?
13. Read 1 Corinthians 3:6, 2 Corinthians 4:6, and John 6:44. Who gives the increase in evangelism?
As we begin to understand the Biblical plan of evangelism, three facts become clear: God is responsible for certain actions, we are responsible for certain actions, and the people we witness to are responsible for certain choices.
God’s Role or Responsibilities
God opens doors of opportunity for us to witness. “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:3).
“Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 2:12).
God convinces and convicts unbelievers of their need to repent and believe the gospel. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
God saves sinners by His sovereign grace. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).See also Romans 5:9, Ephesians 1:4, and 1 Thessalonians 1:4.
Believers’ Role or Responsibilities
We are to witness and testify of the gospel. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
“When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (2 Thessalonians 1:10).
We are to grow in our knowledge of the Bible. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
We are to warn and teach. “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28).
We are to identify our role as witnesses for Him. “And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth” (John 4:37).
The people we witness to have a choice and a responsibility.
They must repent to be saved. “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
They must believe to be saved. “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 5:24).
Our knowledge of God’s plan of evangelism alleviates anxiety and teaches us the importance of cultivating, sowing, and watering—and then waiting for God.
We must understand that it is essential for us to share the gospel. Read Romans 10:14 and 15.
Pete Mothershead is director of Balanced Evangelism, a seminar ministry to local churches. Recently retired as pastor of Santa Clarita Baptist Church (Santa Clarita, Calif.), Pete also works alongside pastors, missionaries, and seminary students to train them in evangelizing Biblically. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by mail at 26318 Long Oak Dr., Newhall, CA 91321.