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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45 am service, 2005-05-01

Text: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The word 'evangelism' comes from a Greek word (euangelizomai) which means 'to preach the good news.' And the 'Good news' here refers to the message that sinners can be saved from their sins through Jesus Christ. There are many terms commonly used today as synonyms for evangelism. Sometimes it is called witnessing or testifying. At other times it is called personal outreach or fishing for men. Some prefer to call it Soul-saving or soul-winning. But basically they all refer to the same thing, and that is: 'The responsibility of lovingly convincing a sinner of the message of salvation, through the use of God's Word, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.' 

This complete definition of evangelism can be analysed into five parts: 

Firstly -

I. The Responsibility of Evangelism - For All Christians

Evangelism is the responsibility of every Christian. As such, we cannot choose to ignore it. Many tend to think that when they tell somebody about Jesus Christ that they are doing God a big favour. But the Bible tells us that when we do that, we are only doing what is required of us. 

Many also think that Evangelism in terms of special campaigns organized once in a while, where everybody goes out to distribute tracts or to invite people to a Gospel Sunday. Therefore as long as we take part in one or two of these campaigns, we have done our part in evangelism and need not do anything else. That is far from true. In Acts 8:4 we are told that the Christians of the early church 'went everywhere preaching the word.' And they were actually doing this not in any organized campaign, but while they were just in transit to settle down in new places and they happened to meet people. We can think of the time when our Lord Jesus happened to meet a woman at a well while resting after a long journey and He took the opportunity to witness to her. 

He did not plan to witness to the Samaritan woman. It just happened in the natural course of events. All of this indicates that Evangelism is to be a way of life for us. Our responsibility is to be ready to share the Gospel wherever we go, in our daily course of life, with the friends, colleagues and acquaintances we happen to meet each day. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us that we should 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.'

What does this responsibility mean for us? Firstly it means that you need to identify yourself as a follower of Jesus Christ. The people that you are with in your place of work or study should become aware that there is representative of Christ in their midst. The next thing that you have to do is to match your Christian profession with Christ-like Conduct. Bear a good testimony before them. And when are doing that, you should then look for opportunities to tell them the Good News. 

In the course of your daily interaction with colleagues in your workplace, the Lord will open doors for you to share the gospel with them. But you on your part have to look for them. I remember the time when I was in Reservist in-camp training and my colleagues and I went for our lunch break together. When we all got our food and sat down to eat, everyone else just ate straightaway. But I took a moment to say grace before I ate. Then while we were eating the person sitting next to me, by the name of Benny, asked me if I was a Christian. This became a useful transition point and I was eventually able to share the gospel with him. There are actually many ways to introduce the subject of the Gospel without offending the person, but cultivating his interest, so that he will want to know more about God's salvation.

Thus we have looked at the Responsibility of Evangelism, and proceed now to consider:

II. The Goal of Evangelism - To Convince People to Turn to the Lord

Some may think that evangelism is simply bringing a friend to church, and then hoping that the message preached in worship service on the day that the friend comes, would somehow convert him. Evangelism is actually more than that. It means taking the initiative to share the gospel with him personally. 

God's Word in 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us that 'we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.'

In evangelism, God uses us to speak to people on His behalf. That's what ambassadors are for. Therefore we are to talk to people about the things of God, and not merely invite them to come to church. If we were to depend solely on what they happen to hear from the pulpit on the day that they come to church, what they may receive may not have an emphasis on the gospel or an appeal to be saved, because the pulpit ministry has to cater to many different needs, and more often it caters to the needs of believers rather than unbelievers. Therefore the better way is still for us to personally communicate the message of Christ to our friends, rather than to depend on whatever is preached from the pulpit. 

But many of us may be afraid to do this. We have reservations about taking the initiative to share our faith with others, with questions like: How do I introduce the Gospel to them? What should I say? What if they were to ask me questions that I cannot answer? It is quite natural to have these fears, but we can overcome them as we look at: 

III. The Message of Evangelism - Salvation Through Christ

What is the message of salvation? There are some who think that it is a very difficult task to share the Gospel because there are too many complicated facts and abstract truths to remember and explain. However our text of scripture for this sermon, which is 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, reveals to us that the message is actually not beyond our ability to communicate. It does not require excellency of speech, or excellency of wisdom. You do not need to be a learned theologian or a Bible College graduate in order to share the gospel effectively. You do not need to be a clever salesman who can speak confidently and move people with very persuasive language, to be qualified to evangelise someone. 

If such things are required for evangelism, the apostle Paul himself may be disqualified! Look at what he says in v.3,4 'And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom' But what was Paul's message? He tells us in v.2 'For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.'

Christ and Him Crucified! This is the salvation message that every believer already knows about. Therefore any Christian who has been genuinely saved already has the basic knowledge that is needed for salvation - trusting fully and only in Christ, and Him crucified. That knowledge is what he had to know in order to be saved. All he has to do then, is to communicate that same knowledge to others clearly. 

And thus, you should get used to the idea that you can share the gospel. You have the ability. It is only a matter of being willing to communicate what you already know. To communicate that knowledge to a person clearly, it is helpful to organize it in a logical sequence under a few main points: The first point is: That he is a sinner under the sentence of eternal death. The second point is: That Christ is the answer to his need. And the third point is: That he must definitely accept Christ as Saviour and Lord.

Try to remember this simple three-point outline so that when you have the opportunity for evangelism, you will not miss any of them. It provides a framework for communicating the Gospel, and you can then build up on each main point, e.g. for the first point we may explain simply what sin is and why all men are now sinners. And for the second point, we may tell more about who Christ is - God's only Son who died for our sins. 

However, while the Gospel is simple enough for any genuine believer to communicate, we must ensure that we do not simplify it further. For instance do not share the gospel like this: 'Do you believe you are a sinner?' 'Yes.' 'Do you believe Christ died for sinners?' 'Yes.' 'Will you receive Him now as your Saviour?' 'Yes.' 'Then you are saved!' 'I am?' 'Yes, the Bible says you are saved!'

At a first look this method and the message might seem to be all right. But on closer study we are forced to have second thoughts and to conclude that this is an over-simplified gospel. This is not evangelism but 'easy-believism'. To make a person believe that he is saved when in fact, he is not, is dangerous. He becomes a nominal Christian - one who is a Christian only in name, but not in truth. He does not fully understand the Gospel. He does not have the basic knowledge that is needed for salvation, and hence he cannot be born again, as the Holy Spirit cannot work in a vacuum to save him. The saving truths of God's Word - concerning Christ and Him Crucified - these basic things ought to be received and understood. 

Always remember that it is the Word of God that gives spiritual life. This is the essential element in any method of evangelism. And so we now proceed to look at:

IV. The Method of Evangelism - The Word of God

In v.1 of our text the apostle Paul said 'And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.' In his evangelistic efforts among the Corinthians, Paul testifies that it was the 'testimony of God' that he declared to them. The term 'testimony of God' is one of the terms used in the Bible to designate God's Word. For example, in Psalm 19:7, 'The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.' It is also interesting to note that the first part of this verse tells us that the Law of the Lord converts the soul.

Dearly beloved, it is not our clever speech or sound arguments, but the Word of God which that converts sinners. In evangelism we must fully apply what God Himself has said about the power of His Word, in Isaiah 55:11 'So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.'

God has built into His Word a wonderful and mysterious power that can regenerate the sinner's heart! According to 1 Peter 1:23, we are 'born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.' According to James 1:18 'Of His own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.' According to Ephesians 5:26 Jesus gave Himself for the church 'That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word'

Hebrews 4:12 says that 'the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.' When the apostle Peter wielded this sharp two-edged sword at an evangelistic message at Pentecost, the hearts of three thousand people were powerfully pricked by the Word of God, and they immediately sought for salvation and were baptized (Acts 2:37). 

The faith they needed in order to believe in Christ also came from God's Word, because Romans 10:17 tells us that 'faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.' For this reason, it is always a good practice for us to employ verses of scripture in our evangelism. Instead of using elaborate philosophical speeches, it is recommended that you use more of God's Word. 

Now comes the question: How do we use the Word of God in evangelism? How do we know which verses of scripture we should use? This is where we return to our basic three-point outline. E.g. for the first point, where you want to tell a person that he is a sinner under the sentence of eternal death. You can use verses like Romans 3:23 'For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God' and Romans 6:23 'For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.'

As you move on to the second point, which is to show that Christ is the answer to his need, you can quote verses like Rom 5:8 'But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' And John 14:6 'Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.'

And for third point you can prove that he must definitely accept Christ as Saviour and Lord by using John 1:12 and John 3:16 - verses that should be familiar to us. 

There are several ways to present the Word of God to someone during evangelism. If you have a Bible, you could look up the verses in the Bible and get him to read it aloud. Ask him what he understands by it, and explain to him any words he does not understand. If you do not have a Bible with you, you can recite the verses from memory, e.g. John 3:16. However, you would need some disciplined preparation in order to do this - to learn these Bible verses by heart.

An alternative method is to use ready-made gospel presentations that have the main points as well as the relevant scripture verses printed in them. One example of this is the Gospel tractbooklet published by our church entitled 'Have You Heard the Good News?' It is a good idea to carry a few of these tracts with you in your purse or wallet. You may never know when they will be useful. You can go through it with a person, or if circumstances do not permit you to have much time with him, you can just give the tract to him, asking him to read it.

Sometimes however, you may feel the need for something more than this. Perhaps the friend that you are witnessing to is interested to know more than what is contained in a tract. This is when you can use a short Bible course, like the Inquirer's Bible Course, which is really an extended gospel presentation with many portions of scripture in it, and requires participation. This can also be useful if you have the opportunity to lead a group of people to know the Gospel of Christ!

Thus far we have covered the first four aspects of Evangelism: The Responsibility of evangelism - for all Christians; The Goal - to Convince people to turn to God; The Message - which is Salvation through Christ; and the Method - which is the use of God's Word. We now come to the last aspect, and the one that is decisive:

V. The Power of Evangelism ' The Holy Spirit

Always remember that God is the One who calls a person irresistibly and effectually to salvation. John 6:37 - 'All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.', John 6:44 - 'No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day'. 

When the Holy Spirit of God calls a sinner to salvation, no one can resist Him for long. There are at least 3 ways of describing the unseen work of the Holy Spirit in salvation: (1) He convicts the sinner, making his lost condition real to him. John 16:8 'And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:' (2) He enables the sinner to understand and accept the Gospel of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:4 'And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power') (3) He regenerates the sinner's heart (John 3:5 'Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.')

Our part in evangelism is only two-fold: (1) to present the gospel to him and (2) to pray that God will work in his heart (Acts 16:14). Prayer plays an important role in evangelism. Having done that, we then leave the Results to God. Don't worry or think you have failed if you don't get immediate results. The Apostle Paul himself did not always see a warm response to what he preached. In Acts 17, when Paul preached his gospel message to the Council of Mars Hill in Athens, it was not well-received at all.

There will be times when we will be tempted to feel disappointed and discouraged because people do not respond well to our efforts to bring them the good news of salvation. We expect them to accept our message with joy, but instead, many of them reject it with ridicule. 

When we feel this way, we need to remember that ultimately it is not our efforts, not our methods, not the approach we use, nor our skill in delivering God's Truth that saves men. It is God alone who saves. We will do well to do our part, and we ought to do it well. But the results must be left to God. Only God can change a sinner's heart and convict him of his need for salvation. Our responsibility is to sow the seed. The rest is left to God. He will cause it to germinate and grow. Sometimes the seed will flourish and grow, and sometimes it will not. 

Christ mentioned this in His parable of the sower. Sometimes the seed takes a longer time than expected to germinate. Many people hear the Gospel but do not respond to it until many years later, when they encounter a crisis and call upon Christ to save them. Sometimes a person may have to hear the gospel 10 or 20 times before he is converted. The timing of salvation and the results of our evangelism are best left to the mysterious work in the heart by the Holy Spirit. Our success in evangelism is measured not by the number of souls we have won to Christ, but by how well we have used the opportunities given to us to share the gospel with people around us.

Even though at times we may find very little or no results at all from our efforts, at the same time we must remember that: No results are possible at all if we do not first seek the opportunity to witness to people around us. So let us keep doing our best, and let the Lord do the rest. For if we withhold the message of salvation from them, we will be hurting them. Evangelism is every Christian's business. Let us be engaged in it in season and out of season.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25