I’m going to deal a little bit with theology here today, but I hope by now you know I’m a practical theologian. If it doesn’t affect my daily walk with my Savior, I don’t talk about it here in the blog. But it’s important, and in the context of evangelism this subject needs to be addressed.
The question is “Who does what in evangelism?” Or more specifically, “What part does each person play in evangelism?”
Again, there’s a reason I bring this up. Christians answer this question very differently based on their background. Some Christians, based on their interpretation of the Bible, say that everything is based on God’s decision. He chose before the beginning of the world as to who will be saved and who won’t. If you receive Christ, it’s because the Lord, for whatever reason, chose you. And if you never receive Christ, it’s because the Lord, for whatever reason, didn’t choose you. Therefore, they like to emphasize the fact that the Holy Spirit has to be the One who convicts someone of sin, righteousness and judgment. I can’t do it, a preacher can’t do it, etc. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. They believe everyone is either predestined to be saved, or they're not.
Others claim—again, based on their interpretation of Scripture—that’s it’s all based on a person’s decision. God calls everyone to himself, and whether you receive Christ or not is totally based on what you decide. Therefore, they like to emphasize the effort we need to put into sharing the Good News. We need to make our presentation of the Message as appealing as possible. We need to tailor the presentation of the Message--not the core of the message itself--to each audience. Of course Paul did this. When he shared with Jews, his presentation reflected that, along with his lifestyle as he lived with them. The same was true when he shared with Gentiles.
Let me make this clear as I can: There are verses in the Bible that make it sound like the first group is correct. And there are verses in the Bible which sound like the second group is correct. The Bible doesn’t attempt to fully and logically reconcile this. And to settle this argument is waaaaaaaaay beyond the purview of this blog.
But I think we can find some common ground. How? By following the example of Paul, and by being theologically practical. Here’s some things which I hope we can all agree on:
1. Many, if not most, of the verses which can be claimed by the first group are from Paul. I’m not saying their interpretation is completely correct. I’m just saying that a lot of the verses they claim to support them come from Paul.
2. But this same Paul is the same one who said he would be all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some. You want a great verse to make you scratch your head? Paul said that he endured “everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.” “Elect” means “chosen ones.” He endured hardship, deprivation, torture, and risk of death so that the ones chosen by God (before the foundation of the world) would receive salvation.
3. Unless the Holy Spirit convicts someone of sin, righteousness and judgment, that person will never come to Christ. No matter how effective the presentation or how much effort the evangelist puts into it, unless the Spirit does his work, we’re wasting our efforts.
So now we come to my conclusion. Remember my catchphrase: practical theology. Based on that, here’s my advice. I wish I could claim credit for it, or at least credit the person who said it first, but I can’t do either. Here it is: When it comes to witnessing, you talk to that person as if everything depended on that person’s decision. And when you talk to God about that lost person, you talk to him as if everything depends on the work of his Spirit.
Makes sense to me. How’s about you?
Father God, I just want to see you glorify the Name of your Son by bringing lost people to salvation. Whatever I need to do to see that happen, the answer’s “yes.”
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