God's Law and Evangelism
The following is excerpted from SOWING AND REAPING: A COURSE IN EVANGELISM, which is unique in several ways. It is unique in its approach. While it is practical and down-to-earth, it does not present a formulaic approach to soul winning, recognizing that individuals have to be dealt with as individuals. The course does not include any sort of psychological manipulation techniques. It does not neglect repentance in soul winning, carefully explaining the biblical definition of repentance and the place of repentance in personal evangelism. It explains how to use the law of God to plow the soil of the human heart so that the gospel can find good ground. The course is unique in its objective.
The objective of biblical soul winning is not to get people to “pray a sinner’s prayer”; the objective is to see people soundly converted to Christ. This course trains the soul winner to pursue genuine conversions as opposed to mere “decisions.” The course is also unique in its breadth. It covers a wide variety of situations, including how to deal with Hindus and with skeptics and how to use apologetics or evidences in evangelism. There is a memory course consisting of 111 select verses and links to a large number of resources that can be used in evangelism, many of them free.
The course is suitable for teens and adults and for use in Sunday School, Youth Ministries, Preaching, and private study.
OUTLINE: The Message of Evangelism, Repentance and Evangelism, God’s Law and Evangelism, The Reason for Evangelism, The Authority for Evangelism, The Power for Evangelism, The Attitude in Evangelism, The Technique of Evangelism, Using Tracts in Evangelism, Dealing with Skeptics. Pastor Roger Voegtlin, Fairhhaven Baptist College, writes: “Your book Sowing and Reaping is excellent. I recommend it strongly. Our staff and many of our graduates use your materials regularly and, I'm sure, will find this especially helpful. The book is thorough as your materials always are and will be a help to sincere soul winners.” available from Way of Life Literature, www.wayoflife.org, 866-295-4143
MEMORY VERSES: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 5:28; Romans 3:19-20; Galatians 3:24; James 2:10; Revelation 20:15
We use God’s law to show men that they are sinners. The ground of the soul must be tilled with the sharp plow of God’s law so that it can receive the seed of the gospel.
1. It is the law that the Spirit of God uses to bring conviction to men’s hearts.
See Romans 3:19-20; Galatians 3:24.
No individual will cast himself upon Christ for salvation unless he first is convinced that he is a lost sinner with no hope apart from the cross. This is what causes the sinner to flee for refuge (Heb. 6:18).
2. Most soul winning programs pass over the fact of sin and man’s lost condition far too lightly and quickly.
They teach the soul winner to quote a verse or two about sin and then to ask the individual, “Do you believe you are a sinner?”
Many people will answer this in the affirmative simply because they know that they are not perfect, but they also do not believe that they are so wicked as to deserve God’s wrath. Most people will admit that they aren’t perfect, but they also think of themselves as good or at least that their good outweighs the bad. They know they have done wrong, but they don’t think of themselves as deserving of hell. In their minds, they redefine “sin” to be a lack of perfection or a lack self-esteem or (if Catholics or Hindus) they divide sin into “categories” of big and small or some such thing.
They do not believe that they were sinners from conception (Psalm 51:5) and that even their very righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).
An example of not plowing the ground sufficiently was told to me by a pastor friend who had the following experience at a prominent independent Baptist church that operates a large Bible college.
“We went out with their staff on Saturday morning for soul winning. We were immediately partnered up with some of the veterans. The first door we went to, we spoke to a friendly Catholic guy and to my surprise, the guy got ‘saved’ before my very eyes as ------- took him from a few scripture passages to the sinner’s prayer so smoothly that I was caught off guard. I caught myself and while ------- was recording this man’s contact details and writing it down, I asked the man whether (1) he believed that he was a good person and (2) that it is possible to go to heaven by being a good person. This man who had just got ‘saved’ told me ‘YES.’ I looked around and the other two men beside me said nothing and did nothing. We went to a few more places and eventually reached a home with a Roman Catholic young lady who came to the door. She said she was a professing Christian. Even though she said that all churches were the same ------- gave her assurance of salvation by quoting 1 John 5:13.”
It is unconscionable to deal with people in such a shallow way. The “Catholic guy” acknowledged that he is a “sinner,” but he didn’t mean by that that he was deserving of hell. He didn’t mean what the Bible means. He still thought of himself as basically a good person deserving of heaven because of his “good deeds”! Obviously he wasn’t ready to get saved and should not have been led in a sinner’s prayer. It was all too hasty and shallow.
3. To be saved, I have to acknowledge that I am the sinner that the Bible says I am.
It means admitting that I am such a sinner before God that I deserve hell, that I have wickedly broken God’s holy laws, that my very righteousness is unacceptable before a thrice-holy God.
To confess that I am sinner in a biblical, saving fashion means that I stop making excuses for my sin and blaming others, stop calling myself good, stop pretending that God will accept me as I am.
For this to happen, the ground of the soul has to be properly plowed and the divinely-ordained plow is the law.
This is why the Bible is two-thirds law before we come to the New Testament with its gospel of grace. The Old Testament is the preparation for the New.
Consider Paul’s way of preaching the gospel in the Epistle of Romans. He spent nearly three full chapters dealing with God’s holiness and man’s sin and lost condition (Romans 1:18 - 3:23) before he got to the gospel of justification by faith (Romans 3:24 - 4:25). The love of God isn’t mentioned until chapter 5. This is the true “Romans Road.”
4. God’s law exposes man’s lost condition by revealing God’s holiness and justice.
To understand the need of salvation, men must understand who God is.
They must see God high and holy as Isaiah did, and then they will understand how sinful they are (Isaiah. 6:1-5).
They must see God as the Creator to whom they are accountable for every thought and deed. This is how the Bible reveals God from the very beginning in Genesis 1-3. God made man in his own image, and man is responsible to keep God’s laws and will give account for every infraction.
It is only this knowledge that enables man to understand how sinful he is. When a man compares himself with other men and by human standards, he can be self-righteous, but when he compares himself with God he sees that he comes far short (Rom. 3:23).
5. God’s law exposes man’s sinful condition by showing what God requires.
The law is a mirror to show man what he is before God; the law is a schoolmaster (Galatians 3:24).
It is the law which takes away man’s excuses and stops him from judging himself by human standards and comparing himself to other men and makes him stand guilty before God (Romans 3:19).
The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 can be used effectively toward this end, beginning with the first commandment.
Ask the individual if he has always put God absolutely first in his life. The sincere answer, obviously, will be no. Ask if he has always honored and obeyed his father and mother, whether he has ever stolen, ever lied, ever coveted that which belonged to someone else.
Go further and show that God requires that we keep His laws from the heart. External obedience is not enough. Thus, lusting after a woman is likened to adultery (Mat. 5:28) and hating someone is likened to murder (Mat. 5:21-22) and covetousness is likened to idolatry (Colossians 3:5). By this standard, we see that all men are terrible sinners. We break God’s laws continually in our thoughts as well as in deeds.
Show that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).
Show that it is man’s whole duty to fear God and to keep His law, and that every thought and deed, open and secret, will come under God’s judgment (Ecc. 12:13-14). Ask the individual if he has lived according to this law and standard.
Show that all men who die without salvation will stand before God’s judgment throne and give account. Show the severe nature of this judgment. They will give account for every idle word (Matthew 12:36-37), and God’s standard is that man speak no corrupt words (Ephesians 4:29). Every lie, every expression of hatred, every filthy word, every boast, every instance of backbiting and gossip, every blasphemy, every instance of using God’s name in vain -- all will be judged. In the judgment, God will also judge every deed and every secret thing (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Romans 2:16). As a result of this severe judgment, every sinner without the Saviour will be condemned to eternal punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
This establishes the fact that all men are sinners who constantly break God’s laws and that all men will be punished with eternal punishment. We can never live up to what God requires and can never pay the price that God’s law demands. Further, when the sinner dies without Christ, he continues to sin forever. Thus the wages of sin is not only physical death but also eternal death in the lake of fire. The punishment lasts forever because the sinning goes on forever.
Bible-believing preachers used to understand that the ground of the human heart must be plowed with the law before it can bear the sweet fruit of conversion. Some of the old evangelists would hold meetings and not even preach the gospel for the first few days, preparing the way by preaching hard on God’s holiness and sin and judgment.
J. Frank Norris once preached an entire week on the subject of hell without giving an invitation. Only after a full week of such preaching did he give an invitation, and more than a hundred and fifty were saved.
In the 1960s Oliver B. Greene preached 25 radio messages in a row on the wrath of God. I doubt he could even get away with that on any of the national Christian radio stations now. It would be considered far too “negative.”
Everything is quick and shallow today, and we have all been affected by the spirit of the times.
Review Questions on God’s Law and Evangelism
1. What is the purpose of God’s law in evangelism?
2. What verse says the law was given to show men that they are guilty before God?
3. What verse says that by the law is the knowledge of sin?
4. What verse says the law is a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ?
5. Most soul winning programs pass over the fact of _____ and man’s ______ condition far too lightly and quickly.
6. Most people will admit that they aren’t _______, but they also think of themselves as ______.
7. Most people think their _______ outweighs the ______.
8. What verse says man’s righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy God?
9. If a man believes that he is a good person, is he ready to get saved? Why?
10. In Romans, Paul spent nearly _____ chapters dealing with God’s holiness and man’s sin and lost condition before he got to the gospel of justification.
11. What was Isaiah’s response when he saw God’s greatness and holiness?
12. What does Romans 3:23 mean when it says that man has come short of God’s glory?
13. How can the Ten Commandments be used to show men that they are lost?
14. What did Jesus teach about keeping the law that shows how impossible it is to be saved by works?
15. What verse says that if we keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, we are guilty of all?
16. Why is the punishment for sin eternal?
17. J. Frank Norris preached how long on hell before he gave a gospel invitation?
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