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.
The first commandment says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). Ask the individual if he has always put God absolutely first in his life. The sincere answer, obviously, will be no.
The second commandment says, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Ex. 20:4-5). Ask if the individual has ever worshipped an idol.
The third commandment says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7). Ask if the individual has ever used the name of God in vain.
The fifth commandment says, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Ex. 20:12). Ask if the individual has ever dishonored or disobeyed his or her parents.
The eighth commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15). Ask if the individual has ever stolen anything.
The ninth commandment says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Ex. 20:16). Ask if the individual has ever told a lie to someone.
The tenth commandment says, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's” (Ex. 20:17). Ask if the individual has ever coveted that which does not belong to him.
Show that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). God warned Adam that one sin would result in death (Gen. 2:16-17), and the book of Revelation shows that this is eternal death in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15).
Show the teaching of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, by which we learn 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). 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 Christ’s summary of the law (Matthew 22:36-40). No man other than Jesus has loved God with all his heart, soul, and mind, and loved his neighbor as himself. If I see a house burning in my neighborhood and rush to the scene, would I be relieved to see that it is my house instead of my neighbor’s?
Show that it is man’s whole duty to fear God and to keep His law (Ecc. 12:13). Ask the individual if he has lived according to this law and standard.
Show that it is man’s duty to be thankful to God, and just the simple lack of thankfulness is a great sin and spiritual crime (Rom. 1:20-21).
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 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.
The First Great Awakening of the 1720s to the 1760s, which greatly affected America and England, was characterized by powerful preaching that plowed the soil of man’s heart deeply by God’s law to awaken souls from the slumber of self-righteousness and worldliness, to bring conviction of sin and knowledge of God’s holiness and wrath in order to lead to true repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ. Consider “Solemn Warning” by Gilbert Tennent, 1735:
Awake, Awake Sinners, stand up and look where you are hastning, least you drink of the Hand of the Lord, the Dregs of the Cup of his Fury; the Cup of trembling, and wring them out, Isai. 51.17.
Awake ye Drunkards, and weep and howl, Joel 1.5. For what can ye expect (so continuing) but to drink of that Cup of Trembling I but now mention’d. Awake ye profane Swearers, and remember ye will not get a drop of Water to cool your cursing cursed Tongues in Hell, when they and you shall flame in the broad burning Lake, Luke 16.24. God has said he will not hold you Guiltless, that take his Name in vain, Exod 20.7.
Awake ye unclean Adulterers, and Whoremongers, and remember that without a speedy Repentance, your dismal abode shall be ever with unclean Devils, the Soul of a God shall be avenged upon you, Jer. 5.8, 29.
Awake ye Sabbath-Breakers, and reform; or God will break you upon the Wheels of his Vengeance, and torture you eternally upon the Rack of his Justice, Neham. 13.16, 17, 18. And let all other sorts of profane Sinners be entreated to awake out of Sleep and consider their Danger.
Awake ye covetous griping Nabals, and read what the Apostle James says to you, Chap 5. 1 to 6. Go to now, ye rich Men, weep and howl for the Miseries that shall come upon you. The Rust of your Gold and Silver shall be a Witness against you. Ye have lived in Pleasure upon Earth, and been wanton, you have nourished your Hearts as in a Day of Slaughter. Here we may Note by the Way, that those who live like Beasts here, and will not be induc’d by any Perswasive to repent, reform and act like Men, shall howl like Beasts hereafter, without being heard or pitied, 1 Cor. 16.13. Prov. 1.26.
Awake ye secure Moralists, and lifeless, sapless Formalists, who are Strangers to the Power of experimental Religion: Remember your shadowy Appearances, can’t deceive the Rein trying God, Gal. 6.7. Nor your dry Leaves of husky spiritless Duties, secure your guilty Souls, from an astonishing overwhelming Inundation of his high and terrible Displeasure, Mat. 5.20.
Awake every of you that are yet in a Christless unconvinced State! Are you not asham’d to sleep all the Day in Sloth, while some are trembling, troubled and distress’d about their Souls, who are not greater Sinners than your selves? Nay, perhaps not near so great; what sleep? while others are crying Night and Day with Tears, and heavy Groans to God, for pardoning Mercy, who have no more precious Souls than you. Sleep! While others are labouring hard and taking Heaven by Storm! What sleep! While some are travelling fast to the heavenly Jerusalem, and rejoicing in the Way with Joy unspeakable and glorious. What will ye draw the Curtains of a carnal Security, and false Hope about you, and sleep to Death and Hell, even when the meridian Sun of the Gospel shines full in your Face, and Life and Immortality is brought to Light, and God, and Christ, his Ministers, Word, Providences, and your own Consciences, are ringing a loud Alarm, a Peal of Thunder in your Ears to awake you: That you may consider your Ways, and turn your Feet to God’s Testimonies. Will you sleep with Fire in your Bosoms? (the unpardon’d Guilt of Sin) with the Curse of God upon your Souls, the Heavens frowning upon you, and shut against you, the burden’d Earth travelling under you, and Hell yawning wide to devour and consume you I Mayn’t I say to you as Moses to Israel, Deut. 29.4. Yet the Lord hath not given you a Heart to perceive, and Eyes to see, and Ears to hear, unto this Day. O! Is it not to be fear’d that God in Justice has left you to a Spirit of Slumber? Because you shut your Eyes against the Light, John 3. That you should sleep and never awake. Jer. 51.57. And I will make drunk her Princes, and her wise Men, and her Rulers, and her mighty Men; and they shall sleep a perpetual Sleep, and not awake, saith the King, whose Name is the Lord of Hosts. Prov. 6.9. How long wilt thou sleep, O Sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy Sleep?
Even in the 20th century, many Bible-believing Baptists understood 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.
Even as late as 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 most churches have 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?
The above 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
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Publisher of Bible Study Materials