To be effective in evangelistic efforts we must understand how God saves people. We must follow God's rules, not depending upon our own understanding or wishes on how to be saved. Many believe that God is too loving and kind to send anyone to hell, so that somehow everyone will go to heaven. But this is not the teaching of God's Word, for it says, "One who believes in the Son has eternal life, but one who disobeys the Son won't see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." John 3:36.
A common problem in evangelistic efforts is using man's methods to bring people into the church. Usually the method they use is the same one used to get people to join a club, fraternity, or labor union. We must not use sales tactics to bring people to Christ, because God adds to the assembly, "...The Lord added to the assembly day by day those who were being saved." Acts 2:47. Our work is to present the good news about what Christ has done for us and then let those who respond to Christ be added to the assembly by our Lord.
Those who believe and follow Christ reap eternal life, while those who reject Him reap eternal death. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23. This is a very serious matter which the assembly and its members should always put at the top of their priority list.
HOW GOD SAVES PEOPLE
* The Work of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit reproves the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. We do not need to preach judgmental sermons to the lost for they already know they are not right with God. They know they are guilty. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. By being judgmental without showing love we can drive people away from the assembly and life in Christ. Whenever people hear the Good News preached the Holy Spirit was there beforehand convicting them of their need for a Savior.
* The Choice By Mankind: When we hear the good news of salvation in Christ we make a choice to either follow Christ or reject Him. God does not make the choice for us. He leaves the choice up to us, but we must accept the results of our choice in the future judgment by God. Peter on the day of Pentecost with many words testified and exhorted saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation!" Acts 2:40.
* The New Birth: The process of becoming a Christian is likened to being born again. "Jesus answered, "Most assuredly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he can't enter into the Kingdom of God! That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Don't marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born anew.' The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but don't know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:5-8.
A baby before it is born can think, feel, hear, and turn over, but how much does the child know about what is happening during the birth process? The same is true of the new birth. A person knows he is guilty and not right with God. When he hears the good news and responds he has peace with God, yet he does not understand all that is happening in the process of his new birth. Therefore, it is very important that mature Christians guide new Christians in the beginning of this new way of life.
* Faith: It is essential that a person believe in God's testimony, that Jesus is His only begotten Son and eternal life is given to us through His Son. "The testimony is this, that God gave to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has the life. He who doesn't have God's Son doesn't have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." 1 John 5:11-13.
There is a misunderstanding by some Christians concerning faith, for they say it is a gift from God. This is not a Bible teaching. We are saved by grace which is a free gift, but faith comes from within us. God's ways are not that easy to understand, but we know the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. For those who are looking for an answer to their sense of guilt, and when they hear about the sacrifice of Christ for their sins, the Holy Spirit opens their spiritual eyes to what God has done. We respond in faith, believing and trusting the good news about Christ and turning our lives over to Him. "So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17.
Another misunderstanding concerns faith and works. There is a common false teaching that you must do good works in order to be saved or to remain saved. They have a list of things you must do and things you must not do, which varies from group to group. One preacher said, "You must be in the Lord's house three times a week in order to be saved." In the first place the church building is not the Lord's house and in the second place we go to services because we are saved, not in order to be saved. But others in response to this type of teaching go to the other extreme and say that we are saved by faith only. This also is not a Biblical teaching.
We are justified by faith. We are not made right with God by keeping the Old Testament Law or by keeping a set of rules. Paul attacks this false teaching in his letter to the assemblies in Galatia. Read the book of Galatians and mark all the verses about faith and see how wrong this teaching is.
On the other hand James says, "You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith." James 2:24. And he also said, "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead." James 2:26. James used Abraham and Rahab as illustrations to help us understand this teaching. Abraham was willing to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, although he knew that the promises of God were to be fulfilled through Isaac. Through this work of faith Abraham was counted as righteous. Rahab was also counted as righteous because she protected the spies, even though her actions helped destroy Jericho.
There are a number of examples of those who through works proved their faith. Abel offered the correct offering through faith, therefore his offering was accepted. Noah built the ark through faith and if he had refused to do so he and his family would have perished along with the rest of mankind. If Abraham and Sarah had not renewed their physical relationship, Isaac would not have been born. Jesus told the man born blind to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. If he had not done so he would not have received his sight. This type of work proves our faith is not dead but alive.
If we believe in Christ then our actions, works, and life will show just how much we believe. For example, a church decides it needs a larger meeting house, so they go into debt to build the facilities. They say, "We believe God will meet our needs and pay off the debt." What they really mean is that they believe that the increase in membership and increase in inflation will pay off the debt. For if they really believed in God's promises they would not have gone into debt but would have asked God to provide the needed buildings and He would have, if that had been His will. If God does not provide needed funds, then through prayer and faith the assembly must find out what God's desire is for them.
* Repentance: The ways of God and the ways of the world are in opposite directions. Repentance is turning away from the world and its desires and turning to Christ our Lord and Saviour. To repent is to change one's mind or purpose about sin. It is to turn from sin and turn toward God. Jesus said, "Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Mark 2:17.
Peter preaching in the temple said, "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord." Acts 3:19. The person who does not repent will not be accepted by God. (See Revelation 2:5,16,21,22; 3:3,19.)
* Confession: To confess is to agree with God about Christ, our sinful state and that salvation is only in Christ. When we confess our belief in Christ we are agreeing that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, that He is the Boss of our life, and that we are sinners saved by the death of Christ. Jesus said, "I tell you, everyone who confesses me before men, him will the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God; but he who denies me in the presence of men will be denied in the presence of the angels of God." Luke 12:8,9.
We must believe in Christ and that He was raised from the dead, but we must also make a public confession of our belief. "That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Romans 10:9,10.
* Baptism: In physical birth the baby can hear, feel, think, and move before it is born. The same is true for spiritual birth. A person can be alive spiritually, know who Christ is, and have peace with God yet not have completed the new birth process. In physical birth the baby leaves its mother's womb and cannot return to where he or she came from. The same is true in spiritual birth for in baptism the person leaves the world and is in Christ and cannot go back to where he or she came from.
There are two illustrations in the New Testament about baptism to help us understand its purpose. The first is in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. When Moses led the people through the Red Sea they were baptized into Moses. "Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." 1 Corinthians 10:1,2.
The second illustration is in 1 Peter 3:20,21. "...Who before were disobedient, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built. In it, few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. This is a symbol of baptism, which now saves you - not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Both Noah and the Hebrew people were living in a land under God's judgment. Through God's grace they escaped from that land through baptism which moved them from the place under judgment to a new land not under God's judgment. Also they could not return to the place from which they came. In baptism we leave the world which is under God's judgment to be in Christ who protects us from God's judgment, for in baptism we are buried with Christ to rise to walk in a new way of life, separated from the world..
In the last part of Romans chapter five it states that through Adam's sin death came into the world and we are under condemnation because of sin, but through Christ we are made righteous unto eternal life. In chapter six the question is asked, "Can we therefore continue in sin because of God's grace?" The answer is "no" because we have died to sin. Then the Scripture explains what death to sin is:
"Or don't you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him; knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no more has dominion over him! For the death that he died, he died to sin one time; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. Thus also consider yourselves also to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:3-11.
Romans chapter six continues on with the explanation that Christians must not serve sin but be slaves of righteousness. One work of the assembly is to produce mature Christians who are free from slavery to sin. But this does not happen until the person is crucified with Christ, buried with Him and raised to walk a new life in Christ. This is what baptism is about.
* Conclusion: Information in this chapter is not for those who are not believers. It is for Christians to help them understand God's way of calling people to Himself. When working with an unbeliever we must let the Holy Spirit do His work and at the same time pray for the person and show him by our example what Christ has done for us.
A young preacher wanted to witness to his father who was not a Christian. He found it impossible to do so, for every time he would try to talk to his father he would remember all the things he had done to hurt him. So one day he said to his father, "Dad, I want you to know I'm terribly sorry for anything that I've ever done to hurt you." The preacher started crying and never got to tell his father about becoming a Christian, but that night the father committed his life to Jesus Christ and was baptized.
We are to live the Christian life first, and so earn the right to be heard. We are always to be prepared to "always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear." 1 Peter 3:15. Do others see Jesus in you and ask you for the reason for your hope? When they do you must be ready to lead them to faith in Christ, repentance of sin, confession of their belief, and burial with Christ. Then you will shine like a star in the universe as you hold out the Word of life.
Seeing you have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth through the Spirit in sincere brotherly affection, love one another from the heart fervently: having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and remains forever. 1 Peter 1:22,23.
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Revised June 2000. Scriptures changed to The World English Bible.