One of the great joys for a Christian is telling another person about the salvation that they have found in Christ. We are especially happy to tell people who don’t have Christ or salvation, so that they too can have forgiveness of their sins and enter into the joy of the Master.
Because evangelism is such a big part of our Christian lives, there are some “ought-to’s” that go along with it. Our evangelism ought to be creative, personal, and friendly. It ought to be relevant, culturally appropriate, and an aspect of our daily living in the world, with the world. But if all those things are going on, what about the Bible? Does the Bible need to be there too? What if it feels a little socially awkward or socially untasteful; can we forgo making a biblical reference to the gospel?
Maybe someone would respond by saying, “Every situation is different. Different situations allow for different things. ” I would agree with that. I think that it is right and good to acknowledge that most of us don’t always quote Scripture verses or give an outline of the gospel in every conversation we have with non-Christians. But this acknowledgement may miss something very important. The most important, indeed the only essential element to true evangelism, is the word of the gospel. If we indefinitely postpone or ignore that, then we are not actually doing evangelism no matter how friendly and relevant we are.
God creates a people for Himself using His Word to give them life (Ezk. 37:7-10). The Word is the means by which God gives his people faith. The Holy Spirit sovereignly uses the Word to produce faith in the hearer. The Holy Spirit enables the individual to respond positively in repentant faith to the word that is heard.
Consider the claims that the Scripture makes for the Word which brings life.
- “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have given to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63)
- “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17)
- “And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (1 Thess. 2:13)
- “In the exercise of his will, he brought us forth by the word of truth…in humility receive the implanted word which is able to save your souls.” (Jam. 1:18, 21)
- “For you have been born again not of seed that is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Pet. 1:23)
- “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)
- “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32)
- “So the word of the Lord was growing mighty and prevailing” (Acts 19:20)
- “‘The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?’ declares the LORD. ‘Is not My word like a fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that shatters a rock?’” (Jer. 23:28-29)
There are a lot of good things that can be, even ought to be, a part of our evangelism. But there is only one thing that is necessary for the Holy Spirit to bring a sinner to respond savingly to God. That one thing is the word of the gospel.
R. B. Kuiper helpfully puts it this way:
“It is a matter of supreme importance to maintain that the Word of God is the one and only indispensable means by which the Holy Spirit works faith in the hearts of men. Although this does not mean that the Word always operates in isolation from every other conceivable factor, another factor never serves as a substitute for the Word. At most it is only auxiliary and subsidiary to the Word.”
So let your creativity lift the gospel up for eyes to see it. Let your holiness match the gospel so that our lives commend it. Let your earthiness be salty from the gospel so that people will taste it. And most of all, let your lips speak the gospel so the world will have the opportunity to believe it.
R. B. Kuiper, God-Centered Evangelism, p. 141.