The Tension of Evangelism and the Gospel part 2

As I mentioned in part 1, there are basically two camps in how to conduct evangelism.  Some people say the gospel must be present in all spiritual conversations and others say share the gospel when it is appropriate for the situation.

The basic message of the gospel is that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for the penalty for our sins.  Through repentance of our moral wrongs against God and by trusting in Jesus, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and forgiven of our sins.  When the gospel is shared the person must respond in faith to be redeemed.

I don’t believe every spiritual conversation warrants the sharing of the gospel.  My justification in part 1 was that it wasn’t modeled by Jesus or Paul.  I also said I try to be sensitive to how the person answers my objections.  If the person makes a positive move towards Jesus I share the gospel.  Otherwise I try to leave him with something to think about.  I would like to expand that answer.

In 1 Corinthians 3 we see the church at Corinth struggling with sin and spiritual immaturity.  There were divisions in the church, with some saying they follow the teachings of Paul and others Apollos.  Jealousy and strife were negative marks of this congregation.  Paul then instructs them to lay their selfish desires aside and see both Paul and Apollos are simply servants of God.  He wanted them to understand they were instruments of God and used by Him to bring many to faith.  Paul made the point they were not the cause of their salvation.  Only God can save someone.  Beginning in verse 5 Paul is going to lay out the process God uses to bring people into His Kingdom.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.”  Paul says I planted, Apollos watered, but it was God who brought people to faith.  He was communicating neither Paul nor Apollos saved anyone.  Salvation is 100% God.  We are privileged to be His instruments to bring people to faith.

As God’s tools I think it is entirely appropriate to use the responses of unbelievers as to whether God is drawing them to Himself.  I think in circumstances where the person is far from God, to throw the gospel at her has no effect.  Our job is to plant and to water and let God do the work of bringing people into His Kingdom.  I feel my job, in the cases where the person is far from God, is to make her think about spiritual things.  To make the best case I can and leave the results up to God.  There are times when the person I shared with was later led to Christ by someone else.

Another passage I believe teaches a similar concept is found in John 4:35-38 [Jesus speaking to His disciples] Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. 36 “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 “For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.' 38 “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”  Jesus is using an agricultural metaphor to teach an evangelistic truth.  Harvesting refers to presenting the gospel and being present when God saves them.  Sowing is moving the person spiritually in the right direction, many times by challenging her current belief system.

In John 4 Jesus told his disciples soon they will get the privilege of harvesting.  It is the job of the sower to plant and water the seed to unbelievers and it is the harvester who sees them place their trust in Christ.  In this instance Jesus told his disciples they would reap the benefits of the work done by others (sowers).  They would get the privilege of harvesting, participating and seeing the results of people accepting message of forgiveness.

Some people brag about leading people to Christ, many times forgetting the person’s heart was likely prepared by someone else.  The sower moves the person in the right direction and the harvester is used by God to complete the process.

I spend the majority of my time as a sower.  Both sowers and the harvesters are vital in setting the stage for God to do His work.  Of course God could save people without our help but He chooses to give us the privilege of sharing in His work.

Do sowers need to share the gospel every time?  I don’t believe the Bible teaches this.  I believe the best model, as Ambassadors for Christ, is to watch and listen to the person.  If they are rejecting the spiritual message you are sharing, leave them with a stone in their shoe to think about.  If they respond positively, share the gospel and leave the results up to God.

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