PROPER BIBLICAL EVANGELISM
We are looking at the question: Are Christians allowed to almost force people to salvation? The question is based on Luke 10:1-3. I think this a very good question because virtually no one will say that we are able to force people to salvation, but some do act like they can at least almost force people to salvation. The Calvinists believe that God forces his elect to salvation by their belief in irresistible grace, but we know already that this is a false belief. I believe most evangelists, and anyone who frequently tries to witness for the Lord to bring the lost to Christ, can easily be prone to one of two tendencies: 1) Trying to force people into some type of decision or profession of faith in Christ which is not going to be genuine or 2) Not doing all the things that they can reasonably do to help bring someone to a genuine faith in Christ. And I think it’s obvious that many who use bad measures to try to force people into God’s kingdom also in many cases don’t do all the right things that they could reasonably do to bring people into God’s kingdom. As is the case with every and any question we have which has some Biblical precedent, the best thing to do is to look at what the people whom God commended in the Bible actually did in matters related to the question. It is easy to think that if we could just sit someone down and talk to them that we could convince them that they ought to be a Christian, that we clear away whatever hindrances or obstacles in their heart and mind which stand in the way of that. Yet we have in Scripture one of the best Apostles and best preachers in such a situation with a man- and we see this did not happen.
Acts 24:24-27 “And after certain days, when Felix (the Roman Governor of Judea whom the Jews were accusing Paul before) came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. 26 He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. 27 But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.”
There are so many things which we can learn from this passage just in relation to our topic. We certainly see how the way to eternal life is narrow and not just anyone and everyone will enter it even when the messenger is powerful, accurate, convicting, and blameless in his character too. Paul even had many opportunities to commune with Felix since Felix did call for him again frequently. But it’s obvious that even the Apostle Paul could only do so much for him and at some point the conversations they were having were not even helpful.
You remember the parable of seed and the sower which Jesus spoke. He illustrated and proved there that not every man’s heart is in a place to receive the Word of God so that it will bear fruit accordingly. And Paul knew when he spoke before Felix that Felix’s priorities were out of line. No one is going to really turn to Christ and endure as a faithful Christian who does not value being right with God on Judgment Day above everything else and who is not persuaded to live righteously and temperate (controlling their passions and sacrificing pleasure in the present to live in accordance with Christian values) for the rest of their life in order to be ready to meet God and stand in Jesus Christ before Him on Judgment Day. Everyone needs to know what Paul was telling Felix, but Paul obviously saw the need to reason much with Felix about righteous, temperance, and judgment to come because these were things that Felix needed an education about- and the grace of the gospel would be basically casting pearls before swine without a strong foundation laid therewith in Felix’s heathen mind from God’s Word concerning these things.
Are not churches today filled with people who have made a profession of faith in Christ which isn’t Biblically authentic or genuine because they have been taught an incomplete gospel that is false, at the very least because they were not taught it in a way that confronted their heathen values and the gospel they were taught allowed for salvation for those who were not successfully alienated them from their heathen values? And so we see in the case of Paul with Felix that when a faithful preacher with godly discernment and great wisdom has a chance to talk in detail with someone, there will be a confrontation between the truth of God and any lusts of the world which reign in their heart. And no matter how faithful the preacher is and no matter how much he wants them to be saved, he can’t stop the person he is talking to from hardening their heart and continuing to pursue the desires and the evil way which are leading him or her to hell.
We even see in the case of Herod with John the Baptist that one can greatly respect the godly witness before them and modify their life in the right direction to a great extent- and yet still ultimately harden their heart, come short of true repentance, and even kill the godly witness that they respected so much before they ultimately perish!
Mark 6:20-24: “20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. 21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; 22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. 23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. 24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.” (And we know that Herod complied and had him killed)
A person can even have a desire for eternal life, one that is strong and intense, and they can go to the perfect witness, the Great Physician Himself who deals with them in a way that is suited to their individual need with absolute perfection- and yet walk away from Him without eternal life! There was a rival God in his life that he was attached to that Jesus pointed out and didn’t relent over, even though he was overall a much more moral, decent man than Felix and Herod were.
Mark 10:17-23 “17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running (we know by Luke ch 18 that this was a ruler of some kind), and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!”
Jesus didn’t chase this young man. Is there a place to reason with someone about the uncertainty of riches and how vain it is to be attached to them; and to reason of how this was necessary to worship God in truth and so have a blessed eternity? There could be. Paul did such with Felix. But Jesus knew that this young man knew this already or at least He knew that He had said what needed to be said for the moment and that it was good for this man to wrestle with the truth about what he needed to do in his situation to get right with God. It’s good to ask ourselves if we are comfortable letting someone walk away sorry, even someone who a minute before seemed like such a promising and important evangelistic catch. I don’t think many Pastors and evangelists could or would do so. But we should be able to since Jesus could. Anyone who assumes that their sitting down and talking with someone is going to get them saved has a majorly wicked problem of thinking that their evangelistic methods are so much better than those of the Lord and Master of the Universe!
Now those examples were all of rich men, which left them each with an obstacle that many which you deal with don’t have. But everyone has their obstacles to salvation- and these examples still prove points in relation to the issue which we are dealing with. There is another side to this though- and that is that obstacles to salvation in people’s hearts can be cast down so that men repent and find eternal life. We should pray earnestly in relation to that and know that God is working on people in hope of opening their eyes to that end in light of who Christ is and what He has done to save them.
1 Timothy 2:1-8: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. 8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
We see the Apostle’s own enthusiasm about this as he was giving his testimony before a king and a multitude in Acts ch 26. We get a glimpse here of his way of life. He suffered the things he did believing that they mattered and that his labor towards bringing people to salvation in Christ was not in vain. We also see how he confronted people and challenged them to think logically and respond appropriately to the faithful Gospel testimony that he was sharing, because God’s Holy Spirit is working as God’s Word is faithfully preached. People’s hearts and minds can respond right to this and believe the Gospel unto life. Paul knew his own conversion as proof of this.
Acts 26:9-29 “9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. 11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. 12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. 19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. 21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. 22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: 23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. 24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. 25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”
Note here: Vs 19- Paul was not disobedient to Christ’s appearance to him from heaven. He could have hardened himself even after this. He was not forced to believe in and follow Jesus by this vision. We see in the Book of Acts how there were men, religious leaders of Israel, who acknowledged that the miracles which Christ’s Apostles were doing in His name were genuine- and yet they still rejected Jesus and even more earnestly opposed the preaching that the Apostles were doing in His name (See Acts ch 4:6-18) vss 22 & 29- Paul saw all men as candidates for salvation. Obviously he also knew that some had already hardened themselves against Christ and opposed His cause, so this fact didn’t stop him from being wise as a serpent, using discretion, and acknowledging that some had rendered themselves beyond any hope of finding God’s grace due to how they had already rejected and abused the offer of it. vss 27-28- When Paul was speaking to individuals, he did confront them and ask them questions to challenge them and persuade them to think logically and respond appropriately to the faithful Gospel testimony he was sharing.
Acts 19:8:”8 And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.”
Paul testified, Paul persuaded, Paul warned- yet he didn’t try to override people’s wills and (so many preachers fail here by their methods). He didn’t try to intimidate them by the strength of his personality nor try to impress them by his intellect and/or oratory elegance. He actually feared people coming to believe in Jesus on the basis of such things, because he knew that would not be a Biblically authentic faith that worships God from the heart and endures suffering in line with His Word. It would not be based on their belief of God’s testimony from their hearts; and receiving God’s testimony is incompatible with esteeming the things of the world which carnal men value, take pride in, and esteem.
Luke 16:15 “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”
1 Cor 1:21 to 2:5 “21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
Along the same lines: Isaiah 53:1-6: “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Now to the small percentage of Israelites who valued redemption from sin and restoration to God’s image more than deliverance from the Romans and earthly prosperity, there was beauty in Jesus that they should desire Him. When Paul went to synagogues preaching Christ he was persuading those he preached to from the Law of Moses and the Prophets to alter their values to what they ought to be by rightly dividing Scripture to show those values which the Law and the Prophets testified that people ought to have (then and now the Jews were corrupted by a Prosperity Gospel, just like Christendom is corrupted now); and by proving that Jesus is the Christ foretold in the Scriptures who corresponds to the fulfillment of the proper values.
Acts 17:1-3: “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.”
Romans 10:16-17 “16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
The pure Gospel of Christ confronts the wrong and misplaced values of men while offering the remedy and the provisions for the things pertaining to God that have eternal implications which we ought to value. If the pure Word of God being testified to a person’s heart and mind does not persuade to commit themselves wholly to Jesus Christ and to live by His Word, then it’s not only useless, but also potentially deceptive and destructive, to try to bring about belief in Christ in an alternative way.
So here are some things I thought to mention in consideration of what has already been said in this study.
-When preaching to a group or witnessing to individuals, just like Jesus warned about in relation to prayer to God, don’t think you’ll be heard for your much speaking (in terms of how much you say nor how loud you say it). Sometimes less is more; often normal volume is better than shouting)
– Beware of doing altar calls and causing other situations which might cause people to make a profession of Christ due to not wanting to look bad before you or before others at the meeting.
– People shouldn’t be confronted to repent in a way that they feel ganged up on or intimidated by a strong personality, especially if they are not opposing God’s work in the church or being a notable hindrance to the salvation of others.
– It is better for a meeting to end with no new converts to report and no great accomplishments to otherwise report than to extract professions of Christ, and other notable decisions for God’s kingdom, by methods like those described in the previous points.
– It is not wrong to challenge people to confess Christ and to stand for Him in a public way, but this should be connected to being baptized as His disciple who is committed to obeying all His instruction,- and whenever possible, this should be connected with membership in a church that is seeking to be under the authority of God’s Word and walking in His whole counsel.
– We shouldn’t be uncomfortable testifying the truth that we need to testify faithfully to people and exhorting them to walk in it- and then leaving them to deal with God about what they’ve heard. If they know where to find us or know someway to get in touch with us, then they can come back to us when they are ready to follow Jesus with their whole hearts- or when they think they need to talk more or ask more questions- or whatever they need to do that they might need to contact us in relation to. Much might have been accomplished in God’s eyes at the meeting anyways; and that’s all that ultimately matters. And maybe one key thing accomplished is that those who held the meeting stayed faithful, kept the lines where they ought to be, and felt no need to impress anyone by manipulating things to impress others nor to satisfy their own feelings to obtain decisions to report.
God’s servants have a key place in the equation of the preparation of Christ’s bride, but there is much more to the equation than that. The faithful and wise servant of Christ understands this, seeks to faithfully do his or her part, and keep their hands off of the rest (Acts 2:36-42 is one key example of this you can look up yourself and I’ll read another key example to close).
Acts 28:23-31 “23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. 25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, 26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: 27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. 30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”
Bro Aaron can be reached at [email protected]