A friend of mine recently wrote to me expressing concern over the approach that people like Ray Comfort use in their evangelistic endevours. The comments were very much in line with what I would call the mainstream evangelical approach to evangelism.
Some of the objections he raised included:
1. This method of evangelism turns people off to the message.
2. I believe the Bible talks about preaching the message of God in Love.
3. We should not preach in a fire and brimstone kind of way.
4. I never saw any of the people that he was talking to inpublic come to faith in Christ.
5. We are not called to condemn, we are called to love.
What follows is my response to the objections he raised. I thought this might be of help to many of us who have to respond to or consider these common objections.
The seeker friendly approach has several false premises, the biggest one being the idea that people seek after God when Scripture plainly states the opposite:
As it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one". (Romans 3:10-12)
While we should not try to hinder the Gospel through hypocrisy in our own lives it is not us who "turn people off to the message". Scripture plainly lays out that people won't embrace the Gospel for the same reason that a thief can never find a policeman.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:7-20)
It is ironic that the best known verse in the Bible is followed by some of the least known verses as evidenced by the abundance of preaching that is in direct contradiction to John 3:18-20.
Another objection raised was "I believe the Bible talks about preaching the message of God in Love. This would mean that you have to preach Gods message in a loving way not in the fire and brimstone kind of way". Who is to say that it is not being preached in love. Love is the supreme commandment and so we should do all things in love but the Gospel imperative in Scripture is to preach it rightly.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)
If God demonstrated His love in dying for us while we were sinners (Romans 5:8) then it follows that it is impossible to preach God's love without unpacking the issue of sin. The idea that there are 2 types of preaching ie "love" or "fire and brimstone" is a big strawman. I advocate neither of these. What I do advocate is preaching the whole counsel of God and this includes judgment and damnation. It should not be our sole focus but we should not ignore it either. Again, salvation makes no sense without explaining what you are saved from. Grace, being undeserved favor, makes no sense without showing why we don't deserve it. The sinner who we witness to is presently under God's wrath (John 3:34) and it is simply not loving if we avoid informing them of this reality. Scripture again describes unregenerate sinners as "enemies of God in their mind by wicked works" (Colossians 1:21).
It is also not reasonable to pronounce God's wrath without explaining it. This is why we start with who God is and who man is and why we use the mirror of God's law to show a man his true sinful condition. We should come to Christ for righteousness rather than happiness and it is only when we see our unrighteousness that we will hunger and thirst after this wonderful righteousness found only in Christ.
Furthermore, showing someone their true sinful condition is not condemning them. It is showing them what Scripture plainly states - that they are already condemned
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)
Isn't that the loving thing to do? The cruel thing to do is comfort someone in their hell bound rebellion against God.
It is also important to remember that salvation is of God. Conversion is a work of God and as such it is foolish to pass judgments on whether or not people seem to profess faith in Christ and how many converts there are. If we measured Noah's or Jeremiah's success as preachers by this method they would be downright failures. The God honoring thing to do is to measure their success purely by faithfulness to the message they were called to preach. It is perilous to forget that our job is to preach the Gospel rightly and that conversion is a supernatural transforming work by God's Holy Spirit:
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
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