How to do effective Biblical evangelism

by Mike Ratliff

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26:4-5 (NASB) 

Evangelism that is biblical is not numbers or results based as if it is a process we can control through methodology. The seeker-sensitive form of evangelism, on the other hand, is totally numbers or results based, and, therefore, uses methodologies to boost perceived effectiveness by increased numbers of “decisions for Christ.” The seeker-sensitive form of evangelism assumes that God is helpless to save anyone outside of their efforts. It ignores passages such as John 3:5-8 and Ephesians 2:1-10.

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8 (NASB) 

In this passage, Jesus tells us that people are born again by the Spirit and His work in this is like the wind which no one can control or perceive.

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10 (NASB) 

Christians are people who have been saved by God’s grace through faith. This faith is a gift from God. We know this because Paul tells us in this passage that saving faith is not of works. If it was faith that we generate or do then it would be “of works” and we could, therefore, boast that we made the right decision while the lost have not done so.

Given these two truths from God’s Word, then, what must we do to conform to Biblical evangelism? We know that our Lord has commanded that we preach the gospel to the lost and dying world, but how are we to do it?

It begins with prayer. We must pray for and love the people to whom we bring the Gospel. I have leaned that it is impossible to hate or detest or despise those for whom I pray. Once I begin praying for the salvation of a person, no matter how foolish, obnoxious, and unlovable they are, I begin to care for them personally that they come to salvation. We being by praying for them and God changes our hearts so that we love them with His love.

We must strive to reflect the nature and truth of God in our lives and character. No one is going to respond to the gospel presented by a person whose character is of the world. God uses the regenerate character of His people to show the lost of the world what a miracle our salvation really is. We cannot reflect the nature and truth of God in our lives and character unless Christ-likeness is becoming manifest in us. This is why biblical discipleship is so important. Christian maturity begets a Christ-like character. This is so unworldly that it causes our hearers to take notice as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts as we present the truth of the Gospel to them.

We must ask God for wisdom.

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who is wise wins souls. Proverbs 11:30 (NASB)

Why is it important for Christians to have God’s wisdom? Worldly wisdom does not know the truth nor operate in it. It is totally lacking in any perception of the true nature of God, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ and the the Gospel. Those we present the Gospel to will be operating in and by that wisdom. Therefore, we need Godly wisdom in order to respond to the foolishness of the worldly wisdom with God’s truth. This wisdom also guides and shows us when we should witness and when we shouldn’t.

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26:4-5 (NASB) 

This passage teaches us the appropriate way to answer a fool. Who are fools? These are unbelievers who reject the truth. They should not be answered with agreement to their own ideas and presuppositions. Why? If we disobey this then we will contribute to them thinking they are right. Instead, we must rebuke them on the basis of their folly and shown truth so they can clearly see their foolishness. This is operating within the wisdom God gives us as we ask for it.

We must present the Law of God. Yes, we are talking about the Gospel, but it is God’s Law that teaches people the truth of their inadequacies within their fallen nature. His Law is the instructor that divides the presuppositions in the heart. It cuts through self-righteousness. It shows people the standard of the only righteousness acceptable to God and then shows them that they come up far short of it. It shows them their hopeless, lost condition.

We must sow the Word of God. I always receive heat from the neo-pagans and the emergent crowd because of this ministry’s total dependence on the Word of God in all that we do here. I do not allow anyone to present extra-bibical arguments here against what we teach. All discussion must be biblically based. Why? The Word of God is our only standard of absolute truth. Also, if we sow it in all that we do then God will be in it. He inhabits His word and those who live in it, use it correctly, and base their ministries in it will be blessed by Him. Therefore, if we are to obey Christ in telling the world the good news then it must be done by using God’s Word in every aspect of it.

We must be a vessel of the Holy Spirit through both our lives and our testimonies. This means that we must witness in the power of the Holy Spirit as weak, and surrendered vessels of grace. We take no credit for His work. We recognize that anything eternal that we are part of is His work. We are only the vessel through which He works. If we will do this then we are on the path to genuine humility. God uses the humble, but rejects the proud.

We must move our hearers to a point of doubt. This means that as we present the Gospel, we work to show them that what they are basing their lives on, what they are trusting in, is valueless and not eternal. This is where prayer is vital because this is the point that can degenerate into fruitless arguing. We must have wisdom here. Apologetics are also very valuable at this point.

1 Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! 2 I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:1-5 (NASB) 

15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NASB)

To obey these things we must be in the race. We must be maturing Christians who both consume and preach “solid food,” and are asking God for His wisdom then obeying Him within it.

14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:14 (NASB) 

We must help those we witness to to acknowledge the truth. If this is not done then they have not believed by God’s grace. This is a crucial part of biblical evangelism. This truth is the result of God’s Law working in their hearts. They will acknowledge that they are lost and know why. They will know that Jesus is the only way to salvation and that only those who believe and receive Him as Lord and Saviour are saved. They must acknowledge these things or they have not been touched by God’s grace.

Lastly, we must clearly challenge them to repent and believe the gospel. This is what all of us who are saved did at that moment of belief when God did His eternal work of Grace in us. This is the exercise of the faith through which we believed. They must do so as well. This is not the same thing as raising a hand, walking an aisle, saying a prayer, or filling our a card. No, the regenerate believer believes and repents. God justifies them and begins their sanctification. Their salvation, as ours was, is His work.

God most certainly does not need us in order to save His people. However, He has graciously allowed us to participate in evangelism. We are commanded to preach the Gospel. Therefore, let us obey Him by doing so biblically for His glory alone.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “How to do effective Biblical evangelism

  1. Good post Mike. A brother and I go walking around trails and parks in our city for exercise and in the hope that we may engage someone along the way in friendly conversation leading to a gospel proclamation. we have discovered that people are more open or receptive when we have a genuine concern and compassion for them rather than a cold presentation of biblical facts. This compassion (love?) for a total stranger I believe is the working of the Holy Spirit in us as well as the stranger whose heart has been prepared.
    However I think the two of us need to spend more time in prayer as per this post and your previous one recommends before we begin our walks.
    Thank you for what you wrote. It is light for guidance. 😀


  2. Interestingly, I started reading Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by Packer yesterday, when you also wrote this post!


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