Here are some interesting questions for you to consider. Does the Bible provide you with everything you need to share the Gospel? Does effective modern-day evangelism require specialized knowledge that average Christian’s do not possess?
In 1 Peter 3:15, Paul says we are to always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us. Does that mean we need to be able to make impressive arguments that will leave an atheist stammering and unable to answer? Knowing what we know today regarding science, is the ancient text of the Bible just the starting point that must be supplemented with more modern sources of knowledge?
What if the person you are talking to says that they don’t care what the Bible says, because they don’t believe in it? What if they say that you can’t use the Bible to prove the Bible, do you then need to build a reasoned argument for the existence of God without using the Bible?
Put simply: Is Scripture ‘sufficient’ for evangelism? Many people in the church would be quick to say that God’s Word IS sufficient, if for no other reason than they don’t want to say that the Bible is ‘insufficient’. But in practice, do they actually think and act like someone who truly believes in the ‘Sufficiency of Scripture’?
The world is filled with people who teach that God’s Word is not sufficient. Many would say that in addition to the Bible you also need books on psychology, science, or philosophy.
When it comes to evangelism, some Christians believe that if you can’t quote the works of learned and highly respected men, like Ravi Zacharias does, then you are not qualified to do evangelism. Others think you must first learn to make convincing apologetic arguments for the existence of God based upon real world evidences, or that you must be skilled at making convincing philosophical or transcendental arguments.
By telling us to be ready to make a defense, Paul never intended for us to use methods that are not contained within the pages of Scripture itself. He was not pointing to the use of the wisdom of men found outside of the Bible. He wanted us to make a defense using what we find in God’s Word. The reason for the hope that is in us is CHRIST.
Ashamed of the Gospel
The Gospel is offensive by nature. It tells us things about ourselves that we do not want to believe. Worse yet, people who are perishing will consider the Gospel to be foolishness – only those being saved will see it as the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor 1:18). The only way for any man to be saved is by receiving that Gospel message, yet many will only grow angry at you for giving it to them. Like a drowning man, who in his panic can end up killing someone trying to rescue him, evangelizing the lost has similar dangers.
The world does not respect Jesus Christ, his gospel, nor those who stand in Christ’s name to proclaim it. Christians are people too, and as people we naturally want to be liked and respected by others. Nobody wants to be seen as an uneducated fool, but sharing the Gospel is a sure way to get others to look at you with that ‘Oh, you are one of those people’ look.
Christ has commanded each one of us to proclaim this offensive message to all men and women. We are to take up our cross daily and follow Him, and He promises to make us Fishers of Men (Luke 9:23; Matt 4:19).
Yet, many Christians grow ashamed of the gospel, and seek to fix it. They try to soften its jagged edges. Though it is spiritual in nature, they try to make it sound more intellectually satisfying. Many desire to learn ways to win arguments with unbelievers and to ‘prove’ them wrong. It may feel good for the moment to talk circles around someone, but that is not how unbelievers get saved.
Why Scripture IS Sufficient
The reason Scripture is sufficient for evangelism, is because salvation is a miraculous work of God. You could be the smartest and most persuasive person who ever lived, you could even have the entire Bible memorized from cover to cover, but you still could never get someone into the Kingdom by convincing them intellectually, or by proving them wrong. Salvation does NOT depend on your ability to masterfully persuade someone into making a ‘decision’ for Christ.
To be saved, an unbeliever must receive the biblical Gospel message. That message is not like any other message ever shared. It is the power of God set into the pages of God’s Word by the Holy Spirit. We Christians have been tasked by our Lord with spreading that Gospel message everywhere we can, to everyone who will listen, and with praying for those who need Christ. Once that seed of the Gospel is planted in the soil of a man’s spiritually dead heart, the Holy Spirit uses that Gospel to bring new life, forgiveness, righteousness, and adoption to many.
In Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), the Rich Man was convinced that his brothers would repent if someone returned from the dead to warn them. But, Jesus explained that if they wouldn’t believe the Scriptures they already have, they wouldn’t be persuaded even if they saw someone rise from the dead.
That is because their lack of belief is not the result of a lack of evidence. Their lack of belief is a moral problem. Their spiritually dead heart is both unable and unwilling to believe, suppressing the truth as an act of rebellion toward their Creator (Rom 1:18). No amount of persuasive evidence could ever turn a heart that is willfully denying the truth.
Their problem can’t be solved by human reasoning. Only the supernatural power of Christ’s Gospel, and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit could ever bring life to those dry bones. Nothing else can save.
It was for this reason that Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Pastor Cliff McManis says in his new ‘Apologetics By The Book’, “As to the content of the Gospel that Paul presents in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul twice says the Gospel is “according to the Scriptures” [kata tas graphas] (vv. 3-4)… the saving Gospel message is found only in Scripture. Salvation in not “according to philosophy” or “according to natural theology” or “according to general revelation”… Salvation comes from the content of the Gospel as delineated “according to the Scriptures.” The salvation message is confined exclusively to the Bible, solely to the message about Christ’s life, death, burial and resurrection as stated in the New Testament. So, there is no salvation apart from the Gospel of Jesus as stated in the Bible. The Gospel “according to the Scriptures” means the Gospel is found “only in the Scriptures.” This is the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.” (pg. 399-400)
Not only is Scripture sufficient for evangelism, but all of man’s wisdom contained in all other books ever written is insufficient to save even a single sinner.
What Must I Do?
As much we want to impress others, you simply cannot promote Jesus while trying to promote yourself. You have to be willing to be a fool for Christ’s sake in order to share the biblical Gospel. We must be willing to say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
Ravi Zacharias is a brilliant man, but he quotes more from unbelieving human authors than he ever does from the actual Word of God. He calls himself an evangelist, yet he only rarely gets around to sharing the Gospel. As a result, he is a highly respected and a sought-after speaker at many secular universities. But, no secular university seeks to invite a speaker who has a reputation for boldly and unblushingly sharing the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul certainly wasn’t trying to impress anyone with his own wisdom or impressive speaking skills. Paul wasn’t concerned with what the world thought of him personally. Paul only wanted to proclaim the Gospel, and to handle it well. He said to the Corinthians,
When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.(1 Cor 2:1-5)
Did the Gospel, and even Paul himself, seem to be foolish to most of those who heard him proclaim Christ? Absolutely! Paul explained,
The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”(1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-24)
Paul warned young Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” (2 Tim 1:7-9) And, Paul told Timothy that it was the Scripture that he had known from childhood that was able to give him the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15). In other words, it is the Scripture (and only the Scripture) which is sufficient for a sinner’s Salvation. Far from mere words, the Scripture is the supernatural power of God to save.
But what about us and our reputation before men? Paul says,
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. (1 Cor 1:26-29)
That is us. The average Christians God has chosen are those who are not wise by the world’s standard, not mighty, not noble, but those who are considered foolish, weak, and despised by the world. We are those who are ‘not’, that God may be seen to be the One who puts to shame the wise and brings the wisdom of the world to nothing. It is not about us, and it never has been.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:2-3). Apart from God and His sufficient Word, what chances could we have? God expects us to stand on His Word by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit, trusting that both are sufficient and all we could even need as we proclaim His Gospel.