Personal Evangelism (II) : Significance
William C. Sexton
How important is personal evangelism? Until we see the results of this activity and become impressed with them, we shall be inactive in this great work. Therefore, we need to emphasize the Bible significance of this. We need, therefore, to ask the question, "does the Bible point to the significance of personal evangelism?" The answer is "Yes!" Let us notice how we can arrive at this conclusion:
1. Men are lost without the gospel, and Christians are the only ones to bring the gospel and sinful man together (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Eph. 3:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:2). Before the sinner can act to have his sins forgiven, he must be brought to realize that he is in a lost condition. Such is the mission of our teaching: to inform, to convict, to move! The sinner must be brought to realize that there is a plan by which he must be saved, if he is to be saved (Acts 4:12; 1 Peter 1:2). To the hostile world, the apostles said of Jesus, "For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby men must be saved." Peter, while addressing the "elect," pointed to the two sides of salvation, (1) the Divine and (2) the human. God made the plan "according to the foreknowledge of God," the Holy Spirit revealed the plan "through sanctification of the Spirit," and Christ Jesus executed the plan (note "the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ . . . ."). Each of these did their work so that man by "obedience" could be saved by the plan!
The sinner must be brought to the realization that God and His people love him and are working together for his salvation (1 Cor. 3:5-9). Paul had preached the gospel, Apollos had contributed by' watering, but God had given the increase. All of God's children have a part in this great cooperative; God's message is to be conveyed by man to man, in order- to produce faith upon which he can act and be forgiven by God. Without the agency of man, men will hot hear the gospel and thus cannot act and be saved!
2. God commands his children to work to the end that men might be saved (Matt. 5:13-16; Phil. 2:14-16). We cannot please Him if we do not act as He instructs us in this matter. " Jesus said to do the "will" of the Father was "meat" to Him. Anticipating delaying attempts, He warns against putting off the work by saying that there is some time before "harvest!" The fields are "white already to harvest." All we, who are His disciples, need to do is "lift up" our "eyes." Then we need to see the great need and the potential which is great.
We manifest a lack of understanding or concern for men if we do not seek with zeal and zest to inform, convince, and move them to accept the plan of God (Matt. 7:12). If we are without zeal and zest in gaining the attention of others and directing them to the plan of God, then we must be without one of the essential ingredients of the do unto others as would we not, knowing what we know of salvation, want others to tell us of the gospel plan-if we were without it? Therefore, if we are saved and have not this driving urge to tell others, then something is out of kilter, something is missing in this arrangement. We cannot be satisfied without making an all-out effort to tell others while we have time and while they have time, because we may not be here tomorrow or they may have .passed from the scene, and, in either case; the opportunity will be gone for ever.
3. Christ pointed to the specific need (Matt. 9:37-38; Luke 10:2). The significance of this great work ought to begin to make its impact on our consciousness when we realize that if we fail to teach these people they are going to be lost! Thus if we do not succeed, these people will be lost forever, without hope-simply because the gospel must be presented to them, and they must accept it and apply it in their lives or be lost. Do we believe that? Do we now begin to see how important our mission is? Do we see how important this aspect of our work is? However, let us not overlook another fact: if we do not try to save them, beloved, we shall be lost, too! Look closely at Ezek. 3:18; and Acts 20:26-27 to see if Paul is not taking as a basis of his argument the statement or principle made by Ezekiel; then draw the inference correctly!
Moreover, if we try, we shall succeed (John 15:2). No, we will not win every soul we deal with, but we shall win some! Additionally, we shall save our soul by trying, whereas we would have lost it by not trying. By telling others, we shall grow in spiritual strength (Heb. 5:11-14). On the other hand if we fail to exercise our faculties, our members, we shall remain as babes, unskillful in the word of righteousness and in time die spiritually.
Experience is essential to growth in the spiritual realm as well as in the physical; experience is essential to becoming efficient; experience and efficiency are both essential to accomplishment. Many have not the confidence because they have waited so long without making an effort. Being afraid of making a mistake, they make the biggest mistake of all-by failing to try!
4. Personal evangelism can reach the heart of the problem as no other method of teaching can. First, a person can be contacted who would never be contacted by any of the other methods of teaching. Each member of the Lord's church has some contacts that no other member has. Each member has some particular influence with a person or persons that no other member has or can ever have. Many people never have been to an assembly of the saints and yet they know a member of the church who can talk to them about their soul salvation. Secondly, one may attend the assembly and have a lot of questions and never have them answered, unless a personal effort is made by some message of Christ. For He tells us to we would have them do unto us, and individual. But by this method one can learn of the question, respond to it, and perhaps remove an obstacle that will hinder this person for years or may keep him from ever obeying the gospel. Thirdly, one can make a specific and personal appeal for this person to make application of the scriptures to his life then and there. Many are somewhat timid and hold back in the assembly, whereas in the private study they can be persuaded to obey the gospel at that hour, as they did in Bible times (Acts 16:30-34). A word of caution, I feel, is in order, however. Let us not unduly over do the selling! Do not persuade a person to act against his will before he is convinced of the facts. I feel that some have been pushed into baptism; they are not really converted nor are they of any value to themselves or to others.
Yes, beloved, personal evangelism is significant. It cannot replace the assembly teaching, the Bible class arrangement of teaching, the teaching done by the printed page, nor the teaching done by way of radio or TV, but it has its unique need and place in the Lord's plan. And in my judgment, it is the most neglected part of the Lord's plan in most congregations of the Lord's people today! Why? Perhaps because we preachers, elders, and others of influence in the congregation, are not really sold on the idea that we personally can and should do personal evangelism. And if we are not doing it, we are not going to get many others to do it. Even though we talk about it most of the time, we teach a more powerful message-the most influential one of all-by what we do, by our actions! Is personal evangelism significant in the work you have done for the Lord's cause last week? Is it evidenced by your actions?
Truth Magazine XIX: 32, pp. 504-505