True Gospel Evangelism
We live in a time when there is considerable effort throughout much of the world to “evangelize” people to Christianity. Much of this effort is through what is known as a missionary effort. Multitudes of churches and denominations send “missionaries” to foreign mission work. It is my intention in the next few essays to outline the true biblical teaching on gospel evangelism and compare it to the modern efforts of foreign mission work.
There are three things that are critical for a true gospel evangelistic work. First there must be the preaching of the true gospel. Second, there must be a proper motive for going forth. Third, there must be a proper method in going forth to the work of gospel evangelism.
The modern mission movement grew out of a teaching and belief that John 3:16 and John 1:11, 12 teach that people must believe the gospel and accept the Lord as their personal savior in order to get eternal life. John 3:16 is interpreted to teach that God loved everybody, but the individual must believe in order to get eternal life. John 1:11, 12 is interpreted to teach that the individual must receive (interpreted to mean accept) the Lord in order to become a child of God.
The basic premise of John 3:16 is that the “world” of John 3:16 is “all of humanity.” The second premise is that believing is a prerequisite to eternal life and not an evidence of eternal life.
In the next several essays we will first test the “premises” and “teachings” of John 3:16 and John 1:11, 12 to see if they actually are teaching what most people think they are teaching. Second, we will compare the true gospel of Jesus Christ with what is commonly taught to be the gospel of Jesus Christ. Third, we will compare the generally believed purpose of sending forth missionaries to the true purposes for the gospel to go forth to the multitudes of God’s people. Fourth, we will compare the modern missionary methods of sending forth missionaries with the true method God uses in sending forth the gospel of Christ.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 is commonly interpreted to teach that God loved everybody, but the individual must believe in order to get eternal life. The basic premise of John 3:16 is that the “world” of John 3:16 is “all of humanity.” The second premise is that believing is a prerequisite to eternal life and not an evidence of eternal life.
Let us look at the first premise that the “world” of John 3:16 is “all of humanity.” Whatever the “world” of John 3:16 is, we know that it is a “world” that God so loved that he gave his only begotten Son for.
There are a number of ways in which the word, world, is used in scripture. A very small sampling is listed below:
The common belief is that the world in John 3:16 is all of humanity. However, if it can be shown that there are people that God did not love then the commonly held belief would be proven wrong. Paul taught the sovereignty of God in election in Romans chapter 9. Here he also showed that there is a people that God loved and a people that God hated: Rom. 9:10 “And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
Very plainly, the above passage tells us that God loved Jacob and that he hated Esau. Now, some people say that God loves us until we reject him, then he hates us. However, the above passage tells us that God loved Jacob and hated Esau before they were yet born or had done any good or any evil. We can safely conclude that God’s love of Jacob and his hatred of Esau was not based on any good or any evil that either boy had done. Moreover, since God’s dealings with Jacob and Esau represent God’s purpose according to election, then we are forced to the conclusion that God loved those that he chose and hated those that he did not choose.
The scriptures teach us that God chose his people before the world began: Eph. 1:4 “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:”
We now proceed to show by several verses of scripture that the people that God chose before the world began are the people that God so loved that he gave his only begotten Son for:
We now proceed to identify positively the “world” of John 3:16. The context of the verses leading up to John 3:16 is the new or spiritual birth. Jesus had said that a person must be born again in order to be able to see or enter the kingdom of God. He also pointed out in v. 8 that the Holy Spirit is sovereign and acts independently of man in bringing about the new or spiritual birth. The world of John 3:16 is therefore the “world” of the born again elect family of God.
John 3:16 is not a verse describing how we can get eternal life, but rather it is a verse assuring the born again elect, that believe on him, that they have eternal life. It is not an offer of salvation from sin but rather an assurance of salvation from sin to the elect and Spirit born children of God who believe on him.
Thus, reading John 3:16 by substituting the actual “world” for the word, “world,” we have “For God so loved the elect, born again family of God that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Only someone who has been born of the Spirit can believe in Jesus. By believing that Jesus died for our sins thus redeeming us to God, we have the assurance that we shall not perish but that we have everlasting life. Believing in Jesus did not cause us to get everlasting life, but believing is an evidence that we have everlasting life. We will show this in the next essay as the Apostle John pointed out over and over that belief is an evidence of eternal life and not the cause of eternal life.
John 1:11 “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
The common teaching on v. 11 and 12 is that if you will believe or accept Jesus as your personal savior you will become a child of God. The vast majority who teach this do not quote v. 13. The gist of their teaching is that v. 11 and 12 teach that if you will just receive (accept) Jesus through believing that he offered himself and his sacrifice to you as a payment for your sins and accept his offering, then he will cause you to be born of the Spirit, save you from your sins, and give you eternal life.
However, the above sentence does not end with verse 12 but continues on unto the end of verse 13. Verse 13 destroys the common teaching on verses 11 and 12. The phrase “which were born” indicates there was a birth prior to “believing on his name.” This birth we are told was “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man.” Plainly, this birth was not the result of a blood sacrifice or a blood relationship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Also, this birth was not the result of a desire (will) of our flesh to be born again. Moreover, it was not of the choice (will) of man to be born again. Man’s free will is completely ruled out as a cause of this birth. Again, we are plainly told that this birth was of God.
The grammar in the above passage leads us to the conclusion that we were born of God prior to believing on Jesus name. Since we were born of God prior to believing on his name, then we were children of God by spiritual birth prior to believing on his name. Believing on his name, therefore, cannot be the cause of our becoming children of God. What then does it mean in verse 12 that he gave us, who believe, power to become sons of God? The answer is found for us in Matt. 5:44-48: 44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Notice that the above passage teaches us that when we love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us, that we become the children of our Father which is in heaven. Consider that if he is our “Father” as the above says, then we are already his children by spiritual birth. That we may become the children of our Father teaches us that we, through loving our enemies, blessing them that curse us, doing good to them that hate us, and praying for them that despitefully use us and persecute us, manifest our relationship with our heavenly Father. That is, we become manifest children of God as we emulate his perfect example.
Going back to John 1:12 we can now see that this is teaching that we who have already been born of the Spirit, when we believe on the name of Jesus, that we now have the power or ability to manifest ourselves as sons of God through emulating his perfect love.
In this essay we will look at the relationship between belief and the new birth.
Most people today are taught and believe that you must hear and believe the gospel in order to be born again. In a cause/effect relationship, they think that "belief" is the "cause" and that the "new birth" is the "effect." This concept is to them supported by an erroneous belief in what John 3:16 teaches. In truth, the "new birth" is the "cause" and "belief" is the "effect" of the new birth.
When we are unsure what a person is teaching, it is best to go to him and let him explain what he is teaching. We will let John explain which comes first, belief or the new birth. For this we will consider several verses of scripture in the book of John as follows:
A. John 1:11‑13...to them that believe on his name: which were born...of God." For the sake of brevity we didn't quote all the above passage, but please note "believe" is in the present tense, while "were born" is in the past tense. Grammatically, therefore, the birth must precede the belief; i.e., they were born of God prior to believing.
B. John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life..." Again, "believeth" is present tense and "hath" is past tense. Thus everlasting life (new birth) precedes belief.
C. John 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Once again, "heareth" and "believeth" are present tense and "hath" is past tense. Hence, everlasting life comes before we can hear or believe. Thus we must be born again prior to "hearing" or "believing." Hearing and believing are evidences of the new birth.
D. John 6:47, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." You show me someone who believes on Jesus and I will show you someone who already has everlasting life.
E. John 8:43, 47, "Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word." "He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." Clearly, you must first be of God (born again) before you can hear God's words (gospel).
F. John 10:26‑28, "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." In this passage the sheep are those to whom Christ gives eternal life. Those who are not given eternal life do not believe. Only those who are given eternal life believe, thus belief is the evidence of the fact that God has given us eternal life (new birth).
G. John 13:37, 38, "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" It is not the miracles we see with our natural eyes that enable or entice us to believe, but it is the miracle performed within us (new birth) that enables or causes us to believe. God must first cause us to be born again (reveal his holy arm <strength> within us) and then we can "believe the report."
H. 1 John 5:1, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Once again, "believeth" is in the present tense and "is born" is in the past tense, thus again showing us that the new birth precedes belief and in this case "belief that Jesus is the Christ."
Plainly it can be seen from the several verses quoted that John taught that the new birth comes before belief. Thus the question should be asked, "What then does John 3:16 teach?" One thing it teaches us is the eternal security of the believer. Believing doesn't cause us to get eternal life, but Christ died that we may have eternal life. Since eternal life (new birth) precedes believing, then I may conclude that any person that believes already has eternal life and that Christ died for them in order that they may have eternal life.
Next, we will examine the concept of accepting Jesus as our personal Savior and distinguish between receiving and accepting.
The phrase “accepting the Lord as your personal savior” is almost universally used in the realm of Christian denominations. The word, “accept,” indicates a conscience decision on the behalf of the individual to either accept or reject something offered. The word, “accept,” is to be distinguished from the word, “receive,” as something may be received without responding to an offer. For instance, I live in a rural area of the United States and we have postal delivery service daily except on Sunday. The mail is delivered to a mail box. Most days my mail box receives mail delivered to it by the postman. However, my mail box has never yet accepted any item of mail. Over the years there have literally been tens of thousands of items of mail delivered to my mail box in which my mail box received. Not once has my mail box ever been offered any of the items of mail to be accepted or rejected.
Often we believe things that we are taught. Most often we receive the teaching. However, God has never offered the scriptures to us to be accepted or rejected. Simply put, he has given us the scriptures and we should believe them.
The words, accept or accepted or accepteth, appear in the scriptures exactly 57 times. In 37 of those times the context is of the Lord either accepting or rejecting something offered to him of man. The other 20 times the context involving men either accepting or rejecting something offered to them by other men.
Not once, in the 57 times the words appear in the scripture do we find God offering anything to man for man to accept or reject. You would think that with the almost universal teaching that Christ has been offered to men to be either accepted or rejected by men that the scriptures would plainly teach that Christ is offered to be accepted or rejected of men. However, not one verse of scripture in the bible presents Christ as being offered to man to be accepted or rejected.
The words; offer, offering, offered, offereth, appear in the scriptures 726 times. Approximately 99% of the time the offerings were to God and were made to be accepted or rejected by God. About 1% of the time the offerings were made to false gods or to appease other men. Not once is there mention of these word in connection with God offering anything to man. Based on this, it would appear that God never made an offering to man. However, we are told over and over again that God has offered the sacrificial atonement of Christ to us to be accepted or rejected with the consequence that we would gain salvation if we accept and that we would be condemned to eternal hell if we rejected the offering. Yet this principle is strangely absent from biblical teaching.