Dr. Pearson Johnson, Director of Student Care
In the last post, we began looking at practices in missions and evangelism that seek to find common ground—areas of philosophical, scientific, religious, or emotional agreement—upon which we can build discussions with unbelievers. It is my contention that there are no areas of neutral common ground upon which we can build. Furthermore, if we do try to build on areas of agreement rather than emphasizing the areas of disagreement where repentance is needed, we will do more harm than good.
In this post, we want to focus on the Scriptural teaching of depravity and sinfulness that explains why there is no neutral common ground and which lays the proper foundation for how we approach unbelievers with the Gospel.
When we consider giving the Gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers, whether they be in our suburban neighborhoods or in other global cultures, we must understand what the Bible says about the sinner. The Bible is very clear about sin’s effects on people.
First, all people everywhere are born sinners and are, therefore, subject to the depraving effects of sin. These effects are devastating.
Genesis 6:5 says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
One may argue that this verse is only true of those living pre-flood—that they were worse than people today. Romans 3 says otherwise, when Paul states: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one” (10-12).
All people are sinners, and their sin causes them to go “out of the way” towards becoming “unprofitable.” This is a plain truth. What affect does sin have on the people we are trying to reason with?
This sin causes them to respond to truth they know by ignoring it or perverting it. Apart from the work of the Scripture and the Spirit which we will promote later, the Bible is clear how men respond to the truth seen in nature or known in their innermost beings. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that all men everywhere know certain truths from creation, yet they suppress these truths in their sin: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth [suppress the truth] in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
All people have been given in creation enough revelation to know there is a Creator God who is eternally powerful and to whom they must give an account. Yet, in their sin, people suppress that truth and refuse to worship God. Instead, they worship a god they manufacture, either spiritually or physically. Ultimately, they worship themselves and their own lusts, as Paul goes on to say in Romans 1.
There is nothing we could present to a lost person by way of fact, logic, or argument that could be even nearly as persuasive or effective as the general revelation of Himself God has already given. God has made Himself known to all people in nature, in their consciences, and in their very constitution as humans. And yet all sinners reject the revelation God has given to all people everywhere.
Why do they reject the truth? Part of the reason lies in the purpose of this revelation. God’s general revelation is given to all people so that they are personally guilty for their sin of rejecting Him. As Romans 1:20 says, it is given “so that they are without excuse.” Ephesians 2:1-2 says, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”
They are sinners. They are truth deniers. They are, as Colossians 2:8 states, “spoil[ed] through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world.”
So, where is our hope to see them transformed? Is it in presenting more facts about nature or about creation? Is it in presenting better arguing through logic? Is it in showing more compassion? Is it in meeting physical needs?
No. God’s answer to mankind’s rejection of his truth is through the confrontational, yet compassionate, hope-filled message of the Gospel. The Gospel is their only hope, and it is our only hope. We will address this in the next post.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.