|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Part 8 [final] of a series. Read part 7.
How should a Bible believing Christian witness to an unbeliever? We need to let the Word of God do its supernatural work.
For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
The Logos Once Again
As we conclude our brief study of the supernatural character of the Word of God, we must not one final and very significant statement in verse 13. Much earlier in this series we noted that in the original Greek, verse 12 begins with the word logos. The Word of God - the logos of God - is alive and powerful. Significantly verse 13 in the original language ends with that same word, logos. The Authorized King James version renders the last part of verse 13 this way: "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." The New King James renders it this way: "all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."
If you consult various commentators and translators for their treatment of this last phrase, you will find a variety of approaches, and most of them support one of these two translations. But I believe in the original language there is something more fundamental at work.
A very literal rendering of the Greek of verse 13 would be like this: "all things are naked and open in the eyes of Him to us the Word [logos]."
I believe the Holy Spirit is, at the most fundamental level, bringing us full circle. He begins these verses with the Word, and He ends these verses with the Word. The Word of God is the central focus here. All things are naked and open to God because of the instrumentality of the written Word that He has given to man. The written Word of God is the superlatively sharp sword that He uses to reveal the true heart of every person.
The Keynote of Biblical Gospel Witness
How does the supernatural character of the Word of God apply to our witness, both as individual Christians and in the church as a body? In this passage we have a set of principles before us that answer this question.
The essence of the answer is this: Because of the supernatural character of the Word of God - because it is alive, powerful, incisive, and the infallible judge of the heart of man - our witness must rely upon the power of the only supernatural Book. Practically speaking, a Christian should witness to a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, a Seventh-day Adventist, or any other cult member in the same way that you would witness to any other unbeliever. You should witness in essentially the same way to a Roman Catholic who relies upon his church membership; to a member of a liberal church who is relying upon his baptism and his good works for eternal life; to an unbelieving Jew who rests in his legalism; to a Hindu or a Buddhist who rests in his mysticism; or to a Muslim who rests upon submission to the false god Allah.
Why is that true? We find four factors in Scripture that bear upon the answer. All four of those factors confront us in the two verses in Hebrews on which we have focused.
Man Has Not Changed
The first factor is the truth that unsaved man is essentially the same - regardless of whether he is a member of a liberal church, or a follower of Buddhism or Islam, or an atheist, or a Scientologist, or a Jehovah's Witness. The condition of every individual apart from Jesus Christ is the same, and it has been since our first parents fell into sin.
Sinning man is, Jesus declared in John chapter 3, "condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). All are lost sinners, separated from the life of God that is found only through Christ, and all are on their way to the same eternity in hell. The sin problem of the Jehovah's Witness is the same as the sin problem of the Roman Catholic. The sin problem of the Mormon is the same as the sin problem of the Muslim. It is the same as that of every other individual who has never repented of his sins and trusted, by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone, for eternal life.
God Has Not Changed
This brings us to a second factor that bears upon our witness: Just as man has not changed, God has not changed. God is no less holy than he has ever been throughout eternity. God's absolute requirement of absolute holiness in order for an individual to have a relationship with Him and enter into His glorious presence has not changed. Every unsaved individual, regardless of his beliefs or lack of them, regardless of affiliation or un-affiliation, stands under the same condemnation before the same holy God as everyone else, because of his unbelief.
Furthermore, because God has not changed, the penalty for violation of God's righteous requirements has not changed. It is still eternal death - not only physical death, but far more importantly, spiritual death, eternal separation from God in the torments of Hell.
The Gospel Has Not Changed
This then brings us to a third factor that bears upon her testimony to any unbeliever: Just as man has not changed, and just as God has not changed, the Gospel has not changed. And that is because God's Word has not changed. It is the same living, powerful, incisive, supernatural Word that it has always been and always will be.
And God's Word is absolutely clear that there are not different Gospels for different people. As the Holy Spirit tells us elsewhere through the writer to the Hebrews, the same Gospel was preached to Israel in the wilderness as was preached to mankind after Christ's death, burial, and resurrection (Hebrews 4:2). A cult member, or a Roman Catholic, or a liberal church member, or an evangelical church member who has relied upon easy-believism rather than the one true Gospel, are all in need of hearing and responding to the preaching of the same Gospel as every other lost sinner.
Regeneration by the Holy Spirit Is Essential
This then brings us to the fourth factor that bears upon the witness of a Bible believing Christian to any unbeliever: Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential in order for any person to be saved. The one who is spiritually dead must be brought to spiritual life. Salvation is a supernatural work, just as God's Word is a supernatural Book. Salvation is accomplished by the instrumentality of the supernatural Word, used by God the Holy Spirit its author.
You Cannot Argue Anyone into Heaven
All four of these factors point to another critical fact concerning our witness to an unbeliever: You cannot argue anyone into Heaven.
I think it is accurate to say that in most evangelical churches today, and in most Reformed churches today, there is an approach to evangelism that almost denies the supernatural. It is, sadly, all about methods, methodologies, and programs.
I can tell you about this from personal experience. About forty years ago I was involved in a program called Evangelism Explosion. Some of you may be familiar with it. Eventually I was a trainer in the program. But what was the program? It was the church-ified version of the same thing that I was trained to do in management consulting in the secular business world. You memorized a method. You practiced a sales pitch. Your goal was to get people to say Yes. And we had people say Yes to what I can only politely call the Gospel sales pitch. And it wasn't even a complete Gospel.
The people who were involved in the program would get back together at the end of the evening and share their experiences. There were glowing reports of souls supposedly saved. But I can honestly tell you that 99% of the people who heard the sales pitch and said Yes were not even in church within three to six months. They had no interest in understanding the Bible or growing in Christ. The fact is that they had not truly come to saving faith. They had not been regenerated by the Spirit of God.
Why was that? I must admit that as a much younger Christian it took me a long time to really understand what was happening.
There was a sad neglect of the Biblical truth of the necessity of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. There was a sad neglect of the Biblical truth of the necessity of the supernatural work of the living and powerful Word of God. It was all about the program, all about the method. That is what you were taught to rely upon.
Present-Day Evangelism's Wrong Assumptions
Much of what is called evangelism or apologetics in our time rests upon wrong assumptions. One of those assumptions is that if you have the right method, you can sweep people into Heaven. That is reliance upon the arm of flesh and not upon the Spirit of God and the supernatural Word of God.
Another wrong assumption is that we must answer all of an individual's objectives to the declarative truths of the Word of God before that person can be saved. Much of present-day apologetics teaches that Christians must, by our own arguments, break down an individual's resistance to the Gospel. We must, to put it in the case of a cult member, refute all of the complex and fluctuating false teachings under which they are in bondage. We must our own selves turn an individual's heart and mind against his deeply held beliefs and prejudices in order for that person to be saved. We must, in effect, argue a person into Heaven.
God's Word Accomplishes God's Purpose
Hebrews 4:12-13 is clear: We are foolish to think that we can do that. It is not the way God works. It is not what He has called us to do.
This is not to say that we should not address the falsehoods that we find in the minds and hearts of people we encounter as we witness for Christ. But answering objections is not where our emphasis needs to be. Our emphasis must be on declaring the Gospel message from the Word of God.
It is the Word of God, Hebrews chapter 4 tells us that "is alive and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." God the Holy Spirit uses the Word that He has written, as Jesus said in John chapter 16, to "convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment."
And so, how should a Bible believing Christian witness to an unbeliever? The answer is that we need to stand on the living, powerful, incisive Word of God. We need to let the Word of God do its supernatural work. We need to speak the truth. We need to set forth the Christ of Scripture in all of His power and glory. We need to rely on God the Holy Spirit. And we need to see what marvelous things he will too. This is the promise of God:
So shall my Word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void [that is, without effect], but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
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