The Pilgrim’s Digest is a sampling of Christian writings throughout the centuries on many subjects from
Reformers, Puritans, pastors, and various theologians. Let’s take a short walk with the saints.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Why Do Some Sinners Come To Christ While Others Do Not?
by Ernest C. Reisinger
Ernest C. Reisinger, builder, pastor and author, has been described as an ‘unsung hero of the twentieth-century renaissance in Reformed Theology’. Reisinger, a Reformed Baptist pastor, helped lay the foundation for what became the Founders Ministries, which was instrumental under God in returning Southern Baptists to their Reformed beginnings. This excerpt is from his book, Today’s Evangelism: Its Message and Methods. (Craig Press, Ch.10, pp107-110, 1982).
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be
gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness
instructing those that oppose themselves; if
God peradventure will give them repentance to
the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may
recover themselves out of the snare of the devil,
who are taken captive by him at his will.
— II Tim. 2:24-26
This passage is very relevant to our whole subject of evangelism because here we have one of the greatest evangelists who ever lived giving instructions to one who was told to “. . . do the work of an evangelist. . .” (II Tim. 4:5). Surely these two facts demand our careful and sober consideration. If we are serious about being biblical in our evangelism, we cannot ignore these instructions.
There are several things in these few verses that would correct much of the error in man-centered evangelism, not only in the expected responses, but in the message and methods of evangelism. Let us carefully examine this passage, which contains instructions to one who was given the apostolic command to do the work of an evangelist. In this passage (II Tim. 2:24-26), we have some excellent instructions for the evangelist, preacher, and personal worker, and some necessary evangelistic principles if our evangelism is to be God-centered.
State of the Unconverted
Every preacher should know the condition of the unconverted.
1. He is ignorant of saving truth. This is clearly seen in the words in verse 25, “. . . in meekness instructing those. . . .” They need instruction because they are ignorant of spiritual truth.
2. He is a slave to Satan, which is seen in the words in verse 26: “. . . that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil. . .”
3. He is a captive of Satan (in Satan’s prison house), verse 26: “. . . taken captive by him [Satan] at his will.”
Who Has the Key — God or the Sinner?
Both man-centered and God-centered evangelism believe that sinners are ignorant of spiritual realities; they are slaves to Satan, and in Satan’s prison. The difference is that man-centered evangelism tells the sinner he has the key in his pocket to get out any time he wills to get out. The appeal is to the sinner’s will, his decision and his power to do something for himself. This is the opposite of the New Testament principle of boxing up the unconverted to hope in God alone and in God’s power.
God-centered evangelism also believes that sinners are ignorant of spiritual realities—that they are slaves to Satan, and in Satan’s prison, and worse, that they are on death row. God-centered evangelism does not flatter the sinner or try to give him hope by telling him that he has the key in his pocket to get out at will, because the unconverted are all by nature unwilling and unable.
The God-centered approach is to tell him he is in Satan’s prison house, yes, and he is on death row, and that he does not have the key in his pocket to get out! If anyone gets him out, it will have to be God. The sinner’s only hope is in God’s mercy and God’s power.
This God-centered truth is found in the passage before us in the words, “If perhaps God.” The sinner’s only hope is in “God” (verse 25: “If perhaps God” will do something). This truth is not only hopeful to the sinner, but it is very hopeful to the preacher. The preacher’s only hope of a saving response is “if perhaps God” will do something for the sinner that he cannot do for himself and that no preacher can do for him. Please remember, this was written to a young preacher who was meant to do the work of an evangelist (II Tim. 4:5). This fact should give weight to all I am saying on this point. Certainly we should expect to find some principles for evangelism in these Epistles.
Efforts of the Servant of God
We also have in this passage the efforts that this young preacher was to exercise.
1. Teach and instruct (v. 24: “. . . apt to teach. . .”; v. 25 “. . . in meekness instructing. . .”)
2. Rescue them, if possible, from Satan (v. 26: “. . . that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil. . .”).
3. Set before them the claims of God as their only hope, not just tell deathbed stories, seeking a psychological response.
Manner and Method Employed by the Servant of God
The passage also has the instructions as to the manner and method to be employed. “The servant of the Lord. . .” (v. 24):
1. Must not strive (or be quarrelsome).
2. Must be gentle (be kind to all).
3. Must be able to teach.
4. Must be patient (when wronged).
5. Must instruct in meekness (with gentleness).
Think how much more biblical and God-centered evangelism would be if all the zealous preachers and evangelists would have heeded these clear instructions found in this passage.
What I am trying to show is that the Bible teaches that evangelism is a work of divine grace, divine power, divine sovereignty. Therefore, if evangelism is to be true, biblical evangelism, it must be God-centered and aim at a God-centered response from the sinner.