Toward a More Accurate Theology of Evangelism

To have an accurate theology of evangelism, believers must account for what God has revealed that pertains to the subject. Even after having done so, we must continually work toward a more accurate theology of evangelism by laboring to account for everything God has said in ways that many have overlooked.

A leading cause of erroneous views is the deficient handling of evangelistic accounts derived from arguments based on what is or is not said in the biblical reports of those accounts. Often this defective approach consists of conclusions derived from pitting divine commands wrongly against what has been revealed in brief summaries of apostolic evangelism.

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RajeshG's picture

Jesus commissioned His disciples to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins everywhere:

Luke 24:46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things.

To be faithful to their mission, the apostles had to obey this divine instruction. 

When we read the lengthy record of Paul's evangelistic ministry in Antioch of Pisidia, however, we do not find any record of his having preached repentance to those people in his messages to them (Acts 13:16-47). To conclude therefore that Paul did not preach repentance to these people is to say that he did not obey his mission on this occasion.

Such a conclusion is an erroneous conclusion. There is no basis to hold that Acts 13:16-47 is an exhaustive verbatim record of all that Paul preached on those occasions. Without such a record, we must not wrongly assert that he did not obey his mission.

RajeshG's picture

Christ commanded His apostles to preach repentance everywhere (Luke 24:26-27). Later in his life, Paul stressed his obedience to that command throughout his life in one of the most comprehensive statements about his apostolic ministry:

Acts 26:19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Based on what we know Christ commanded His apostles to do everywhere and what Paul testified that he obeyed everywhere (Damascus, Jerusalem, all the coasts of Judaea, to the Gentiles), we have biblical basis to hold that the apostles preached repentance on every evangelistic occasion recorded in Scripture regardless of whether the record of that occasion speaks of such proclamation or not.

The right way to interpret those passages is to hold that unless there is explicit biblical proof that repentance was not preached on a given occasion (for which there is no evidence in any passage), we are to believe that it was preached on that occasion.

RajeshG's picture

Christ commanded His disciples to proclaim both repentance and forgiveness of sins everywhere:

Luke 24:45 τότε διήνοιξεν αὐτῶν τὸν νοῦν τοῦ συνιέναι τὰς γραφάς· 46  καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὅτι οὕτως γέγραπται παθεῖν τὸν χριστὸν καὶ ἀναστῆναι ἐκ νεκρῶν τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, 47  καὶ κηρυχθῆναι ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ μετάνοιαν εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν εἰς πάντα τὰ ἔθνη. ἀρξάμενοι ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ

Acts 13:38 records that Paul preached the latter (forgiveness of sins) but Acts 13 does not record anywhere that he preached the former (repentance):

Acts 13:38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

BGT Acts 13:38 γνωστὸν οὖν ἔστω ὑμῖν, ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί, ὅτι διὰ τούτου ὑμῖν ἄφεσις ἁμαρτιῶν καταγγέλλεται, 

To hold that Paul preached forgiveness of sins but not repentance in Antioch on this occasion would be to hold that he only partially obeyed Christ's directive to proclaim both everywhere. Such partial obedience would actually have been disobedience (cf. king Saul in 1 Sam. 15).

In such a case, Paul could not have legitimately made the claim that he did in Acts 26:19-20 of having obeyed everywhere what he was commanded to do in the heavenly vision that He had of the risen, glorified Christ.

RajeshG's picture

False professions of faith abound. To combat them, we must challenge everyone who says that they want to become a Christian to repent and believe--we must not merely tell them to believe.

Acts 20:20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, 21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul challenged people everywhere both to repent and to believe. We must handle evangelistic accounts in Scripture properly so that we do not end up holding the faulty notion that the lack of mention of essential content in the Scriptural record of a given evangelistic encounter is proof of its absence in what was testified on that occasion!

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

False professions of faith abound. To combat them, we must challenge everyone who says that they want to become a Christian to repent and believe--we must not merely tell them to believe.

How does telling a person to repent as well as to believe combat a false profession? If a person is not sincere in their belief, then they are not going to be sincere in their repentance either. Also, sometimes a person can be very sincere in their repentance, but they are not believing solely in Christ's death and resurrection to save them. They are believing that their acts of penance are needed in addition to Christ's work on the cross.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's easy with many things to get caught up in analysis of the letter and miss the spirit. There are no magic words, either in proclaiming the gospel or in prayers of repentance and faith.

Agree that the act of repentance is vital to conversion. The need to respond to Christ in that way can be communicated many ways.

RajeshG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

It's easy with many things to get caught up in analysis of the letter and miss the spirit. There are no magic words, either in proclaiming the gospel or in prayers of repentance and faith.

Agree that the act of repentance is vital to conversion. The need to respond to Christ in that way can be communicated many ways.

Interesting response. If you think that obeying divine commands about the content of our message is tantamount to the use of "magic words," you have an approach to interpreting Scripture that I reject.

Yes, there is more than one way to tell someone to repent but telling them to believe is most certainly not the same thing as telling them to repent, which is the main idea that I am setting forth at this time in this thread.

Again, if someone has a quarrel with direct statements of Scripture that command the universal proclamation of repentance . . .  

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

False professions of faith abound. To combat them, we must challenge everyone who says that they want to become a Christian to repent and believe--we must not merely tell them to believe.

 

How does telling a person to repent as well as to believe combat a false profession? If a person is not sincere in their belief, then they are not going to be sincere in their repentance either. Also, sometimes a person can be very sincere in their repentance, but they are not believing solely in Christ's death and resurrection to save them. They are believing that their acts of penance are needed in addition to Christ's work on the cross.

The possibilities that people may have other false notions does not preclude the need for our obedience to divine commands in what we proclaim. When we disobey God, we engender false professions by failing to confront people with God's demands. Telling a person only to believe but not also challenging him to repent is only partial obedience and facilitates faulty professions from those who are ready to accept a so-called positive message but will take offense at a so-called negative message.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Interesting response. If you think that obeying divine commands about the content of our message is tantamount to the use of "magic words," you have an approach to interpreting Scripture that I reject.

You missed my point entirely, but nevermind.

RajeshG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Interesting response. If you think that obeying divine commands about the content of our message is tantamount to the use of "magic words," you have an approach to interpreting Scripture that I reject.

You missed my point entirely, but nevermind.

Suit yourself. You are the one who talked about there not being any magic words . . .

I have made no claims that if you say exactly certain words, you will have certain results guaranteed to happen.