evangelism_0

Proverbs 15:23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

23 A man has joy in the answer of his mouth,
and a word in season, how good it is!

Proverbs 25:11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

11 Like apples of gold in silver settings
is a word spoken at the right time.

What do we do when we determine that the one we are witnessing to is just not interested? How can we disengage? Should we continue on trying to reach the heart and mind, hoping that we may eventually stimulate interest? Alternatively, would it simply be best to terminate the discussion? It is all about having respect for the person we are trying to evangelize, as well as God himself. We cannot reason with the unreasonable.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

a time to tear apart, and a time to sew together;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;

Matthew 7:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

“Do not give what is holy [Word of God] to dogs, and do not throw your pearls [Word of God] before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

We must realize that there is a difference between sharing the Good News in an easy to understand way, allowing the listener to determine what his or her reaction will be, as opposed to trying to force the message on someone. We are not salespeople, who use pressure tactics to get a sale. We do not force others to accept the truth, as God would not accept anyone, who does not come to him freely.

Joshua 24:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 And if it seems evil to you to serve Jehovah, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve; whether the gods, which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah.

 

Our task is to present our message as clear and understandable as possible, so the person knows what we are saying and then he states explicitly that he is uninterested; we can walk away, knowing that we have served God well, and have done our best. Moreover, as we are walking away, we should never view the uninterested (indifferent or apathetic) one as an enemy. In time, life circumstances can alter his outlook, causing him to view things differently. Therefore, a future visit from a fellow Christian may bring about better results. If we leave him respectfully, and he can sense that he will be more open to future discussions. We could say, “I really appreciate your time, maybe another time.”

Why do we not press on, what do we gain by not doing so? First, the person we are speaking to will be impressed that we were respectful, as opposed to being pushy. Second, our being reasonable with him, not forcing him to get upset, may make him more inclined toward a future visit.

If we are abruptly shut down with “I am busy,” what can we do? We simply offer a brief comment about the lack of time in the modern day world, and give him a Bible tract, saying, “This takes a mere two minutes to read, I hope that you might consider it when you get a moment. Then, we might discuss it at another time.”

This person may genuinely have been busy. On the other hand, he may fear a lengthy conversation. Alternatively, he may have had many bad experiences with other Christians, who lacked tact and respect. On the other hand, he may simply feel that his best defense is not letting us get started. However, our respectful (courteous or polite) disposition may leave him impressed, which may cause him to reconsider and talk with us, or at least, be more open in the future.

Just because we have spoken of how to end uneventful witnessing opportunities, this does not mean that we do not ever look for ways to overcome objections. We are not the type to give up easily in our efforts to make disciples, but we are the type to respect no when they sincerely mean no. The time of a person’s life may very well be why they are inclined toward ignoring the Gospel, so we should not be so quick to judge them by this one encounter. Many young people, for example, are not pressed to talk about eternal life, when it seems that they will live forever.

Ambassadors of Christ

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

5:20a. Paul’s role in the divine plan of reconciliation led him to a remarkable claim. He and his company were Christ’s ambassadors. “Ambassadors” was a technical political term used in Paul’s day that closely parallels our English word “ambassadors.” An ambassador represented a nation or kingdom in communication with other nations. Paul had in mind his apostolic call to represent the kingdom of Christ to the nations of the earth. Ambassadors held positions of great honor in the ancient world because they represented the authority of the kings on whose behalf they spoke.

This was also true for Paul as the ambassador of Christ. When he spoke the message of reconciliation, it was as though God were making his appeal through him. Rather than speaking directly to the nations of earth, God ordained that human spokespersons would speak for him. As an apostle, Paul had authority to lead and guide the church (2 Cor. 13:3, 10). Yet, this description applies to all who bear the gospel of Christ to others—even to those who do not bear apostolic authority (1 Pet. 4:11). Though we may not present the gospel as perfectly as Paul did, we do speak on God’s behalf when we bring the message of grace to others. But Paul and his company were to be received as mouthpieces of God in the most authoritative sense.

5:20b–21. In these verses Paul summarized the content of the message of reconciliation. His summary includes an expression of his heart, an appeal, and an explanation.

First, Paul introduced his message in emotional terms, expressing his heart. He spoke on Christ’s behalf because he was an ambassador. But as ordinary ambassadors often sought reconciliation between national enemies with intensity, Paul implore[d] others to be reconciled to God. The term implored (deomai) often connotes beseeching or begging. In imitation of the passionate ministry of Christ himself (Matt. 23:37), Paul so desired to see people come to Christ that he thought of his ministry as begging.

Paul did not actually beg people to have saving faith. He spoke metaphorically in an attempt to convey the motivations behind his ministry. Paul appealed to others for their own sake, even when he was firm or harsh. He knew the enemies of God would suffer divine wrath (Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:5–6). For this reason, his ministry was not impersonal or emotionally disconnected. He desired to see people come to Christ, as should all who minister the gospel on Christ’s behalf.

Second, Paul summarized the content of his message of reconciliation in a short appeal. His practice was to tell others to be reconciled to God. Since Paul had to appeal to others to be reconciled, he did not believe that the work of Christ automatically reconciled every human being to God. Christ’s saving work on the cross is sufficient for every human being, but it is effective only for those who believe. As the imperative (be reconciled, from katallasso) indicates, those who hear the gospel are responsible to believe in Christ in order to become reconciled to God.

Third, Paul explained that sinful people, who are the enemies of God, can be reconciled to God only through Christ and his work on behalf of the human race. Paul summarized Christ’s work in two elements. On the one hand, God made Christ, who had no sin, to be sin. Paul did not mean that Christ actually became a sinner. Throughout his humiliation, Christ remained faithful and righteous. It is likely that Paul followed the Septuagint’s practice of using the term sin (harmartia) as a circumlocution for “sin offering” (e.g., Num. 6:14). The New Testament frequently refers to Isaiah 53 in which the Messiah’s death is declared to be “an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:10, NRSV). This language stems from the Old Testament sacrificial system and identifies the sacrifice that brought forgiveness to those for whom it was made (Lev. 4:5–10).

In this sense, Christ became the sin offering for us—for all who believe in him. In the gospel of the New Testament, salvation comes to enemies of God because Christ himself became the perfect and final substitutionary sacrifice on behalf of those who have saving faith in him.

Paul then pointed to the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice. It was so that in him we (all who have saving faith) might become the righteousness of God. Note first that it is in him (in Christ) that reconciliation takes place. The concept of “in Christ” formed one of Paul’s central teachings. To be “in Christ” was to be joined with him in his death and resurrection and thus to receive the benefits of his salvation. In this passage Paul summarized the benefits received in Christ by stating that the believer becomes the righteousness of God.

The precise meaning of this expression has been the source of much controversy. Paul probably intended the expression of God to be taken as “from God,” as Romans 1:17 suggests. Yet, is this righteousness that is infused into believers as they live the Christian life (sanctification)? Or is it the righteousness that is imputed to believers when they turn in faith toward Christ (justification)? Probably Paul’s emphasis is on imputed righteousness, since it was by imputation of our sin to Christ, and not by infusion, that Christ was made … to be sin for us.

Still, it is best not to divide these issues so sharply as we approach this passage. As Romans 1:17 suggests, the righteousness from God is by faith from first to last. Believers become the righteousness from God when they first receive the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in justification, but they also receive the continuous blessing of the experience of righteousness in their lives as they grow in their sanctification (cf. Gal. 3:1–5).

6:1. Paul concluded this section by making the implications of his ministry evident. He and his company appealed to the Corinthians as God’s fellow workers. In the preceding verses, Paul had spoken of his ministry “as though God were making his appeal” (5:20) through him and his company. The apostle and his company served alongside God as “Christ’s ambassadors” (5:20). Because Paul and his company spoke the true gospel as God ambassadors, the Corinthians should have received and honored them, especially by complying with their petition that the Corinthians be reconciled to God. So Paul urge[ed] them not to receive God’s grace in vain.

Paul had warned the Corinthians several times not to falter in their faith. He did not believe that true believers could lose their salvation (Eph. 4:30; Phil. 1:6), but he was not convinced that everyone in the Corinthian church was a true believer. During this life, it is necessary for all who profess faith in Christ to make certain that their faith endures. Otherwise, the mercy shown to them in the preaching and reception of the word of God will be in vain.

6:2. To support his appeal, Paul referred to Isaiah 49:8. This prophecy focused on the restoration of God’s people after the exile. God promised that he would respond to the cries of the exile, in the time of his favor and in the day of salvation. Paul focused attention on Isaiah’s emphasis that in God’s timing salvation from the judgment of exile would come.

As a result, Paul pressed the significance of this prophecy on the Corinthian situation. The days in which they lived, the days of the New Testament, were not to be ignored or taken for granted. Those days were, as our own days are, the time of [God’s] favor and the day of salvation. When Christ came to earth, he began to restore God’s people from exile. After Christ ascended into the heavenly places, we continue to see him fulfilling the hopes of restoration. Christ will complete his saving work when he returns in glory. In the meantime, everyone must recognize the urgency of the times in which we live.

We are in the day of great opportunity because the final saving work of God has come to earth. Yet, we are in a day of great danger because failing to receive this salvation through enduring faith will bring a severe judgment. The New Testament age is the climax of history. There will be no possibility of salvation beyond the New Testament. Paul wanted the Corinthians to prove faithful because of the critical moment in history that they occupied.[1]

Review Questions

  • What do we do when we determine that the one we are witnessing to is just not interested?
  • How do we view the uninterested?
  • Why do we not press on, what do we gain by not doing so?
  • If we are abruptly shut down with “I am busy,” what can we do?
  • Does this mean we never try to overcome objections?
  • What does it mean that we are ambassadors of Christ?

[1] Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 359–362.