December 12, 2012

Expositional Evangelism

by Josh Thiessen

A Christians most powerful weapon in evangelism is a persuasive personality and lifestyle characterized by good deeds. Right? If you were to look at some of the most prominent evangelical figures and “evangelists,” you might come to that conclusion.

.But if its true, I’m in trouble.  I’m not much of a salesman, and I’m sure if someone knows me long enough, my own sin will undermine the very gospel I desire to model to my neighbors. Too many Christians have fallen into this salesman trap, and they try to sell people on the “benefits” of being a Christian, but their message lacks authority and does not produce conviction. The idea is if you flash just the right smile, surely unbelievers will see how genuine and wonderful you are.


Yet, Scripture is clear that the means God uses to convict souls is Scripture itself through the work of the Holy Spirit, not our personalities. We think the preacher should preach from the Bible, and we know we should use it for private devotions and study groups. But evangelism?

The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” The Bible is the primary weapon of the Christian in everything, and the only one guaranteed to produce a result (Isa 55:11). An interesting example of this is found in Acts 8. Philip  is sent away from a revival among the Samarians to find a lonely eunuch reading Isaiah 53 (what an amazing picture of how personal God is; from a revival to one individual). And  according to Acts 8:35, “beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” Philip began with Scripture and expounded on the work of Jesus. This is a good model, because when the evangelist is using Scripture, he is spreading the very Word of God. And he can know that God will take a special delight in showing the power of His Word as He uses it in individuals’ lives to bring them to Himself.

.God will use His Word in ways no one can plan. Mark Dever writes:

Introduce a non-Christian (or a whole group of them in a Bible Study) to the person of Jesus Christ as He is revealed on the pages of Scripture. Let them interact with the primary sources. Watch the power and majesty and love and penetrating conviction of Christ come through the stories, the works, the teaching.[1]

This also will give authority to the things that the evangelist is saying. Using Scripture is a way to show that what one is trying to communicate is not a private idea or a way to promote some hidden agenda. It is the Spirit’s work through God’s Word that brings about conversions.

There has been a rightful call for the church to return to expositional preaching. But it could be equally argued that there should be a similar call for expositional evangelism. As Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16).  Faith comes by hearing the Word concerning Christ (Rom 10), so forget about Bible “thumping” stigma and find someone and begin to proclaim the Word.

Josh Thiessen

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Josh is the teaching pastor of Providence Bible Church in southwest Omaha, NE.
  • Chris

    What a great emphasis on God’s Word! I am thankful for the reminder of its power and the encouragement to evangelize, especially Philip’s example. But I wonder if Paul’s example in Acts 17 might suggest that the words of evangelism don’t always, and perhaps shouldn’t always, be right out of Scripture. If you read the evangelistic speech that Paul gave in verses 22-31 of Acts 17 in the midst of the Areopagus it becomes clear that Paul is presenting numerous clearly Biblical teachings–that God made all things, that he is not worshiped in idols, that he made all men from one man (Adam), that he is sovereign over all things, that he will come to judge the world, etc–without a single reference to clear Old Testament verses to support that. Whereas when Philip evangelized the Eunuch he went through Scripture because the Eunuch had a desire for Scripture (evident by his studying it) and was familiar with it, to the Athenians Paul summarized his argument in terms ancient philosophers or writers, such as Cicero, had used, and quoted Greek writers (“in him we live and move and have our being”-Epimenides of Crete, “For we are indeed his offspring”-Aratus) to make his points! He could easily have taught the same content by quoting the Old Testament, but chose not to. And then when Paul makes the same argument to the Christians and Jews in Rome in Romans 1-4–that God made all things, that he is not worshiped in idols, that he
    made all men from one man (Adam), that he is sovereign over all things,
    that he will come to judge the world, etc–he went back to quoting the Old Testament, because that was effective on that audience. I think we see that Pauline evangelism does not use Bible thumping in all circumstances, but seeks to lead unbelievers to the Truth within their own contexts, using their own writings against them for the glory of God.

    • jthiessen

      Thanks for commenting and I agree that you see multiple evangelistic situations throughout Acts and elsewhere. One of the difficulties with Acts is that Paul likely spoke longer than what is recorded. In other words, he may have quoted the OT in the speech of Acts 17, it just isn’t recorded for us. In that particular case, I think Paul exemplifies how to use cultural illustrations to emphasis a biblical truth. But at the end of the day, you have to lead someone to Scripture no matter their context or how you get there for them to understand the gospel. So I would echo what I wrote in the article, that I think the Bible is the primary weapon we have as Christians for evangelism. Paul also had apostolic authority to say and write things that were inspired and recorded as Scripture (including Acts 17). Since we don’t have that, we are left with Scripture as our greatest authority.

  • Gus

    This is great Josh! It’s good to have you back!

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