Reverse Engineering Evangelism
When a young William Carey, the acknowledged founder of the modern missionary movement, first applied to his church board to be sent to india, he received a classic reply. “young man,” said one of the older church leaders, “when God chooses to save the heathen of india, he will do so without your help.”
Fortunately, Carey knew better than that. He knew that although God is the one who calls and saves sinners, we must share the Gospel with others. His trust in the sovereignty of God would sustain him for the next 7 years as he labored without a convert.
The book of Romans is a treatise on systematic theology. Paul begins by establishing Israel’s guilt in the first few chapters of this epistle. In chapters 1 and 2, he shows the depravity of man in the world. Although God is recognized through worship, men exchanged the truth of God for a lie and chose to bow down to created things rather than the Creator. Therefore, mankind is guilty and deserving of divine wrath.
In chapter 2, Paul confronts the Jews for their pride in the law and failing to practice it. In chapters 3 and 4, he demonstrates that salvation does not come through the law. In fact, the law exposes that all men are sinners and under divine judgment. The law reveals our seed for a Savior, something it cannot provide.
There are 3 therefores Romans: chapter 5, 8, and 12. In chapters 5 through 8, Paul explains God’s provision for righteousness in Jesus Christ and the implications for repentance sinners. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He reminds readers that he works all things together for the good. In eternity past, He chose those whom he would save. And none of them will be lost. He mapped out our lives to be conformed to the image of his Son. Paul commences chapter 8 by reminding readers that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ.
Chapters 9–11 display God’s sovereign control of history. He reveals how the Jew’s rejected the messiah according to his plan. This hardening of Israel’s heart allowed gentiles in great number to come to faith. God predicted the entire process in the old testament.
The question that Paul is answering in Romans 9 and 10 is: “how have so many Israelites rejected Jesus as the messiah while so many gentiles have come to faith in him?” Paul’s answer in Romans 9 is one of divine sovereignty: “many Israelites do not believe because God has not chosen them.”His answer in Romans 10 points to man’s responsibility: “the Israelites did not believe because they rejected God.”
We have the privilege of learning about conversion from the greatest Christian missionary: Paul of Tarsus. Instead of outlining the normal progression of salvation, Paul works backward. He reverse engineers evangelism.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
1. Sent with the Gospel
The word sent is a passive verb. Who does the sending? God does. They don’t send themselves. God does. Remember what Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:38). He doesn’t direct us to pray for softened hearts, or open ears. He doesn’t ask us to pray for people to get saved. He wants us to pray for more workers. God is the one who sends the laborers in the field.
In verse 15, Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:7. In verse 16, Paul cites Isaiah 53:1, the most well-known and loved messianic text of Isaiah. In their original context, Isaiah speaks of the divine deliverance God will bring about by allowing the Jewish babylonian captives to return to Jerusalem where they will rebuild the city which was in ruin. Paul uses these verses to refer to the final, ultimate deliverance of Israel and the gentiles from their sins.
God calls our feet beautiful when we share the Gospel. We live in a world that spends money on making ugly feet pretty. We can spend all the money in the world on shoes, polish, or manicures, but it won’t compare to what feet look like that are worn from walking with the Gospel. God delights in those who deliver the Gospel to the lost.
The process begins with God. He does the sending.
2. Preaching Christ
Paul isn’t thinking of a formal message before a congregation. Preaching means to herald or proclaim. Everyone preaches all the time with their life and lips. In ancient times, people didn’t have access to the internet, cell phones, twitter, or facebook. They relied on messengers personally delivering the news to towns and communities. This is not just a command for preachers. Paul is directing believers to communicate the message of Christ. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
God has chosen the proclamation of the word as the means by which to save men. Not powerpoint, not music, not drama, not videos, not lights, or any others means of technology. While those aid the process, there is no subsitute for the preaching of the word. When the preacher stands up to teach the Bible in an expository manner, they are speaking as a mouthpiece for God. Like a postman delivering mail to your house, it is the duty of the preacher to deliver you the word of the Lord.
Harry A. Ironside was the pastor of the Moody church in Chicago. He remembered ironside describing a visit to Chicago by the flamboyant evangelist Gypsy Smith. Gypsy Smith got his name because he really did have a gypsy background, and he told many fascinating stories about growing up in a gypsy camp.
On this occasion the message was made up almost entirely of these stories. At the end of the meeting, Gypsy Smith gave an altar call, and hundreds of people surged forward. Ironside used to say that he wondered what they were coming forward for. “perhaps,” he said, “they wanted to become gypsies.”
When you talk about Christ, it’s easy to invite people to him. Success is in the sharing not the saving, God does that.
The reasons I think that Paul gives us this reverse order of salvation is to show his audience that when they reject the preacher they are actually rejecting Christ himself. Luke 10:16, “the one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” When people say no to an invitation to follow Christ, they are not saying no to you, but to God.
3. Hearing Christ
When people preach the word, lost people will hear. Hearing is the prerequisite to belief. Notice he doesn’t say, “and how will they see or experience or feel or touch.” Have you heard St. Francis Assisi’s popular quote, “go into the world and preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” unfortunately, this is unbiblical. Paul would have never said that. He knows that salvation follows proclamation of the word.
People tell me all the time: “I don’t know what to say”. Share scripture. Why do you think scripture memory is so important for the believer? How many people have you personally shared the message of the Gospel to in the last week? Month? Year? How will people hear if you don’t share something with them. In order for people to hear, you must speak to them.
4. Believing in Christ
You must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 16, “but they have not all obeyed the Gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 so faith [belief is the same word] comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Paul says, “the majority of people who hear about Jesus will not hear and believe in him.” That’s doesn’t stop us from preaching the word to people.
In baseball, a good batting average is 300. That means that you get a hit 3 times out of every 10 pitches. That doesn’t seem like a good average, but you keep swinging. Eventually you will hit a ball. When you go fishing, you don’t catch a fish everytime you cast, sometimes you don’t catch fish at all, but you keep casting the line. Same goes for fishing for men.
5. Calling on Christ
Paul has already shown us that God works through processes or a natural order. Romans 5:3–5, “not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the holy spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 8:29–30, “and those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Paul starts with the calling on the Lord and then gives us the steps that come before it. Normally you start with the beginning of the process and work toward the end. Romans 10:13 gives us an incredible promise: everyone who calls upon the Lord will be saved.
Paul starts by quoting Joel 2:28, “and it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my spirit. 30 “and I will show wonders in the Heavans and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 the sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 and it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”
What is so significant about them is that they conclude that great parenthesis in Joel’s prophecy that looks ahead to the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit at Pentecost and to the proclamation of the Gospel to all peoples that followed the Spirit’s coming.
Remember that peter quoted the exact words at Pentecost in Acts 2:16, “but this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “ ‘and in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my spirit, and they shall prophesy.”
What does it mean to call upon the Lord?
It means to believe on or put your trust in. This phrase is used in Acts 9 we are told of Paul’s attempts to arrest those who “call on [Jesus’] name” (Acts 9:14, 21. These are individuals who are followers of Christ.
He uses this phrase in 1 corinthians 1:2, when he wrote the letter to “everyone calls on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours.” these are believers.
Everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus will be saved. It doesn’t matter how stained your past is or if your have shipwrecked your life or denied Jesus like peter did, Christ will forgive you of your sins and save you. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, intellectual or unschooled, red, yellow, black, or white, everyone is precious in Jesus’ site.
2 elements are necessary for salvation:
- You must understand that Jesus is the only one that can save you. Acts 4:12, “and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under Heavan given among men by which we must be saved.”John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
- You must call upon the Lord
Confession is the word that means to agree with God. About who you are, who he is, and what he has done.
Here is the unbreakable chain: People are sent. After being sent they preach. When they preach, people hear. When people hear, they believe. When people believe, they call. And everyone who calls upon Christ will be saved. What part of the chain is breakable?
Weakest link in the chain is our involvement. When we fail to obey the Lord’s command to go and proclaim his word and his ways to a lost world, it hinders the mission of God.
The negative of this command is this: everyone who does not call upon the name of the Lord is not saved from their sins, the wrath of God, the power of satan, and an eternity in hell. There is an amazing promise in this verse. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. One of the reasons for the lostness in the world doesn’t reside with God but with man. Before we point the finger at God, we must remember that there are a few pointing back at us. God uses human instruments led by the spirit to save lost sinners.
But what happens to the innocent man in Africa who has never heard about Jesus?
Does he go to Heavan? Yes.
The problem is, he doesn’t exist.
The problem is not why didn’t the African man come to God for salvation. The problem is why didn’t we go and tell him about the good news about Jesus Christ. Good people don’t go to Heavan, forgiven people do. People do not go to hell because they didn’t choose Jesus as Lord and savior of their life. People go to a Christless eternity because they are sinners who are unable to stand in the presence of a Holy God. Because of the sin of Adam, we are born heading to hell. God in his mercy reaches down and saves sinners. It is only by God’s grace that he saves one.
The question is not why doesn’t God save other people. The question is: “why did God save me?” One day the Gospel changed you. Acts 9 is the clearest picture of regeneration. If you would have asked Paul about Jesus the morning he was packing his bag for Damascus, he would have said I hate Him. If you would have asked him that evening when he was blinded, he would have said, “i love him.”
A study by Church Growth Inc., suggested that more than 75% of all conversions occurred because of a relationship with a family or friend. I would bet that many of you came to faith in Christ because someone personally shared the Gospel with you. The sovereignty of God bookends the process. God does the sending of the person sharing the Gospel and God does the saving of the one responding to the message. The pressure is off. You can’t lose. Success is in the sharing not the saving, God does that.
God will not save everyone you talk to. But he will save none of the people you don’t talk to. I can predict your future. If you never share the Gospel, you will never see anyone come to faith in Christ.