Billy Graham Center
World Congress on Evangelism, 1966
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The Rev. Thomas Cosmades

In approaching the topic of personal evangelism, we must consider our Great Advocate and our great adversary. Our Advocate is the Holy Spirit of the Living God (Acts 1:8). Our adversary is that old serpent, the devil (I Peter 5:8).

The Scriptures state very clearly that the Spirit gives life (John 6:63), whereas Satan binds (Luke 13:16, Acts 10:38). The Spirit is the source of all truth (John 14:16, 15:26, 16:13); Satan is the father of all lies (John 8:44, Acts 5:3). The Spirit conveys the Word of God (I Thes. 1:5); Satan takes away the Word of God (Mark 4:15). The Spirit desires to set apart the messengers for Himself (Acts 13:2); Satan desires to sift the messengers like wheat (Luke 22:31). The Spirit sends forth (Acts 1:4); Satan hinders the outreach of the workers (I Thes. 2:18). The Spirit gives utterance (Acts 2:4); Satan contends against the messenger (Jude 9). The Spirit illumines (John 16:8); Satan blinds the hearts and minds of unbelievers (II Cor. 4:4). The Spirit liberates from the power of sin and death (Romans 8:2); Satan has the power of death (Heb. 2:14).

Ever since the Church of Jesus Christ started spreading abroad in the world, all that has been accomplished has been done in the power and energy of the Holy. Spirit. All that has fallen short of accomplishment has been caused in one way or in another by the intervention of Satan.

The Method of the Advocate

I seriously wonder if perhaps we have somewhere lost touch with the Third Person of the Triune God. Perhaps many of us have reverted to the state of the Hebrew people who refused to witness to the Babylonians when they asked them to do so (Psalm 137). In our efforts of personal evangelism, we need to experience personally the Person and power of the Holy Spirit.

For the early Christians witnessing was the normal course; no particular pressure was placed upon them. The Holy Spirit alone induced them to witness, whereas many of us today expect to be persuaded through a course on evangelism or by exhortation or by persuasive preaching. Even then, many today remain unconvinced and unmoved about witnessing.

The Strategy of the Adversary

We have a vicious adversary who is constantly on the alert to counteract the work of evangelism. The Scriptures state very plainly the fact of Satan’s existence and inform us that he opposes all evangelical witness about the Lord Jesus Christ. It should be borne in mind that anyone who witnesses to the grace of God revealed in Christ is undertaking a direct assault against Satan’s dominion. Therefore both he and the recipient of his testimony will be special targets of the devil’s onslaught.

Satan does not work haphazardly but attacks systematically. He can be crushed only in the power of the Holy Spirit. And blessed by God, the Holy Spirit is aware of Satan’s techniques.

The Secret of the Evangelist

A pure life, a life beyond reproach, is an absolute must in evangelism. As David states in Psalm 51:13: “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” Possessing these heavenly qualities, the early Christian went out to conquer in the ministry of evangelism.

We must also bear in mind that in carrying the testimony of Christ to people we need Holy Spirit inspired sound doctrine. Evangelism permeated with Scriptural theology is right and necessary. If, in the course of our witness, we fail clearly to include, even briefly, such subjects as God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the condition and doom of man, and plenty of soteriology, our work has been incomplete. Only sound theology can make sound converts. Shallow believers are often the product of superficial witnessing.

Evangelism is not a spare time activity. It often requires many hours, time which should be given without complaint. The farmer spends long hours on his farm. We can do no less.

Our Goal

We must not apologize for our motive to win converts and to establish churches for Jesus Christ - a motive that is unpopular in many countries, and that is opposed by Satan and his servants. Our very activity is considered to be against certain national interests. In some places Satan is concentrating his opposition to evangelism through this unwarranted accusation. Those of us who deal with people that harbor preconceived notions against the Christian witness often sense the need to be extremely cautious in carrying out our work. We must be tactful in stating our message.

Obstacles to Surmount

We need a strong faith to counteract men’s misconceived notions about the purpose of our witness. Paul won converts in Caesar’s palace. No doubt he first of all was sure to remove from the minds of his hearers any erroneous thoughts they might have had about his personal motivation and the nature of his message. People who hear the witness of Christ today often wonder what our incentive could possibly be, to give our time, energy, and even financial support as we do in order to convey the message of Christ to them in spoken or written form. They imagine that we have economic, political, religious, and other motivations for doing our work.

These are certainly significant barriers that hinder the effectiveness of evangelism. One of our prime aims should be to remove these misconceptions. First we must establish personal trust and a common ground of confidence with the hearer. This can be done only in the power and sufficiency of the Holy Spirit.

An ever eater struggle is initiated when a person is convinced of the validity of the Gospel and trusts Christ as his Saviour. If the chief concern of Satan is to keep lives from responding to our Gospel, his next important desire is to discourage, disillusion and destroy the new believer.

Proclaiming the message and leading a person to the Saviour is considerably easier than nourishing him in the faith and devotion of Jesus Christ. It certainly requires greater effort, fuller understanding, and more time. Evangelism carried on without this part of the commission is no evangelism at all. Christ reminded His disciples that after baptism they should teach the new believers to observe all that He had commanded them (Matthew 28:20). Converts in the early church were immediately ushered into the instruction and absolute requirement of discipleship. This, too, was done in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

Our Triumph

It would be unwise to end this paper without reference to a most vital factor in evangelism. No person should even contemplate this work without realizing the necessity of unfailing love toward every recipient of his message. Love that bears the imprint of total devotion and commitment constitutes the touchstone for effective evangelism. Anyone who is truly interested in this ministry must pass through a heavenly baptism of love.

Besides all these factors there must be a constant appeal to a Sovereign God through unfailing prayer, for all that is being carried on represents the sound Biblical teaching concerning evangelism. Thus the ministry will be kept from all mechanical and methodical weight and heaviness. God has a method for every man. Only by yielding to the full authority of the Holy Spirit can one find God’s method for his own life and carry it on successfully. The desired results should then be rightfully anticipated. Each of us needs to put his heart and soul as well as his whole body into this vital undertaking. The guarantee for success is given by Christ Himself.

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Last Revised: 10/25/06
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2006