WE ARE living in an age when man's concept of evangelism includes modern methods, evangelistic equipment, and bigger budgets. Many of us have used everything from pictures to prizes, and black light to bumper stickers.
While all of these things may be important and have their rightful place, we must not fail to realize the supreme importance of God's part in evangelism.
The Role of the Heavenly Trio
God, the Master Workman, began the work of evangelism. The psalmist says: "God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth" (Ps. 74:12). Our world was brought into existence by God. The plan of salvation had been laid be fore the creation of the earth. But from the moment that sin entered the universe of God and marred the perfect harmony of heaven and earth, the divine plan was effective and more than adequate to cope with the problem of sin. God had made provision for the inception of His plan through His only-begotten Son. The provisions of God are complete and will eventually culminate in the final and glorious triumph over sin.
Jesus Christ laid the foundation for all evangelism in His own work on earth. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as the great evangelist to the world to lay the ground work for salvation in His own sacrifice and atonement for sin and to plead with man to return to God. Jesus Christ is the model evangelist. All true evangelistic work centers in Him. It was He who made the good news. It was He who revealed the glad tidings. It was He who first appealed to lost men to receive the salvation He had provided for them.
The Holy Spirit continues this work and makes true evangelism successful. He is the third Person of the Godhead, and equally with the Father and the Son, He is an evangelist. The following seven points emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit in evangelism:
1. He came into the world to carry for ward God's work of salvation.
2. He applies the saving work of Christ to individual hearts.
3. He conveys to men everywhere the glad tidings of salvation.
4. He beseeches the sinner to be reconciled to God.
5. He brings conviction to human hearts.
6. He forms Christ within and brings about the new birth.
7. He is the chief evangelist on earth today.
The Union of Heavenly and Human Agencies
"It is not the power that emanates from men that makes the work successful, it is the power of the heavenly intelligences working with the human agent that brings the work to perfection. A Paul may plant, and an Apollos may water, but it is God that giveth the increase. Man cannot do God's part of the work. As a human agent he may cooperate with the divine intelligences, and in simplicity and meekness do his best, realizing that God is the great Master Workman." ---Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Nov. 14, 1893.
We as human instruments cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit; we are only the channels through which the Lord works.
"The preaching of the word will be of no avail without the continual presence and aid of the Holy Spirit. This is the only effectual teacher of divine truth. Only when the truth is accompanied to the heart by the Spirit will it quicken the conscience or transform the life. One might be able to present the letter of the word of God, he might be familiar with all its commands and promises; but unless the Holy Spirit sets home the truth, no souls will fall on the Rock and be broken. No amount of education, no advantages, however great, can make one a channel of light without the cooperation of the Spirit of God. The sowing of the gospel seed will not be a success unless the seed is quickened into life by the dew of heaven." ---The Desire of Ages, pp. 671, 672.
Heavenly angels, under God's direction, are constantly available to aid those who are engaged in the all-important work of evangelism. Notice the following statements:
"All the resources of heaven are at the command of those who are seeking to save the lost. Angels will help you to reach the most careless and the most hardened. And when one is brought back to God, all heaven is made glad." --Christ's Object Lessons, p. 197.
"All heaven is in activity, and the angels of God are waiting to cooperate with all who will devise plans whereby souls for whom Christ died may hear the glad tidings of salvation" --Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 433.
"There is far more being done by the universe of Heaven than we have any idea of, in preparing the way so that souls shall be converted. We want to work in harmony with the messengers of Heaven. We want more of God; we do not want to feel that it is our talking and our sermonizing that is to do the work; we want to feel that un less the people are reached through God, they never will be reached." ---Evangelism, pp. 127, 128.
The Need of Divine Power
What wonderful days those were when the mighty Spirit of God came upon those first evangelists, giving them power they had never known before. Power was what they needed, since the world they faced was a challenging world. And we need that same power today, for ours is an even more challenging world.
As we survey the work of God today we discern many needs. We need more workers. We need more money; we need buildings; we need equipment. But the greatest need of all is the need of divine power. This power is available only through the Spirit of the living God.
When Pentecost came to the apostolic church three thousand souls were converted in a single day, and the assurance has been given us that "the time is coming when there will be as many converted in a day as there were on the day of Pentecost, after the disciples had received the Holy Spirit." ---Review and Herald, June 29, 1905, p. 8.
"To us today, as verily as to the first disciples, the promise of the Spirit belongs. God will today endow men and women with power from above, as He endowed those who on the Day of Pentecost heard the word of salvation. At this very hour His Spirit and His grace are for all who need them and will take Him at His word." ---Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 20.
"When we bring our hearts into unity with Christ, and our lives into harmony with His work, the Spirit that fell on the disciples on the Day of Pentecost will fall on us." --Ibid., p. 246.
"The presence of the Spirit with God's workers will give the proclamation of truth a power that not all the honor or glory of the world could give." ---The Acts of the Apostles, p. 51.
The changing times, the population explosion, and the increasing difficulties in our cities have caused some to wonder how the work of evangelism will ever be finished. We should always remember that evangelism is God's work. We should never forget that "he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" (Rom. 9:28). We should pray earnestly for this divine activity, for this is our only hope. All too often we have been prone to substitute our own training and plans, our devices, equipment, and slogans in place of the divine power of the Holy Spirit, which alone can and will finish the work. This tendency to substitute is one of our paramount weaknesses and holdbacks today. We must not depend on these but rather upon the power of God.
As we face the tremendous challenge of the unfinished task, our ministry must be clothed with the divine power that proceeds from the Holy Spirit.
"Divine power alone will melt the sinner's heart and bring him ... to Christ."---Gospel Workers, p. 34.
All our excellent techniques and our methods, without the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, will accomplish little. To be successful soul winners we must consecrate ourselves to God that the Holy Spirit can find in us channels through which to work.
The transforming power for men and nations is not self-generated. It is not inherent in any quality which we as workers may possess. It is not generated by the rapid turning of ecclesiastical machinery. Instead it is the power of God unto salvation. No minister and no layman ever saved anyone. We never convert anyone. We can only point men to Christ and depend wholly upon the power of God.
The servant of the Lord says: "I have been shown that human instrumentalities seek after too much power, and try to control the work themselves. They leave the Lord God, the Mighty Worker, too much out of their methods and plans, and do not trust everything to Him in regard to the advancement of the work. No one should fancy that he is able to manage these things which belong to the great I AM. ... In the taking of Jericho the Lord God of hosts was the general of the army. He made the plan for the battle and united heavenly and human agencies to act a part in the work, but 110 human hand touched the walls of Jericho. God so arranged the plan that man could take no credit to him self for achieving the victory. God alone is to be glorified. So it shall be in the work in which we are engaged. The glory is not to be given to human agencies; the Lord alone is to be magnified. . . . We must learn to put our entire dependence upon God."---Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 213, 214.
"The reason God cannot do much with some men is that they take the glory of their ministry to themselves, putting them selves to the forefront and leaving God in the background, as if they had accomplished by their own power all that was done." ---I. H. EVANS, The Preacher and His Preaching, p. 52.
As laborers together with God, we are to do our work faithfully and leave all the results with Him. We have the assurance that God's Word will not return unto Him void.
The evangelistic efforts of God are soon to close. The proclamation of the good news is soon to end. Human history is soon to reach its climax. We are living in the time when we can soon expect the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The closing work of evangelism centers in the proclamation of the gospel to all the world. God has honored us in giving us the privilege of being partners with Him and participants in the all-important work of evangelism.
As we accept the challenge, may we go forth with renewed determination to believe and receive the Spirit in His fullness, and thus hasten the day when the whole world will be lightened with the glory of God. May we ever remember that success in evangelism will come "not by might, nor by power," but by the Spirit of God.