Seeking a Rationale for Adventist Evangelism

THE third angel's message is to be our burden of warning."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 331. "Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity.' "—Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.

THE third angel's message is to be our burden of warning."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 331. "Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity.' "—Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.

By combining these two inspired sentences, we can formulate a syllogism:

1. The Seventh-day Adventist task is to proclaim the third angel's message to the world.

2. The third angel's message is righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.

3. Therefore our task is proclaiming to the world that saving righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Significantly, the object of Christian faith or belief (it is the same word in Greek) is Jesus—a Person, not a doctrine— and this concept constitutes the rationale for Seventh-day Adventist evangelism.

Christ our righteousness is the evangel or "good news" Jesus has commissioned us to preach. Yet what do we loudly proclaim as "good news"? No meat, no beer, no cigarettes, no coffee, no tea, no Coke, no dancing, no theater-going, no card playing, no jewelry, no dyeing the hair, no mini skirts, no make-up, no secular pursuits on Saturday, and no robbing God anymore: return a minimum of 10 percent of the salary to the church. This needs to be said, but of itself it may constitute bad news, because we denounce everything the average man on the street has always enjoyed.

Many people know Adventists only on the basis of our negativism and wonder if we are Christian or Jewish or something somewhere in between. ("Oh yes, you are the people who don't eat meat, ... or don't smoke, ... or don't dance, ... or don't drink, . . . or . . .")

Have we forgotten that our "good news" or evangel is saving righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ the Person? Are we encouraging others to put their faith in Jesus—as did the New Testament evangelists when they asserted, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"? Or have we become more interested in making Seventh-day Adventists than we are in making Christians?

Keeping the "Evangel" in our Evangelism

What is the "evangel" in our evangelism? The third angel's message in verity—saving righteousness through faith in Christ the Person? Or peripheral emphases? Have we lost sight of the divinely appointed ration ale for our evangelistic endeavors?

Unfortunately, the Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic sermon may at times emphasize dogma rather than a Person as the object of belief.

Some may maintain that indoctrination leads to conversion, but conversion to what —Jesus or doctrinal points? In my ministry I have met too many persons who have fallen in love with our twenty-two fundamental beliefs rather than with the Saviour.

A little contemplation reveals the folly of putting doctrine before Christ. Scripture declares that every human being is stillborn—dead in trespasses and sin. Yet some of us abortively try to teach spiritually dead people the truths of God's Word. But how can a spiritually stillborn person possibly comprehend our doctrines when Scripture specifically maintains -that spiritual things are spiritually discerned?

Obviously Christ must first of all enter one's life and resurrect him spiritually, renewing his mind through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Only then will he be able to grasp the spiritual significance of our doctrines.

If an evangelist perceives himself as principally a purveyor of doctrine, he has lost the gospel God has commissioned him to proclaim in these last days—saving righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ the Person. Take away the "evangel" and his evangelism degenerates into nothing more than another "ism."

Our church looks forward to 1972 as the year of evangelism. Surely we need to care fully re-evaluate our evangelistic rationale. What are we doing in our evangelistic crusades, and why?

Are we presenting the evangel of saving righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ? Are we pointing a lost world in these last days to salvation's only road—Jesus Christ the Person? Are we convincing people that the object of belief is Christ, not a creed?

Anyone can preach a list of doctrines, but "It is not enough to be familiar with the arguments of the truth alone. You must meet the people through the life that is in Jesus."—Review and Herald, Aug. 28, 1888. He must constitute the object of our belief and the subject of our evangelistic sermons.


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June 1971

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