Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Heart of Evangelism - by Jerram Barrs

     In the book The Heart of Evangelism, author Jerram Barrs highlights the importance of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 in connection with the Gospel and evangelism. Barrs writes:
At this point in our study we need to turn to another very basic question. What is it that we should communicate to people? You may feel as you read this, "That is an unnecessary question! Every Christian knows that the Gospel is as simple as ABC." What is this ABC? A--You are a sinner. B--Christ died for you. C--Repent and believe in Him. 
Much training for evangelism specializes in teaching some readily remembered form of this ABC or something similar. The trainee learns a simple outline of the Good News that needs to be imparted to a non-Christian or is taught a set of questions to ask and answers to give to the unbeliever. Is this approach right or wrong? Is it helpful? To answer these questions we need to turn to Scripture itself. There is indeed a basic content to the Gospel, a content that can be summarized simply. It is also clear that this basic content needs to be communicated to the non-Christian. Think, for example, of Paul's words in the first five verses of 1 Corinthians 15: Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 
In this passage Paul teaches us that there are indeed gospel truths that are of first importance: 1. Christ's death for our sins in fulfillment of Old Testament promises. 2. Christ's burial in a grave. 3. Christ's resurrection in agreement with the prophecies of Scripture. 4. Christ's appearances to the apostles and others, proving that He was alive.

     After discussing other summaries of the Gospel (e.g. Luke 24:44-47; Acts 2:22-40, 17:22-31), the author goes on to write:
In evangelism also, a clear statement of what we believe as Christians will be helpful in communicating the Gospel. There have been times when people have approached me, as the Philippian jailer approached Paul (Acts 16:29-34), asking, "What must I do to be saved?" One can reply as simply as Paul did on that occasion: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." Of course, the text then adds: "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him." Paul had many other things to say to this man and to his household in addition to that simple summary of what it means to be a Christian. But that one sentence--"Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved"--was indeed a good starting place for Paul's presentation of the truth to the jailer and his household. It is valuable for all believers to have a clear outline of the basic truths of the Gospel in mind.1


1 Jerram Barrs, The Heart of Evangelism (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001), pages 169-170, 175.

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