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The Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Witnessing

 

Sharing your faith with those in cults, other religions or with the typical non-believer can be quite frustrating. No matter how clear and articulate you are, they just seem to be so blind to the truth. Well, they are, spiritually speaking. Scripture presents that the unregenerate man (unsaved) is in bondage, thus enslaved to sin (cf. John 8:34, 36). He is spiritually dead (cf. Col. 2:13; Rom. 3:10-19). Hence, they are unable to come to, hear, submit, or please God (cf. John 6:44; 8:47; Rom. 8:7-8)[1]. Jesus explained as to why the unbelieving Jews would not hear (i.e., believe) what He was saying: It is because you cannot hear My word.” He did not say that they “chose not” to hear, but rather they could not hear (cf. John 12:39-40).

Salvation is of the Lord alone (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30): It is God alone that regenerates the dead sinner, which causes him to walk in the ways of the Lord. He becomes alive, a new species in Christ with a new heart (cf. Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36-36-37; Eph. 2:10; 2 Cor. 5:17-18).

 

Faith, repentance, and the ability to believe are granted by God: John 6:37-40, 44; Eph. 2:8; 1 Cor. 12:8-9; Phil. 1:29; Acts 5:31; 16:14; 2 Pet. 1:1

 

What is “Effective”[2] Witnessing?

 

First of all, our presentation should be biblically based and logical (cf. Acts 17:2-3, 17; 18:28; 1 Pet. 3:15). Further, contrary to the “traditional” Christian view (i.e., to see people saved), we proclaim the gospel first and foremost because it glorifies God! Noah saw no converts, but he glorified God. Also, we are commanded to do so (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15; 4:2-5; 1 Pet. 3:15; etc.). The proclamation of the gospel is the *normal means* that God uses to bring about salvation (cf. Rom. 1:16).

Both the OT and NT authors consistently contrast and proclaim the *good news* (justification) with the *bad news* (God’s wrath; cf. John 3:36). For one cannot preach the good news without preaching the bad news—but this biblical concept is virtually absent in the teaching of many preachers today!

And remember: those with whom you are “sharing” your faith are people first, and thus are enslaved to sin, spiritually dead—just as we once were. Their WILL is enslaved to their evil nature—as we once were (cf. John 8:34, 43-44; Rom. 6:16). They are held captive by the Satan—as we once were (cf. 2 Tim. 2:25-26). Only the Son can set them free (cf. John 8:36). Thus, before one can realize the do’s and don’ts of effective witnessing, one must have a biblical understanding of the spiritual state of the unsaved.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts[3]

 

DO NOT attack the person (argumentum ad hominem):

Do not let your emotions dictate how you witness (cf. Gal. 5:20-21). Never attack the character of the person. When one employs personal attacks, it only shows the weakness of his or her position and a severe lack of biblical ability to present the gospel (see 1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Pet. 3:16).

 

DO pray for God to give you witnessing opportunities: In Ephesians 2:10, Paul indicates that “we are created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared before hand so that we would walk in them.”

 

DO NOT force a gospel argument (that is a bad witness): 1 Peter 3:15 says to always provide an answer (defense) and a logical and biblical reason (i.e., a positive affirmation) for faith—with gentleness and respect.

Since God ordained the salvation of His people (both the means and end),[4] there is no reason to force a gospel argument. For the unregenerate person to which you are witnessing is dead, enslaved to sin, with a stony heart, they *cannot* hear (believe), for they are held captive by Satan.[5] For only God can remove a heart of stone, thus, only the Son can make them free.

 

DO make a reasonable and sound biblical argument: (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15; Acts 17:2-3; 17:21; 18:28). We should never hastily assume that we have a correct understanding of a passage without doing our homework. Every Christian should have a firm understanding that his or her interpretation is correct before presenting it. Peter says that it is the “unstudied” that distort Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16).[6] Too often Christians base their interpretations on tradition rather than exegetical confirmation.[7]

 

DO present a *definitive* gospel: Include salvific doctrines—namely the Person, nature, and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul defines his gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.[8] Thus, include in your presentation the Person of Christ (He was perfect man),[9] His nature (He was perfect God—viz. God-man [incarnation], second Person of the Trinity), and His finished work (justification through faith alone, the sufficiency of cross, saved from God’s wrath—the wages of sin), and the “physical” resurrection. These are “essential” Christian doctrines. It is this gospel, says Paul that “is the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16).

 

DO NOT pretend to know the answer to a question if you really do not know it: If you are asked a question to which you do not really know the answer, you should not act as if you know the answer. Instead, humbly indicate that you do not know the answer, but you will research and get the answer. And then, make sure you do. We worship a God who calls Himself “truth”; therefore, we should be honest in all of our interactions.

 

DO be concise in your presentation: Too much information at once can be non-productive. Most people cannot process too much information all at once (cf. John 16:12). Stick to one subject at a time.

 

DO NOT bombard folks with hundreds of passages: Too often, when Christians first begin to study the theology of the cults, for example (esp. LDS and JWs), they begin to learn many passages that refute the many theological assertions of the cults. Then, they will carelessly rapid-fire a series of passages (in one breath!) without interacting with the person with whom they are dialoguing. This is not effective. Again, stick to one subject at time. And never never quote a passage then swiftly run to another passage without exegetically discussing the first passage.

DO form your presentation and/or apologetic into “questions”: I found this method extremely effective. For even Jesus and the apostles utilized it (e.g., Matt. 5:46-47; John 3:10, 9, Rom. 6:1; 1 Cor. 12: 29-31; Gal. 3:2-5; James 2:14-26). Consider the examples below:

 

*Ask the non-believing Jew: “In Isaiah 53:5, what does ‘He was pierced through for our transgressions’ mean to you? Who is the “He” that was pierced?” Or “What does ‘The LORD [Yahweh] caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him in’ in verse 6 mean to you?” Or “What does Isaiah mean when he says, ‘The LORD was pleased to crush Him to put Him to grief and He would render Himself as a guilt offering, thus pleasing the LORD’ in verse 10?” Or “Who in verse 12 is said to, ‘Pour Himself out to death bearing the faults of many and praying all times for sinners?’” (translated from the Jewish Publication Society).

 

*Ask the Mormon: “Since you are taught that in the OT Jesus is “LORD” (Jehovah) and the Father is “God” (Elohim—i.e., the personal name of the Father),[10] how is it that in Isaiah 44:6, the LORD, who you think is Jesus) can say, ‘I am the first, I am the last; and beside me there is no God [Heb. Elohim]? So, according to your doctrine (i.e., LORD = Jesus), Jesus denies His Father’s existence!” “In Isaiah 44:8, the LORD asks, ‘Is there a God [Elohim] beside me? yea, there is no God; I know of not any.’ “Did the LORD forget about His Father? For the LORD, who you believe is Jesus, says He *knows* of no other God [Elohim]” (see also Isa. 43:10; 44:5; Jer. 10:10-11).

 

Do not be discouraged when your witnessing efforts seem to fail (i.e., no converts). Remember: we cannot make a dead person alive, only God can: the results of salvation are up to God. Again, we proclaim the truth of the gospel because it glorifies God. Scripture commands to preach the word in season and out of season,” but reasonably and biblically: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things” (Rom. 10:15).


 

Notes

[1] In Romans 8:7-8, Paul’s uses the verb dunamai (ou dunamai, “can not”) to precisely describe the spiritual inability (as in John 6:44: “cannot come”) of the man “in the flesh” (i.e., unregenerate). The term denotes ability. A decision to receive Christ would certainly please God. However, Paul says that the unregenerate sinner does not (ou) even have the ability (dunamai) to (a) subject itself to God and (b) please God—he cannot. So, sinful man, based on his own self-determination, that is, free will, will never choose Christ—for he cannot. Paul here employs a double use of dunamai to stress this point. Thus, only if God regenerates (makes alive) the hostile, spiritually dead, rebellious sinner granting him faith and repentance does he then choose (based on his own volition as a regenerated person) to believe.

[2] What I mean by “effective” is simply a biblically sound presentation of the gospel. Saying to an *unsaved* person things such as “Jesus has a great plan for your life” or “Jesus loves you” is not the argument that Paul first presents. Rather, he systematically (as in Romans 1 for example) presents the universal sinfulness and total depravity of the unsaved (i.e., the bad news).

[3] There are certainly more do’s and don’ts other than these listed. However, I wanted to delineate some of the more significant ones.

[4] Cf. Matt. 1:21; John 6:37-40, 44; Acts 13:48; Eph. 1:4-5, 11; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2 Thess. 2:13

[5] Cf. John 8:34, 36, 43-44, 47; Rom. 8:7-8; 2 Tim. 2:26.

[6] In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter point out that the ones who “distort” Scripture are the “untaught and unstable.” The term translated “untaught” if from the Greek word a)maqei=j (amatheis), which literally means “unstudied” or “unlearned.” Studying Scripture is a necessity for effective witnessing.

[7] For example, for years, passages such as John 3:16; 2 Peter 2:24; and Revelation 3:20 have been incorrectly interpreted and thus misapplied by the majority of Christians. Hence, the popular interpretations of these passages are squarely based on tradition, not exegetical confirmation: By misinterpreting passages, it makes God say something He never said!

[8] “The gospel that I preached to you . . . . I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (NET).

[9] He was perfect man, born of a virgin.

[10] Mormons are taught that in the OT, the “LORD” (Heb. Yahweh or the mis-transliterated [from YHWH] term “Jehovah” that the Mormons use) is Jesus and “God” (Heb. Elohim) is the Father (cf. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1: 27; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine; 392). Thus, in LDS theology, Jehovah (Jesus) and Elohim (the Father) are two separate Gods. But of course, the phrase “LORD God” (“Yahweh Elohim”) is used over 500 times in the OT to refer to the one true God (e.g., Deut. 6:4). Also, pagan gods were also called Elohim (e.g., Ex. 12:12; Dan. 1:2). Frequently, though, Mormons will say that the LORD can be called “Elohim” (in representation), but He cannot be Elohim. However, there are many places where the “LORD” (Yahweh) is said to BE Elohim due to the fact that The LORD is called “the God,” that is, Elohim appears with the definite article “the” (cf. Deut. 4:35; Ps. 100:3 Jer. 10: 10-11). Moreover, Jesus is called ho theos (“the God”) throughout the NT (cf. John 20:28; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1).