A few days ago, I read a blog written by Phil Johnson, in which he briefly discussed the topic of pleading with others to come to Christ. While I’ve heard that we should do this, I wouldn’t characterize my evangelism as “pleading”. On the contrary, when I share the gospel, I would characterize it more like “reasoning”, “discussing”, or “sharing”. It’s always seemed to me that pleading is at odds with discussing.
See, when I share the gospel, I never plan on ending the conversation by saying, “Will you please believe in this? Will you put all your faith in what Christ has done on the cross? Will you accept what I have told you?” I think one of the reasons I don’t do that is because it’s incredibly awkward. I realize I’m not the most agreeable, charitable person in conversation, plus I know I come off as argumentative when I don’t even mean to be. So why should I compound the gospel with my own overbearing, emotive appeals?
On the theological side, I believe Scripture is clear that it’s not our will that brings people to know Jesus as lord and savior. So pleading, in a way, seemed to me to be taking God’s work into my own hands. For a long time, I’ve thought that if I simply present the truth to people in a clear way, that’s all I need to do. God will do the rest in their heart; and hopefully one day, they will place their trust in him.
As I thought about this yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised by my current study of the book of Ezekiel. In the beginning of the second chapter, Ezekiel describes his call by God to be a prophet.
Then He said to me,
“Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!”
As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me.
Then He said to me,
“Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’
As for them, whether they listen or not–for they are a rebellious house–they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.” (NASB) Ezekiel 2:1-7
There are two parts of this commission that struck me. The first part is the way in which Ezekiel is commanded to minister, the second part is the attitude he is commanded to have while he ministers.
God tells him, “…you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.'” There is a special responsibility God has given Ezekiel, that is, to speak his words directly to the people of Israel. God has the sole authority over not only Israel, but all men, and for Ezekiel to speak from God makes his words compelling upon them for change.
He then warns Ezekiel that, since Israel is a rebellious people, it is likely he will be rejected. Even still, God’s command remains, “But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.” The response of the people of Israel should not determine the content of what he says. Though they may be rebellious and threatening, Ezekiel’s message has a divine origin and must therefore be preached.
I think the section of scripture from which Phil Johnson gave his brief exhortation fitted perfectly with what I’ve been reading in Ezekiel,
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV) 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
In light of these passages, I think the best way to plead with sinners to come to Christ is to directly quote the passages of the Bible in which God himself pleads with us to be reconciled to him, such as this one. After all, the authority does not rest with me or my will, but with God’s. Who better to plead with humans than their creator? But in all this, God has chosen me to give breath to his Word, making his plea to others using my lungs.
If anyone else who reads this had other thoughts, passages, or experiences that shed light into this, I would appreciate hearing what you have to say.