My friend (and roommate) Ryan told me that one of the biggest reasons he pushes himself to evangelize is because it helps him realize the power of God. It’s true. There’s nothing like an evangelistic encounter to remind me about the grace of God in salvation. Last week, Grace on Campus encouraged everyone to participate in cold-contact evangelism, to walk up to strangers on campus and speak with them about the gospel. Coincidentally–or rather, providentially–I’ve been studying the book of Romans with one of the guys in my small group. I was reminded theologically and experientially of the power of God at work in salvation.
Theologically, it’s because of Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The gospel is the power of God. Not of man, or of mutual cooperation between God and man. Not of man first, then God responding in some full preservation of His sovereignty. The gospel is God’s power and His alone. We know that if it were up to man, he would not ever choose God–that’s why Paul writes in Romans 3 that “no one understands; no one seeks for God” (3:11). He also writes in 1 Corinthians that the natural man “is not able to understand [the things of the Spirit of God] because they are spiritually discerned” (2:14b). Paul conclusively states that it is neither within our sinful, fallen interest to seek God, nor are we even able to.
So Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (1:4-5a). We were chosen, and predestined, and justified (Rom. 8:30), made alive and raised up with Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-6). God, in His power and grace, acts first to reconcile us to Him!
Experientially, I think back to who I was before I was saved. Sin ran rampant and unopposed in my life. I pursued sin because it gave me fleeting pleasure. I developed a worldview that served my interests and that bore little resemblance to the truths set forth in Scripture. If it were up to me, I know that I would not have given up my sin in order to gain Christ. I know this in part because every day, my sinful flesh tempts me to give up Christ and go back to sin. The gospel is not my power to reach out to God, it is the power of God to rescue me.
When I went with a couple of friends from GOC to share the gospel with people on campus, I was reminded that the gospel is the power of God by unbelievers who either steadfastly refused to believe in the reality they read about in Scripture, or just could not comprehend the truth that was shared with them. One of the people with whom I spoke grew up attending church, but insisted that the Bible was a series of mistranslations, and that we should only believe what is “objectively verifiable”–that is, no miracles, nothing supernatural. Another guy could not understand why God would create a world that ended up in sin. He wasn’t able to see how sin serves God’s ultimate purpose of self-glorification by allowing Him to demonstrate His love in the atonement of Christ. If salvation is up to them, they will never be saved.
But it isn’t up to them. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. That’s how I was saved. That’s how you were saved! As we remember this, both in our own lives and when evangelizing to others, our gratitude to God should be drawn forth, and our prayers provoked as we appeal to God to open the hearts of unbelievers around us.