Divine Evangelism: The Bible as God’s Proclamation of the Gospel
Two “quick” definitions seem to be in order, then. Inspiration is that miraculous, mysterious, and supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to guide holy men—writing from their own personalities and contexts—to produce God’s inspired Word, the Bible, a book comprised of sixty-six smaller books. Together, these books contain a God-glorifying message for mankind—a message trustworthy and authoritative because it is inspired, thus leading to a divine encounter between God and man when it is read or heard.
Illumination is the initial work of the Holy Spirit to help sinful men, through rebirth, see the light and revelation of God’s Word, a Word that was previously darkened. As God’s Word is read, heard, or taught, the Holy Spirit counters the effects of sin and convicts man to see that God’s Word is actually God’s Word and contains—in its fullness—a message for the world, best summarized as the redemptive gospel of Jesus Christ. This illumination of the Holy Spirit, thus, regenerates man and results in his salvation, as he places his faith in Christ and repents of his sin. Illumination is also the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to help man understand and interpret God’s Word rightly, a Word that would otherwise seem foolish.
So, what does it matter for evangelism—for gospel proclamation—that the Bible is both inspired and illumined by the Holy Spirit? The answer is simple: if God has delivered a saving message in the Bible, and the Holy Spirit illumines the Bible for man to understand that saving message, then evangelists must use the Bible in their evangelism. As for this saving message, the gospel, Graeme Goldsworthy writes that “the only way we know who Christ is and what his gospel means is through the Bible.” The Bible is a proclamation of the gospel written by God himself. Click To Tweet
In theory and in practice, then, Christians must determine that the Bible is sufficient for the evangelistic task and that it must be used. However, the nature of the Bible is likely the greatest reason Christians have for using it in evangelism. That is, the Bible, itself, is a proclamation of the gospel written by God, himself. Thus, when evangelists employ the Bible in their evangelism, they not only share the gospel—they do so in God’s own words.
The Bible, then, is a kind of divine evangelism, or “divine evangelization,” as John Stott puts it. If “Scripture is itself divine evangelization, it stands to reason that we can learn how to preach the gospel by considering how God has done it. He has given us in the process of biblical inspiration a beautiful evangelistic model.” If you haven’t thought of the Bible in this way before, below are two reasons you should.
First, the Bible’s core message is the message of the gospel—the redemption of man that comes through Jesus Christ.
This message is what is otherwise known as the redemptive story or the history of salvation. It stands as the center and purpose of the Bible’s grand narrative. God’s desire is to have a people for himself, who will serve under his rule, and, eventually, live in his determined place. Some have called this the missio dei or “the mission of God.”
B.B. Warfield notes that the “word of God,” or simply, “the word” comes “to mean in the New Testament just the gospel… precisely what we technically speak of as God’s redemptive revelation.” Scripture was written so that man might understand that Jesus is Lord. Further, the reading and study of the Bible should lead one to profess that Jesus is Lord, resulting in salvation. Simply put, Scripture’s aim is unabashedly evangelistic. God, in your reading of Scripture, desires for sinners to believe in him. The Bible is God’s proclamation of the good news of salvation, for he superintended it—and history, itself—to be about his work of redemption.
Second, the Bible is a book written from from God to man.
Altogether, there is perhaps no greater reason to use God’s Word in evangelization than to consider the fact that God, in writing it, desired to be friends with his enemies. Click To Tweet Therefore, not only is the Bible a gospel proclamation, but when the Bible is read and taught, it is God’s proclamation of the gospel. It is an evangelism with words—words preached by God. Therefore, the hearing and learning of Scripture should not be seen as impersonal tasks. Rather, these tasks “are a person-to-person interaction with God as he teaches us his personal words.” The Bible’s message, especially as it is seen in the New Testament, is a message “God has spoken.. for the world, a word to which all men in all ages are summoned to listen and to respond.” Packer continues on this very thought: “Holy Scripture should be thought of as God preaching—God preaching to me every time I read or hear any part of it—God the Father preaching God the Son in the power of God the Holy Ghost.”
We should greatly appreciate the method God chose to communicate the pursuit and redemption of his people. He did it personally, with words. And evangelists would do well to evangelize using the Bible’s words. This isn’t solely because it is commanded and profitable, but because as non-believers learn about the way in which God has chosen to pursue them, they will come to understand the loving nature of our God. J.I. Packer summarizes this love well. Answering the question of why God has spoken, he says:
The truly staggering answer which the Bible gives to this question is that God’s purpose in revelation is to make friends with us… He speaks to us simply to fulfill the purpose for which we were made; that is, to bring into being a relationship in which He is a friend to us, and we to Him, He finding His joy in giving us gifts and we finding ours in giving Him thanks.
God inspired his word, and God illumines his word. Altogether, there is perhaps no greater reason to use God’s Word in evangelization than to consider the fact that God, in writing it, desired to be friends with his enemies—enemies who come to know his friendship through that evangelization. Again, the recommendation here is quite simple: use your Bibles in evangelism; you might just be surprised at what the divine evangelist will do.