When evangelical street preachers stand on street corners and college campuses and condemn those whom they know nothing about as being wicked, God hating, reprobate, and headed strength to Hell, they often do so because they themselve have a misunderstanding of what the gospel is and how it should be communicated.
There are some street preachers who are doing it right, but far too many times, street preachers come across as hateful, judgmental, and harsh. This is because they have not patterned their evangelism after the examples given to us in the New Testament.
When Jesus conversed with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, he did not tell her she was sinner under the wrath of God. He did not place her into a “category” in which she was no better than the Pharisees who opposed God. Instead, Jesus met her on a personal level and had a conversation with her about her life, and this is what true New Testament evangelism should look like. The gospel is custom designed to minister to every heart.
When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus the conversation was different because Nicodemus was an educated religious leader. Still, there was no condemnation from Jesus.
When the woman who was caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, Jesus did not condemn her. Instead he forgave her and told her to go and sin no more.
There were times in scripture that certain groups of people were warned of God’s judgment, and this only happened when the gospel was rejected by the hardhearted opponents to the gospel. Yet it was not the method used in every case.
For example, the Bible tells us that Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them (Acts 8:5), and that the people believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ. ~ v.12
Later, this same Philip came across a man who was reading the book of Isaiah the prophet, and Philip took the opportunity to share Christ with him.
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. ~ Acts 8:27-28
Notice that this man had come to Jerusalem to worship. He had yet to believe that Jesus is the Son of God because he had not yet heard the gospel. As we continue to read, there is no evidence that Philip categorized him as a God hating sinner. Unfortunately, some modern day street preachers would have.
People who hate God do not make pilgrimages to go worship God nor do they follow up their worship by reading scripture.
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. ~ v. 29-31
Notice that this man was reading the book of the prophet Isaish. At this point he had no idea that Jesus is the Son of God, but his heart is searching for God. The text tells us “the Spirit said to Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.”
We need more Spirit led evangelism and less pre-scripted messages which misinterpret Paul’s words concerning there is none righteous, and none that seeks after God. This man was seeking after God, and consequently the Spirit of the Lord led Philip to him to tell him about Jesus.
In Romans when Paul says, there is none righteous no not one, and there is none that seeks after God, he is not referring to every single person. The very people in the Bible disproves this logic and interpretation. There is a greater context that Paul is addressing when he makes those statements, which is referring specifically to those who reject God and justify their sins. That is a teaching for another article.
We can see that this man in Acts 8 was seeking after God, for he had made a journey to worship, and was reading the book of the prophet Isaiah, and as a result the Spirit led Philip to him. Philip joined the man on his chariot and shared the gospel about Jesus from the very text the man was reading which was from Isaiah 53.
The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. ~ Acts 8:32-38
There is not a trace of evidence that Philip preached judgment and condemnation to the man. There is no evidence that Philip told him how awful of a sinner he was and how he was a hater of God who needed to repent. Philip preached Christ to him, a man whose heart was already seeking for God.
In Acts 10 we read of another man who was seeking after God, and how the Spirit of God sent Peter to him to declare the gospel to him and his household.
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thy alms are to come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the seas side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. ~ Acts 10:1-6
Notice that Cornelius was a devout man and he feared God. In Paul’s reference of “there is none righteous, no not one” and “there is none that seeks after God” Paul also cites the text that says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
However, we can see from the text in Acts 10 that Cornelius did fear God, so Paul’s words in Romans are not a reference to every person who has not yet heard and believed the gospel. Yet too many street Preachers preach as though it is part of the gospel message concerning all people. It is not. Instead, it is a wrong interpretation of Paul’s letter to the Romans. In fact Paul himself refutes such interpretations in Acts 13 when he declared the gospel to those who feared God.
Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. ~ Acts 13:26
How can the word of Salvation be sent to those who fear God if absolutely no one fears God? Bad theology, and bad interpretation of scripture make for bad evangelism which tends to bring a reproach on the gospel. It’s time for that to change.
In my next teaching on this topic we will pick up right here, and continue with the salvation of Cornelius and his household. Until then, may the Lord to guide you in your interactions with others whose hearts the Lord may have already opened to the gospel as he did with Lydia, whom we will read about as well.