There is a deep connection between our doctrine of sin and evangelism. The more serious sin is the more serious a church will take her call to evangelize. If sin is minimized then the importance of evangelism diminishes. If man is born good and social structures cause him to do evil then the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection is of little value. If man simply needs more knowledge, more education, then again Christ’s death will not help much. If man’s problem is lack of resources, such as money, food, opportunities, then again Christ cannot help him. But if man’s problem is that he is an enemy of God, separated from Him because his heart is overflowing with selfishness, pride, anger, lust, malice, and bitterness, and therefore God’s wrath rests upon him, then the Cross is the only answer. And evangelism becomes a priority.
|Paul Preaching to Lydia|
What are the practical effects on evangelism of a low view of sin?
Hell is Ignored
Hell is real. Hell is where men who never turn to Christ spend eternity. Christ rescues men from an eternity where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Isaiah 66:24, Mark 9:47-48). Sin against a holy, perfect, just God puts men there. God’s wrath sits upon them because of their wicked hearts and lives. When we believe this, we want to rescue men and women from this plight. We don’t want them in Hell. Despite some of our over-zealous brothers from the past, Hell is still a good motivation for preaching Jesus Christ.
But if sin is minimized then Hell is as well. Hell only makes sense when God’s holiness and his hatred of sin are fierce and real. If sin is not a big deal then Hell will either be ignored or denied and our zeal for evangelism will weaken.
Men are Left in Bondage to Sin
However, evangelism is not just about delivering men from the ”second death” (Rev. 2:11). When a man turns to Christ he is set free from the power of sin. Sin destroys a man’s life here on earth, not just after he dies. One of the great causes of pain in this life is guilt. Guilt gnaws at us. We try and try to clean our hands, but we cannot. Christ can make us clean. Men and women are slaves to their lusts and greed. They are slaves to the fads of this world. They are not free to give. They are not free to have deep joy. They are not free to suffer on behalf of others. They are not free from the terrors of death and the pangs of their own conscience. When a man comes to Christ, his sins are forgiven and he is given the Spirit. He is now free from sin’s mastery (Romans 6:22). When sin is properly understood, evangelism becomes a way to tell men of the One who can break their chains and release them.
But if sin is minimized then we leave men as slaves. Their lust, anger, greed, malice, and hatred may be small inconveniences that occasionally cause trouble, but not chains that bind them. We look at them clapped in irons and held captive by sin and say to ourselves, “It is not a big deal. They will be just fine.”
Christ is not Glorified
But the biggest fallout from a failure to take sin seriously is that Christ’s glory is smeared. When sin is seen as a the great enemy of man’s soul then Christ’s atonement and resurrection become the greatest and most powerful event in history. Death, that dreaded enemy of man, has been destroyed. Sin, which ravages our souls and bodies and leads us to ravage others, is forgiven and defeated. Satan our great accuser has been silenced. God’s wrath has been turned away because “his own arm brought salvation” (Isaiah 59:15-17). Those who were exiled from the garden have been brought back in.We have great news for a world living in darkness and the shadow death (Isaiah 9:2). A Child was born who took our stripes and healed us (Isaiah 9:6, 53:4-6). Sin, properly understood, leads a church to evangelize and this in turn brings glory to Christ and His work.
But if sin is not a big deal, if sin is not the great enemy that we have been told it was, then Christ’s work is not that big a deal either. If sin is a slight wound, healed lightly with some ointment and a band-aid then the Cross is overkill and slightly embarrassing. It is like rushing a child to the ER for a splinter. Was that really necessary? After all, we are really good people. If people aren’t really perishing then why rescue them? If folks are not dead in their trespasses and sins then why preach life to them? And when Christ is not preached and His death and resurrection not proclaimed then he is not glorified.
Understanding the depth, power, and ugliness of sin leads a church to love evangelism. We will delight to tell our communities the good news that there is deliverance from Hell, bondage to sin, death, and Satan. We will love to glorify our great King and Savior by telling others of His work. But if our doctrine of sin is weak then our evangelism will be as well. The deeper our understanding of sin the deeper our love for Jesus and those he came to save.