The Good News, Evangelism, and the Authority of God’s Word

The Good News, Evangelism, and the Authority of God’s Word

The greatest news that anyone could ever hear is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Good News is the story of God’s intervention into history culminating in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Through His resurrection, all who believe in Christ, repent of their sin, and turn to follow Him as their Lord are granted eternal life. This is GOOD NEWS, but what if it’s not true?

Good News or Fake News

The Twenty-first Century world is filled with fake “news.” Social media has opened a “Pandora’s box” where anyone with a smart phone or a computer can instantly spread “news” around the world. In our modern world, the “news” is often skewed to present a particular agenda more favorably. Sometimes it is just out right false – a lie intended to deceive! “News” is only as reliable as its source and many modern sources are outright untrustworthy.

The key to getting things right is finding a trustworthy source. This is where one must turn to God’s Word. The Bible is the inspired word of God. Its message is absolutely trustworthy in all that it claims. Because it is true, Scripture will stand the test of time in the face of the onslaught of fake “news.” Scripture provides us a standard by which all other “news” can be tested.

Liberal Scholarship and God’s Word

In the past couple centuries, liberal theology has brought into question the truthfulness and authority of God’s Word. This liberal theology is dangerous in every way. When the reliability of God’s word is undermined, the Christian’s foundation is shaken.

James Draper summarized four areas that led to the compromise of biblical authority in his book Authority: The Critical Issue for Southern Baptist. These areas included: the historical-critical approach to Scripture; existential philosophy; naturalistic, uniformitarian science; and the study of comparative religions. He summarized that in each of these areas liberal critics have shifted their focus from revelation to reason. They no longer accept the revelation of God’s word as authoritative, but place man’s reasoning in a position over God’s Word.[1]

If Scripture is not reliable, its history becomes mythology, its commands become suggestions, hope is destroyed, and the future is uncertain. Draper wrote, “Without an authoritative divine revelation, worship degenerates into mere form and ritual, ministry concerns itself only with the temporal and the physical, and authority becomes the result of the mind of man rather than the mind of God.”[2]

The Message is Cloudy when Scripture is Undermined

Evangelism is one of the greatest casualties of liberal theology. Evangelism is a huge challenge for many believers at their very best. This is evidenced by the low percentage of Christians who actually share their faith on a regular basis. When doubts about the truthfulness of God’s Word arise, it becomes even easier to excuse the lack of zeal for sharing the good news of Jesus. If the Bible is not true then the evangelistic message is obscured, unnecessary, and may be an impediment to eternal life for millions.

When the truth of God’s revealed Word is brought into question, the message of the evangelist is impacted. If the Bible isn’t true in all areas, then it certainly can be questioned in the difficult areas. First, the message becomes obscured.  For instance, Jesus said, “No one comes to the father, but through me” (John 14:6). If his statement is not absolutely true, then one may suggest other ways to get to the Father – to gain eternal life. Once the door is cracked open, man may rationalize a multitude of paths regardless of the clear message in God’s Word.

If the Bible is not absolutely true, then its evangelistic message becomes unnecessary. The teachings of Jesus may be considered helpful and the epistles and Acts might be useful for understanding history. The message of the Good News of salvation is only necessary if God’s Word is true.

Liberal theology has led some to deny the revelation in God’s Word that all those who die without Jesus are lost. The question is asked, “What about those innocent people who have never heard of Jesus?” There is an assumption that certainly they would not be condemned. The reality is that God’s Word tells us there are no innocent people. “All have sinned” (Rom 3:23). If Romans 3-6 are not true and God provides some special dispensation for those who have not heard, our message becomes an impediment to their eternal life. The rational mind could argue that they are better off if we never tell them what Jesus did for them.

The Motivation is Weak when Scripture is Undermined

A liberal view of Scripture undermines the evangelist’s motivation. If there are other paths, hell is not real, everyone is okay in the end, or everyone’s fate is already sealed, then the motive to share the Gospel is eroded. The evangelist is left without any urgency to fulfill the Great Commission

Peter made clear to those gathered in Jerusalem that “there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The nature of this single pathway leading to eternal life is a strong motivation to share the Gospel of Jesus. When that claim is diminished, the motive to share is diminished as well.

The Biblical picture of eternal punishment is a horrible thing to imagine. When the Christian accepts the truth that there is a place of eternal death for all who are lost, compassion increases and the job of evangelism becomes urgent. Like the neighbor frantically trying to wake those sleeping in a burning house, the evangelist is highly motivated to declare his message.  If he is not convinced that the residents are in any danger, the herald will be less vocal and less urgent.

Likewise, the Universalist has no real motive to declare the Gospel. It is rare that one hears anything at the casket of an elderly grandmother except, “She is in heaven now.” However, Scripture is clear that all do not gain eternal life. If fact, Jesus made it clear that the road to the destruction is wide while the road to the Kingdom of heaven is narrow. If the Christian truly believes that not all are saved, then he is motivated to tell those who are on the wrong path.

Evangelism Flourishes when Scripture is Trusted

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Robert Coleman wrote, “The objective authority for the Gospel is the Bible. The Bible,which is infallible, immutable, and eternal, is the tangible court of appeal.”[3] The Good News must be based on some authority and that authority is the inerrant word of God. When the claims of Scripture are taken at face value, evangelism will flourish.

The message becomes clear when it is not mixed with human rationalizations. Jesus was more than a good teacher. He came to seek and to save the lost. He is the truth and the only way to eternal life.

When the Bible is trusted in its entirety, the motivation to share the Good News is powerful. Jesus is the only hope of a lost and dying world. Eternity with a loving God or eternal punishment awaits every person depending on their response to the Good News. Not everyone is going to heaven, even that precious grandmother who dies without Christ will spend eternity in a sinner’s hell if someone doesn’t share the Good News with her so she can repent and turn to Christ.

The Bible is trustworthy! When the believer accepts the clear teaching of Scripture without trying to rationalize away the parts he does not like, the urgency of evangelism becomes clear. When Christians humbly submit to the Bible as God’s authoritative Word, they are compelled to share the Good News as it commands.

Choosing to Trust the Bible

A turning point came in the life of a young evangelist in 1949 as he struggled with his confidence in God’s Word. Billy Graham later wrote about his struggles in an article in the inaugural issue of Christianity Today, entitled “Biblical Authority in Evangelism.” He began with the statement “I had many doubts about the Bible. Now I see Scripture as a flame that melts away unbelief.”[4]

He recalled in the article that having dealt for a time with doubts about the Bible’s integrity, he humbled himself before God in the mountains outside of Los Angeles, California. He knelt before the Bible and said, “I surrender my will to the living God revealed in Scripture. . . Here and now, by faith, I accept the Bible as thy word: I take it all. I take it without reservations. Where there are things I cannot understand, I will reserve judgement until I receive more light.”[5] In the coming years, he became known as the most influential evangelist of the twentieth century by preaching the simple Gospel message dependent on the inerrant Word of God.

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[1] James T. Draper, Jr., Authority: The Critical Issue for Southern Baptist (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1984).

[2] Ibid., 44.

[3] Robert E. Coleman, The Heart of the Gospel: The Theology Behind the Master Plan of Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 40.

[4] Billy Graham, “Biblical Authority in Evangelism,” Christianity Today, October 15, 1956, Electronic edition accessed December 6, 2017. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1956/ october-15/billy-graham-biblical-authority-in-evangelism.html

[5] Ibid.

This article was originally submitted to Dr. Matthew Queen on December 6, 2017 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was a required assignment in the PhD seminary “Theological Issues in Evangelism.”

2 Replies to “The Good News, Evangelism, and the Authority of God’s Word”

  1. I do believe this article is one of the most thoughtful messages I have read recently. I have become somewhat discouraged with the direction the modern church has been going for awhile it seems to have become more about tickling the ear than ministering to the soul. Keep up the good work and continue feeding his sheep with the holy word

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I believe Paul’s warning to Timothy clearly speaks today. I see many who want their ears tickled and many who are willing to oblige to gather the crowds. His exhortation is my call – “Preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season.”

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