The Foundation – God
In Romans chapter 1, the Apostle Paul pens some well known, oft-quoted verses that form the theological foundation for his monumental letter. Tucked neatly in this first chapter is a premise that provides the basis for evangelism. Now, I do not wish to debate apologetic methods, but clearly in Romans 1:19-20, Paul has given insight into the hearts and minds of men; insight that for the evangelist gives hope that God in His sovereignty has already laid a foundation for the gospel in every man and woman.
“19 For what can be known about God is plain to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
A couple of years ago, it took several readings of this passage and then an evangelism encounter for me to understand its implications. In this passage, we learn quite simply that God has revealed Himself through His creation to every man and woman that has ever lived. From the remotest villages and islands to the largest, most technologically savvy cities, such that each person is without excuse as it relates to the knowledge of God. This is absolutely stunning news for evangelism and it will change your perspective on sharing the gospel. God has laid the foundation for you to evangelize from. It seems that too often we create obstacles for sharing the gospel, “Where do I begin?” “How do I start a conversation?” “What if they ask questions I don’t know answers to?” Perhaps all valid questions in their own right, but believer, the ground upon which to begin sharing the Gospel is the one on which God Himself has built, namely the general revelation of Himself through His creation. Working from there gives hope in evangelism that it doesn’t rely on methods or clever speech, but upon God. God has not only created the world in which we live, but He has created mankind and in His own image no less! (Genesis 1:27).
The Problem – Man
The problem, as Paul points out in the verses prior and subsequent to these is that man has rejected this revelation of God and has suppressed this truth.
“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
“21 For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
There is a ground upon which to work from in evangelism, as we’ve just seen it’s the general revelation of God in His creation. But men, because of their fallenness, sinful nature, and the hardness of their hearts have rejected that revelation, actually going so far as to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. As a side note, evolution isn’t a scientific debate or an argument of facts; it is a suppression of truth that God is the holy Creator of the universe. Men and women know the truth about God because it has been revealed to them, but in their sinfulness they do not want that truth to become evident to them because it means they would then be accountable to a Holy God and His righteous standard.
The Solution – Christ
The Apostle Paul continues in chapter 1 through the middle of chapter 3 of Romans detailing the sinfulness of man, both Jew and Gentile. However, as previously noted Paul outlines some themes in chapter 1 upon which he will build his letter. One such example is the solution to the problem we looked at above.
“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.” Romans 1:16
The answer to the problem of man’s sinful suppression of the truth that God has revealed to them is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here we need to understand the gospel as Christ’s perfectly sinless life, His obedience unto death on the cross for sinners, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension to the right hand of the Father where He is an advocate even now for every believer. The good news of this gospel builds upon the foundation that God has revealed to everyone because it now gives access for the repentant sinner to the Father through His Son (John 14:6). It is the only solution that man has available to solve their sinful, ungodliness, and accountability to God and His righteous standard. As the Apostle states, it certainly is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
The Implication – Confidence
Believers, we have no need for anxiety or fear in sharing the gospel. God has not only provided the grounds for sharing, but only He has provided the solution to man’s suppression of this truth. This has massive implications for evangelism. We have no need to have anything but confidence in God while witnessing, whether it be to the Wall-Street tycoon or the poverty-stricken tribal member, God’s truth has been revealed to them. Expose that truth and explain how in their sin they have suppressed it and then build upon what God has revealed about Himself with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do so confidently and leave the results up to the Holy Spirit, who alone can convict the hearts of men to repent and believe.
See also The Gospel Message