The study of Soteriology can be made so extremely complex that it becomes useless to anyone other than the intellectual. Unfortunately, there is nowhere in Scripture that provides us with a specific, easy, step-by-step process that we must proceed through in order to be saved.
However, there is an excellent model of salvation that gives us all the guidance that the layman needs to understand the mechanics of salvation. This model can greatly simplify a process that otherwise must encapsulate all aspects, and they are numerous, of the salvation process.
When we understand the salvation process properly, the directives offered in the Bible regarding witnessing are much more understandable.
We cannot allow the witnessing process, which goes hand in hand with the salvation process, to become so complex that only those with extremely high IQ’s can understand or engage in it. An intellectual is the last person who should be trusted to share the Gospel.
In an effort to simplify witnessing for nonclergy, we will use the model of the first Revival that is found in the Book of Acts. This particular model will reveal to us the dynamics of sharing the Gospel and how things should unfold during the witnessing process.
The witnessing process is crucial because, due to the increasing faithlessness of the world, God is turning it over to the evil Globalists. These people will use their wealth and power to elevate only the most wicked, perverse and despicable people into positions of power. It seems pretty clear that they are the ones who will create the detestable conditions of the days of Noah and Lot in the last days of the church age.
Since money is the ‘mother’s milk’ of politics, their strategy is to use their wealth and power to pervert the young generation by inculcating evil into the culture of each nation. Once they are successful with this generation, all future generations will be lost.
This strategy would be a complete failure if we had a large number of functioning churches that stood on the Gospel. However, since the current state of the church is one of ‘little strength,’ the success of the Globalists is assured.
Due to this inevitable fact, the importance of the ability to properly witness to the unbeliever cannot be overstated. Those of us who are members of “the Faithful Few’ bear this responsibility to the heathen regardless of our intellectual capacity or the season we find ourselves in. We are appointed by God himself to fulfill the mission of the proclamation of the Gospel. God declares through the prophet Isaiah to all his people:
“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I am God'” (Isaiah 43:10-12).
The Lord issued the command to witness to the whole house of Israel, which extends to the church of Christ. He has called us by name, and we belong to him. When we pass through the waters of our baptism, he will be with us as we are transformed into his witnesses.
The flames of hell will never burn us.
The world is our ransom because we are precious in the sight of the Lord. There is no need for us to fear because the earth is our inheritance, and we will one day rule with Christ over his kingdom.
We still have work to do before the ingathering of the Saints to Christ. Time is short, and we all should learn to witness as effectively as possible with the limited time we have left.
In the Book of Acts, Luke shares the account of the first true Revival that occurred at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit fell upon the Apostles in the form of a violent wind from heaven that filled the whole house. The Apostles then began speaking in tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles proclaimed the Gospel in the languages of the foreigners who were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks. Some of the attendees of this event thought that the Apostles were drunk and began to ridicule them.
However, Peter stepped forward and explained to them how the Old Testament prophets predicted that Jesus would come to die for our sins. The following is how his listeners turned to faith in Christ.
Peter admonished his listeners in Acts 2:36-40:
“Let all the house of Israel (which includes the Gentiles/church and Jews/Israel) therefore know for certain that God (who in his mercy draws us in) has made him both Lord and Christ (as a propitiation for our sins), this Jesus whom you crucified.”
The whole house of Israel includes all those who will come to faith and repentance in Christ. There is no longer any difference between Jew and Gentile. The same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.
As the prophet Joel noted, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
There are some who claim that humanity plays no role in the salvation process. They assert that since we are dead in our sins, we have no capacity to cry out to the Lord in the despair of our iniquity.
We are like a lifeless stone that God capriciously lassos and drags into his fold. According to this theology, we have no will of our own to respond to his proclamation.
When Paul follows up on the prophecy of Joel, he makes several points that show that this is not the case. He asks the following questions:
- “How can they call on the one they have not believed in?
- And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
- And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
- And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).
Paul works backward regarding the salvation process and points out that, first, God must send his ambassadors with his message. These ambassadors must themselves be saved, then taught, and then sent to the unsaved. Once the unsaved hear, they are then required to ‘believe’ and then call upon the name of the Lord.
Paul then points out that not all of the Israelites have accepted the Good News that was proclaimed to them (Romans 10:16). This means that many heard the message that Jesus died for their sins, but they did not accept it. According to Paul (NIV), people must ‘accept’ the message in order to believe in the one to whom they were called.
According to the ESV and the KJV, those who reject the Gospel do so out of disobedience. They heard the Gospel but refused to obey it. In order to demonstrate obedience to the Gospel, one must believe it to be authoritative and worthy of obedience. Many Israelites, like the rest of humanity, wanted to establish their own righteousness and therefore did not submit to the righteousness of God.
To obey or disobey is an act of free will. Stones do not have the ability to obey.
God draws us in through his ambassadors who proclaim the truth to us. In order for someone to believe the message, he first has to hear it.
What good is it if a lifeless rock hears that Jesus died for our sins?
According to some theologians, we have no ability to answer this proclamation. The implication is that proclaiming the Gospel is a useless endeavor since you are only witnessing to lifeless objects who have no ability to respond.
It takes an awful lot of over-intellectualization to get to the point where free will plays no role in the salvation process. The man-made philosophy that humanity lacks the free will to respond to the message of Christ seems to undermine the whole witnessing process. Therefore, this theory should be rejected.
To Summarize the salvation process thus far:
- God will draw us in through his ambassadors who proclaim the Gospel.
That seems simple enough. Luke continues the account:
“Now when they heard this they were cut (circumcised) to the heart (by the Holy Spirit), and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do (since we have been convicted of our sins)?'”
When those Jews who were celebrating in Jerusalem heard the Gospel, they recognized it as authoritative and immediately obeyed it. Where initially some thought the Apostles were drunk, once Peter laid out the Gospel many accepted that he was speaking the truth.
The Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:7). When Peter witnessed to the crowd about Jesus, many instinctively knew the voice of the Holy Spirit was speaking through them and did not harden their hearts against him.
The writer of Hebrews continues, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). All of them could easily have turned away from the Apostles, ridiculing them as a bunch of drunks, and went on their way.
We learn that those who accepted this message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day (41). However, it is clear that a large number did not accept this message and went on about their business.
Those who did not harden their hearts and accepted the message of the Apostles as authoritative were then “cut to the heart.”
Under Old Testament Law, it was necessary for a Jew to be circumcised in accordance with the law. However, when the Gospel was proclaimed, following this law was no longer necessary.
It became necessary for one to be a Jew inwardly.
The inward circumcision was a circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code (Romans 2:29). In this way, we earn the praise of God rather than men.
When we receive the circumcision of the heart, we are no longer dead in our sins (Colossians 2:13). God makes us alive in Christ and forgives our sins by canceling the written code which stood against us. We are born again by power from the Holy Spirit of God.
When we are dead in our sins, we are separated from God, we are not lifeless rocks. We have the ability to recognize the truth when it is proclaimed to us and then call upon the Lord to save us.
When the Jews cried out, “Brothers, what shall we do,” they revealed that they were convicted of their sins by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. Jesus said he would send the Holy Spirit for this very purpose.
Now that the Jews who heard and believed the Gospel had been born again, they stood ready to receive directives. They were prepared to obey the Gospel and do whatever was necessary to show their obedience to God.
To summarize the salvation process from this passage:
- Many of the Israelites’ heard’ the message of the Gospel and did not harden their hearts against it.
- They believed that the message of the Gospel was authoritative.
- The Holy Spirit circumcised their hearts.
- The Holy Spirit convicted them of their sins.
- In humility, those who believed called on the name of the Lord for further instructions.
“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Apostle Peter immediately fulfilled the primary obligation of the church. Prior to the ascension of Christ, Jesus left this prime directive:
“This is what is written: the Christ shall suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem” (John 24:47).
Jesus reminded his disciples that they were witnesses to all that Christ had said and done. They were to stay in Jerusalem until the promised Holy Spirit was sent to them. And, as promised, the Holy Spirit came, and they were clothed with power from on high.
To summarize the salvation process further:
- They repented of their sins.
- They received the gift of faith by the grace of God.
- They were born again through water and the Spirit.
“For the promise (of the gift of the Holy Spirit) is for you and for your children and for all who are far off (for Jews and Gentiles around the world), everyone whom the Lord our God calls (the elect) to himself.”
The promise of the Holy Spirit is for everyone who hears, believes, repents, and is baptized. These are acts of free will. Humanity does not save itself, but the Gospel is a proclamation that requires a response. Our response is to refuse to harden our hearts and to believe the truth.
God did the work on the cross. God circumcises our hearts. God gives us the gift of faith, and God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. God does all the work, but he does expect us to respond to him in love.
To claim that free will interferes with God’s Sovereignty is foolishness.
Even though God does all the work of salvation, he still has to drag us in of our own free will because we love sin. Fortunately, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
God wants everyone to be saved even though this is not going to happen. God is Sovereign, but that is not his primary attribute. His primary attribute is love, and because this is his primary attribute, he has no interest in violating our free will.
He only wants sons and daughters who love him.
He punishes the children for the unbelief of the fathers to the third and fourth generations of those who hate him.
The power on high that we will be clothed in is the Holy Spirit. This is the Counselor that Jesus said would be with us at Pentecost after his departure. He is the Spirit of Truth, and the world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. We will know him because he will be with us and live in us.
“And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation'” (Acts 2:36-40).
How do we “save ourselves from this crooked generation?” What is it that we are required to do to receive the mercy of God?
The answers were already provided by Paul. First, do not harden your heart against the Lord when you hear his Gospel. Second, confess that Jesus died for your sins. Third, repent of your lawlessness and obey all that Christ has commanded. Fourth, be baptized as a plea for a good conscience toward God. Finally, remain in the faith.
The manner in which we ‘save ourselves’ is fairly simple. If someone tells you that 2 + 2 = 4, and you believe it, that does not make you the inventor of mathematics. You simply heard the truth and believed it, then passed it on to other children.
We do not get credit for admitting that 2 + 2 = 4, and it is certainly nothing to boast about. It is a truth that existed outside of ourselves long before we even existed. The only thing we did was admit it was true and then conformed ourselves to this truth.
There is nothing arrogant about that and no reason to brag. It is simply reality as created by God.
Now that we understand the salvation process, how do we go about witnessing to people who have hardened their hearts against the Lord?
The first thing that all Christians must do is live a Godly life.
It is the will of God that we be sanctified, and it is God who does the sanctifying. However, God does have expectations of us during this process.
The greatest obstacle to sanctification is sexual immorality. We are commanded to abstain from it, in thought and action, and to conduct ourselves with holiness and honor. If we go to the bars, get drunk and fornicate, the sanctification process will end abruptly. When we behave in this way, we are rendered incapable of sharing the Gospel with any credibility, and we begin falling back into friendship with the world.
“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (I Thessalonians 4:7).
In keeping with living a Godly life, we are expected to love one another. We cannot love others properly if we are lusting after them, refusing to forgive them, or showing no mercy toward them. We are to live Godly lives and love one another as best we can so that people can see what the Christian life looks like.
Each of God’s witnesses is to live a life of purity…
“and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (I Thessalonians 4:11).
The second step is to testify to the truth of the Gospel.
We express our faith in the fact that Christ died for our sins and are prepared to testify to this to whoever may ask. If anyone wants to know what the Bible is all about, simply sharing the Gospel will help him to understand the very foundation of our faith.
The foundation of our faith is nothing more than Jesus, who was God in human flesh and who died for our sins (lawlessness).
When determining the right time to share the Gospel, the following are a few guidelines for doing this most effectively. We must never forget that we are witnessing to people who have hardened their hearts against the Lord. We must be careful not to harden their hearts any further.
The right time to share the Gospel is:
- If someone asks you about your faith, lay the foundation by stating, “I believe that Christ died for my sins.”
- If you become part of a religious discussion, always begin with the foundation “I believe that Christ died for my sins.”
- If society demands that you accept their sin as moral, explain to them that Christ died for their sins, and he calls them to repent and believe in the Holy name of Jesus (first, share God’s moral law (as the ceremonial and dietary laws were only to separate out the ancient theocracy of Israel from the other nations), then share his Gospel. Try to avoid sharing the law without the Gospel.
- The Gospel should always be in the back of your mind, waiting patiently for the right opportunity to deliver it. Once it is delivered, be prepared to answer any follow-up questions that the hearer may ask (the funny thing is, there are usually no further questions because most who hear the Gospel typically fall silent for any number of reasons).
- If someone says, “There is no God,” this is a statement of rebellion, not of fact. Redirect the speaker to the foundation of our faith and ask him, “Do you believe that Christ died for our sins?” This is the foundation from which you will debate.
Remember Two Things: Once you share the Gospel
- Only answer the questions that the listener poses to you (do not go into a theological discourse), and
- Brevity is the soul of wit (be as brief as possible in your responses).
The power of God is in our weakness, not our ability to intellectually overwhelm the unbeliever.
The third step is to be prepared to defend the Gospel. How do we know that Jesus died for our sins?
The short answer is that when we heard the Gospel, we recognized it as the Word of God and received it as the truth (I Corinthians 15:1). We did not harden our hearts against it and recognized it is an actual historical fact. God then gave us the gift of faith.
The only ‘proof’ you should need to offer is the passage from Isaiah written in 740 B.C. which predicted what Christ would do about 770 years before he did it.
Isaiah 53: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
By this time the receptive unbeliever should be prepared to look deeper into the faith that you are proclaiming.
We then move on to Step Four of Witnessing, which is to stand firm on the Gospel.
Peter described it best, and there is no need to add to what he said.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (I Peter 3:14-16).
Paul adds to this idea:
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5).
Resist the urge to become angry when you are ridiculed. Ridicule is the expected reaction from those who are in rebellion against God. Your primary goal is to plant the seed of the Gospel in the mind of the unbeliever. They may reject it in the immediacy of the moment but do not get discouraged by their resistance or ridicule.
The writer of this article ridiculed many Christians before he came to faith.
You have delivered the Gospel, and your hands are now clean. We then wait to see if it takes root.
Step Five is to understand that it is God who grants us repentance.
Paul expresses best how to approach people who have hardened their hearts against the Lord when he wrote:
“and the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (II Timothy 2:24-26).
You are not witnessing to win an argument. You will not win an argument against someone who has hardened his heart against the Lord. You are to plant the seed and, if possible, water it as well.
You are merely a messenger of the Gospel; you do not do the work of salvation. You should be able to tell by the hearer’s demeanor if he is receptive or if he has hardened his heart against the Word of God. Therefore, we share the Gospel with humility to avoid hardening the sinner’s heart any more than it already is.
Step Six is to try to ensure that the seed is watered.
Since all of this advice is merely for a layman like myself, try to find a church that will nourish his infant faith. You need to be a member of a church that testifies to the Gospel, avoids false teaching, and proclaims repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus.
Today, that is actually a lot harder than it sounds.
The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, revolves around the proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus. This begins the ‘catechizing’ process with the new believer. When the new believer understands that the entire Bible is about God’s moral law and his Gospel, it will be much easier to understand when he begins to read it.
We are Christ’s ambassadors, and we have been directed to proclaim God’s moral law and his Gospel to the world. The formula is simple. Any sin, whether it be adultery, homosexuality, theft, etc., that is a violation of God’s law can be inserted below. When people demand that we accept sin as moral, our response is:
“Adultery is a terrible sin against God, but I have Good News for you. Jesus died for that sin, too, and He calls you to repent and be forgiven in his Holy name.”
This is called ‘sharing the Gospel.’
The Gospel is for those who violate God’s moral law and for those who approve of those who violate God’s moral law.
To provide a brief summary of the most important part of witnessing, and to simplify it further, do the following:
Step one: Aspire to live quietly and faithfully.
Step Two: Share the Gospel and patiently wait for questions and answer briefly what is asked of you. The unbeliever should do most of the talking.
Step Three: Be prepared to defend the Gospel with the understanding that this is not an intellectual exercise but a spiritual one.
Keep the focus on the person of Jesus and the moral law of God.
All evangelists should remember that we are involved in a spiritual debate, not an intellectual one. If you try to draw on the rules of logic or start theologizing beyond the Gospel, you are off course, and you will find yourself wandering in the weeds.
There are a few laws of logic that may seem helpful, but they will do you no good when witnessing. If someone wants to argue that 2 + 2 = something other than 4, there is no ironclad logic that is going to change that person’s mind.
We will have no success trying to ‘reason’ with those who have hardened their hearts against the Lord.