Each and every believer has the calling to witness by his life and by his words of the hope that is in him of eternal life. There is not a text in the Bible which better speaks of this calling than what we find in I Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
Again, we read in Isaiah 43:12, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.”
Every believer who has received the grace of God and has been given to know God in all of His glory is called with his personal gifts and with the opportunities in his personal location to live and to speak as one who belongs to and knows the living God. This witness is not performed in isolation. That is, the witness of every believer of Jesus Christ and of the salvation that is to be found in Jesus Christ is the witness that he makes as a member of the church. It is done out of the context of membership in the body of Jesus Christ, which is His church (Eph. 1:21). Yet every believer, as a member of the church of Jesus Christ, saved and united to Him and to His church, which is His body, has the calling to witness of the hope of eternal life. We call that personal evangelism.
Today we want to explore the question, Why? Why is it the duty of every believer to speak and so to live as to leave a testimony of the hope of salvation?
There is only one answer to that question. That answer is this: we are to have a desire for the glory of God in the salvation of souls.
Let me explain to you what that means. I will begin by explaining negatively what it does not mean. It does not mean that we ought to worry and fret that it may happen that some of the men and women for whom Jesus died will be lost, that some of those whom God appointed unto salvation in all eternity when He elected them will go unsaved. That would be contrary to Jesus’ words in John 10:27, 28 where we read, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.” That would be contrary to what the greatest evangelist, the apostle Paul himself, said in II Timothy 2:9, 10. Speaking of the gospel of Jesus Christ he says, “Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evildoer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” There is no doubt or fear that those whom God has elected will fail to receive that salvation which God has purposed to give to them. So the Bible teaches that God, according to His will, directs the word of Jesus Christ and always brings to salvation His children. Now that must not produce in us an indifference. If we become indifferent and say, “Well, then it doesn’t matter what I say or what I do, for they are going to be saved anyway,” then God will say to us, “You are a sinful steward. You are disobedient to the will of the Lord.” We must not be apathetic.
So, to have a desire for the salvation of souls does not mean that we would fret or begin to believe that some of God’s children are not going to be saved. Nor does it mean that we become super-salesmen, that we become slick with catch phrases and have a gospel on a thumbnail and try through our own persuasion to see how many we can enroll in the courts of heaven. It does not mean that either.
What does it mean?
It means this, that every child of God ought to be concerned for the salvation of the soul of his neighbor, of his loved one, of his acquaintance – if it be God’s will, for that salvation is possible only by the grace of God. We read in Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” It was Paul’s desire, it was the longing which issued forth in his prayer, that Israel might be saved. Not that they might be brought down the aisle and told that it was their ability to accept Jesus. No! But that the mighty power of God might work upon them unto salvation. He was concerned about Israel, which was the Old Testament people of God, many of whom in that day had rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ, and were, according to Romans 9:1-3, the kinsmen of the apostle Paul according to his flesh, his relatives, for whom he could wish himself to be accursed from Christ for their sakes. Now, as Paul beheld them in the folly of their work-righteousness, and in their belief that their works would save them, and as Paul beheld them despising the righteousness of Jesus Christ, he says in chapter 9 that the Holy Spirit would witness that he has great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart.
Does that mean that Paul desired something that God did not desire? No. Paul goes on to declare that the hardness of the Jews (chapter 11), and God’s cutting them off so that the Gentiles might be grafted in, was all according to God’s purpose. He believed and taught in Romans 11 that the Israel according to the election of God’s grace was going to be saved. And he desired that those who are elect by grace in Israel would be saved and would be turned to God. When he beheld the folly of the rest, who went on in the pride of their hearts, he was grieved for God. He knew that God was righteous in cutting off those who rejected Jesus Christ. He knew that God would also save according to His pleasure those whom He willed to save. And it was his desire that that would happen. If you were to peel away the layers of the heart of a child of God, you would find there, according to God’s will, a desire that souls might be saved, that the church of Jesus Christ be gathered and, if it be God’s will, that it be gathered from among one’s kinsmen, from one’s neighbors, from one’s relatives. We must be concerned with the salvation of souls.
But why? We could give a number of answers to that question. We must be concerned for the salvation of souls out of the commitment to the task which has been given to the church by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has commissioned the church to preach the gospel and to disciple the nations and to teach them to observe all things that He has commanded us. The church is called to preach repentance to God and faith in Jesus Christ. The church always has that calling. And we must be concerned that the church obey that calling. Further, we could say that we desire the salvation of souls out of love for our neighbor. If we have been saved by the grace of God, then love of the neighbor moves us to witness of that salvation and to convey to that neighbor the greatest good that one could ever possess. And what is that greatest good? Equity in a house? A bank account? Plans for a vacation? No! The greatest good that one could possess, according to the Bible, is knowledge of sins forgiven, the knowledge of God’s free grace in Jesus Christ. And if we feel no desire to explain that and to answer the questions of others about it, then we are very carnal in our hearts. If we are content simply to talk about modern suburban living, modern life, and are not concerned to speak as we are given opportunity of the salvation that is in Jesus Christ, then we are unfaithful.
But although those motives certainly are real, that we must speak of the hope that is in our hearts because this belongs to the task given to the church, because this is the expression of true love of the neighbor, yet there is a greater motive. That greater motive is that we must desire the glory of God. The glory of God is the chief motive for all personal witnessing. God simply is worthy to be known. God is worthy to be spoken about. God is worthy to be proclaimed simply because of who He is. We read in Jeremiah 10:6, 7, “Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations?” Our desire is His glory. Psalm 21:13, “Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power.” Again, in Romans 11:36 the apostle Paul declares, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.” Our desire in everything, also in leaving a witness to the gospel, is simply to declare that God is glorious.
There is an example of this in Acts 17:16, in the life of the apostle Paul. The apostle had just arrived in Athens. We read in verse sixteen that “his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” He saw the Athenians at the height of all of their wisdom worshipping that which is no god. He saw creatures created originally to know and to glorify Him in Adam, men and women who were created originally in Adam to worship the living God. He saw them bowing down before the works of men’s hands, puffed up in their own foolish pride and practicing all types of vileness and evil. Now what did the apostle do? Did he find a group of conservatives and begin to commiserate and to say, “Well, the world is going to pots. It’s in a mess. Look at all this sin. Why doesn’t God send them all right now to hell?” Did he do that? No. Did he do what we so often do – look at it, and say that it is getting worse? No. The apostle Paul, his spirit stirred within him, lived for something. God’s glory! So we read that he went to the synagogue and he began to reason. Then he went to Mars’ Hill, before the Greek philosophers, and declared the living God who had made them and who must be worshipped. He preached repentance and the judgments of God upon sin. He saw them bringing glory to themselves in all of their philosophy and all of their Greek wisdom. He saw them, in the words of Romans 1, holding down the truth in unrighteousness, worshipping the creature, given over to all types of evil. And out of a burning desire for the glory of God, he stands before such a crowd and says, “Listen! God is the Creator and you must worship Him and glorify Him through Jesus Christ. And if you do not, you are damnable.” His concern, you see, did not terminate in man but in God. He was concerned with the glory which was due to God alone.
The glory of God must be our motivation in the salvation of souls. There is nothing that so glorifies God as salvation, as the lifting of a soul out of death and guilt and bringing one to glory in Jesus Christ. All of the attributes of God are shown in salvation: His justice and holiness, His mercy and grace, His righteousness and peace. We desire His glory in salvation. Not, again, that we fear that God is not going to be glorified. But we are zealous in that glory. We delight in seeing it. That must be our motive.
And, we hasten to add, God is also glorified in damnation. That is a hard word for many. But it is the truth of the Bible. Proverbs 16:4, “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” As monuments to His justice. In the pouring forth of His wrath upon vessels, says the Word of God in Romans 9:22, vessels afore prepared to destruction. You see, God shall be glorified, both in the salvation of the repentant, elect believer, and in the damnation of the impenitent reprobate. The biblical truth of reprobation refers to those whom God, according to His own good pleasure, and out of strict righteousness, has assigned to eternal damnation. Our desire is, “Lord, be glorified – in all of my witness and walk before my neighbor, before my relatives and friends who do not know thee. That, if it be Thy will they might be turned to light and repentance. That my words and my actions may be used of Thee to produce that. And, O Lord, if it be not Thy will, may my words and actions then also be used of Thee to leave them without excuse before Thy throne of justice.” This alone can serve as the motivation.
If the motivation is anything else, people see right through it and are turned off. If our motivation is not for the glory of God, and if we do not speak of the glory of God with meekness and fear, faithfully testifying out of grateful love to God, if we do not have that motive, people will see right through it. And if we begin to think that we are going to add numbers to the church or feathers to our cap, people will be turned off.
No, our motive is to be pleasing to God. We have seen His glory, have we not? Therefore, God’s glory in salvation must be our desire.
Let us pray.
Our Father, we have spoken today of the calling that every believer has, to leave a witness of the salvation that Thou hast given and of the motive that must be ours of the glory of God. We pray that Thou wilt seal these things unto our hearts. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.