- Is repentance necessary for salvation?
- Should you lead someone in the “Sinner's Prayer”?
- How should one confront sinners?
- Why you should Use the Law in Evangelism?
- How did Jesus witness to others?
- How should I preach at a funeral for someone I suspect died unsaved?
Is repentance necessary for salvation?
It is true that there are numerous Bible verses that speak of the promise of salvation, with no mention of repentance. These merely say to “believe” on Jesus Christ and you shall be saved (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). However, the Bible makes it clear that God is holy and man is sinful, and that sin makes a separation between the two (Isaiah 59:1,2).
Without repentance from sin, wicked men cannot have fellowship with a holy God. We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and until we forsake them through repentance, we cannot be made alive in Christ. The Scriptures speak of “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). We turn from sin to the Savior. This is why Paul preached "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).
The first public word Jesus preached was “repent” (Matthew 4:17). John the Baptist began his ministry the same way (Matthew 3:2). Jesus told His hearers that without repentance, they would perish (Luke 13:3). If belief is all that is necessary for salvation, then the logical conclusion is that one need never repent.
However, the Bible tells us that a false convert “believes” and yet is not saved (Luke 8:13); he remains a “worker of iniquity.” Look at the warning of Scripture: "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth" (1 John 1:6).
The Scriptures also say, "He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesses and forsakes them [repentance] shall have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13). Jesus said that there was joy in heaven over one sinner who “repents” (Luke 15:10). If there is no repentance, there is no joy because there is no salvation.
When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, he commanded his hearers to repent "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Without repentance, there is no remission of sins; we are still under His wrath. Peter further said, "Repent …and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). We cannot be “converted” unless we repent. God Himself "commands all men everywhere [leaving no exceptions] to repent" (Acts 17:30). Peter said a similar thing at Pentecost: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you" (Acts 2:38).
If repentance wasn't necessary for salvation, why then did Jesus command that repentance be preached to all nations (Luke 24:47)? With so many Scriptures speaking of the necessity of repentance for salvation, one can only suspect that those who preach salvation without repentance are strangers to repentance themselves, and thus strangers to true conversion.
Should you lead someone in the “Sinner's Prayer”?
The question often arises about what a Christian should do if someone is repentant. Should we lead him in what's commonly called a “sinners prayer” or simply instruct him to seek after God? Perhaps the answer comes by looking to the natural realm. As long as there are no complications when a child is born, all the doctor needs to do is guide the head.
The same applies spiritually. When someone is “born of God,” all we need to do is guide the head--make sure that they understand what they are doing.
Philip the evangelist did this with the Ethiopian eunuch. He asked him, "Do you understand what you read?" (Acts 8:30). In the parable of the sower, the true convert (the “good soil” hearer) is he who hears “and understands.” This understanding comes by the Law in the hand of the Spirit (Romans 7:7). If a sinner is ready for the Savior, it is because he has been drawn by the Holy Spirit (John 6:44). This is why we must be careful to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work and not rush in where angels fear to tread. Praying a sinners prayer with someone who isn't genuinely repentant may leave you with a stillborn in your hands. Therefore, rather than lead him in a prayer of repentance, it is wise to encourage him to pray himself.
When Nathan confronted David about his sin, he didn't lead the king in a prayer of repentance. If a man committed adultery, and his wife is willing to take him back, should you have to write out an apology for him to read to her? No. Sorrow for his betrayal of her trust should spill from his lips. She doesn't want eloquent words, but simply sorrow of heart. The same applies to a prayer of repentance. The words aren't as important as the presence of “godly sorrow.” The sinner should be told to repent--to confess and forsake his sins. He could do this as a whispered prayer, then you could pray for him. If he's not sure what to say, perhaps David's prayer of repentance (Psalm 51) could be used as a model, but his own words are more desirable.
How to get false converts
Our aim should be to ensure that sinners are born of the Spirit--of the will of God and not of the will of man. Too many of our “decisions” are not a work of the Spirit, but a work of our sincere but manipulative practices. It is simple to secure a decision for Jesus by using this popular method:
"Do you know whether you are going to heaven when you die? God wants you to have that assurance. All you need to do is: 1) realize that you are a sinner (All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God), and 2) believe that Jesus died on the cross for you. Would you like me to pray with you right now so that you can give your heart to Jesus? Then you will have the assurance that you are going to heaven when you die."
For the biblical way to present the gospel, see the question below: How did Jesus witness to others?. See below for: How should one confront sinners? For more on false converts, see Matthew 25:12.
How should one confront sinners?
When David sinned with Bathsheba, he broke all of the Ten Commandments. He coveted his neighbors wife, lived a lie, stole her, committed adultery, murdered her husband, dishonored his parents, and thus broke the remaining four Commandments by dishonoring God. Therefore, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to reprove him (2 Samuel 12:1-14).
There is great significance in the order in which the reproof came. Nathan gave David (the shepherd of Israel) a parable about something that David could understand--sheep. He began with the natural realm, rather than immediately exposing the kings sin. He told a story about a rich man who, instead of taking a sheep from his own flock, killed a poor mans pet lamb to feed a stranger.
David was indignant, and sat up on his high throne of self-righteousness. He revealed his knowledge of the Law by declaring that the guilty party must restore fourfold and must die for his crime. Nathan then exposed the
kings sin of taking another mans “lamb,” saying, "You are the man…Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?" When David cried, "I have sinned against the Lord," the prophet then gave him grace and said, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die."
Imagine if Nathan, fearful of rejection, changed things around a little, and instead told David, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. However, there is something that is keeping you from enjoying this wonderful plan; it is called sin."
Imagine if he had glossed over the personal nature of David's sin, with a general reference to all men having sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. David's reaction may have been, "What sin are you talking about?" rather than to admit his terrible transgression.
Think of it--why should he cry, "I have sinned against the Lord" at the sound of that message? Instead, he may have, in a sincere desire to experience this “wonderful plan,” admitted that he, like all men, had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
If David had not been made to tremble under the wrath of the Law, the prophet would have removed the very means of producing godly sorrow, which was so necessary for David's repentance. It is “godly sorrow” that produces repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). It was the weight of David's guilt that caused him to cry out, "I have sinned against the Lord."
The Law caused him to labor and become heavy laden; it made him hunger and thirst for righteousness. It enlightened him as to the serious nature of sin as far as God was concerned.
See: Why you should use the Law in evangelism?
How did Jesus witness to others?
How to address the sinners conscience and speak with someone who doesn't believe in hell
Verses 7-26 of John 4 give us the Masters example of how to share our faith. Notice that Jesus spoke to the woman at the well when she was alone. We will often find that people are more open and honest when they are alone. So, if possible, pick a person who is sitting by himself. From there, we can see four clear principles to follow:
First: Jesus began in the natural realm (v. 7). This woman was unregenerate, and the Bible tells us "the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:14). He therefore spoke of something she could relate to--water. Most of us can strike up a conversation with a stranger in the natural realm. It may be a friendly "How are you doing?" or a warm "Good morning!" If the person responds with a sense of warmth, we may then ask, "Do you live around here?" and from there develop a conversation.
Second: Jesus swung the conversation to the spiritual realm (v. 10). He simply mentioned the things of God. This will take courage. We may say something like, "Did you go to church on Sunday?" or "Did you see that Christian TV program last week?" If the person responds positively, the question "Do you have a Christian background?" will probe his background. He may answer, "I went to church when I was a child, but I drifted away from it."
Another simple way to swing to the spiritual is to offer the person a gospel tract and ask, "Did you get one of these?" When he takes it, simply say, "Its a gospel tract. Do you come from a Christian background?"
Third: Jesus brought conviction using the Law of God (vv. 16-18). Jesus gently spoke to her conscience by alluding to the fact that she had transgressed the Seventh of the Ten Commandments. He used the Law to bring
"the knowledge of sin" (see Romans 3:19,20). We can do the same by asking, "Do you think that you have kept the Ten Commandments?" Most people think they have, so quickly follow with, "Have you ever told a lie?" This is confrontational, but if its asked in a spirit of love and gentleness, there wont be any offense. Remember that the "work of the Law [is] written in their hearts" and that the conscience will bear “witness” (Romans 2:15).
Jesus confronted the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-21 with five of the Ten Commandments and there was no offense. Have confidence that the conscience will do its work and affirm the truth of each Commandment. Don't be afraid to gently ask, "Have you ever stolen something, even if its small?" Learn how to open up the spirituality of the Law and show how God considers lust to be the same as adultery (Matthew 5:27,28) and hatred the same as murder (1 John 3:15). Make sure you get an admission of guilt.
Ask the person, "If God judges you by the Ten Commandments on Judgment Day, do you think you will be innocent or guilty?" If he says he will be innocent, ask, "Why is that?" If he admits his guilt, ask, "Do you think you will go to heaven or hell?" From there the conversation may go one of three ways:
- He may confidently say, "I don't believe in hell." Gently respond, "That doesn't matter. You still have to face God on Judgment Day whether you believe in it or not. If I step onto the freeway when a massive truck is heading for me and I say, I don't believe in trucks, my lack of belief isn't going to change reality." Then tenderly tell him he has already admitted to you that he has lied, stolen, and committed adultery in his heart, and that God gave him a conscience so that he would know right from wrong. His conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit will do the rest. That's why it is essential to draw out an admission of guilt before you mention Judgment Day or the existence of hell.
- He may say that he's guilty, but that he will go to heaven. This is usually because he thinks that God is “good,” and that He will, therefore, overlook sin in his case. Point out that if a judge in a criminal case has a guilty murderer standing before him, the judge, if he is a good man, cant just let him go. He must ensure that the guilty man is punished. If God is good, He must (by nature) punish murderers, rapists, thieves, liars, adulterers, fornicators, and those who have lived in rebellion to the inner light that God has given to every man.
- He may admit that he is guilty and therefore going to hell. Ask him if that concerns him. Speak to him about how much he values his eyes and how much more therefore he should value the salvation of his soul. (See "Is Hell real?") If possible, take the person through the linked verses in this Bible, beginning at the Matthew 5:21,22 footnote.
Fourth: Jesus revealed Himself to her (v. 26). Once the Law has humbled the person, he is ready for grace. Remember, the Bible says that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). The gospel is for the humble
. Only the sick need a physician, and only those who will admit that they have the disease of sin will truly embrace the cure of the gospel. Learn how to present the work of the cross "that God sent His Son to suffer and die in our place".
Tell the sinner of the love of God in Christ; that Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death. Take him back to civil law and say,
"Its as simple as this: We broke God's Law, and Jesus paid our fine. If you will repent and trust in the Savior, God will forgive your sins and dismiss your case."
Ask him if he understands what you have told him. If he is willing to confess and forsake his sins, and trust the Savior with his eternal salvation, have him pray and ask God to forgive him.
Then pray for him. Get him a Bible. Instruct him to read it daily and obey what he reads, and encourage him to get into a Bible-believing, Christ-preaching church.
Author: Ray Comfort of Living Waters Publications.
Excerpted from the Evidence Bible.
How should I preach at a funeral for someone I suspect died unsaved?
- Start in the natural realm and swing to the spiritual.
- Say something positive about the person who has died--either personally, or their marriage, kids, work ethic, their generation, etc. This should build rapport with the audience. Use a humorous story that relates to the above.
- Don't feel pressured to mention where the deceased may have gone after death (God is the only One who truly knows).
- Never insinuate that he went to heaven.
- Use this as a springboard: "Good friends often remind us of things that we don't want to deal with, but that are very important. Bob, today, reminds us that we all must die."
- Use anecdotes that convey eternal truths.
- Go quickly but thoroughly through each of the Ten Commandments.
- Warn briefly about sin, death, judgment, and eternity.
- Give a clear gospel presentation.
- Appeal to the audience to repent today.
"When anyone dies, I ask myself, Was I faithful? Did I speak all the truth? And did I speak it from my very soul every time I preached?" —Charles Spurgeon
Author: Mike Smalley.
Excerpted from The Evidence Bible by
Ray Comfort of Living Waters Publications.
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