Winning the Debate, Losing Souls

3 Feb

While we’re on the topic, evangelism isn’t about getting people to see things our way.  In fact, the most effective evangelism is oftentimes the result of our knowing where to focus our arguments and when to hold our tongue.  This can be difficult, especially if you enjoy a good debate as much as I do.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3,4, the Apostle Paul says:

“I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

The only things that anyone needs to accept in order to be saved is that he is a sinner and can do nothing to become right with God again – but that Christ can and will fix that problem if he will only place his faith in Him.  That’s it.  Nothing more.  No strings attached.

Now, I can hear you asking, “Can it really be that simple?  Is that really everything?  You mean that a person doesn’t have to believe that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God or that the world really was created in seven literal days?  A new Christian doesn’t need to be able to explain the trinity or the historic basis for Christ’s atoning death?!”  Nope.  That’s what theologians call “nonessential doctrine”, i.e., things that are important, but which don’t play an actual role in Salvation.  It’s as silly to expect someone to accept or understand all of these things right off as it is to expect someone in a first grade math class to be able to perform advanced calculus.  John 14:26 says:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

God gave us the Holy Spirit to help us discern right doctrine.  If someone is a Christian, God will eventually bring them around to the Truth on these matters… and on everything else.  He doesn’t need us to do that for Him and He most certainly doesn’t need us trying to make an understanding of nonessential doctrine a condition of Salvation!

My mother used to tell me that the best way to evangelize was to “bring it back to Jesus”.  And she was right.  Doctrine is important, but it doesn’t mean a thing if the people debating it don’t already have a relationship with Christ: you can win the debate on any number of Bible-related issues and still lose a soul.  If we want to evangelize effectively, we need to keep our focus on what matters: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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