“If you preach holiness at crusades, nobody will come to your church”, a preacher once said to me. “You must first draw people in with miracles, signs and wonders, once they are in the Church then you can preach to them holiness.” What a travesty! Is evangelism truly devoid of the preaching of holiness? The scriptural teaching as we have it in the New Testament shows that the exact opposite is the case.
The Gospel message is that the whole world lies condemned as a result of sin, and fallen man is a creature of wrath consequently. To quote the saintly Jonathan Edwards, ‘we are all sinners in the hands of an angry God’. What we need most is therefore to be cleansed from our sin; otherwise there can be no hope of reconciliation with God — for God is holy. What is the Gospel, but the good news announcing God’s free offer of Salvation in Christ? And why did Christ come to die in our place on the cross? To undo the effects of the fall, sin. When the first couple sinned, they broke fellowship with God and hid themselves from His presence. Their sense of guilt and shame drove them into hiding, even without God passing judgment on them. This is what sin does to man. However as a result of the work Jesus did on the cross of Calvary, the believer is made holy (representing moral purity) and blameless (free from the guilt of sins and trespasses in which he formerly walked)1.
This is how John puts it: “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”2 What are the works of the devil? This is quite plainly from the text, sin and a life of bondage to it — not poverty, not witchcraft nor anything else for that matter. Holiness is therefore an essential part of evangelism.
“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”3
God did not choose the Christian primarily to be happy, or materially prosperous or to be free from the troubles of the world (these are commonly offered as the dominant call of the Gospel today), but to be holy and blameless before Him! This is what comes in first place. To present a Gospel which puts anything before this, is to present a false Gospel!
“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”4 The very first Gospel preaching recorded in Church history similarly preached repentance from sin:
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…5
Should the preaching of the Gospel today be any different?
- Ephesians 1:7; 2:1, 5
- 1John 3:10
- Ephesians 1:4
- Matthew 4: 17
- Acts 2: 38