If you're motivated to share Christ out of guilt, evangelism will not be enjoyable. Sharing Him out of grace, though, changes it from a “have to” into a “want to” experience. Why share Christ out of grace?
Nowhere in Scripture does God encourage anything but grace.
A search through Scripture for a verse that endorses guilt in evangelism would be in vain. Even when Paul spoke of his own responsibilities as an ambassador of Christ, his tone was excitement. He spoke of the ministry of reconciliation that God has given us in telling people of the cross (2 Cor. 5:18–19). Paul then added, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (v. 20). Evangelism is speaking on behalf of the Savior and sharing the message He would want people to hear. What a privilege to evangelize, because we are speaking on behalf of God Himself! We are telling others what He would tell them.
I want us to also examine a phrase Paul spoke to the Corinthians: “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16). Doesn’t that have a “You are in trouble if you don’t do this” kind of spirit behind it? In context, Paul is speaking about a minister of the gospel’s right to earn a living from what he does. Paul stated that he did not receive any compensation even though he could have (v. 15). He then stated that he shared the gospel out of “necessity” (v. 16). It was something that he felt compelled to do. The gospel message had so personally transformed his life that he felt a great compulsion to share it with someone else. Paul is referring to an inner conviction about something he needs to do. In no way is he reflecting a sense of guilt if he doesn’t do it.
Let’s look further into Ezekiel 3:18: “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.” Some would argue that that verse encourages us to feel guilty if we do not evangelize, but please know that no one should ever use this passage in evangelism. God is talking to Ezekiel about his role as a watchman over Israel with the context being the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s job was to warn the nation of impending doom. It is physical death—not spiritual death—that is in view. If Ezekiel did not give such warning for the people to seek protection, God would hold him responsible for their physical deaths. Once more, that verse neither speaks to nor has any application in evangelism.
Instead, let’s look at how God motivates us through what is commonly called the Great Commission. Matthew 28:19–20 tells us to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” When properly interpreted, the verse actually reads, “While going, make disciples.” The command is to make disciples, so evangelism is part of the Great Commission. We are to lead people to Christ and then disciple them. Note Christ’s ending words, “Lo, I am with you always.” He encourages us that as we go and whatever we face, He will be there 24/7. What a privilege to know that we never go it alone when we walk in obedience. There is not an ounce of guilt motivation used in evangelism anywhere there or anywhere else in Scripture.
The reason we should evangelize out of grace is that nowhere in Scripture does God encourage evangelism in any way but that. God desires for us to see it as a privilege, not a pain.
Next month, we will look at a second question: What does it look like when we share Christ out of grace?