God can use that

I have got more axe to grind about evangelism, but I think one thing I need to establish before I go on is that I am not arguing with anyone who says that God can, will, or has used some kind of evangelism that I may object to. ┬áIf we call ourselves Christians we ought to believe that God can and indeed is working through all things to reveal his son and glorify him and bring the lost into his son’s flock. As many an evangelist might say, our responsibility is not what God makes effective but what is right for us to pursue, to say and to do.

I am reminded of Caiaphas’ unwitting prophecy (John 49:11-52), or Joseph’s slavery (Genesis 45:5-8), or Paul’s explanation that God’s gracious purpose is carried out in spite of the sin of man (Romans 3:8, 6:1). People who promote agressive evangelism often defend it as “planting a seed” which God may cause to grow and bear fruit somewhere off down the road. In that mode of thinking, consider the story of Tamar in Genesis 38, whereby she disguised herself as a harlot so that her father in law would get her pregnant. Out of this union came the ancestry of Jesus; it was a seed God used somewhere off down the road. But who would take it up as a model?

The strongest defense of anything-goes evangelism might be Philippians 1:15-19:

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposeing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

But this same Paul also commanded that the declaration of the gospel cease from the diviner (Acts 16:16-18), not unlike Christ’s own prohibitions (Luke 4:41). So it is not enough for us to say that whatever is preached in any kind of evangelism is at least pointing toward the truth, planting seeds, or however we may qualify it.

Truly God is sovereign and can use anything and is using everything to accomplish his purposes. But we do not show any honor or respect for God by saying, “God is sovereign, he will save whom he will by his power and eternal plan, so I don’t need to say or do anything on his behalf to witness of him.” Equally, we do not honor or respect God by saying that “God is sovereign, so whatever I do on his behalf is good enough and he can make it work.” Let us not justify what we do on what God can make of it.