Conversion of unbelievers
The reason why we are involved in this great task is that we want people to be reconciled to God. We want unsaved people to experience the blessing we have experienced, of knowing God. We don’t evangelize by using quick fixes and underhand methods. So many evangelists hurry people through the gospel and make an appeal for a commitment to Christ without taking them through the Ten Commandments. We have seen in mass crusades how people have been manipulated by so-called evangelists to come forward and receive Christ by using the “sinner’s prayer”, just so that the evangelists can boast about how many have “given their lives to Jesus”. We must not be simplistic: let us rather follow the Word of God when we evangelize. Jesus Christ and the apostles never used the sinner’s prayer as a means of getting people converted. We have no record of this in the gospels or the Bible. We see that Jesus and the apostles and the prophets of old used the law of God to bring conviction of sin and when people were convicted, pointed them to Christ for salvation (Acts 2:20-41; Mark 10; Romans 1-3).
We evangelize so that people may come to a saving knowledge of Christ; so as to bring them to conviction of sin; so that people of all tribes and tongues and languages might come to know the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:6-9). We are to be like the apostle Paul, who was “in great anguish of soul” for his own countrymen, that they might be saved (Romans 9:1-3). We want people to be soundly converted because we believe that God has a people across the world who belong to Him. And we long to see God’s purposes fulfilled in the world.
The Bible makes it clear:
“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so, turn, and live.”” (Ezekiel 18:32 ESV)
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV)
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)
Now these texts do not imply that it is God’s sovereign will and his will of decree that all people who have ever lived should be saved (this is called Universalism in theology). These texts mean that it is God’s will of command, it is God’s will of disposition that all people should be saved. It is God’s sovereign will that all whom He would draw to Himself should be saved (John 6:37-44). God will accomplish all his purposes. His effectual will cannot be frustrated or thwarted. Everything that pleases Him, He does (Psalm 115:6). We see in these texts that God’s desire is to make his salvation known on the earth. We see it is God’s will for people to turn and live, but we also know that this will not happen everywhere, because people love their sin too much. People’s hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). People are estranged from the womb (See Psalm 58:3). We cannot come to God unless God effectually draws us to Himself. God finds no delight in the death of the wicked in one way, but He will find delight (See Deuteronomy 28:63) in destroying the unrepentant sinners and the devil and the demons, because then God will accomplish his purposes in judgment and so display the panorama of His perfections in the universe.
In short: We make God known to get people saved by the means God has appointed: the prayers of his people and the proclamation of the Gospel. We evangelize so that God’s elect, whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world, may be gathered into the fold and family of God (Ephesians 1:3-5; John 10:16). God desires the conversion of his elect in a definite and ultimate way; God desires the conversion of the non-elect in a temporal and indefinite way: the former He has planned to accomplish; the latter He has not decided to accomplish. God’s will of disposition is so towards the creature that His common grace is extended to all and that He is good to all (Psalm 145:9,10; Matthew 5:44-48) and that His tender mercies are over all, so that the humans who don’t repent and receive Christ will have no excuse on Judgment Day. Those who go to hell will have only themselves to blame in that horrible day. In his general revelation, God has made known his divine attributes to all.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21 ESV)
Because we do not know who the elect of God are and because they don’t have a badge on their foreheads saying, “I am the elect of God”, our goal is to proclaim the gospel to all and to convict, exhort and to warn every person to turn from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). We know as evangelists that for anyone who turns from his sins there will be joy in heaven (Luke 15:1-10) and that makes us joyful and expectant regarding the task set before us.