Jared Wilson and Afshin Ziafat discuss the question, “If Hell is real, how do Christians justify anything except evangelism?”
In this episode of TGC Q&A, Jared Wilson and Afshin Ziafat discuss the question, “If Hell is real, how do Christians justify anything except evangelism?” They address:
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The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Jared Wilson: That's a really good question.
Afshin Ziafat: Yes, it is.
Jared Wilson: And part of me is really cautious about it because anything you say could give the unintended impression of downplaying the need for evangelism, right? So one thing I like about the question is just the emphasis on the urgency and the necessity of the task. Certainly I think evangelicals today could stand to be a lot more urgent about evangelism, really to take the burden of that task. Because hell is real. People who don't know Jesus do go there. And so any answer to the question almost, you run the risk of appearing to downplay that, and that's certainly not anything that either of us would want to do I don't think.
Afshin Ziafat: No. I would agree. I think the view of hell, but also just the biblical view of time, that time is limited. And thinking about second Peter 3 speaking of essentially God's patience being salvation, that he's long suffering and his desire is that people would reach repentance. And what would that look like if I looked at my life? It's not just, my days aren't just about me and my life, but they're literally God's long suffering with people who he desires to repent. And so if I have that sense of, man, time is limited for them, for me, the Lord's return is imminent, but then hell is real, yeah. I agree with you.
Afshin Ziafat: I'd start with saying, I think the question's good and that the urgency should be felt. And then from there I think I would just say the flip side of that, I think that the question might have a short sided view of discipleship in that, you know, evangelism and discipleship, they go together. And so our mandate is to make disciples of all nations. And so if I'm spending my time instructing and discipling someone who's already a believer and equipping them as ambassadors, in one sense I'm part of multiplying the effect of the gospel going out by equipping more disciples to go to evangelism. So I would say I think I should be engaged in evangelism, but if I'm also equipping others to do it, that is part of the mandate too.
Jared Wilson: Yeah. And the question speaks of, how do you morally justify not doing anything explicitly tied to it? And all you have to do is look at the scriptures to see all the things that the Lord calls us into out of his goodness, as powered by his grace, the commands that he gives us. We're commanded to do multiple things and not simply that task. And so to morally justify it, it's almost as simple as to say we're called to do everything the Lord has commanded, so therefore [inaudible] to the Lord in terms of what is morally justified or not. And so when you read things like in Galatians 6, Paul saying "Do good to everyone, and especially those in the household of faith." We know that there are multiple foci for our ministries and for our charity and for our concern. And so just leaning into the pattern of the new testament and the one anothers and the way we're called into fellowship, we see that ministry is really multifaceted.
Jared Wilson: So again, neither one of us wants to downplay the urgency of evangelism. And yet there are other urgencies as well. And in a way, we trust the Lord with those things, that the things he's called us into are not... to embrace those things isn't a negligence on our part, it's actually a way to glorify him.
Afshin Ziafat: Absolutely. And I think cultural mandate that was given, that we are to work the land, that we're to be fruitful and multiply, subdue the earth. So even thinking of work and doing that with excellence is something God's commanded us to, and that we're to provide for our family, that we're to love our wives and our children. So there's a lot of things that we're commanded to do. And I would say in a sense, those things are, maybe they're not directly linked to evangelism. I think that's how the question is stated. But they are a form of pre-evangelism because scripture says, whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God. So doing my job with excellence, raising kids who I've spent time with and they love me, they love the Lord, I mean those are things that show the beauty of Christ to others. And I think that Christians are commanded to do those things, and they are a form of, if you will, pre-evangelism.
Jared Wilson: Yeah. I think if I could tweak the question, if the question were something like "How could we morally justify doing things that aren't connected to the gospel?" And I would say we can't. So in a sense, if you're just taking the sense of proclamation of the gospel, it's not just the lost who need the gospel but the found who need the gospel as well to grow, to become more like Christ. It's through the appearance of grace that does that. Paul says in Titus, "It's by beholding the glory of Christ." In second Corinthians 3 that "We are transformed." And so everything we do is to be connected to the gospel, and evangelism to the lost is a very vital and important aspect of that for sure.
Afshin Ziafat: Yeah. One thought I was just thinking, it's synonymous with pray without ceasing. So pray without ceasing doesn't mean that I walk around constantly mumbling a prayer under my breath. But I think it means that I'm in an attitude of prayer everywhere I go, and that I am praying at times but that I have that attitude. And I think that's what evangelism should be like for us. There's many things I'm to do for the glory of God, but I ought to have a conscious awareness always of time and people's souls and that I'm here for a reason as his ambassador. And so evangelism should be on my heart, in a sense, in everything I do.
Jared Wilson: Yeah. Making much of Christ in all things.
Afshin Ziafat: Exactly.
Jared Wilson: Yeah.