14. In evangelism, “only people can be addressed and only people can respond.”
In saying “people”, Bosch is emphasizing the personal responsibility and personal decision inherent in the gospel. The gospel is aimed at individuals, not governments or societies. We cannot convert nations per se, we can only convert individuals within those nations.
There is no such thing as conversion by proxy.
Growing up in a Christian nation or in a Christian family, or growing up going to church doesn’t necessarily settle anything. Instead it may actually distill a false sense of identity. Living according to the moral hand-me-downs of a Christian nation does not equal regeneration. The gospel necessitates an affirmative response, however slight at first, for salvation. Just like a surgeon needs the patient’s consent to proceed with an operation, God needs man’s consent to proceed with salvation (although God’s operation on His elect begins before their faith). Man’s consent to the profound operation of the Triune God is faith.
God accomplished redemption for man through Christ and will apply Christ’s accomplished redemption to man through the Holy Spirit because of His great love. However, if man does not repent and believe, redemption cannot become salvation to him. Man must repent and believe in order for God’s redemption to become salvation to him.
–Witness Lee, Crucial Truths in the Holy Scriptures, Vol. 1, p. 59
Many biblical passages emphasize what Bosch calls the “personal dimension” in authentic evangelism. And despite the very true truth of God’s sovereign election, the Bible, more often than not, puts the ball in our court. In terms of evangelism, this is a wise tactic. However, the Scripture holds both in creative tension as complimentary, not contradictory, truths (cf. Rom. 9-11).
The Gospel is not individualistic
Although the gospel addresses individuals, the gospel is not individualistic.
Modern individualism is, to a large extent, a perversion of the Christian faith’s understanding of the centrality and responsibility of the individual… People are, however, never isolated individuals. They are social beings, who can never be severed from the network of relationships in which they exist. And the individual’s conversion touches all these relationships.
–David J Bosch, pp. 416-417
Right along side the Bible’s sustained emphasis of personal faith, there is another line that emphasizes the corporate aspect of salvation. Like two contour lines, they bring out the depth of God’s intention in salvation. Watchman Nee points out that while the unit of eternal life is an individual, “the unit of salvation is the household.” This is important because it shows that the gospel should extend beyond our own acceptance of it and influence those around us. Viewing salvation in this context helps us to go beyond the thought of just winning souls, to gaining communities. This framework of salvation ultimately has the Body in view. Paul even connects something as fundamental and personal as reconciliation with the Body (Eph. 2:16).
10 people with whom the unit of salvation was their household:
- Noah- Genesis 7:1
- Rahab- Joshua 6:17
- Zaccheus- Luke 19:9
- A royal official- John 4:53
- Cornelius- Acts 11:14
- Lydia – Acts 16:15
- Jailer- Acts 16:31, 34
- Crispus- Acts 18:8
- Stephanas- 1 Corinthians 1:16
- Onesiphorus- 2 Timothy 4:19, 1:16
7 principles related to the unit of salvation being the household:
- Circumcision- Genesis 17:12-13
- The Passover lamb- Exodus 12:3-7
- The priesthood- Numbers 18:1, 11
- Rejoicing- Deuteronomy 12:7
- Blessing- 2 Samuel 6:11
- Peace to a house- Luke 10:5-6
- The promise at Pentecost- Acts 2:39