by Matt Slick
How do you tell people that they need Jesus? Do you tell them that Jesus loves them and that He wants to make their lives better? Do you tell people that Jesus can forgive them of their sins? Do you tell them that Jesus has a wonderful plan for their lives and that they should believe in Him and ask Jesus into their hearts? If so, you may be doing a harm to their spiritual health. That's right, harm. Let me explain.
The Law must precede the gospel. The Law must come first and kill the person so that the gospel can make him alive. The Law must convict the person of his sins, so he will want salvation. It is simple. You preach the Law first, then the gospel. You must make people thirsty for the water of life before they will want to drink. The Law makes them thirsty.
If a doctor told you that you needed to take some pills for two months but didn't tell you why, would you take them? If he told you that the pills will make you feel better and that your life will be more pleasant, then would you take them? What if you already felt fine and your life was great? What then? You might say, "Well, thanks. Maybe I need them. Maybe I don't. I'll think about it." Then let's say you gave the pills a try and you didn't notice any change in how you felt and your life didn't change either, then what? You'd stop taking them because having given them a try and seeing no change--no reason to continue--you'd stop.
On the other hand, let's say that your doctor told you that you have a disease that will kill you in six months and that your death would be slow and painful. He then hands you the pills and says, "But these pills can cure you and save your life. I want you to take these." Would you then take them? Of course! This is because you would recognize the desperate situation you are in. You would recognize your great need and want the cure.
That is the purpose of the Law. It shows us our sin. " . . . I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, Do not covet," (Rom. 7:7). Then, because we realize we have sinned against God, the Law then shows us that we are under God's wrath: " . . . because law brings wrath," (Rom. 4:15). The Law brings both physical and spiritual death because it empowers sin to kill us: "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law," (1 Cor. 15:56). The presentation of the Law is supposed to show a person that he has a great need by demonstrating that he has violated the will of God and that he is going to have to face the terrible damnation of God on the Day of Wrath (Rom. 2:5). If you don't do this when presenting the gospel, you are not presenting the real reason for the gospel, and this can hinder a person from really coming to Christ.
God presented the Law before He presented the gospel--for a reason. "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith," (Gal. 3:24). God's Law is holy and righteous: "So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good," (Rom. 7:12). Have you broken God's Holy Law? Have you ever lied, stolen, cheated, or been angry with someone unjustly? If so, then you are a lying, stealing cheating, murderer in the eyes of God because you have committed those sins. Like it or not, just doing those things a little bit qualifies you for the whole punishment of the Law. "Cursed is every man who does not abide by everything written in the book of the law to perform them," (Gal. 3:10). And also, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not commit murder,"(James 2:10-11). God is holy and righteous, and He will in no way stand for anything but absolute perfection and holiness in His presence. This is why the Holy and Infinite God of the universe must and will punish anyone who has sinned against Him by breaking His holy Law.
Because of the harshness and truth of the Law, we are broken before God and recognize that we can do nothing to please Him because we cannot keep the Law of God perfectly: "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment . . . " (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, the only thing left is to is come to the cross. This is why it says in Gal. 3:24, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith." The Law pushes us towards Jesus. It compels us to come to the only one who can forgive us of our sins. It breaks us so that we are found hopeless inside and we then turn to another to deliver us from the wrath of God. This is why Jesus came. This is what the gospel is about. Jesus died on the cross to avert the wrath of God from sinners. Therefore, the only way to be "saved" from the wrath of God is to trust in Christ. This is what it means to be saved. It means to be saved from God's wrath: "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him," (Rom. 5:9). The gospel is not about a "nice" God who is begging people to come to Him because He loves the sinner but hates the sin. (The Bible never says that God loves the sinner but hates the sin). On the contrary:
"The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity," (Psalm 5:5).
"There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers," (Prov. 6:16-19).
Such Biblical teaching is not in harmony with most popular Christian theology today because it doesn't present God as the "nice" God that is begging people to come to Him. Instead, the truth is that God is Holy and He will punish the sinner. But that isn't all of it. God is also love (1 John 4:8) which is why He sent His Son, to save us: "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him," (John 3:17).
So, when you present the gospel to someone, make sure you preach the Law of God first. Let that Law work on the person to whom you speak. Let it break the heart open so the seeds of the gospel can take root. Let the Law of God make the sinner aware that He has sinned against God and that there is a coming judgment because of it. Then, when he is ready, tell him that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life," (John 3:16). Tell him about how Jesus who is God in flesh (John 1:1,14) was able to live the Law perfectly (1 Pet. 2:22), satisfy the Father in Heaven (1 John 2:2), give to us His very righteousness, (Phil. 3:9), and deliver us from the Judgment to come (Rom. 14:10, Heb. 9:27). And when you do so, do it with grace: "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person," (Col. 4:5-6).