“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2Timothy 3:16-17)
In his last words to his friend Timothy, Paul provides us with vital instruction in evangelism. We need this exhortation because dark days are ahead. Instead of pursuing and following sound doctrine, many professing believers pursue their own evil desires. They gather around them false teachers who are only too happy to give them what they crave, what they want to hear, not what they actually need. Such people are rebelling against God for they set themselves up as the standard of authority and truth over God’s word.
We, like Timothy, have to be ready and equipped to counterattack. Only as we hold fast to the clear truth of the gospel, will we be able to carry out our mission. We must rely on the right source of teaching, the whole body of established doctrine. Proper guidance and teaching must be used to correct people, turn them to the right way, and help them grow. Such teaching must be based on the word of God and not be diluted with pagan teachings, esoteric nonsense, human philosophy or feel-good, self-centered, pop psychology.
Paul’s instruction reveals that, although the gospel message of salvation from sin in Christ Jesus alone must remain pure, it can be applied in different ways to meet the particular needs of the audience. It is not one size fits all. We don’t chastise a fearful, sorrowful or repentant person, but encourage him with the love of God. We present valid arguments to prove the truth of the gospel to the honest skeptic. We try to understand the other person and present the gospel in the way that will most effectively challenge him. This takes great patience. We are dealing with sinful, rebellious and difficult people. We are not to approach them with legalistic, self-righteous and arrogant attitudes for these only damage the witness of the gospel. We are to embody the message of God’s love, grace and compassion.