How Much Detail Do We Need to Go into When Evangelizing?
Because God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4) and God is truth, it follows that truth is one. While we can talk about distinct propositions, the truth is that truth is monolithic, one piece, simple rather than parts. Such means, of course, that His revelation is not part cake and part icing, part substance and part sizzle. It’s not as though justification by faith alone is the painting and election is the frame. We are called to believe all that God has revealed, and every error in our thinking is at least implicitly dangerous.
That said, we do err and our failures cannot rule out His success. Our goal with those to whom we preach Christ, just like with ourselves, can’t be to get them perfectly sound on everything. Those of us who have a deep interest in theology, who are given to seeing the connections between our affirmations, are tempted to pray like the Pharisee, “I thank you Lord that I am not like other men. I affirm all five points of Calvinism. I can recite the Westminster Shorter Catechism and I not only know the ordo salutis, but know what ordo salutis means.”
Our calling for ourselves, and for those we are witnessing to, is that we would reflect the wisdom of the publican who beat his breast and cried out, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner.” What we all need to grasp first is that God is God. He is Lord over all reality, and has authority over us. Because we fail to submit to His law, we are rightly under His curse and judgment. Our only hope is to throw ourselves upon His mercy, to confess before Him not just our sins, but our standing as sinners.
The life, death, and resurrection of Christ is why we can have peace with God. He is the reason we can cry out for mercy with hope. And it is because of His ascension that we know that He is Lord even now. Thus the early church had as its first creed the eminently simple, Christos ho kurios, Christ is Lord. So our message is eminently simple—repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
A person brought to an understanding of their need for redemption and God’s provision in Christ is now well prepared for more. We catechize converts quickly, but not before they are converts. Such a one, I would argue, needs to come to understand the glorious truths contained in the Apostles’ Creed. And from there, the convert, like the rest of us, is called to learn the whole counsel of God. We are called, after all, not to make mere converts but disciples, teaching them to obey whatsoever He has commanded (Matthew 28:20).
One important caveat—to say we need not say everything in order to proclaim God’s grace in Christ is not to say there are things we should not say. God’s sovereignty in our salvation is not something we hide from those outside. Indeed there is nothing He has revealed to us that we should be ashamed of, or that we should mask in order to win souls.