“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.” ~ Matt Slick
“Biblical evangelism is always, without exception, law to the proud and grace to the humble. Never will you see Jesus giving the gospel, the good news, the cross, the grace of our God, to a proud, arrogant, self-righteous person. No, no. With the law he breaks the hard heart and with the gospel he heals the broken heart.” ~ Ray Comfort
“The first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God’s Law and show the nature of sin.” ~ Martin Luther
“I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the Law.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
“Before I can preach love, mercy, and grace, I must preach sin, Law, and judgment.” ~ John Wesley
In the light of the above quotes, it appears that evangelism must start with the law. I have heard and read from those with similar sentiments. While compelling, these quotes plucked from their original contexts and incorrectly applied, do several things:
1. They can, and often do, lock evangelism into a method.
2. They create an “us law keepers” vs. “them law breakers” mentality.
3. They tend to grant the would be evangelist the power to dispense law or grace based on their personal agenda or judgement of another’s prideful or humble disposition.
4. Their starting point is man, not God.
5. They can lead to attempting to make disciples with the law of Moses rather than “the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21) (Galatians 6:2) and “all that Jesus commanded.” (Matthew 28:19,20)
Further, in examining every post resurrection evangelism event in scripture, I fail to find a single instance that starts with the law or starts out pointing at one’s sin. Let’s take a look at a few:
Acts 2:17-40 – Commonly addressed as “Peter’s First Sermon” Peter starts with this idea, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” – Peter starts with God and His promise.
Acts 3:11-26 – Commonly referred to as “Peters Second Sermon.” Again, Peter starts this way, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.” Peter starts with God Himself.
Acts 7 – Stephen’s famous speech to the Sanhedrin. Stephen starts in this manner, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.” This evangelistic message, again, starts with God and His promise.
Acts 8:26-40 – Philip and the Ethiopian – The Ethiopian was reading about Jesus and Phillip started by declaring who Jesus is. “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”
Immediately after Paul’s conversion he began to evangelize in the synagogues by starting with “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20)
Finally, for now, in Acts 17, Paul’s famous encounter on the Areopagus had started earlier in the market place (Acts 17:18). Those who heard him speaking “the good news about Jesus and the resurrection,” brought him to the hill where he continued with “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” Again, Paul starts with God.
In each of these cases and more, evangelistic encounters start with who God is, His Promises, and His Son Jesus. None of these evangelistic encounters start with the Law.
Perhaps we need to look directly to the Master himself for where one of His evangelism encounters started with the law. The woman at the well is perhaps Jesus’ best known and most used “evangelistic” encounter. He starts in this way; “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Note here that God IS the one standing in front of her. But, he doesn’t start with the law, he starts with who He is and His promise.
What about the rich young ruler? Jesus starts off with the following; “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus starts off with who God is before going into a very tricky unwinding of the ruler’s presuppositions about salvation. Ultimately it was not the law that convicted him, it was laying his life down and following Jesus. (Mark 10:17-27)
Maybe Jesus with Nicodemus? Jesus again starts of in this way; “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3) Jesus started off this conversation with God, His Kingdom, and His Promise.
Final thought: How were old testament saints evangelized before the law was given? Was it by presenting the law first? No, it was by being made aware God and His promise first. We too, as gentiles are to embrace the same God and promise. “Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” Abraham was evangelized first by God and His Promise. (Galatians 3:8)
Paul Washer wrote;
“Evangelism begins with the nature of God. Who is God? Can a man recognize anything about his sin if he has no standard by which to compare himself?”
The striking absence of the law being used first in evangelism is telling. What does it tell you? The works of the Law is already written on the hearts of people before you ever get to them. (Romans 2:15) They know it. What they don’t know clearly, is who God is and what His true nature is. Why start with the law instead of the starting with the one who fulfilled it? Are you really going to law law them first and love later?
This post is designed to engage you. And so, I’d like to ask you a few questions:
1. What biblical warrant is there, if any, that says we must use the law first in evangelism?
2. Did Jesus use the law first in the proclamation of His own Good News? Where?
3. Is it correct to Make Disciples using the law of Moses (The 10 Commandments), or are we to Make Disciples by teaching Christ’s law (1 Corinthians 9:21) (Galatians 6:2), and to obey all that Christ Commanded? (Matthew 28:19,20)
This is a repost from 2013.
 Ten Indictments against the Modern Church (Kindle Locations 341-342). Chapel Library. Kindle Edition.