Tell the Truth

Since God has commissioned believers to evangelize the lost, we cannot underestimate the importance of the subject Will Metzger discusses.  In his own words, Will Metzger describes his desire to “offer a new outline of a God-centered gospel for the training of Christians to share their faith with non-Christians” (Metzger, 11).  Thus, Will Metzger is responding to the need for comprehensive training for the task of evangelism.

In his introduction, Metzger shares his personal need to come to conclusions regarding his responsibility to fulfill the great commission, and the most Biblical method to fulfilling that responsibility.  He desires to evaluate all evangelistic methods in light of the Bible. Metzger very effectively fosters in his readers the desire to come to firm conclusions regarding the preeminent responsibility of evangelism.

To accomplish his goal, Metzger divides the book into four sections.  In the first section, he discusses the content of the whole gospel.  Within this section Metzger begins by discussing the importance of witness in lifestyle and in word in chapter 1.  Some contend that a pure lifestyle apart from verbal declaration completely fulfills one’s duty to witness.  Others exclude the necessity of living righteously, emphasizing the necessity to preach the gospel without living it.  Metzger accurately points out that exclusion of either aspect of witnessing comprises only part of the believer’s responsibility.

The second chapter discusses the content of the gospel, analyzing various imbalanced and impractical approaches.   Some of the most outstanding discussions include a “me” centered gospel, a method-centered approach, and the exclusion of teaching about the punishment of hell and the justice of God.  Metzger cites various contemporary tracts that demonstrate the imbalances he reports.  He concludes by asserting that Biblical truth alone sets the standard for evangelism.

The following two chapters are entitled, “The Gospel Recovered” parts 1 and 2.   At the very outset he suggests five pillars of gospel truth and the proceeds to illustrate these pillars on a chart that elaborates on each point.  His points are listed in the following order: Who is God?God-Centered Living, Self-Centered Living,Jesus Christ: The Way Back to Life, Your Response: Coming Home.  This chart will be used as template that is often referred to throughout the book.

The second of the fourth major sections is entitled, “To the Whole Person.”   Metzger begins this section by pointing out that many profess the gospel, but do not truly possess the gospel.  Then he analyzes the expected response of the whole person intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally.  Metzger examines contemporary imbalances to each aspect of man’s person.  For example, he points out the danger of over-intellectualizing the gospel, or over emotionalizing it to the exclusion of the necessary tenants of the gospel message.

 In the next section entitled, “Wholly by Grace,” Metzger discusses in some detail the necessity of grace for salvation.  The author dedicates three chapters to the necessity and work of grace in salvation. Finally, the section ends with a discussion of worship as a response to God’s grace being applied.

The fourth and final section discusses the character and communication of the person who has been commission to witness – every believer.   He begins by discussing the major contemporary issue of pluralism and tolerance in post-modern society.   While Metzger’s discussion of these issues is not lengthy, it is very well organized and helps his readers to gain a sufficient grasp of the problems of pluralism and tolerance in evangelism.  This portion is followed by short discussions of subjects related to evangelism such as reasoning with people, speaking to the conscience, and common fears in witnessing.

Finally Metzger ends the book by designating many pages of instruction on how to effectively communicate.  Since Metzger has already established the message to be presented, he teaches people how to converse in a way to create the opportunity for the gospel to be presented. He points out that the diversity of culture will factor significantly on the approach taken in witnessing.   This is followed by instruction on getting started and bringing a conversation from discussing common interests to personal beliefs as well as being a good listener.  Charts are included to aid in understanding and instruction.

In this book, Metzger makes significant contributions that readers will find very instructive, helpful, and enlightening.  First, Metzger alerts believers to the imbalances in contemporary approaches to evangelism.  He accurately points out the fallacy of “me-centered” thinking that is infiltrating evangelistic efforts.  His compelling examples throughout contemporary Christianity should cause people to think about the motivation and focus of their own evangelistic endeavors. Also, Metzger identifies a common trend in churches toward a method-centered approach to outreach, rather than a message centered-approach (Metzger, 41).  This shift results from pragmatism becoming the standard of implementation rather than the truth of God’s Word.  Finally, Metzger points out that the Biblical motivation for evangelism remains the believer’s accountability to Almighty God, rather than self-fulfillment or drawing large numbers.  Believers would do well to heed Metzger’s warnings regarding the imbalances of contemporary approaches to evangelism.

Second, Metzger endeavors to establish a theological foundation for evangelism rather than merely producing another “how to” manual.  Clearly, Metzger desires to be both Biblical and practical.  For instance, he points out the importance of presenting God’s love and justice in a balanced way (Metzger, 39).  He also speaks to the importance of grace in salvation, the necessity of the law for the conviction of sinners, among other theological comments.

Third, the author emphasizes thoroughness and clarity in the presentation of the gospel.  He effectively argues that the careful presentation of the gospel is necessary since the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  This remains the main thrust of the book: the need for comprehensiveness in evangelism including the message, the believer, and the lost person.

While Will Metzger makes many positive and helpful contributions, several areas will demonstrate Metzger’s shortcomings.    One example of this is when he speaks of the concept of the carnal Christian (Metzger, 79). Metzger suggests that labeling someone a carnal Christian will lead to false security.  While there may be an element of truth to this assertion, it remains unclear from his writing whether or not Metzger denies the existence of the carnal Christian, or whether he is merely concerned with the issue of labeling someone as such.  Whatever the case, Metzger falls short of clarity in this instance.

Metzger also errs in his use of 1 John as tests of assurance.  Although this remains a common view of 1 John, this view ignores the clearly stated prologue in the first chapter of John’s first epistle.  The purpose of 1 John is found in verse 3-4, namely, to teach us how to have fellowship with God and thereby experienced fullness of joy.   This approach to 1 John comes directly from the stated text, rather than imposing ideas on the text that do not explicitly exist.

 The book also presents an imbalanced view on man’s free will, making the false assumption that the doctrine of man’s free will comes from a list of improper motivations (Metzger, 124, 143), rather than an honest look of the whole counsel of God.  Metzger fails to address some of the valid theological arguments of the proponents of free will, such as the multitude of commands God gives requiring a choice to obey.  Also, he seems to unilaterally discount the idea of free will without suggesting alternatives such as a limited free will.  In a far more balanced approach, many hold that the God’s providence, election, and predestination work in cooperation with man’s limited free will rather than in opposition to it.  This view honors the paradox of Scripture and respects God’s ways as incomprehensible to man.

Despite Metzger’s short-comings, his book provides important insight and thought-provoking ideas that will prove very helpful to the believer who is serious about reaching people with the gospel of Christ.   The reader of this book will be confronted with full responsibility of the great commission and the complete message of that commission. The practical instruction will provide more tools for evangelism.