Guilty as charged." Now there are some words that none of us like to hear! Now before you jump to any conclusions and think that I have actually heard those words in a court room, I have not, and I certainly hope to never hear them in a court room! The truth is that each of us have a built-in self-defense system called plausible deniability. When we are accused of something, our immediate reaction is to begin excusing and justifying our actions and to defend ourselves and to declare our innocence... even if we are guilty!
This is the exact reason why God gave His Moral Law, the Ten Commandments. The Apostle Paul states in Romans 3:19 "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
The Moral Law of God was given for two purposes, one, to show the absolute holiness of God, two, to show the absolute sinfulness of mankind. The law has never justified anyone, the law has simply shown man that he needs to be justified. The law is just a mirror that exposes us to our real need for the grace of Christ.
In modern-day evangelism, most presentations of the gospel begin like this: "Do you know that you have sinned? Romans 3:23 states, 'For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.'
Do you believe that you have sinned before?" Now I completely understand this approach, but I also understand that the unsaved man does not really know what sin is! Most people define sin as when they do something wrong or bad. Or as one child told me a few months back, "Pastor, sin is when you get into twubble!" Unfortunately, man's definition of bad does not go far enough! Although these definitions of sin are commonly accepted, we must remember that man will not be judged based on our definition of sin, but he will be judged based on God's definition of sin.
God defines clearly for us who a sinner is and what sin is in 1 John 3:4: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
It is pretty hard to get any plainer than that! Sin, defined according to the Apostle John, is when we transgress (break) God's law. Now I know that I have used a verse that is not on the Romans Road of salvation, but we still believe that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable...."
The failure of modern day evangelism is that we completely are re-defining sin and not getting lost people to submit to God's definition of sin. Sin is not against other people and against ourselves, sin is directly in rebellion and opposition to God Almighty and to His Moral Law.
1 Timothy 1:8-10 states, "But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine."
The lawful use of the law is not to place righteous men beneath it's weight, but to place the unrighteous man beneath it's weight so that he will recognize his guiltiness before God. Friends, do not be afraid to use the Moral Law of God in evangelism, it is the greatest weapon in our arsenal of Scripture to bring man face to face with God's holiness and man's unrighteousness. I am afraid that we get the principle of 1 Timothy 1:8-10 completely backwards, we offer complete grace to a man that is not convinced that he is a sinner, then offer complete law to men who claim to be saints! That is another discussion for another time!
I love what David says in Psalm 19:7, "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul:.." The only thing that will crush the plausible deniability of a sinner that is in rebellion to God is to apply the perfect Law of God to his sinful life so that he can recognize his need for Christ.
The Law works according to Galatians 3:24: "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith." What brings about the knowledge of sin, the definition of sin, and the understanding of sin is nothing less than the perfect Law of God.
Think about the modern presentation of the Gospel for just a moment. "Do you believe you have sinned? Did you know there is a penalty for sin?" We jump immediately into the subject of hell and judgement without giving ample time to explain what sin really is. Most people will agree that they have sinned according to human standards, but very few will acknowledge that they deserve to go to hell for eternity because of their sin. When we use the law lawfully, man will realize that hell is not only looming but it is more than deserved because he has not broken our definition of sin, but he has broken God Almighty's perfect Law. This is where the weight of the Law leads to a natural conclusion that sin must be paid for. Without that use of the Law, men play the game of "he said she said" when it comes to sin because we have not defined it properly.
Is this Biblical to use the Law in evangelism? Absolutely! Jesus used the Law every time in His evangelistic efforts. The woman at the well, the rich young ruler, the Pharisees description in the Sermon on the Mount. The Apostle Paul used the Law to reveal man's need for Christ. The Apostle Peter used the Law of God in Acts 2 to show the Jewish people on the Day of Pentecost their need for Messiah. We could go on and on to give Scriptural examples, but the bottom line is simple, the Law of God will produce conviction in the life of the sinner and show him his real need before God.
As the great preacher G. Campbell Morgan stated so eloquently, "Do not rush the sinner up Mount Calvary before he has collapsed under the weight of Mount Sinai!" What a truth, the Law crushes our human pride, excuses, and reasoning to complete powder, only then are we ready to receive grace. In James 4:6, James the brother of our Lord paraphrases Proverbs 3:34, "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."
May we not rush the process, but allow the Holy Spirit of God to work through His Law to convert the souls of men and show them their need for the unmerited grace of God!