In one of our Romans classes, we had a discussion about witnessing to people who do not believe the Bible is true and do not accept its authority. It seems like an insurmountable problem since our faith is built on the revelation of God in scripture, and without it, we have no reliable basis for our beliefs. It should be that the one who rejects the Bible is an impossible person to reach with the truth.
A few days after our class, I saw a short missions’ video about a remote tribe in Papua that had no contact with the outside world. About 15 years ago, a pilot was flying over the remote area where this unknown tribe lived and spotted the thatched roofs of houses of this previously undiscovered people. Once the news of the discovery was out, missionaries made this unknown group a target for the gospel of Christ. These indigenous people welcomed the strangers, but the monumental task was before the missionaries of how to communicate and teach these people who had never heard of the Bible or Christ. They had no alphabet and thus no written language.
Progress was slow at first as the missionaries began with the basic approach of Paul in Romans 1. All people know there is a Supreme Being and none can deny there must be a Creator God. The missionaries began to tell them of the God who made all things by relating the account of creation from Genesis. As they continued their witnessing and education of these backward people, they listened to the sounds and syllables of their language and began to form an alphabet for a written language. When this was accomplished, they taught them to read their own language by translating the Bible into their native tongue. Now these people were enabled to see for themselves what the Bible says about God and His creation.
The emphasis of the missionaries was the use of the word of God to reach the hearts of the people. First Peter 1:23 says: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” It is always the word of God that is the means by which we are born-again. No one circumvents the necessity of the word in salvation.
Now these people had the word of God, but this does not mean they would believe the Bible is true. Miraculously through the operation of the Holy Spirit, the Bible does its job of converting the soul and convincing of truth. Once the natives began to read for themselves, the Spirit took over and made the word effectual in their hearts.
I recite this story because the word works the same way with the hearts of skeptics that you often meet. They do not accept the authority of the Bible and they do not believe it is true. However, when they hear and the Holy Spirit works, there is an irresistible draw to the Father. They are changed from unbelief to belief through the regenerating power of God who enlightens the mind and changes the will.
The testimony of the natives was unanimous. One said, “I was in darkness until the Holy Spirit showed me the truth.” These were people shackled by fear in their animistic beliefs, but their hearts were set free by reading the word of God. Now they are anxious for the word, and they live in the word, and it is their primary source material for learning to read.
Never underestimate the power of the word. Often, skeptics believe they are intellectually superior, and we are too often tempted to appeal to the learned through their intellect rather than taking them down to the basic truth—all people are sinners in need of the grace of God. Not one person was saved because they were smart or had good sense. The unbelieving college professor is as ignorant of God as the undiscovered tribes of Papua. The word of God is the only way to reach them. Try it and depend on the Holy Spirit to do His work.
Pastor V. Mark Smith