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Evangelism: The Work of Every Christian
by Heath Robertson from Expositing Light: Volume I, Nr. 9

You will notice quickly that this article is not really an expository article and is a little longer than our normal articles. I recently prepared a sermon on what the Bible teaches on evangelism. I think these thoughts are worth straying from our normal expository method. I hope you think so too.

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins… But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together in Christ... by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:1-8).

The grace of God is truly amazing. For many of us who have been marred by sin, grace is almost too good to be true. Yet, if we accept the Bible as true, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son… that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16, 17). Praise the Lord!

For a world that is decaying quickly through immorality, hatred, and selfishness, God’s love and mercy, manifested in Jesus Christ, is truly good news! But we must take note that the Bible said “the world might be saved through Him.” What, then, must mankind do to receive the grace of God? Paul quoted the prophet Joel saying “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). On the day that Paul obeyed the gospel, Ananias told him exactly how he was to “call upon the name of the Lord.” “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). We call upon the Lord for His redeeming grace through obedience to His will.

“How will they call on Him whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher” (Rom. 10:14)? Salvation is contingent upon three things: One must hear the gospel of Christ, believe it, and obey it to receive the blessings therein. The believing and obeying rests solely on the shoulders of the hearer. But who has the responsibility of telling the message? Peter said “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (I Pet. 2:9, 10). Peter taught that it was the responsibility of those who had already received God’s mercy to “proclaim” the availability of that mercy to others.

Since saving the world from sin was Jesus’ primary objective in entering the physical realm, it should be no surprise that he had much to say about evangelism. Jesus taught that even under the Law of Moses the Jews were not only to “keep” the Law but also to “teach” it (Matt. 5:19). The Law itself concurs wholeheartedly with this in several places (Deut. 4:10; 6:1-9 etc…). Jesus made it clear in the parable of the lost sheep that God desires the salvation of every single soul (Luke 15:3-7). Peter reiterated this by saying “He is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish” (II Pet. 3:9). However, just as Jesus taught, Peter followed that by warning us “the Day of the Lord will come” (v.10)! Therefore, Jesus intended for His people to have an effect upon the world, in word and deed, that would lead others to God (Matt. 5:13-16). We can note in His prayer recorded in John 17 that His desire was for the gospel to be spread from person to person (v.20). In fact, emphasizing the high priority of evangelism, some of Jesus’ last recorded words are “Go… preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). After giving His disciples this command, Christ said “make disciples… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19, 20). In a very similar statement, Paul gave these instructions to Timothy: “the things which you have heard from me… entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2). Evangelism is a continuous process. One person tells as many as possible who also tell as many as possible. This is God’s will; this is what must be done.

Do we see confirmation of this in the actions of Christ’s disciples? Indeed, we do. While Jesus was yet alive, those who came to believe in Him could not keep themselves from telling others that the Messiah had come. Andrew “found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (John 1:41). Philip told Nathaniel “We have found Him of whom Moses and also the prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth” (John 1:45). Even when Nathaniel reacted with a negative comment about Jesus being from Nazareth, Philip persisted in trying to bring Nathaniel to Christ (v.46). After the Samaritan woman realized who Jesus was, she “left her water pot, and went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’” (John 4:28, 29). Many believed because of her words (v.39) and many more believed after speaking with Jesus themselves (v.42).

After Jesus arose to heaven and claimed His place as King (Acts 1:9-11; Dan. 7:13, 14), the apostles began preaching the gospel in Jerusalem (Acts 2). About 3,000 people obeyed the gospel on that occasion (v.41). The church received much opposition from the Jews and were scattered because of persecution. However, as they dispersed into Judea and Samaria, “they went about preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). A Gentile, Cornelius, requested Peter to come and preach the gospel to him (Acts 10:1-8). Cornelius saw this as something so important that he invited “his relatives and close friends” to hear the gospel as well (vv.24, 33). The scattered Jewish-Christians were still preaching. Now, knowing that God accepts the Gentiles, some began preaching to them “and a large number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:18-21). In Acts 18, Paul stayed with fellow tent-makers, Aquila and Priscilla. This was most likely how they came to be Christians. Shortly after, Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos “the way of God more accurately” (v.26) and Apollos went on to teach many more.

About 30 years after the establishment of the church, Paul wrote to the Colossians that the gospel “in all the world… is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it” (Col. 1:5, 6)! He goes on to say that it was Epaphras who had brought the gospel to Colossae (v.7). We find out in 4:12 that Epaphras is a native of their area. What do all of these things teach us? It was not just the apostles and preachers that were spreading the gospel. It was people like Epaphras, who most likely heard the gospel while out of town and came back proclaiming it himself! The Lord’s plan for evangelism worked fantastically then and will today if we are willing do it!

We need to develop an attitude like Paul’s whose desire it was to “present every man complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28, 29). Paul was willing to change many things about his life in order to have more opportunities to teach others about Christ. “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some” (I Cor. 9:22). That is a philosophy that all Christians should develop. It takes growth and effort, but it is worth it. “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (I Thess. 2:19, 20). Leading people to Christ ignites a flame of joy in the heart that none can put out!

We need to remember that Jesus doesn’t expect everyone to be a “Paul” in regards to evangelism. I think maybe it is ideas similar to that which scares people into doing nothing at all. Not everyone has the opportunity to serve in the same capacity that Paul did. However, we must recognize that Christ expects us to do what we can do! If we refuse to “confess” Christ to others, showing that we are “ashamed” of our faith, then, He said, He will not “confess” us to His Father but rather will be “ashamed” of us as well (Matt. 10:32; Mark 8:38).

As you take these thoughts with you, I want to remind you of some very important issues that are often forgotten. First and foremost, “the gospel is the power of God unto Salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Two things happen when we forget this truth. We begin to try to replace that power with something we think is better. This, I believe, is what has led churches to their spaghetti dinners, sports teams, drama clubs, movie nights, family life centers and the like. The simple gospel message isn’t good enough to get the results that some churches expect and want. The second thing that happens as a result of this is that we become disappointed with the lack of spirituality and commitment of those we do “convert.” But what should we expect when we stop using the one power God gave us to attract truly penitent hearts? In fact, that is another truth often forgotten. Jesus said that the gospel was designed to only have an effect upon the “honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15). When we preach the pure gospel, people are not listening to us but Christ. They are accepting or rejecting Christ (Luke 17:16). We need to realize that there are those who will never accept the Truth (Matt. 7:6; II Tim. 3:7). Realizing these things will help us to never forget where the power lies.

“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (I Pet. 3:15). Jesus said that we should also pray for others willing to share the gospel: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2). However, in the very next verse, He commanded the same ones to “Go” themselves (v.3). A life dedicated to sharing the gospel is a life that will most certainly be persecuted (II Cor. 4:7-9). But the motivation to teach others isn’t for happiness in this life but we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (v.10). “Shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15). “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:5, 6).

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