Evangelism – Spreading the Gospel
What is Evangelism?
The Greek word for “go” (Matt. 28:19) is a participle which means “while you are going,” but it has the force of an imperative when it appears with an imperative, as “teach.” Christ assumed the disciples would be in the act of going into all the world with the gospel. The word “teach” is an imperative, which is a command to obey. Actually, the word translated “teach” in the King James is the verb form of “discipline” which means “to make disciples.”
Making disciples is more than getting decisions; we are commanded to make people into followers of Jesus Christ. “Making disciples” means to lead them to be born again, then baptized, and finally taught in the Christian faith. “Make disciples” is an imperative that demands the full attention of every New Testament church. At least six elements are involved in the biblical idea of disciple-making.
How Evangelism Should be Done
We must know what we want to do if we will accomplish our task. “He that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope” (1 Cor. 9:10). Vision is essential to keep a church heading in the proper path. The vision must begin with the pastor and he must share it with the congregation. In the Old Testament, one of the titles of the man of God was “seer” (1 Sam. 9:9).
He was the one who saw first, saw most, and saw farthest. The man of God who leads the church today must see a “vision,” not some “psychic phenomenon,” but a clear goal of the purpose of the church to win people to Jesus Christ, to get them baptized, and to teach them the Word of God. As Jesus was engaged in his ministry, he saw the multitudes (Matt. 9:35, 36). That vision motivated him to deeper concern to do the work of God.
A second aspect of vision involves the ability of the man of God to realize his calling and to have an inner confidence of what God is going to do through him. This personal vision accounts for some of the success in the apostle Paul’s ministry. The Lord told Ananias concerning Saul of Tarsus, “I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).
Later, when Paul was starting the church at Corinth, God appeared to Paul in a vision to assure him he was still going to use him in that city to reach many people (Acts 18:9-11).
A final dimension is a vision of God. With the physical eye it is impossible to see God (John 1:18), yet it is possible to have a correct vision concerning his person and nature. Such was the experience of Isaiah as he received direction for his ministry (Isa. 6:1-13). We cannot have a correct vision of God without a correct understanding of Scripture because the Bible alone contains the correct doctrine of God. The first step in accomplishing the aims of the church is to ask God for a vision concerning the lost, concerning the work, and concerning God himself.
A second element of evangelism is compassion. When Jesus “saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (Matt. 9:36). The word “compassion” comes from a Latin term meaning “to suffer with.” Compassion is the ability to share in the emotional experiences of others. It is love translated into action.
During the days when Dwight L. Moody conducted a Sunday school in Chicago, one small boy traveled halfway across the city to attend. When asked why he would go so far to attend Mr. Moody’s Sunday school, the boy responded, “Because they love a fella over there.” People will be drawn to the Lord by the love of a Christian. Jude wrote, “And of some have compassion, making a difference” (Jude 22).
A third dimension of biblical evangelism is reaching. To reach means simply to use every available means to make contact with people and motivate them to give the gospel an honest hearing. It is not just enough to hand a gospel tract to the unsaved and assume we have done our duty in evangelism. We have not completely given out the gospel until we have urged the person to-respond.
The apostle Paul described the doctrine of reaching people, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain [reach] the weak: I am ‘ made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). “Reaching” did not involve the compromise of biblical convictions but- rather the application of common sense to preaching the gospel.
Giving True Testimony
The word “testimony” or “witness” also sheds light on the nature of biblical evangelism. Every Christian is to be a witness for Christ (Acts 1:8). In a court of law, a witness is called upon to give testimony to his experience, not ” his opinion or his judgment. In the same manner, Christians are called upon to give testimony concerning what they have seen, heard, and experienced in Jesus Christ. Sometimes this can take the form of a nonverbal testimony.
We witness for Christ by our godly living. The lame man healed outside the temple by Peter and John was a nonverbal testimony of what God can do in a life (Acts 4:14). The same was true in the experience of Lazarus after his resurrection (John 12:11). But we should go beyond a nonverbal testimony, and give a vocal witness for Christ. The apostles acknowledged, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Testimony is an effective tool of evangelism because people cannot deny living evidence of the truth.
Preaching is an important part of evangelism. Mark records Jesus’ commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Christ’s last command became the first concern of the scattered church. “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Preaching is not just giving a biblical speech in the church’s pulpit.
When we share Jesus Christ with a lost person, we are technically preaching. Preaching is communicating the gospel in an understandable manner and motivating that person to respond. Preaching is giving biblical content with persuasion so you convince the person to become a Christian. Preaching the gospel is essentially the same whether addressing a large crowd or talking with an individual.
Persuasion and Trust in the Holy Spirit
Persuasion is the final aspect of biblical evangelism. This involves a conscious attempt to motivate the lost to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. We should have an urgency in pressing the claims of Christ upon the lives of the unsaved. The Christian is urged to “go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). The burden of the lost was a strong motivating factor in the ministry of the apostle Paul (Rom. 10:1-3). Because of this urgency, he testified, “We persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11).
The Purpose For the Great Commission
The purpose for “The Great Commission” is world-wide evangelization. “What He [Jesus] did choose to do, as the word ‘therefore’ (v. 19) indicates, was to send forth His apostles not, as He had done earlier in His ministry, on a restricted mission ‘to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 10:5), but to ‘all nations.’
From these various nations His universal Church was to be formed -a company of learners to be brought by [spiritual] baptism into union with the Father the Creator, the Son the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier, and enabled in the strength of this divine fellowship to live obediently to the precepts that Jesus had taught His original disciples, that they might transmit them to others.” (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, p. 274)
“The Great Commission brings the gospel to its grand finale. Christianity is not represented [in the Great Commission] … as the mere reverential devotion of disappointed men who honor their martyred leader. Here is a far different scene [in Matthew 281. The triumphant living Lord sends forth His ambassadors to proclaim His gospel throughout all the world. The commission is not just an order but a pronouncement of victory by the risen Savior through His disciples. All power or authority was now in the hands of Christ, in heaven and on the earth.
On the basis of that authority and power the Christian disciple [all] is to carry out the Great Commission of the church … The ‘all nations’ makes it clear that the Commission to the church is a worldwide one, encompassing the entire missionary effort. The church is not to be merely ‘missionary-minded.’ The church is the vehicle of Christ’s mission to the world and the two (church and mission) are inseparable. Every local church has a mission to its world. To attempt to eliminate this commission from the church age (as do the hyperdispensationalists) would be to leave the church without an assigned purpose from her Lord.” (Liberty Bible Commentary, Volume II, p. 97)
The Great Commission is Unending
The Great Commission is a perpetual commission of the Church of Christ, and the great seal of the kingdom attached to it, giving the power to execute it, and guarantee of its success, is the King’s assurance of His continual presence with His faithful followers: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” May all of us realize His presence with us until He calls us to be with Him “forever with the Lord!” Amen. (The Gospel of the Kingdom, C. H. Spurgeon, 1979 reprint, p. 258)
In its fullest sense, however, this Commission has never been fulfilled as yet. It will be completed after the Church age has ended, and a Jewish remnant will carry out the Lord’s instructions for preparatory to setting up the kingdom. But this does not relieve us of our responsibility to carry it out as far as possible in the present age. Mark, in his Gospel, stresses the importance of faith on the part of those who carry the message, which was to be authenticated by “signs following.” Luke in his Gospel and in the Book of Acts, links the subjective with the objective – repentance on the part of the sinner, forgiveness on the part of God.
John, in his Gospel, dwells on the authority of the risen Christ who commissions His servants (all) to proclaim remission of sins to all who believe and retention of sins to those who spurn the message. All the gospel writers alike, declare the urgency and the importance of carrying the witness-testimony, the proclamation of the gospel, unto all the nations of the world in the shortest possible time.
Alas, how sadly has this church failed in this respect! It is an appalling thought that after nineteen centuries of gospel preaching there are still millions of men and women sitting in darkness and the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2) who have never heard the name of Jesus, and know nothing of the redemption which he has purchased by His atoning death upon the cross.
It is a pity that there are some who deny that we of the Church age are to act at all on this great commission as given in Matthew 28, insisting that it was intended for a Jewish testimony in the coming era of the great tribulation. This is fanciful in the extreme. Far more important than any quibbling as to the exact character of this commission is the truth of our responsibility to carry the story of redeeming love to all men everywhere. It is given, not alone to those we may think of as official ministers, or specially designated missionaries, but to every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, to endeavor, to make Him known to others and so to win as many precious souls as possible while the day of grace is continued.
This is the first order of business of every member of the Church of the living God. All are called to be witnesses, according to their measure. It is ours to “go” (v. 19), to “pray” (Matthew 9:36), and to help send forth (Acts 13:3)… The Lord’s instructions never yet have been fully obeyed, and we know that not all the nations will accept the message of this age of grace- but we are commanded to go forth in the name of the Triune God, proclaiming the authority of the risen King and bidding all men to yield to Him in glad surrender, and so enter into peace and blessing while waiting for His return from heaven. (Expository Notes on the Gospel of Matthew, by H. A. Ironside, pp. 402-405)
There are many examples of individuals who, although were not apostles, did carry forth the work of the Great Commission with great zeal in their endeavors. During Christ’s ministry, He not only sent out His twelve apostles but also the seventy went out two-by-two into the highways and hedges proclaiming the gospel unto the house of Israel (Luke 10:1, 17). In the Book of Acts we find individuals such as Philip the evangelist, Barnabas, Silas, Apollos, John Mark, Timothy, along with many others who proclaimed the gospel unto the Gentiles.
The apostle Paul, known as the apostle unto the Gentiles, shared his responsibility of proclaiming the gospel with all believers as he mentioned “And all things are of God, who have reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:18-20).
Just as Christ commissioned His apostles, and the seventy, and the apostle Paul, and therefore Paul commissioned all believers to involve themselves in the carrying forth of The Great Commission to evangelize the entire world. We, too, must accept the commission as from Christ. From it we learn that our first business is to make disciples of all nations … to teach the baptized believers to observe “all things whatsoever” our divine King has commanded.
Indeed preachers are ordained of God in their office as preachers “proclaimers” to carry forth public proclamation of the gospel of Christ by the use of radio, television, or any other means of broadcasting the good news to all people in all the world.