Basic Christian Doctrines 39
1. Christ Commanded Us to Preach the Gospel.
Right before He returned to Heaven, Jesus told the Apostles to preach the Gospel throughout the world. We call this the Great Commission. We find it in Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:47, and Acts 1:8. Jesus preached the Gospel while He was here. He is still with us spiritually, and through us continues to spread the Gospel. The first Christians started in Jerusalem, and throughout history Christians have preached the Gospel to almost every part of the world. But the work is not yet over. The Great Commission is still a great work.
2. All Christians Should Spread the Gospel.
Obviously Jesus knew that the first 12 Apostles could never cover the whole world, let alone live until the Second Coming to tell the Gospel to people everywhere in all later generations. The work has been passed on down to each generation and to each Christian. It is not just for preachers and evangelists - it is for all Christians. Some early Christians were slow to do this, but God providentially stirred them up and sent them out everywhere (Acts 8:4). What an immense impact we would have on the world if every Christian today would do his share in spreading the Gospel. Most people who come to Christ do so through the personal evangelism of a friend or relative.
3. Some Christians Have the Gift of Evangelism.
While all Christians are to evangelize, some have the gift to be able to do it better and more often than others. Evangelists are mentioned in Eph. 4:11 and 2 Tim. 4:5. Philip was an evangelist (Acts 21:8). There have been many great evangelists over the centuries, such as George Whitefield and John Wesley. But most with this gift aren't pastors; they are everyday Christians who have the burning desire to tell people the Gospel frequently and successfully. But though some do it better than others, all of us are to do our part in telling the Gospel.
4. Evangelism is Preaching the Gospel.
Evangelism simply means telling people the Gospel. "Evangel" is the word for Gospel. We evangelize when we tell someone the Gospel. It is not sharing opinions, telling stories, sharing our testimony, singing songs, etc. We may tell the Gospel through various means, such as these, but the main thing is the message, not the method. We may say it or write it. We may tell it to a friend over coffee, or in a Christmas letter, or by knocking on doors. We may tell it to close relatives, friends, aquaintances or total strangers. Most people still have not heard the Gospel. They may know some things about the Gospel, but not the basic facts. The Gospel is the basic account of the person and work of Jesus Christ for our salvation (I Cor. 15:3-4).
5. We Need to Answer Questions and Objections.
We are to proclaim the Gospel, but we are also to make sure that people understand us. Therefore, we are to explain, not just proclaim. It may mean answering people's questions. Some people haven't the slightest notion of how to get to Heaven. Others will try to argue with us. We need to give basic answers to everyone. Evangelism will then employ Biblical apologetics to explain and defend the Gospel. But we ought not to get side-tracked by secondary issues or become entangled in minor arguments. The main thing is to communicate the clear Gospel to folks.
6. The Bible is Our Guide to Evangelism .
God saves the elect by means of the Gospel. It is a seed which is to be sown everywhere. God specifically uses His Word to save sinners. And the Gospel is that part of the Word which He uses to regenerate dead sinners (1 Pet. 1:25). Our opinions or ideas do not mean anything. The Word is what counts. In fact, it is the simplicity of the Word that does it best, unencumbered by Madison Avenue techniques or other things. One good way to evangelize is to get someone to start reading the Bible. Also, we do Biblical evangelism when we imitate those in the Bible as they told the Gospel to people who are similar to those we speak with.
7. We Ought to Refrain from Gimmicks.
Just as we ought not to add to the Gospel, so we ought not to do anything which would detract from the Gospel or imply anything contrary to it. Most of modern evangelism is counter-productive. There is no Biblical basis for things like altar calls, asking people to repeat "the sinner's prayer" after us, and other such gimmicks. One evangelist asked, "Why not? What harm could it do?" Such things do much harm, by giving people false assurance that they are saved. Easy believism is a dangerous factory of false Christians. It leads millions to Hell, and thus is one of the greatest enemies of true Biblical evangelism.
8. We Ought to Have the Right Attitudes.
As we spread the Gospel, we need to have attitudes that reflect the message we tell. We ought to have hearts of love for the lost. We should be serious. We ought to tremble at the awesome alternative for those who reject the Gospel. We need perseverance as we spread the Gospel. Most people will not believe us. But don't lose heart. Some people will believe the Gospel, and will thank God forever that we were loving and brave enough to take the time to tell it to them. Above all, the main reason we spread the Gospel is obedience to God. We tell the Gospel so that God may be glorified.
9. Prayer is Important to Evangelism.
In evangelism, we speak to sinners on behalf of God. In prayer, we speak to God on behalf of sinners. We ought to pray for the lost to be saved. First, pray for those to whom you have spoken. Then pray for those to whom you might be able to speak. And then those others have spoken to. And then those to whom nobody has ever told the Gospel. Pray also for fellow Christians who are spreading the Gospel, and that God would send out yet more laborers into His field. Pray that God stop the Devil's opposition to our efforts. Plant the seeds, then water them with prayer.
10. We Ought to Support Missionaries.
We ought to work in the corner of the vineyard in which God has placed us, but also support those in other corners. They go where we cannot go. One way to support them is by prayer. Another is financial gifts. Missionary work should be primarily evangelism, then church-planting. It may also include Bible-translation and then discipleship teaching, and then other things such as medical missions. Christians should be compassionate in supporting missionaries. And sacrificial. And wise. Missionaries are noble frontline soldiers who have sacrificed comfort back home to do what is often a thankless, hard and often dangerous job. We need to encourage them and pray for them. And maybe join them.