Reasoning From the Scriptures

The Christian Evangelist

Before delving into our article on Conversational Evangelism, let us take a moment to listen to one of the world’s leading authorities on Spiritual disciplines for our Christian life by Donald S. Whitney, who covers our obligation to evangelize very well,

Most of those reading this book will not need convincing that evangelism is expected of every Christian. All Christians are not expected to use the same methods of evangelism, but all Christians are expected to evangelize.

Before we go further, let’s define our terms. What is evangelism? If we want to define it thoroughly, we could say that evangelism is to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to sinful people, in order that they may come to put their trust in God through Him, to receive Him as their Savior, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church.[1] If we want to define it simply, we could say that New Testament evangelism is communicating the gospel. Anyone who faithfully relates the essential elements of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ is evangelizing. This is true whether your words are spoken, written, or recorded, and whether they are delivered to one person or to a crowd.

Why is evangelism expected of us? The Lord Jesus Christ Himself has commanded us to witness. Consider His authority in the following:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28: 19-20).

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation’” (Mark 16: 15).

“And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24: 47).

“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’” (John 20: 21).

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1: 8).

These commands weren’t given to the apostles only. For example, the apostles never came to this nation. For the command of Jesus to be fulfilled and for America to hear about Christ, the gospel had to come here by other Christians. And the apostles will never come to your home, your neighborhood, or to the place where you work. For the Great Commission to be fulfilled there, for Christ to have a witness in that “remote part” of the earth, a Christian like you must discipline yourself to do it.

Some Christians believe that evangelism is a gift and the responsibility of only those with that gift. They appeal to Ephesians 4:11 for support: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” While it is true that God gifts some for ministry as evangelists, He calls all believers to be His witnesses and provides them with both the power to witness and a powerful message. Every evangelist is called to be a witness, but only a few witnesses are called to the vocational ministry of an evangelist. Just as each Christian, regardless of spiritual gift or ministry, is to love others, so each believer is to evangelize whether or not his or her gift is that of evangelist.

Think of our responsibility for personal evangelism from the perspective of 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” Many Christians who are familiar with this part of the verse don’t have a clue how the rest of it goes. It goes on to say that these privileges are yours, Christian, “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” We normally think of this verse as establishing the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. But it is equally appropriate to say that it also exhorts us to a kind of prophet hood of all believers. God expects each of us to “declare the praises” of Jesus Christ.[2]

While this author agrees with Whitney’s every word in the above, I would emphasize that we are to evangelize, so as to make disciples, which is more involved that simply sharing the Gospel. Paul summarizes the most basic elements of the gospel message, that is, the death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of the resurrected Christ. (1 Cor. 18:1-8) Therefore, the Gospel explained in detail or simply stated as Paul has put it, will not be enough to convert many unbelievers to the faith. Therefore, it is best to understand our responsibility as evangelist, in the sense of being able to proclaim or explain our Christian teachings both offensively and defensively: to (1) defend God’s Word, (2) defend the faith, (3) pull some who doubt back from the fire, and (4) most importantly, to help the lost find salvation.

THE CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST

All Christians are to be Evangelizers

We live in the world today where Genesis 6:5 and 8:21 is magnified a thousand fold.

Genesis 6:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Imperfect humans are mentally bent toward evil, meaning that they lean toward wickedness.

Genesis 8:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

21 And when Jehovah smelled the pleasing aroma, and Jehovah said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living thing as I have done.

Who teaches their children to lie? Who teaches their children to steal? Who teaches their children to be stingy? No normal parent would teach their child to do such things, but they will pick them up naturally if they are not taught to do otherwise. Imperfect humans still have the conscience that God gave Adam and Eve, and even in its imperfect state, it will help us to determine what is good and what is bad. However, if it is ignored, it will grow callused, meaning that it will have no feelings when it should be prompting us to avoid wrongdoing. On the other hand, if it is fed the Word of God, our conscience can enable us to avoid sin, to control our mental bent toward evil. This is just one facet of the good news that we are to share with all the nations, in all of the inhabited earth.

Matthew 24:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the inhabited earth[3] as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

With much of what people see today, one wonders what the Goods News could be. We have Iran, a terrorist nation that seeks to use nuclear weapons against Israel and the United States and is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East. We have Al Qaeda, radical Islam, who is seeking to establish Shariah Law in all the inhabited earth, which they are doing through torture and acts of terrorism. We have an even more extreme form of Islam, ISIS. They are slaughtering and raping little children by the thousands as the United States under President Obama does very little. We have North Korea, a communist nation, which has its people starving to death while the leaders live a life of luxury. We have Russia, who seeks to establish its former self, i.e., the Soviet Union. We have mass murders, serial killers, rapists, child molesters, and the list could go on infinitely.

Isaiah 52:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who proclaims  salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God has become king!”[4]

Nahum 1:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
who brings good news,
who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless[5] pass through you;
he is cut off completely.

Romans 10:14-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how will they hear without someone to preach? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!”[6]

CONVERSATION EVANGELISM

Christianity today, has sadly, fallen away from the evangelism that they had been assigned, the preaching and teaching of the good news, the making of disciples. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20) The first-century Christians were very zealous when it came to sharing the good news and biblical truths with others. In fact, the new believers were taught the basics of the faith, before they were baptized. Once they were baptized they were immediately involved in spreading these same biblical truths to others. This is why just ninety years after the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ; there were more than a million Christians spread all throughout the then known world of the Roman Empire. Christians today, should have this same zeal, because Jesus gave only one command that was to be carried out after his departure, the making of disciples.

The good news is that this current evil age that we live in is not all that we have to look forward to, as all have the opportunity of gaining eternal life. Yes, the path of salvation is open to all. Therefore, Christians today should be in the work of being used by God to help as many as possible to find the path of salvation, before Christ’s second coming. Some might argue that God already knows the ones who are his; therefore, they will find the truth themselves. Yes, he foreknows those that will accept the truth or find the truth because he can see ahead. What God has is a foreknowledge of people’s free will. However, his foreknowledge does not determine what humans will do, but rather what humans freely choose to do that determines God’s foreknowledge. It is better to understand it that God knows in advance what choice people will freely make. It is the free decisions of human beings that determine what foreknowledge God has of them, as opposed to the reverse. Foreknowledge is to know all that is going to happen based on the free willed decisions of humans. Foreordination is God interjecting himself, to bring about a desired outcome. God foreknows all that he foreordains but God does not foreordain all that he foreknows. To know something and to bring about something are entirely different. Therefore, what he sees in the future is his people taking the good news of the kingdom to the inhabited earth before the end can come, so the right-hearted ones can trust in Jesus and receive everlasting life.

John 3:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone trusting[7] in him will not be destroyed but have eternal life.

John 3:36 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

36 The one trusting[8] in the Son has eternal life, but the one who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Revelation 21:3-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and he will dwell[9] among them, and they shall be his people,[10] and God himself will be among them,[11] and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK

An evangelizer is a proclaimer of the gospel or good news, i.e., a messenger of good. The Greek euaggelistes (evangelizer) is closely related to the word euaggelion, “good news” or “gospel.”

All Christians are commissioned to be evangelizers. It should be understood the word is used in a special way at Ephesians 4:8, 11-12, where Paul describes “the gifts to men” that Christ gave to the congregation when he ascended on high. “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers … It is the observation of this author that this is applying to the narrow sense of evangelizers who serve as missionaries.

However, in a broader sense of the word, all Christians are to be evangelizers. The only way that we are going to accomplish the Great Commission and the statement made by Jesus is if all are working toward that goal, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:14) We have had missionaries since the days of Paul, and especially the last couple of centuries, and yet Christianity is not getting the work done. In fact, while the US and UK were the primary ones sending out the most missionaries, they are now receiving missionaries themselves from the very countries they had been sent missionaries to long ago.

Christians are under obligation to herald, or proclaim the Word of God and make disciples. The pastor and all Christians should view the sharing of God’s Word, to win people to the faith, as full-time, all the time because faith involves all of life. We need always to be ready and alert in our faith, so as to participate willingly in proclaiming God’s Word, whether it is convenient or not. If a police officer and a firefighter are on duty 24/7, to save lives, should we expect less of a Christian, who is saving souls? This is not to say that all Christians are to give up their lives, their ministries they were called to (e.g., preaching, teaching, etc.) and become a full-time evangelist. Rather, it simply means that all Christians are capable of evangelizing when the opportunity presents itself (i.e., informal), and give of themselves a few hours a month in an official church evangelism program (phone, street, houses-to-house, the internet, and the like). Otherwise, they are very much involved in church life, family life, and the ministry they were called to do.

What Is Specifically Meant by Obligated and Evangelism?

What do we mean by obligated and what we mean by evangelism are at the heart of the matter and are indeed related to each other?

YOUR GUIDE FOR DEFENDING THE BIBLE_Third Edition

EVANGELISM: Again, an evangelist is a proclaimer of the gospel or good news, as well as all biblical truths. There are levels of evangelism, which is pictured in first-century Christianity. All Christians evangelized in the first century, but a select few fit the role of a full-time evangelist (Ephesians 4:8, 11-12), like Philip and Timothy.

Both Philip and Timothy are specifically mentioned as evangelizers. (Ac 21:8; 2 Tim. 4:5) Philip was a full-time evangelist after Pentecost, who was sent to the city of Samaria, having great success. An angel even directed Philip to an Ethiopian Eunuch, to share the good news about Christ with him. Because of the Eunuch’s already having knowledge of God by way of the Old Testament, Philip was able to help him understand that the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to Christ as the long-awaited Messiah. In the end, Philip baptized the Eunuch. Thereafter, the Spirit again sent Philip on a mission, this time to Azotus and all the cities on the way to Caesarea. (Ac 8:5, 12, 14, 26-40) Paul evangelized in many lands, setting up one congregation after another. (2 Cor. 10:13-16) Timothy was an evangelizer or missionary, and Paul placed distinct importance on evangelizing when he gave his parting encouragement to Timothy. – 2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Timothy 1:3.

The office of apostle and evangelist seem to overlap in some areas, but could be distinguished in that apostles traveled and set up congregations, which took evangelizing skills, but also developed the congregations after they were established. The full-time evangelists were more of a missionary, being stationed in certain areas to grow and develop congregations. In addition, if we look at all of the apostles and the evangelists, plus Paul’s more than one hundred traveling companions, and it seems very unlikely that they could have had Christianity at over one million by the 125 C.E. This was accomplished because all Christians were obligated to carry out some level of evangelism.

OBLIGATED: In the broadest sense of the term for evangelizer, all Christians are obligated to play some role as an evangelist.

Basic Evangelism is planting seeds of truth and watering any seeds that have been planted. [In the basic sense of this word (euaggelistes), this would involve all Christians.] In some cases, it may be that one Christian planted the seeds, which were initially rejected, so he was left in a good way because the planter did not try to force the truth down his throat. However, some time later he faces something in life that moves him to reconsider those seeds and some other Christian waters what had already been planted. This evangelism can be carried out in all of the methods that are available: informal, house-to-house, street, phone, the internet, and the like. What amount of time is invested in the evangelism work is up to each Christian to decide for themselves.

Making Disciples is having any role in the process of getting an unbeliever from his unbelief state to the point of accepting Christ as his Savior and being baptized. Once the unbeliever has become a believer, he is still developed until he has become strong. Any Christian could potentially carry this one person through all of the developmental stages. On the other hand, it may be that several have some part. It is like a person that specializes in a certain aspect of a job but is aware of all the other aspects, in case he is called on to carry out that aspect. Again, each Christian must decide for themselves what role they are to have, and how much of a role, but should be prepared to fill any role needed.

Part-Time or Full-Time Evangelist is one who sees this as their calling and chooses to be very involved as an evangelist in their local church and community. They may work part-time to supplement their work as an evangelist. They may be married with children, but they realize their gift is in the field of evangelism. If it were the wife, the husband would work toward supporting her work as an evangelist and vice-versa. If it were a single person, he or she would supplement their work by being employed part-time, but also the church would help as well. This person is well trained in every aspect of bringing one to Christ.

Congregation Evangelists should be very involved in evangelizing their communities and helping the church members play their role at the basic levels of evangelism. There is nothing to say that one church could not have many within, who have the calling of an evangelist, which would and should be cultivated.

Jesus Set the Example

Christians today should be seeking to walk in the steps of their exemplar, Jesus Christ. Yes, we have been called, so that we might follow in Jesus’ steps.

1 Peter 2:21 English Standard Version (ESV)

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Luke 4:17-21 English Standard Version (ESV)

17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

A survey of the Gospels indicates that Jesus’ publishing program–via his traveling throughout Galilee and Judea and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom–was extensive and effective. Thousands and thousands of people heard the word from Jesus himself. In ancient times, the method of oral publication was far more effective than written publication. Books were expensive to make, and many people did not read. Most relied on oral proclamation and aural reception to receive messages. Indeed, most education was based upon oral delivery and aural reception/memorization to transmit texts. Thus, Jesus taught his disciples orally, and they committed his teachings to memory. When it came time, several years later, for the disciples to put these teachings into writing, they were aided by the Holy Spirit, who would remind the disciples of all that Jesus had taught them (John 14:26). Jesus’ disciples, commissioned by him, continued the same publishing work after Jesus’ death and resurrection. This publishing is known as the kerygma (Greek for “proclamation”). The word kerygma is taken straight from a well-known practice in ancient times. A king publicized his decrees throughout his empire by means of a kerux (a town crier or herald). This person, who often served as a close confidant of the king, would travel throughout the realm, announcing to the people whatever the king wished to make known. In English, we known him as a herald. Each New Testament disciple considered himself or herself to be like the kerux—a herald and publisher of the Good News.[12]

Yes, Jesus was an evangelizer, and he trained hundreds of evangelizers throughout his three and half years of ministry. “He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.” (Matthew 4:23) Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matt. 9:37-38) The apostles set up Christian congregations, with every Christian following the footsteps of Christ, to be an evangelizer.

There is nothing, wrong with helping our neighbor deal with the social ills of the world, or taking some time to support a political candidate that we hope will implement laws that will allow for the greater work of evangelizing. However, Christianity on some levels has become a social institution, working night and day to save the world of humankind that is alienated from God, which has diverted them from the lifesaving work of being an evangelist. While we are citizens of this world, and of the country that we live in, our true Kingdom is the Kingdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Below we will quote the Holman Illustrate Bible Dictionary at length, to understand and appreciate what the Kingdom of God is.

The Kingdom of God

In the NT, the fullest revelation of God’s divine rule is in the person of Jesus Christ. His birth was heralded as the birth of a king (Luke 1:32–33). The ministry of John the Baptist prepared for the coming of God’s kingdom (Matt. 3:2). The crucifixion was perceived as the death of a king (Mark 15:26–32).

Jesus preached that God’s kingdom was at hand (Matt. 11:12). His miracles, preaching, forgiving sins, and resurrection are an in-breaking of God’s sovereign rule in this dark, evil age.

God’s kingdom was manifested in the church. Jesus commissioned the making of disciples on the basis of His kingly authority (Matt. 28:18–20). Peter’s sermon at Pentecost underscored that a descendent of David would occupy David’s throne forever, a promise fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:30–32). Believers are transferred from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God (Col. 1:13).

God’s kingdom may be understood in terms of “reign” or “realm.” Reign conveys the fact that God exerts His divine authority over His subjects/kingdom. Realm suggests location, and God’s realm is universal. God’s reign extends over all things. He is universally sovereign over the nations, humankind, the angels, the dominion of darkness and its inhabitants, and even the cosmos, individual believers, and the church.

In the OT, the kingdom of God encompasses the past, present, and future. The kingdom of God had implications in the theocratic state. The kingdom of God is “already” present but “not yet” fully completed, both a present and future reality. The kingdom was inaugurated in the incarnation, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God’s kingdom blessings are in some measure possessed now. People presently find and enter God’s kingdom. God is now manifesting His authoritative rule in the lives of His people. God’s kingdom, however, awaits its complete realization. His people still endure sufferings and tribulations. When fully consummated, hardships will cease. Kingdom citizens currently dwell alongside inhabitants of the kingdom of darkness. God will eventually dispel all darkness. The final inheritance of the citizens of God’s kingdom is yet to be fully realized. The resurrection body for life in the eschatological kingdom is a blessing awaiting culmination.

God’s kingdom is soteriological in nature, expressed in the redemption of fallen persons. The reign of Christ instituted the destruction of all evil powers hostile to the will of God. Satan, the “god of this age,” along with his demonic horde, seeks to hold the hearts of people captive in darkness. Christ has defeated Satan and the powers of darkness and delivers believers. Although Satan still is active in this present darkness, his ultimate conquest and destruction are assured through Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. Sinners enter Christ’s kingdom through regeneration.

Many of Jesus’ parables emphasize the mysterious nature of God’s kingdom. For example, an insignificant mustard seed will grow a tree, as God’s kingdom will grow far beyond its inception (Matt. 13:31–32). The kingdom of God is like seed scattered on the ground. Some seed will fall on good soil, take root, and grow. Other seed, however, will fall on hard, rocky ground and will not grow. Likewise, the kingdom will take root in the hearts of some but will be rejected and unfruitful in others (Matt. 13:3–8). As wheat and tares grow side by side, indistinguishable from each other, so also the sons of the kingdom of God and the sons of the kingdom of darkness grow together in the world until ultimately separated by God (Matt. 13:24–30, 36–43).

Although closely related, the kingdom and the church are distinct. George Eldon Ladd identified four elements in the relationship of the kingdom of God to the church. The kingdom of God creates the church. God’s redemptive rule is manifested over and through the church. The church is a “custodian” of the kingdom. The church also witnesses to God’s divine rule.

The kingdom of God is the work of God, not produced by human ingenuity. God brought it into the world through Jesus Christ, and it presently works through the church. The church preaches the kingdom of God and anticipates the eventual consummation.[13]

The last sentence of our quote says in part, “the church preaches the kingdom of God.” This has not been the case for almost 2,000 years. Today, the church preaches from the pulpit to those that are already Christian, as well as those, who happen into the church.

Romans 10:13-17 English Standard Version (ESV)

13 For “everyone who calls on [through worship and prayer] the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

10:14b. Faith requires hearing. And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? More than anything else, this question is the crux of all missiological activity since the first century. God has ordained that people must hear (or read, or otherwise understand the content of) the word of God in order to be saved. One who knows the gospel must communicate it to one who does not know it.[14]

Yes, missionaries have been sent out throughout the last few centuries, but this is not the first-century way, it is the way of the last few centuries. However, over the last few decades, many trained in missions have come to realize the error of their ways. They have tried to grow the church by going outside of their community, to grow it back to their community. The other alternative was to grow from their community out to the rest of the world. The objective of sinking time, energy and finances into just a select few (missionaries), believing they were going to get the Great Commission accomplished. Of late, we hear much about having missionary churches that evangelize their own community, with their own members.

10:14c. Hearing requires preaching. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Since no other media except the human voice was of practical value in spreading the gospel in the first century, preaching is Paul’s method of choice. And yet, in the media-rich day in which we minister, has anything replaced preaching as the most effective way to communicate the gospel? We thank God for the printed page, and even for cutting-edge presentations of the gospel circling the globe on the internet. But it is still the human voice that cracks with passion, the human eye that wells with tears of gratitude, and the human frame that shuffles to the podium, bent from a lifetime of service to the gospel, which reaches the needy human heart most readily. Hearing may not require preaching in person today, but it always benefits from it.[15]

This author agrees with the Holman commentary that modern technology is great, but there is but one-way to reach “the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matt. 24:14). Yes, it is the human voice, but not as the Holman Commentary suggests with one man walking to a podium to preach, but for hundreds of millions to take to their communities, trained to preach (herald, proclaim) the message, and to teach what they had been taught “to one who does not know it.” Most will be a part-time evangelist, in that they have the skills to deal with opportunities that present themselves, but also spend a few hours a month being more officially involved with an evangelism church program. A smaller number, those called to be evangelists in the stricter sense of the word, should serve as full-time evangelists within their community.

First-Century Christians Evangelized

Evangelism is the work of a Christian evangelist (persuading people to become Christian), while preevangelism is laying a foundation for those who have no knowledge of the Gospel, giving them background information, so that they are able to grasp what they are hearing. The Christian evangelist is preparing their mind and heart so that they will be receptive to the biblical truths. In many ways, this is known as apologetics. Christian apologetics [Greek: apologia, “verbal defense, speech in defense”] is a field of Christian theology which endeavors to offer a reasonable and sensible basis for the Christian faith , defending the faith against objections. It is reasoning from the Scriptures, explaining and proving, as one instructs in sound doctrine, many times having to overturn false reasoning before he can plant the seeds of truth. However, some Christians feel that apologetics is not biblical. They say that our only obligation is to share the basic gospel (Jesus life and ministry, his ransom sacrificial death, his resurrection and ascension) and leave the rest up to the Holy Spirit.

While that may sound like the easy route to take, we must entertain Jesus’ words and take them to heart. He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21) The key here is that our obligation as slaves of Christ is to do the “will of the Father.” What happens to those who felt like they were doing the “will of the Father” but were not? Jesus said in verse 23, “I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” The apostle John touched on this all-important point as well. He said, “The one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17) Therefore, it might be beneficial to look at the example that Jesus and the apostles set.

Jesus did not just state what the good news of the kingdom and then sit back waiting for the Holy Spirit to do the rest. No, Jesus appealed to the Moses and prophets of old. By doing so, he was using apologetics, i.e., offering a reasonable and sensible basis for accepting him as the long-awaited Messiah. In essence, his offering such evidence would shut down any critics, and give reasons for hope to those with a receptive heart.

Luke 24:25-27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

25 And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning from Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus is doing apologetics in his sharing the good news. He is using the Hebrew Scriptures, as evidence of what he is saying is so. In other words, he is reasoning from the Scriptures.

John 14:10-11 Updated American Standard Version (RSV)

10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves.

Here, again, Jesus is carrying out apologetics, as opposed to just saying, ‘I came to give my life as a ransom for many.’ He is using the miracles as evidence that he is the long awaited Messiah. Jesus was using evidences to establish something as true. He offered a reasonable and sensible basis for accepting the he had come to offer his life as a ransom, defending against objects to the contrary. This is reasoning, explaining, and proving, as he instructs them in the good news of the kingdom, having to overturn their false reasoning that the coming king would be like the one that the Jewish leaders described.

What about the apostles, did they also use apologetics? William Lane Craig says that we need to look at “Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost recorded in the second chapter of Acts. In verse 22, he appeals to Jesus’ miracles. In verses 25–31 he appeals to fulfilled prophecy. In verse 32, he appeals to Christ’s resurrection. By means of these arguments the apostles sought to show their fellow Jews that Christianity is true.”[16] Then, we have the apostle Paul, who set an example like no other.

Acts 17:1-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

Clearly, when we consider the Gospels, all Jesus said therein comes to about a three to four-hour talk, and he quoted or referred to over 120 Scriptures. Of course, in a three and a half year ministry, Jesus said far more than that, but it gives us insight into how much the Son of God himself depended on Scripture. The apostle Paul is one of the greatest Christian teachers of all time. At a synagogue of the Jews in Thessalonica, “according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’” – Acts 17:1-3.

What was the result of Paul’s “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving”? The account says, “Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.” – Acts 17:4.

While we can proclaim and teach anything that is within the Scriptures, what should be our primary message? Since we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we might consider his commission. On one occasion, Jesus “departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and they tried to keep him from going away from them. But he said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” – Luke 4:43.

In fact, in reference to the last days, Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the inhabited earth[17] as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:14.

Returning to the apostle Paul, we see this was an emphasis in his proclaiming and teaching. Here again, Paul “entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. When Paul was in Rome, “they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers; and he expounded to them, testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning till evening.” For two whole years in Rome, Paul was “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” – Acts 19:8; 28:23, 31.

[Jesus] reminded them in John 20:20 of his crucifixion: “He showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” Then he reminded them again about his peace in verse 21. Jesus said, “Peace be with you!” Jesus proclaimed peace, reminded them of his crucifixion, pronounced peace again, and then told them, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20: 21). With that one command, Jesus announced two thousand years of direction for the church, still in effect for the churches of today, even your church. He proclaimed that we are sent. The church is, and you are individually, God’s missionary to the world. Your church is God’s instrument to reach the world, and it includes reaching your community. We are sent on mission by God. We are to be a missions-centered church by calling, nature, and choice. We are called to be on mission in our community. We have been sent to be on mission in our context, and we must accept that call, that directive to be on mission where God has placed us, not five, not fifty, not five hundred years ago and not thirty miles away, not three hundred miles away, not three thousand miles away. We are exhorted to be on mission where God has placed us now, and our job is to [evangelize] wherever we are.[18]

Yes, the Great Commission was an assignment given to all Christians, which starts right in our own backyard. We can effectively evangelize the world if we do it one community at a time, starting with our community.

Matthew 28:19-20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … teaching them … I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

In the Greek, the words for “all nations” are panta ta ethnē. We get our English word ethnic from the Greek word ethnē. When we hear (or read) Jesus’ command to “go to all nations,” we think countries. But when Jesus spoke those words, there were no countries as we understand them today. The nation-state is an invention of the modern era. In Jesus’ day there were groups of people, and there were empires. Jesus’ instructions mean that we must go to all the people groups in the world. The Jewish disciples of that day knew that Jesus was speaking about the Gentiles. The gospel was to go beyond the Jewish nation. But they also thought of Phoenicians, Macedonians, Greeks, Romans, and others Jesus did not use the word for empires like the Roman Empire, the Persian, or the Greek. Jesus used the word for peoples, and the Jews knew this meant all the different kinds of Gentiles. It meant to go to all the different kinds of people that existed. This is still God’s plan today. In today’s world, we have to remember that we are still sent … to all different kinds of peoples. The word peoples represents every ethno-linguistic people group around the world, all the different ethnicities present in our cities, and even the different generations that live in our communities.[19]

Who all were involved in the evangelism work of the first-century? The evidence is all too clear that Jesus set the example for the apostles. Jesus had said that they would do a work greater than his, meaning that his ministry would only last three and a half years, while theirs would run for decades. In the end, all Christians were evangelizing their communities, with a select few, taking the message everywhere. By the beginning of the first century, there were over one million Christians. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the speaking in tongues, that is, a foreign language, accomplished this miraculous growth.

 Acts 1:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 All these with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Acts 2:1, 4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 When the day of Pentecost was being fulfilled, they were all together in one place. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues,[20] as the Spirit was giving them utterance.[21]

Acts 2:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

17 “‘And it shall be in the last days, God says,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,*
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams; (See Joel 2:28-29)

* The Greek behind the word “prophecy” here does not carry the meaning of “prediction,” or “foretelling,” (Gr., propheteuo), but literally means “a speaker out [Gr., pro, “before” or “in front of,” and phemi, “say”]” and thus describes a proclaimer, one who proclaims messages of God. That is, namely “to proclaim an inspired revelation, prophesyActs 2:17f; John 3:1; 19:6; 21:9; 1 Cor, 11:4f …; 13:9; 14:1, 3–5, 24, 31, 39; Rev. 11:3[22]

Therefore, prediction, or foretelling, is not the primary meaning conveyed by the root verbs in the original languages (Heb., nava; Gr., propheteuo). All, who proclaim the Word of God to another are prophesying, i.e., proclaiming the inspired, inerrant Word.

Thus, in the first century, both Christian men and women prophesied the good news of the kingdom, as well as other revealed biblical truths. Moreover, going into the second century, many would have the twenty New Testament books to share as well.

Matthew 24:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the inhabited earth[23] as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

In reading dozens of books on missions and evangelism, I have seen focus on the proclaiming, but the bigger question has not received much attention. An important question that many are not asking is, “What gospel is going to be proclaimed in all the inhabited earth. There are 41,000 different Christian denominations, all of which hold different doctrinal views, some of which even contradictions others, and yes, even salvation doctrines, so, which is to be proclaimed?

Acts 1:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in both Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the extremity of the earth.”

The prophecy of Jesus that the Good News would be “proclaimed throughout the [then known] whole world to all the nations [peoples], and then the end will come,” was applicable to them, and was carried out. The “nations” (Gr., ethnē), means the same as it does at Matthew 28:19, where we are commanded to “make disciples of all nations.” The first-century Christians made disciples of all nations (the peoples), in all of the then known world,[24] before the end came for the natural nation of Israel, as the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E.,[25] killing over a million Jews, and taking hundreds of thousands captive. The apostle Paul wrote the Christians in Colossae about ten years earlier, 60 C.E, commenting on the spread of Christianity

Colossians 1:23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

First-Century Christian Worship and the Truth

The early Christians met in congregations, which for many of them, were private homes, to take in the truth. (Rom. 16:3-5) The book of Hebrews tells us some of what took place at these meetings. They were there, in part, to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24-25) Tertullian of the late second, early third century (c.155–after 220 C.E.), wrote, “We meet to read the books of God … In any case, with those holy words we feed our faith, we lift up our hope, we confirm our confidence.”[26] In order to become a Christian, certain requirements had to be met, as we can see from the Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity,

As before, people who converted to Christianity were baptized. First, however, the new believer would be properly instructed in the beliefs and practices of Christianity. These ‘beginner’ Christians were the ‘catechumens’ (from the Greek meaning ‘oral handing down’, that is, teaching by word of mouth) and the way in which they were instructed developed as time went on. In the First apology, published in the middle of the second century, the Christian writer Justin Martyr (c. 100-165) gives us a valuable insight into how people were admitted into the church in Rome:[27]

As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water.[28]

Thus, there were clear requirements before someone could be baptized, such as education of basic doctrinal beliefs, praying, fasting, and a commitment to live a moral life and an understanding of Christian beliefs. These new believers were discovered by taking the message into the community. Then, they were taught to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. They were then organized into Christian congregations. These same disciples (learners) were trained to make more disciples in the same way, preaching the Good News, and sharing the basic doctrinal beliefs.

Note the introduction in Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians,

2 Corinthians 1:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints [holy ones] who are throughout Achaia:

Clearly, Paul is speaking to all Christians in Corinth and Achaia, not just those taking the lead within the Christian Congregation. All Christians are being addressed, which pertains to the evangelism of biblical truths, as Paul went on to write, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart … Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God … giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses.”– 2 Corinthians 4:1; 5:18-20; 6:3-4.

A ministry (diakonia) is a service to others on God’s behalf. God had called Paul to be an instrument of reconciliation; his life was devoted to making peace between God and humanity through the preaching of the gospel … Paul’s role in the divine plan of reconciliation led him to a remarkable claim. He and his company were Christ’s ambassadors. “Ambassadors” was a technical political term used in Paul’s day that closely parallels our English word “ambassadors.” An ambassador represented a nation or kingdom in communication with other nations. Paul had in mind his apostolic call to represent the kingdom of Christ to the nations of the earth. Ambassadors held positions of great honor in the ancient world because they represented the authority of the kings on whose behalf they spoke.

This was also true for Paul as the ambassador of Christ. When he spoke the message of reconciliation, it was as though God were making his appeal through him. Rather than speaking directly to the nations of earth, God ordained that human spokespersons would speak for him. As an apostle, Paul had authority to lead and guide the church (2 Cor. 13:3, 10). Yet, this description applies to all who bear the gospel of Christ to others—even to those who do not bear apostolic authority (1 Pet. 4:11). Though we may not present the gospel as perfectly as Paul did, we do speak on God’s behalf when we bring the message of grace to others. But Paul and his company were to be received as mouthpieces of God in the most authoritative sense. (Pratt Jr 2000, pp. 359-60)

There is a reason why Christians are given the role of speaking on God’s behalf. What reason would that be? The world of mankind is “being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” Eph. 4:18) Our ministry of reconciliation is to be a spokesperson on God’s behalf offering a message of grace to those who have receptive hearts. We are giving them an opportunity to “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We speak in behalf of God, so that they may also ‘be declared righteous, obtaining access through Him by faith into this grace in which they stand, and they rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:1-2) Note the introduction in Paul’s counsel to the Christians in Rome,

Romans 1:7-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

to all those who are in Rome as beloved ones of God, called to be holy ones: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ concerning all of you, because your faith is being proclaimed in the whole world.

Clearly, Paul is speaking to all Christians in Rome, not just those taking the lead within the Christian Congregation. All Christians are being addressed, which pertains to the evangelism of biblical truths, as Paul went on to write,

Romans 10:8-10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith which we are proclaiming, that[29] if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness,[30] and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.[31]

The privilege of preaching the word of faith is open to all. In fact, he reinforced his argument by adding,

Romans 10:14-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how will they hear without someone to preach? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!”

The word of faith is not a word in the literal sense, but is a “message”—essentially a condensed summary of the gospel. It is the message that a person must receive in order to become a Christian.” (Boa and Kruidenier 2000, p. 311) All Christians should find joy in the privilege of preaching the word of faith, resulting in salvation for some. While Paul is speaking of himself here, we should want to have that same mental disposition for whatever role we may play in speaking on God’s behalf. Paul wrote, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:16, NASB) May we all have an active Christian ministry as spokesperson on God’s behalf?

Exercise

At times, people will ask us questions and we may not have an impromptu answer. Someone just asked you, were Adam and Eve not purely allegorical (fictional) persons? How would you respond? If you have no ready answer, research whether Adam and Eve were actual historical people, and then share the answer with at least one friend.

[1] See J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979), pages 37-57.

[2] Whitney, Donald S. (2012-01-05). Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life with Bonus Content (Pilgrimage Growth Guide) (p. 100-101). Navpress.

[3] Or in the whole world

[4] Or “Your God Reigns!”

[5] Or wicked

[6] Romans 10:15 : Cited from Isa. 52:7; [Nah. 1:15; Eph. 6:15]

[7] The grammatical construction of pisteuo “believe” followed by eis “into” plus the accusative causing a different shade of meaning, having faith into Jesus.

[8] The grammatical construction of pisteuo “believe” followed by eis “into” plus the accusative causing a different shade of meaning, having faith into Jesus.

[9] Lit he will tabernacle

[10] Some mss peoples

[11] One early ms and be their God

[12] Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 2.

[13] Stan Norman with Gentry Peter, “Kingdom of God,” ed. Chad Brand, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 988–989.

[14] Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Romans, vol. 6, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 314.

[15] Ibid., 314.

[16] Craig, William Lane (2010-03-01). On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Kindle Locations 175-177). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.

[17] Or in the whole world

[18] Putman, David; Ed Stetzer (2006-05-01). Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community (pp. 30-31). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[19] Putman, David; Ed Stetzer (2006-05-01). Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community (p. 34). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition

[20] Or languages

[21] Or enable them to speak

[22] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 890.

[23] Or in the whole world

[24] Christianity had spread from Jerusalem to Rome, Macedonia, Greece, Asia, Bithynia, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Pamphylia, Syria, Cyprus, Crete, Babylon, Persian Gulf, Spain, Italy, Malta, Illyricum, Media, Parthia, Elam Arabia, Cyrene, Libya, Egypt, and Ethiopia.

[25] Dates of events before the Common Era (Also known as AD) are marked by the abbreviation B.C.E. Dates of events during the Common Era are marked by the abbreviation C.E.

[26] Thomas C. Oden, Ministry Through Word and Sacrament, Classic Pastoral Care, 59 (New York: Crossroad, 1989).

[27] Jonathan Hill, Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity, 46 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).

[28] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin”, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I: The Apostolic Fathers With Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and A. Cleveland Coxe, 183 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885).

[29] Or because

[30] Lit into righteousness

[31] Lit into salvation