Setting any possible emotionalism[1] aside, we must ask ourselves if God is truly real to us. Can we say that God is our friend? James tells us, “‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’[2] and he was called a friend of God.” We all have heard the say, “actions speak louder than words.” Abraham’s actions evidenced that he had deep, heartfelt faith, and truly loved God. He showed in his life that he was not just a friend of God in more than words but also in deed. The more we draw closer to God in both word and deed, the more he will draw closer to us.

What are some things that we can do to draw closer to God? The primary ways that we can draw closer to God are through communication with him. In prayer, we communicate with the Father. King David, in prayer, said, “Before him I pour out my complaint; before him I tell about my trouble.” (Ps 142:2) How does God communicate with us? The only people in Bible times to receive direct communication from God (namely, spoken audible direction, visions, dreams, and angelic messengers delivered divine messages), were Patriarchs like Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua. There were also the Judges like Gideon, Ehud, and Samson. There were the Kings like David, Solomon, Jehu, and Hezekiah. Then there were the Prophets like Elijah and Elisha, or Isiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Then, there were the Minor Prophets like Jonah, Micah, and Joel. Then there were Priests like Aaron and Ezra. Then, after the Babylonian exile, there were Governors like Zerubbabel. After that, we enter the New Testament era with John the Baptist. Then, there were the Twelve Apostles like John, Peter, James, and Matthew. Then, there were the Traveling Apostles or Evangelists like Paul and Philip. There were also more than one hundred Traveling Companions of the apostle Paul such as Timothy, Titus, Barnabas, and Tychicus.

Persons such as these might receive a message from God through a dream or night vision, where pictures of God’s message or purpose are placed on the mind of the sleeping person. The Bible says, “Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.” (Dan. 2:19) We are also told, “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head [that is, in his mind] as he lay in his bed.” (Dan 7:1) There were also visions given when a person was awake, which was actually the more common way of communication. We are told, “In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel,[3] after the one that appeared to me at the beginning.” (Dan. 8:1) Of Ezekiel, it is said, “In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” (Eze 1:1) The apostle John tells us, “And this is how I saw the horses in the vision and those seated on them …” (Rev. 9:17) Then, we have the apostle Peter who fell into a trance and he saw the heavens open, giving him a pictorial vision of his next assignment. (Ac 10:9-17) There are times when angels served as direct representatives of God and visited persons such as Abraham, Moses, Daniel, the father of John the Baptist, Zechariah, and even Mary. The prophet Zechariah was having a vision of some horsemen and being visited by and angel. Then he said to the angel, ‘What are these, my lord?’ And the angel who was talking to me said, “I will show you what these are.” (Gen. 22:11-12, 15-18; Zech. 1:7, 9) The Bible authors “were inspired by God,” ‘speaking from God as they were moved along by the Holy Spirit.’–2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21.

The Bible is a perfect guidebook that was penned to get God’s people up unto the time of Armageddon. The only other future books to be written are to come during the millennial reign of Christ. Once the Scriptures were closed in the first century with the death of the last apostle, John, there was no need for any more books to be written or any more prophets. They then and we now have the complete revelation of God to get us to the second coming of Christ. The only person(s) we have needed since the closure of Scriptures in 100 A.D. has been interpreters. There are two kinds of interpreters. One is a translator of the Scriptures, like Jerome and his Latin Vulgate, John Wycliffe with the first English Bible (written by hand), William Tyndale with the first English Bible in print, Martin Luther, and the German Bible, to mention just a few. From our modern day era, we have translators on translation committees, who have given us the American Standard Version (ASV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the English Standard Version (ESV), as well as the forthcoming Updated American Standard Version (UASV).[4] These ones take the written language of our Old Testament Hebrew-Aramaic manuscripts and our Greek New Testament manuscripts and render them into our modern-day languages. We shall call these specialists Bible Translator Interpreters. Who are the other interpreters?

All Christians are the other interpreters, ones who convey the meaning of our modern-day translations, namely, what the Bible authors meant by the words that they used. We explain the Bible by giving others the meaning, significance, and understanding of the Word of God. We shall call ourselves, who also are a specialist, Christian Evangelist Interpreters. What is an evangelist exactly? Who all are expected to serve in this role? Evangelism is the work of a Christian evangelist, of which all true Christians are obligated to partake to some extent, which seeks to persuade other people to become Christian, especially by sharing the basics of the Gospel, but also the deeper message of biblical truths. Why are Christians specialists like the Bible Translator Interpreters? It is because of the groundwork that needs to be laid. 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 Interpreter is preparing their mind and heart so that they will be receptive to the biblical truths. In many ways, this is known as apologetics.

The apostle Peter himself said of the apostle Paul’s writings, “some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Pet. 3:16) The Christian Evangelist Interpreter needs to read, study, and understand the verses of scripture, in order to obey the command by Jesus to teach and make disciples. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1:8) In order to teach another, we must clearly understand the Word of God ourselves first. Otherwise, how do we, 2,000-years removed from Peter, who felt the Scriptures were hard to understand, make it understandable to others? When we fully, completely, and accurately understand the Word of God; then, we can give reasons as to why it says what it say, and what the author meant by what he wrote. Moreover, we are also able to express it in our own words. There are two reasons why need to be absolutely certain that what we are conveying is accurate. First, it reflects poorly on us, our church and our denomination, and more importantly on God. Second, Peter said it himself, “the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Whether we distort the Word of God intentionally (false teachers), or unintentionally because we were too busy in Satan’s world to buy out the time to understand better, it all ends the same way, our destruction.

We need to understand the cultural differences in the Scriptures, the Bible backgrounds, as we are 2,000-years removed from the New Testament era and 2,500-3,500-years removed from the Old Testament era. We need to appreciate original language words that are in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. This does not mean that we need necessarily to learn biblical Hebrew and Greek. Some tools can aid us in this. We need to take what the author meant out of the text, not read our twenty-first-century mindset into the text. We need to understand the context. Context is the words, phrases, or passages that come before and after a particular word or passage in a speech or piece of writing and help to explain its full meaning. Context is also the circumstances or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place. We need to be observant as we study, taking not of persons, place, things and circumstances. Discover who wrote it, what the purpose was, what is being conveyed when it was written, and why it was written. Are we reading historical texts like Kings and Chronicles, or poetical like the Psalms, apocalyptic such as Daniel or Revelations, prophetic like Isaiah or Jeremiah, the laws like Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, or letters like Ephesians, Galatians, Hebrews, or the Gospels. What do we know about the people involved? Can we say that we know anything about Alexander, Demas, Hermogenes, Asyncritus, Hermas, Julia, Philologus, and Phygelus? What are some of the keywords that we can investigate further? What is the main theme of the Bible book we are studying? Interpret literally, unless the author did not mean for it to be taken literally. We need to understanding how to apply what the author meant to our lives.

What if we have not been properly trained in how to properly study God’s Word? There are plenty of books on that subject. It can be very disheartening to struggle through Bible reading and study when we do not know how to properly study, to interpret the Scriptures correctly. In addition, it is difficult to form a long for personal Bible study if we have had no training. Also, Dr. George Guthrie says, “Ultimately when we don’t spend time in the Word consistently, it goes back to a matter of the heart. It really goes back to an issue of our spiritual life and condition. That is absolutely foundational. In fact, if we get that issue addressed in some ways, it will help us greatly with motivation and with the issue of discipline. When we’re not walking with the Lord the way that we need to or when we’re struggling, then it makes it much more difficult to do other things and  to hear God’s word, to study God’s Word the way that we need to, because we’re not really where we need to be spiritually.”[5] We have taken a long way around to answer, how does God talk to us today? Should we expect dreams, visions, a voice from heaven, or a visit from an angel? What about a prophet, should we expect that God would raise up another prophet? No, those days ended over 2,000-years ago. God speaks to us when we regularly read his word, the Bible, and meditate on it.

Christian Evangelist Interpreters

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. It can also be earnestly contending for the faith and saving one from losing their faith, as they have begun to doubt. Moreover, it can involve rebuking those who contradict the truth. It is being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks the Christian evangelist for a reason for the hope that is in him or her. – Jude 1.3, 21-23; 1 Pet 3.15; Acts 17:2-3; Titus 1:9.

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.

EVANGELISM: 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), as was true of 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 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, it seems very unlikely that they could have had Christianity at over one million by the 125 A.D. 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 seed, 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, later he faces something in life that moves him to reconsider those seeds, and another Christian waters what had already been planted by the first Christian. This evangelism can be carried out in all of the methods that are available: informal, house-to-house, street, phone, 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 all are aware of the other aspects, in case they are called on to carry out that phase. 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 if 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 take on part-time or full-time evangelism within the congregation, which would and should be cultivated.

Letting God Speak to Us When We Study the Bible

All Christians would agree that the Bible is God’s message or revelation for everyone, although some are not receptive to it. The question is, can the Bible help us draw closer to God? Indeed, it can! If we will slow down in our reading and studying and ponder, what we are going over, feeling what has been said, and it will draw us closer to God. In addition, we need to think about how we can apply what we are learning in our lives. It is by this type of study that God speaks to us. He becomes a close friend, who is whispering biblical truths, lifesaving information, moral values, principles to live by, the path to eternal life and so much more into our ear. He becomes a closer friend by his Word helping us through these turbulent times, and we draw closer to him.–Hebrews 4:12; James 1:23-25.

For example, how do you feel when you read Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:19-21? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If we are doing our utmost to put God first in our lives, we will feel comforted to know that he is pleased with us. However, if we reach the above verse and feel a pang of guilt because we know deep down we need to simply our lives to better serve God. Either way, God is helping us to see how we can draw closer to him.

When we regularly, consistently study the Bible, we are learning what changes we need to make in our lives to serve God better. However, we are also learning about his loving personality, his patience, his justice, and the loving things he has done, which make us love him even more. As our love for him grows, his love for us grows as well, developing an unbreakable bond.–1 Corinthians 8:3.

If it is our desire to draw closer to God; then, we need to study the Bible for the right reasons. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) There are literally millions of details on the Bible that should be of interest to us. Certainly, we want to learn how to defend the Bible as the inspired, fully inerrant, authoritative Word of God. (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21) Unquestionably, we want to be able to share the good news and other biblical truths with unbelievers, teaching them, so as to make disciples. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1:8) Surely, we want to use the Scriptures to offer comfort to those in pain, to help the downtrodden. (2 Cor. 1:3-4) Nevertheless, in all of this, we want to keep our eye on the main purpose for studying the Scriptures, to come to know God better as a person.–Exodus 33:13; Psalm 25:4.

When we move beyond the basics of biblical studies, gaining a deeper more intimated understanding of God, we will start to encounter Bible difficulties. As a close intimate friend of God, we should not be unnerved by information that is not available to us at times. This is how we would react if it were a human best friend. If we come across something that does not explain why God acted the way he did, it should not worry us. For example, there is an instance while Azariah was King of Judah that the Israelites fell away into the worship of false gods. Azariah himself refused to join this false worship.

2 Kings 15:1-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam[1] king of Israel, Azariah[2] the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Jecoliah[3] of Jerusalem. He did right in the eyes of Jehovah, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. Jehovah afflicted the king, and he remained a leper until the day of his death; and he stayed in a separate house, while the king’s son Jotham was in charge of the house, judging the people of the land.

Even though the account says that Azariah did right in the eyes of God, the Father punished Azariah with leprosy. With a sunken heart, we might feel a bit unnerved, asking, ‘Why would God do this?’ When our research reveals there is nothing in the account that tells us the why we become even more worried. How does this make us feel about God? Are we feeling that this was completely unfair, unjust even? Are we screaming internally that God punished Azariah for no good reason? If we have a personal intimate relationship with the Father, a friendship deeper than any other, the answer is, no. It would be like our best friend, who we know better than any other would. If we one day heard our best friend did something that startled others, we would immediate come to his or her defense. We would say this is not my friend, there has to be a reason behind. We would not believe the way it looked for a moment. The same is true with the Father. We know very well that his discipline is always fair and justly deserved. (Jer. 30:11) Even though we might not have the reason as to why the Father punished Azariah, we can be sure that there was a just reason for doing so that simply was not revealed in the account. After looking at more details about the life of King Azariah in Second Chronicles, who was also known as King Uzziah, we begin to understand why God punished Azariah.

2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 16-21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Uzziah[4] was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Jechiliah[5] of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of Jehovah, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. And he kept searching for God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and in the days of his seeking Jehovah, God prospered him.

16 But when he became strong, his heart was lifted up[6] so that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to Jehovah his God, for he entered the temple of Jehovah to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of Jehovah, valiant men. 18 They opposed Uzziah[7] the king and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to Jehovah, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from Jehovah God.” 19 Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy[8] broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of Jehovah, by the altar of incense. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead; and they rushed him out quickly, and he himself also hastened to go out, because Jehovah had struck him. 21 And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of Jehovah. And Jotham his son was over the king’s house judging the people of the land.

When we dig a little deeper and find out that Azariah is also known as Uzziah and referred to as such in Second Chronicles, we find the accounts still saying that he did what was right in the eyes of God. However, it also suggests that this was the case while he was young and, as he got older “he became strong, his heart was lifted up [proud] so that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to Jehovah his God, for he entered the temple …” Only the priests were permitted in the Temple. Eighty-one priests tried to change his mind and stop him, yet because of his arrogance, he got angry with them and entered the Temple anyway. These details tell us what we already knew about our friend, he is always just and right in his discipline.

While our digging further hear told us what we already knew to be true, but what if there are similar situations that do not give us the why? What will we do then? Will we allow doubts to creep into our hearts? Will we wonder if God really did the right thing? Will our friendship and faith be so strong that the bond of trust will not be broken by a lack of information on a couple accounts, while thousands do have enough? (Deut. 32:4) The more that we read, study, and meditate on God the person, the more we will draw closer, the more we will love and trust him. Then, if an account is lacking the why of something, we will not need to know it. We do not need to know every single thing when we know so much. It would take us ten lifetimes, at twelve hour study days, to research every detail in the Bible. The more we read and study, God will become even more real to us. Some might haughtily say, “He is already real to me!” We can always draw even closer.–Psalm 77:12-13.

[1] That is, Jeroboam II

[2] In 2 Ki 15:13; 2 Ch. 26:1-23; Isa. 6:1; and Zech. 14:5, he is called Uzziah.

[3] In 2 Ch. 26:3, she is calld Jechiliah.

[4] In 2Ki 15:13, he is called Azariah

[5] In 2 Ki 15:2, she is called Jecoliah

[6] i.e. he became haughty, proud, arrogant

[7] In 2Ki 15:13, he is called Azariah

[8] Leprosy: (Heb. tsaraath; Gr. lepros) is a disease mainly affecting the skin and nerves that can cause tissue change and, in severe cases, loss of sensation and disfigurement. In Bible times, it could affect homes and clothing as well as humans. It is transmitted following close personal contact and has an incubation period of 1-30 years.–Lev. 13:1-46; Deut. 24:8; 2 Ki 5:3, 6, 7, 27; 2 Ch. 26:19; Matt. 8:2; 10:8; 11:5; 26:6; Mark 1:40; 14:3; Lu 4:27; 7:22; 17:12.

evangelism-collection

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 seed, 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, later he faces something in life that moves him to reconsider those seeds, and another Christian waters what had already been planted by the first Christian. This evangelism can be carried out in all of the methods that are available: informal, house-to-house, street, phone, 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 all are aware of the other aspects, in case they are called on to carry out that phase. 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 if 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 take on part-time or full-time evangelism within the congregation, which would and should be cultivated.

interpreting-the-bible

[1] Some have a tendency to be easily swayed by their emotions. They have an exaggerated or undue display of strong feelings, which makes their relationship with the Father and the Son based entirely on emotions. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” We have to have knowledge of the Father and the Son to know that they are real, which does not negate that we need to have emotions as well. However, a relationship that is based entirely on emotions cannot withstand difficult times.

[2] Quoted from Gen. 15:6

[3] Lit I, Daniel

[4] http://www.uasvbible.org/

[5] The Motivation for Bible Study | Free online Bible classes .., https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/motivation-for-bible-study/how-to-study (accessed January 15, 2017).

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