ISSUE: 2015, Volume 12, Issue 3
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In the previous two issues of YPS we have focused on the core motivation for evangelism. In this editorial I want to look at the core message of evangelism and to focus on those who communicate the message. We also have an interesting account from Tim Coltman of Burton–on-Trent of how the Lord has provided an exciting and extensive opportunity for him to evangelize. Jeremy Singer continues to guide us through Adventures in Acts and we have a new series starting by Michael Buckeridge about thinking, so that should be interesting.
The message of the gospel is both simple and profound. We must keep in the forefront of our minds that the message is described as ‘the gospel’, which means ‘the good news’. We could easily fall into the trap of emphasizing sin and depravity so much that we fail to emphasize the attractiveness of the person of Christ and of the offer of salvation. Sin must be identified as well as the effect that it has in the life of the individual, so that they will appreciate the need for God’s mercy and salvation. But ‘the good news’ is the core of the message and must be preached clearly!
Key texts include the following:
1. ‘Preach the word’, 2 Tim. 4. 2. The word of God must be the basis of all witnessing.
2. ‘Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’, Rom. 10. 17.
3. ‘We preach Christ crucified’, 1 Cor. 1. 23. The Saviour and the work of the cross is the core of the message.
4. ‘If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain’, 1 Cor. 15. 14 – Christ’s resurrection must be preached, as without it there is no gospel.
I find the words of the apostle Paul recorded in Acts chapter 26 verses 18-20 very helpful. He explains the message of the gospel as having the following effect:
• opening people’s eyes;
• turning them from darkness to light;
• turning them from the power of Satan unto God;
• providing forgiveness of sins;
• securing an inheritance among the saints; sharing in all the eternal wealth of Christ;
• bringing about repentance and turning people to God; a change of mind in respect of God and sin;
• new believers perform deeds in keeping with their repentance.
Note that all of this happens as a result of faith in Christ!
The last issue I want to address in this editorial concerns who communicates the message of the gospel. We learned in the first article that the promotion of the good news of salvation was not restricted to apostles and evangelists. In general terms, there are two main channels for communicating this great message: individuals and local churches.
The communities of believers that God has called together out of the world exist for the glory of God. They are the places where God chooses to dwell among men on earth, Eph. 2. 22. The following passages all describe the church as the body of Christ: Romans chapter 12, 1 Corinthians chapter 12, and Ephesians chapter 4. The local church is seen as a miniature representation of the whole church, i.e., the body of Christ.
One of the things that God has called the church to do is to speak for Him on earth. The church of the Thessalonians was very effective in this respect. It is said
of them, ‘For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God’, 1 Thess. 1. 8, 9. They witnessed for God and their reputation had gone as far as Macedonia and Achaia. They were a living testimony of the effectiveness of the gospel in changing lives.
The saints in Philippi also fulfilled this role with great enthusiasm. Paul thanks them in chapter 1 verse 5 for their ‘fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now’. He also encouraged them to ‘strive together for the faith of the gospel’, Phil. 1. 27. When following the references to the assembly in the epistle, it is noticeable that gospel work is an essential part of assembly life. But please note that the behaviour of the Christians impacted on the effectiveness of the gospel, 1. 27, and that suffering was almost guaranteed, 1. 29. The assembly had a clear public witness, both in lifestyle and in preaching, 2. 15, 16, and both women and men were involved in this great enterprise for the Lord, 2. 25; 4. 3.
It is good to note a revival in enthusiasm to spread the gospel as part of the work of the local church in our day.
We will not spend much time emphasizing this point as it is self-explanatory. The book of Acts is full of examples of individuals preaching and spreading the gospel. We must, of course, remember that the instruction of the Lord Jesus was to ‘make disciples’, Matt. 28. 19, and to teach ‘them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’, v. 20. In the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the practice of the early church was to see souls saved and added to the church, Acts 2. 41; 9. 19, 28. In other words, individuals were not preaching only to see souls saved but to see them in fellowship in a local church and walking with God. It is important to note that new converts are often the most effective people in reaching out with the gospel. Having been freshly saved, they have lots of unsaved friends and are a living testimony to the effectiveness of the gospel
Please bear in mind the overriding principle that we have been saved to serve God and to represent His interests in this world. May we have a passion and a vision for glorifying the Lord and reaching lost souls with the gospel.
Until the next YPS…