ISSUE: 2021, Volume 18, Issue 1
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Matthew’s Gospel closes by recording that the risen Lord Jesus Christ commissioned the disciples to ‘teach [disciple] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’, Matt. 28. 19. The commission has not been revoked. We each have the privilege and responsibility to witness about the greatness of the Lord Jesus to sinners perishing around us.
It only takes a brief read of the book of the Acts to observe that the early church was active, witnessing to the saving power of the Lord Jesus. They preached and witnessed about their faith in the Lord Jesus. Growth in the church was evident with many souls getting saved. Can I ask – what do you know of being an evangelist, and witnessing to the saving power of the Lord Jesus?
Collectively, are we ignoring the great commission? Where are the young men and women with a vision for the gospel and a desire for God to be glorified in souls being saved?
We need clarity in our mission. The apostles were to be witnesses to the Lord Jesus. We are not witnessing to the Gospel Hall or even evangelical Christianity. They were not commanded to preach a creed or reformation of life. They were commanded to preach Christ, the risen Man at God’s right hand. It is easy to get sidetracked into other issues, and sometimes there will be legitimate objections that require to be tackled; but never forget that first and foremost we ‘preach Christ crucified’. The preaching of Christ must involve preaching about the reason for, and necessity of, His death. We know that the Apostle Paul, for example, preached and reasoned about judgement to come in Acts chapter 17. While we should not be too formulaic in our approach, it should also involve the preaching of the resurrection from among the dead as this is the basis for our justification.
Now, sometimes, I have been put off witnessing because I would not have an opportunity to preach the gospel fully. But I should not be put off! God can use one word to prick a conscience. The priority, however, is to try to get past side issues and to get to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, if we are given an opportunity to speak to men and women about eternal matters.
The first century was an age marked by apparent enlightenment so far as secular thought and culture was concerned. Yet the gospel was not communicated through the music or drama of the day. Rather, the gospel was communicated by words. In Acts chapter 11 verse 19, we learn that the gospel was communicated by conversation. Saints reasoned with contacts and took opportunities in everyday life. So should we. Our meetings for public preaching should be ‘the tip of the iceberg’ of evangelical testimony. In Acts chapter 11 verse 20, we then read that the gospel was also communicated by the preaching (heralding) of the word of God. 1 Corinthians chapter 1 teaches us that although men may feel there is a cleverer way of spreading the gospel than preaching or declaring it as truth, it is the divinely approved manner. God is still pleased by His Spirit to bless the preaching of His word!
Our responsibility is to spread the word. We cannot stress enough, however, that in evangelizing it is God who does the convicting and saving! To be clear, though, preaching should be understandable and culturally relevant. The content of the message is offensive to the unsaved man, but the preaching ought not to be offensive in the way it is presented. Preaching is the divinely ordained method but it is not limited to a particular location or time.
Do we have the faith to believe that in a secular western society God can still bless preaching with salvation? How burdened and prayerful am I about where I am? When was the last time I was involved in a sustained period of gospel outreach? Do I carry tracts with me to hand out? Do I pray that God will give me the opportunity to tell people about His Son?
Am I willing to devote the time (perhaps giving up holidays) to be involved in sustained and special periods of evangelism? Am I evangelizing those people that I have contact with, such as my neighbours and colleagues?
This article is a very limited call to action: please think about evangelism. I heartily recommend a book called Everyday Evangelism by Paul McCauley and David Williamson, Ritchie, 2018, which deals with the practicalities of witnessing for the Lord Jesus.
May you make progress and be used in the strengthening of God’s work in our day.