This post is the second of three. As I explained in part one, these posts correspond to the three points of the sermon that I preached at Grace Chapel this past Sunday.
Q. Why must we evangelize?
A. Because God commands us to make disciples.
The resurrected King Jesus commanded his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.19-20). This passage is so familiar to many of us that we hardly think it needs exposition and contemplation. We have mastered it, right? Or have we? I do not claim to have mastered it, but I would like to share some thoughts directly related to the topic of evangelism. Let us begin by dealing with a potential objection.
Jesus commands us to make disciples. That is not exactly a call to evangelism.
Though the command to make disciples is not exclusively a command to evangelize, it is a command which includes the mandate to evangelize. There are three aspects of this passage that I want to highlight. I will save the third point for the conclusion and application section.
First, on making disciples. The most important aspect of making disciples is telling them of their need to repent and believe upon Christ. Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6.29). My point is this: the command to go and make disciples includes the command to go and spread the Gospel. Have you ever pondered how Peter obeyed the command to go and make disciples? Read Acts 2. You find him preaching the Gospel. Read Acts 2-12. Amongst other things, you primarily find him preaching the Gospel. Of course, there is more to making disciples than exclusively preaching the Gospel, but the Gospel must be central.
Can you imagine making disciples apart from regularly focusing on and preaching the Gospel? You make legalists. These disciples study their Bibles all the way to hell (cf. John 5.39). In fact, they can evangelize all the way to hell. They can “accept Jesus” and then work work work, but they are not disciples of Jesus Christ unless they persevere in doing the work of believing upon him. Please do not misunderstand me. I know that faith without works is dead, BUT, even these works are to issue forth from confidence in the Cross. When it comes to works, the only thing that counts is FAITH working through love (Galatians 5.6). Therefore, making disciples means we must evangelize.
Second, on “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Some people object that the call to make disciples (which necessitates evangelism) was primarily for the apostles. These people usually argue that evangelism is primarily reserved for religious leaders (i.e. pastors, evangelists, missionaries, etc.). They are right about one thing. The command to make disciples was specifically given to the apostles. However, they forget one MASSIVELY important point. Jesus also commanded them to teach these future disciples “to observe all that I have commanded you.” This includes the very command he just gave them, namely, making disciples (which includes the command to evangelize)! Thus, their objection is destroyed. Matthew 28.19-20 teaches us that God commands us to evangelize.
Conclusion and Application
As demontrated above, we must evangelize because God commands us to. One word of application should significantly encourage us toward obedience. Thus, third and finally, on Christ being with us. In verse 20, Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” If you are anything like me, you find evangelism very hard. Evangelism can be frightening. Jesus knows that we struggle with sin (fears often expose idols) and weakness (not every fear is evil). He was well acquainted with Peter’s denial. But in this passage, he tells us, “I am with you always.” This is my confidence in evangelism: Jesus is with me. The Holy Spirit is in me. By His strength and help, I will obey His command to evangelize. Accordingly, may He receive all the glory for the work that is done. We must walk by faith. Christian, without faith it impossible to please the Lord (Hebrews 11.6).
When Paul was in Corinth, Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you . . .” (Acts 18:9-10). Christian, Christ is with you. The Spirit is in you. Do not be afraid. Either start speaking or go on speaking. Either way, do not be silent. Christ is with you. Be sure of this: this kind of evangelistic work is not reserved for apostles or evangelists. In Acts 4, Luke tells us of a prayer meeting in Jerusalem. A group of believers prayed for the Lord to give them boldness (4.29). What happened? Well, we read that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (4.31). We must evangelize. Take courage my friends, the Lord is with us to help us. May He show Himself strong.