Why Must We Evangelize? (Part 3 of 3)

Q. Why must we evangelize?

A. Because faith comes from hearing the Gospel.

Textual Evidence

In Romans 10.17 Paul writes, “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Thus, faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. As Thomas Schreiner and Douglas Moo rightly note, “the word of Christ” in this context functions to mean “the word about Christ” (Schreiner, Romans, 567) or “the word that proclaims Christ” (Moo, Romans, 666). Paul is referring to the Gospel message about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see context of Romans 10.14-17 and cf. Isaiah 52.7-53.12). Paul is saying that people must hear the Gospel in order to receive saving faith.

This truth corresponds with Romans 1.16: “The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” The Gospel is the surgical instrument that goes into the ear. Upon entering the ear, it reaches down to the heart, and if the heart is ready (by God’s grace), the Gospel makes it new and gives it a set of eyes – the eyes of faith (cf. Ephesians 1.18 and 2 Corinthians 3.18-4.6)!

Peter writes about the power of the Gospel to save. In 1 Peter 1.23 he tells us, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” But, what does he mean by “living and abiding word of God”? Peter is not just talking about any portion of Scripture. He is talking about the Gospel. How do we know this? Look at the context. Notice what he writes in verse 25: “And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” Therefore, people are born again through hearing the Gospel. The Spirit works in conjunction with the Word of the Gospel to make people born again (cf. John 3. 1-8).

Therefore, we must evangelize because unbelievers will NOT believe unless they hear the message of the Gospel. This is a very strong statement worthy of much contemplation. This kind of belief and perspective can change our lives. In accordance with the grace of God we can find ourselves regularly compelled and constrained to speak of Christ – not because it gives us favour with God, nor to avoid God’s wrath, but because of the following logical equation:

1) We have the message that saves people.

2) People need to hear in order to be saved.

3) Therefore, we must to preach the Gospel to them so that they can hear and be saved.

The apostles understood this equation very well. This is one of the greatest reasons why they passionately and consistently preached the Gospel until their dying breath. This may also be one of the reasons why Paul said, “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9.16).

Objection

Who are we to tell people they must turn to Christ? People need to first observe our Christian lifestyle. Once they see that we are different they will ask us why we live the way we do. At this point, we have earned our right to speak; thus, we can share the Gospel. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel all day long and only when necessary use words.”

Response

This objection deserves a response on a number of fronts.  I will address three.

First, who are we to tell people they must turn to Christ? Answer: we are nothing. BUT, our preaching does not actually imply that we think we are something. On the contrary, the message we spread confirms we are nothing and that we desperately need God. We are simply God’s appointed messengers. He is one who commands us to spread the Word. A better question to ask is this: who is God to tell people they must turn to Christ? That is the right question. If you can answer that question correctly, you will quickly see that he has every right to send whoever he wills to speak to whoever he wills whenever and wherever he wills.

I know that there is some merit to the famous slogan that you have to earn your right to speak. Many of us have experienced the Lord open doors for evangelism precisely because someone noticed our love, or kindness, or self-control, etc. However, just because the Lord opens doors this way, that does not mean this is the ONLY WAY He opens doors. Nor does this mean it is the primary way the Lord opens doors. Though we read that we are to “let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5.16), they cannot know who the Father really is apart from the message of the Gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1.16).

Second, I do not deny that a Christian’s lifestyle can have a powerful influence upon others. There is no doubt that Christian love (John 13.35) and unity (John 17.21) can have a profound influence upon curious observers. However, as we learned from Paul and Peter, it is the message of the Gospel itself that saves people. And though it is not wrong to wait for the right time to speak of Christ, the right time is not always a long time. Just think, if you believe that you have to live a life of love before a person for X amount of time, where do you get this standard of time from? And how loving do you have to be before you can speak? What if they do not notice your love? Do you have to wait for people to inquire before you can speak? Where do people get such statutes about evangelism? Whenever we read of “being ready to give an answer,” this never presupposes some notion that we are not to evangelize until we are asked questions.

I find the Bible teaching us to love God with all our hearts and to love everyone as our self. This should be manifested in many ways, but hopefully one way is through opening our mouths and speaking of Christ. I find the Bible teaching us to preach the Gospel often (Acts 1-28) and to be praying for the Lord to open doors (Colossians 4.3). Christians should be messengers eagerly looking for open mailboxes to deliver the message of the Gospel. Sometimes doors take a while to open – and that is okay – we cannot force doors to open. But sometimes they do not take that long. You will only know if you go around knocking.

Third, on the famous quote supposedly by St. Francis of Assisi. Truth is, there is no evidence that he actually said that. Furthermore, even if he did, is it biblical? I appreciate a certain aspect of this slogan. I agree that we should live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1.27). We should be holy for the Lord is holy (1 Peter 1.16). And I agree, may our lives have a powerful voice. HOWEVER, should we live exemplar lives and restrict (and limit) our Gospel talk? Where on earth did this idea ever come from? Of course, hypocrisy is a terrible thing. But the cure to hypocrisy is the repentance of the hypocrites, not decreasing the vocals of Christians. In fact, I do not see how you can really live life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ WITHOUT actively spreading the gospel of Christ. I know there are shut-ins and other rare circumstances, but the exceptions are few.

In Philippians 1.27-30, God calls the Philippians not only to believe, but also to suffer (1.29). In the context Paul is talking about “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (1.27). Paul tells them that they are to suffer in a similar way that they saw him suffer. Paul is referring to his sufferings in Philippi – the time he was beaten with rods, inflicted with many blows and imprisoned (Acts 16. 23). Thus, God is calling the Philippians to suffer in the work of spreading the Gospel. Therefore, like the Philippians, we must evangelize.

Let us not forget the equation:

1) We have the message that saves people.

2) People need to hear in order to be saved.

3) Therefore, we must to preach the Gospel to them so that they can hear and be saved.

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5 responses to “Why Must We Evangelize? (Part 3 of 3)

  1. Excellent! am encouraged! Have come across the argument of get your own act together before you can speak a few times, so I was pleased to see your refutation of it.

  2. Thanks Paul. I agree that we must all be concerned to speak about Christ. But my questions is: why shouldn’t everyone stand on the street corner and use a microphone all day long so that as many people as possible can hear the gospel? What stops most of us from doing that?

    I would say that believing that we all must evangelise, does not mean that we all must evangelise IN THE SAME WAY or the same amount. It is notable that Paul seems to expect something different from himself compared to his readers when it comes to evangelism (Col. 4:2-6). I would say there is still a place to distinguish between a big E-evangelist and a little e-evangelist in the way they go about it (similar to how we have big T-teachers, yet we are all called to teach each other in some form). One may be more direct than the other, or something like that?, but a difference all the same.

    I’m not sure that the big E-evangelsit of Eph. 4 is to equip everybody else on how to be a big E-evangelist, anymore than the apostles equip others to be apostles, or pastors, etc. Their primary purpose in equipping is so that the body can serve each other and speak the gospel truth to each other (and perhaps to outsiders by inference) and build each other up. Similar to the reason Paul wanted to visit the Roman Christians perhaps (Rom. 1:15).

    Anyhow, this is the sticking point I think because when we tell people they need to evangelise, people think that means they need to do what big E-evangelists do in practise. Perhaps we can say that we should all speak about Christ as our gifts, personalities and opportunities allow us to. This way, having a biblical concern to evangelise can be played out in a much more natural way.

    Anyway, your thoughts would be much appreciated in clarifying my thinking.

    • Simon, thanks for sharing your thoughts; in my opinion, your comments are both reasonable and insightful. I agree with everything you said. I’m not sure if any of my thoughts will clarify your thinking, for I’m thinking what your thinking (at least, I think I am). I wrote this post back in August of 2009. I think my views of evangelism have changed a little bit since then. Whatever the case, I hope my posts do not suggest that I think others must evangelize the same way as me (often at bus stops). If I am insinuating that in any way, please let me know … I think this would be a great disservice to the Church; I do not believe God is calling everyone to share the Gospel the same way I do.

      I suppose the one thing I do that could imply this is my training philosophy (if you noticed for other posts). I often take people out with me on the streets to do evangelism. I see this as in invaluable way of helping people growing in their ability and discipline of sharing the gospel. However, my goal is not to multiply street evangelists (though I wouldn’t be upset if the Lord lead some of them that way). The people who come with me are stay-at-home mom’s, pastors, students, construction workers, doctors, pilots, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, etc. Without exception (by God’s grace), they all find much of the training to be transferable to their settings. That is why I keep doing that kind of training (in conjunction with other forms of training).

      I am currently teaching a series on evangelism and apologetics at my church. I am with you brother – I encouraged the saints that they don’t need to talk to a stranger to do evangelism; evangelism is telling someone the gospel, or at least parts of it … as John Dickson teaches, we ought to give them “gospel bites.” Hopefully they will want more, but the least we can do is, as opportunity presents, introduce people to something of the birth, teaching, miracles, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, exaltation or coming of Christ. I think living with our allegiance to Jesus and loving our neighbours as ourselves will naturally provide many opportunities for all kinds of people to speak of Christ to a variety of peoples in a multitude of different ways. May the Lord help us all. If I were to write that post again (almost 3 years later now), I would definitely be more sensitive to convey the very concerns you’ve shared. Thanks.

      I am curious to hear your thoughts on my thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and comment; that is encouraging to me. Thanks.

  3. Thanks Paul. I appreciate everything you have written above. I think you have dome more thinking about this than me. My thoughts are still a bit scattered in my head, but I would love for someone like you to write something that systemises and articulates what the Bible actually says about how people should do evangelism in practise. And especially gear it towards the shy and introverted Christians who just aren’t wired for such direct interaction with unbelievers.

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