Tag Archives: Reasons to Evangelize

Whitefield Stirs Peter’s Meditations on Evangelism

This post was written by my close friend Peter N. He is currently at teachers college in Ottawa. What you will read below is an inspiring quote on Whitefield’s evangelistic zeal followed by an insightful meditation on personal evangelism.

Reading about Whitefield

I have endeavoured to pick up where I left off a year ago and finish reading Volume 2 of Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitefield. There is a quote at the beginning of chapter 4 that caught my attention.

The Quote:

“Whitefield was the very first Englishman who seems to have thoroughly understood what Dr. Chalmers aptly called the aggressive system. He was the first to see that Christ’s ministers must do the work of fishermen. They must not wait for souls to come to them, but must go after souls, and ‘compel them to come in.’ He did not sit tamely by his fire-side…mourning over the wickedness of the land. He went forth to beard the devil in his high places. He attacked sin and wickedness face to face and gave them no peace…In short, he set on foot a system of action, which up to his time, had been comparatively unknown in this country, but a system which, once commenced, has never ceased to be employed…” Bishop J. C. Ryle in Christian Leaders of the 18th Century.

This quote inspired the following meditation on evangelism:

Indeed, if we really are convinced that God has His elect in the earth, and believe that to be a truth not to be denied, how are we actively seeking to win His elect over to Christ?

The temptation is to lean toward the strain of hyper-Calvinism, which says that if God elects His children, He will do so with or without our help, for God needs no aid. This tends toward a particular streak of apathy and laziness in terms of speaking the gospel to our fellow-man. The default position of our attitude towards the lost inherently, whether we are aware of it or not, is to think that if God will save them, He will save them, and this is the key thought, “But not through me.”

But this is not to be for the Christian!

Other related streams of thought revolve around this poisonous doctrine. The thought is always, “God, send someone else to tell this person about the gospel,” when God’s Spirit is clearly telling you to speak of Christ. Another subtle thought is to say, “I’ll simply live such a good life around this person that they will inevitably ask me what is this hope I cling to.”

There are two objections to this that come immediately to mind. First, has someone ever actually asked you this question? I think if we were honest most of us would admit not many have asked such a question of us. A corollary question to this one is: If we were really living as Christians as we ought, might there be more questions asked of us by our unbelieving friends? Perhaps the reason we never get asked to give a reason for the hope that we have is because we are not truly living out the called out, separated lives we are supposed to, as saints of God.

The second objection has to do with the very nature of saving faith. How did you become saved? It could not have been through merely the exemplary life of a Christian. Such a life may have reinforced the leading you had towards Christ, but was it not foremost the proclamation of the gospel to you that you believed? Is it not the belief in the essential doctrines of the gospel that makes you a believer?

So, this brings us to the point of this discussion. We must proclaim the gospel to unbelievers. We must open our mouths and speak of Christ to them. No doubt, the testimony of our lives insofar as it is consistent with the Word of God will bolster the testimony of the gospel. But the gospel’s proclamation to repent and believe is the way God saves. The person must hear the gospel. The Spirit must grant saving faith to that person as the gospel is preached to them.

A Challenge this Christmas season

This holiday season there will be many opportunities to speak of Christ to those around us. May we not enter into that dangerous strain of hyper-Calvinism and all its subtle implications and outworkings in our lives. Lord, loosen our tongues to boldly speak of Christ to the lost. For how can they believe in someone they have never heard proclaimed to them? (Rom 10.14)

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.

Why Must We Evangelize? (Part 2 of 3)

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.

Textual Evidence

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.

Objection

Jesus commands us to make disciples. That is not exactly a call to evangelism.

Response

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.

Why Must We Evangelize? (Part 1 of 3)

Yesterday was Grace Chapel’s last fellowship lunch of the summer. Habib had asked me to preach on the call to evangelize the lost. Thus, I preached a sermon focused on three reasons why we must evangelize. I did not argue that these are necessarily the three most important reasons – only that these are three of many reasons. This post states just one reason. I will follow up with the other two reasons with two other posts (later this week).

Q. Why must we evangelize the lost?

A. Because God’s Commands all people everywhere to believe on Jesus Christ.

Textual Evidence

In Acts 17, Paul says, “now [God] commands all people everywhere to repent” (v. 30). Notice, when Paul preaches the gospel to the Athenians, he tells them that God commands repentance. Jesus Christ is not simply the way the Athenians should turn – they must! God is commanding them and they will face judgment (17.30-31).

In Mark 1.15, Jesus comes preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus, as the King of kings, commands all people to believe. He is NOT simply offering himself as the best option.

In 2 Thessalonians 1.8 Paul writes that God will inflict vengeance “on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” They are punished precisely because they do not obey the command to believe upon Jesus Christ.

Objection

You may object, “But these passages teach that God commands all people to believe on Christ – NOT that Christians must evangelize.” These are two different commands.

Response

Though these passages do not state that we, as Christians, MUST evangelize, a small dose of reason formulates at least two inferences: 1) I must actively believe the gospel; and 2) People around me must actively believe the gospel.

Therefore, first, I need to examine myself to make sure that really have all my faith placed upon Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 13.5).

Second, others must believe. (The following argument presupposes that Christians are to love others, as the Scriptures say, “Love your neighbour as yourself”). As a Christian who does NOT live in a cave, I will share three observations that, taken together, necessarily demand our evangelistic efforts: 1) most people do not obey God’s command to believe on Christ; 2) most people do not know that God is commanding them to believe the Gospel; and 3) most people do not really know the Gospel. (The three uses of “most” carry the meaning “many” and “majority”).

Without being a rocket scientist I can tell you what these observations present us. They present us with a love obligation to TELL people what the Gospel is and that God is commanding them to believe. If Christians were not commanded to LOVE, I would have no basis for my argument. BUT, we are commanded to love and to look out for the welfare of others – thus, we have this love obligation to spread the Gospel (cf. Romans 1.14).

Conclusion and Application

Therefore, we must evangelize. Now, on that point, one word of application. When God opens the door for us to have a conversation with someone about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, if we have not already made it clear, we ought to tell them that believing in Jesus Christ is NOT simply an option, but that God commands that person to believe. After explaining the Gospel to someone I will often quote from Acts 17.30 emphasizing to them that God is commanding them to repent and turn to Christ.

May the Lord help us. If you feel paralyzed in your evangelism – first things first – believe the Gospel afresh today. Think on it, chew on it and eat it. Christian, God continues to command you to keep believing the Gospel. Possibly your evangelistic neglect is rooted in your own lack of faith in Gospel. I am not saying that you are not a Christian, but maybe you are in a season of little faith (cf. Matthew 14.31) as opposed to being full of faith like Stephen (Acts 6.5). My friend, look the Cross! May our prayer be, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9.24).