May 4, 2021•1102 words
Almost a year ago we did a devotional on what the evangel is. It's the good news of Christ's death and resurrection to rescue us from God's wrath and declare us righteous before a holy God. That is the good news that we believe which is the defining feature of an evangelical.
So in preparing for this morning I came upon a devotional from Ligonier Ministries that I'd like to share with you. It's titled "What is evangelism?" Since we believe the evangel, the Gospel, and all of us sitting in this room are, then, evangelicals, what then does the evangelical do?
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Now that we have defined Evangel, let's look at what it means to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Evangel-ism refers to the preaching of the Gospel. It comes from the same Greek word for gospel (euangelion) and means, literally, “gospeling.” When we evangelize we are “gospeling” — we are spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Evangelism is one way in which we can fulfill Christ’s call to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). In biblical categories, witnessing involves making visible what is otherwise invisible.
The new testament is full of courtroom language. There is judgement, justice, guilt, confession, atonement and in Acts 1:8 the disciples are called to be Christ's witnesses to the ends of the earth. What does a witness do in a courtroom? The witness tells the story of what occurred to people who have no other way of knowing the truth of what happened.
The reality to which we bear witness is the invisible kingdom of God, and in witnessing we strive to make the Lord’s reign visibly manifest. Among the many ways we can bear witness to Jesus is through loving our fellow believers. We reveal to the world that we belong to our Savior when we love other Christians (John 13:34–35). Celebrating the Lord’s Supper proclaims visibly the Lord’s death until He comes again (1 Cor. 11:26). In preaching the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in our evangelism, we are also helping to make visible the invisible reality of Christ.
The distinction between witnessing and evangelism is important because it is easy to think we are evangelizing when all we are doing is bearing witness to the Savior.
Let's pause here and say that words are very important. In this case it's important to know the difference between a distinction and a separation. If someone distinguishes your head from your body, they're simply describing human anatomy. If someone separates your head from your body, you've suddenly got a real problem. So it's important to know that witnessing and evangelism are not separate, but they are two distinct parts of the same whole.
Giving one’s testimony is a good thing, but it is not evangelism. Testifying to the work of God in our lives bears witness to what Christ has done for us; it does not by itself give the content of the Gospel. Living a righteous life manifests the work of the Holy Spirit, but we have not evangelized our neighbor if we have never shared the Gospel with him. No one is converted by our kindness or honesty; they are brought into the kingdom of heaven only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:25–34).
God has created us with different personalities and gifts, and some of us are more adept at the verbal proclamation of the Gospel than others. Nevertheless, declaring the message of salvation through Christ is the responsibility of us all, and we must seek opportunities to preach the Gospel. Only if we confess Him before men will He confess us before the Father (Matt. 10:32–33).
Do you ever sit and think about how you would share the Gospel with an unbeliever? Are you prepared to give a defense of the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15) Do those thoughts match the Good News, the evangel, of Christ's life, death and resurrection?
I'll confess, using a courtroom term there, that I carry great shame in how I poorly attempted to witness to someone once. It was a guy I'd built a relationship with over years and we had a few religious discussions until one day he just unloaded on me, how the Bible couldn't be trusted and what kind of terrible God could allow suffering in the world. I work at a church, so I should be good at this, but I found myself looking to my own experiences; how passionately I believed and how I just knew it was true because it had worked in my life. That wasn't this guy's experience, in fact he felt extremely passionate about atheism and moral codes from outside the church.
Christian experience is wonderful, but it cannot be cut off from the facts that we must bear witness to as we evangelize. We are sinful and deserve God's wrath. Christ is God and He came to earth, lived a perfect life, died to pay the debt for our sins and rose again to bring us new life. Anything a Christian does that doesn't involve those verbal statements of fact isn't good news and cannot be called evangelism.
Loving our neighbors, serving one another, even sharing how God's work in our lives are good things that we are commanded to do, and they do bear witness to the Kingdom we are citizens of, but even the best acts of mercy alone cannot bring anyone to a saving faith. God could have chosen to write the good news across the sky, but in His divine providence He chose the foolishness of preaching the Gospel and the work of the Spirit through those words as THE vehicle to bring belief to the world. As evangelicals, believers of the Gospel, we are called to preach the beauty of Christ's finished work on the cross to each other and to a broken world in desperate need of salvation. (1 cor 1:21)
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 9:16
1 Peter 1:13–25