Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
You are studying God’s plan of evangelism for reaching the world with the Gospel as revealed in Acts 1:8:
-Jesus Christ is the content of the message.
-Disciples are the messengers of the Gospel empowered by the Holy Spirit.
-The whole world is the recipient of the message.
In the last lesson you learned about the content of the Gospel message. In this lesson you will learn about the messengers of the Gospel. The Word of God, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and prayer all combine their spiritual forces to enable the messengers of the Gospel to bear powerful witness to the Gospel.
The Gospel has the power within it to accomplish spiritual birth in a receptive soul:
You do not have to be a gifted speaker to be a messenger of the Gospel. All that is necessary is that you share the Gospel message which alone can save man.
When you share God’s Word, the hearer’s faith does not rest on your wisdom or skillful delivery (1 Corinthians 2:5). You can also be assured that God’s Word does not return void. It will accomplish God’s purposes (Isaiah 55:11). The Word releases the powerful demonstration of signs and wonders which convince unbelievers of the truth of the Gospel (Mark 16:20).
God is the one who changes a person’s life through the born-again experience. You can witness, preach, and teach the Gospel to the best of your ability, but only God can convert a soul. Once you understand this, much of your worry about evangelizing is relieved.
You are simply the messenger, a human instrument for the divine workman. It is impossible for you to convert someone. The born-again experience is conceived and birthed by God. When a person is born again, he is “begotten of God”:
(1 John 5:1)
THE ROLE OF JESUS IN EVANGELISM
Jesus is the one who gave the mandate of evangelism and sent the Holy Spirit to equip you for the task. He is the one who works with you with confirming signs and wonders:
THE HOLY SPIRIT’S ROLE IN EVANGELISM
In New Testament times, the Holy Spirit drew the crowds to the messengers of the Gospel. How else can we explain the throngs that followed their ministries? There were no newspapers, radio, or television advertisements in those days.
Instead of using worldly methods to attract the masses, we should take time to tarry in our upper rooms like the early Church did until we, too, are endued with power from on high. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts men and convinces them of the necessity of salvation. Proven evangelistic methods are useful in spreading the Gospel, but God does not want you to depend upon them. You must depend on the convicting power of the Holy Spirit:
And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:7-8)
It is the power of the Holy Spirit that energizes evangelism. The disciples became effective, active witnesses after they experienced that power (Acts 1:8 and chapter 2).
Nothing in the realm of the spiritual can succeed without prayer. As a believer, you are part of the Body of Christ sent out to a lost and dying world to share the good news of the Gospel. But this spiritual body is directed, controlled, and energized by the head, functioning like a natural body which is guided by the head.
Just as a natural body must be attached to the head in proper alignment of nerves, bone, and muscle in order to function, the spiritual body must be in contact with the spiritual head, the Lord Jesus Christ. This contact is made through prayer.
To use another illustration: Jesus is the vine and we are the branches where the fruit is borne. Jesus is the stalk and root that gives life to the branches. The picture is one of mutual dependence. He depends on us to bear the fruit, we depend on Him for spiritual life and energy (John 15.). This relationship cannot exist without proper contact between you and the Lord.
There is an example of this in the account in Matthew 17:14-21. The disciples were unable to minister to a young boy because of lack of prayer. Prayer is not a preliminary to the actual work-
-it is the work.
Prayer should precede evangelism. In Luke 10:1-24, Jesus tells His disciples to pray (verse 2), then He tells them to go (verse 3). Praying precedes the going. Perhaps if we prayed more we would win more. In Acts 2 they prayed 10 days, preached for ten minutes, and 3000 were saved. Today, we pray for ten minutes, preach for ten days, and only a few get saved.
Praying “evangelistically” means that you pray for:
A measure of success may follow our prayerless undertakings for the Kingdom of God, but our efforts fall short of what could be accomplished if we were to recognize the vital function of prayer.
The messengers of the Gospel are born-again disciples. God’s method is for each disciple to bear “witness” of the Gospel message. To “witness” is to tell what you have seen, heard, or experienced.
In a court of law, a witness is one who testifies about someone or something. As a witness, you are to testify about Jesus and His plan for the salvation of all mankind. There are two kinds of evidence presented by witnesses in a court of law. One is testimony which is verbal witness about the subject. The other is evidence which is visible proof. The Holy Spirit helps you bear witness to the Gospel both verbally and through the visible demonstration of God’s power.
God’s plan is for each disciple to be a witness of the Gospel. The early Church grew as they followed this plan. Each believer shared the Gospel and reproduced spiritually. As the Church grew, God called some people to serve full-time as pastors, evangelists, prophets, teachers, and apostles. Over a period of time, believers became part of one of two divisions in the Church. They were either clergy or laity.
The word “laity” comes from a Greek word which means “belonging to the chosen people of God.” The basic meaning of the word is “all the people of God.” The terms “layman” or “laity” came to be used for those who were not serving in special full-time functions in the church. The term “clergy” developed to identify professional ministers in the church. Clergy refers to those who consider the ministry their profession or who are employed full-time by the church.
Over a period of time in church history, a gradual separation developed between clergy and laity. Many laymen stopped reproducing spiritually. They began to leave the challenge of reaching the world to the full-time clergy. No professional clergy can ever accomplish what the entire Church was commissioned to do. This is one of the reasons we have not yet reached the world with the Gospel. Believers have shifted their responsibility to the clergy. The Bible does teach division of labor in the Church, but every person is to be involved in the spread of the Gospel (Acts 6:1-6).
As the church at Jerusalem multiplied, it became necessary for a division of labor to meet all the needs in the church. The leaders gave themselves full-time to study of the Word and prayer.
Laymen performed duties like ministering to the widows and other such tasks of serving. But although believers served in different offices in the church, they were all involved in the spread of the Gospel:
-Stephen was one of the laymen chosen for serving tasks, yet he bore powerful witness to the Gospel (Acts 6:8-11).
-Philip was another layman chosen for serving tasks. He shared the Gospel with the Samaritans (Acts 8:5-12).
-When persecution came in Jerusalem and believers scattered to other cities, they continued to be witnesses of the Gospel (Acts 8:4). For true believers, there is no division between sacred and secular because Jesus is Lord of all.
If you are to really understand the spiritual call of the laity you must go back to the Old Testament. God’s plan was for the entire nation of Israel to be priests or ministers:
As priests, each person in Israel was to be a witness of the one true God to unbelievers around him. The establishing of an official priesthood did not change God’s plan for Israel. The priesthood was like the clergy of today with special leadership roles. But the entire nation was still to serve as ministers of the message of God to heathen nations.
In the New Testament, believers are given a similar calling. They are to be priests or ministers of the Gospel:
The calling of believers is to bear witness of God who has brought them out of spiritual darkness into the light of Jesus Christ (John 9:5). Believers are told to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Ephesians 4:1). There is one calling and that is to bear witness to the Gospel. It is the vocation of all believers.
The call to be a messenger of the Gospel is not based on education or natural ability. God uses ordinary laymen so that He alone may receive the glory:
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.
That no flesh should glory in His presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) THE GIFT OF EVANGELISM:
Some messengers of the Gospel are given a special gift from God to be an evangelist. The gift of evangelism is an ability to share the Gospel with unbelievers in a way that men and women respond and become responsible members of the Body of Christ. The word evangelist is used three times in the New Testament. In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul says that God gives men and women who are gifted as evangelists to the church.
No one can decide to become an evangelist just because he speaks well, has a good personality, or relates well to different kinds of people. God calls and equips men to be evangelists. There should be no competition between the ministries of pastor, teacher, and evangelist. The evangelist is part of the Church, not independent from it.
The gift of being an evangelist is one of the five leadership gifts given to the Church, whose main purpose is to equip others for the work of the ministry. This means an evangelist not only has the ability to communicate the gospel to sinners, but also to equip saints to evangelize.
Although God gives some the special gift of being an evangelist, all believers are to do the work of an evangelist and share the Gospel with others. Timothy is urged to do the work of evangelism in I1 Timothy 4:5. You may not have the special gift, but you do have the responsibility to do the work of an evangelist.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (I1 Corinthians 4:7)
The treasure of which Paul speaks in this passage is the Gospel. Even though you are an earthen vessel–common, crude, and unrefined–your human vessel is the temple of God. You may not be well known by man. You may not be well known in your community, church, or denomination. You may be an ordinary person who works at ordinary tasks. But God can use you in evangelism.
Read the story of the healing of the lame man in Acts 4. When Peter and John appeared before the Council, it was obvious that they were uneducated, common men:
And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. (Acts 4:13-14)
These common men had received new life through Jesus Christ. The life within them resulted in powerful, life-changing evangelism.
Jesus entrusted the laity with the responsibility of spreading the Gospel. He took fishermen from their boats and made them into fishers of men. He believed that ordinary people could become extra-ordinary when empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Gideon was a farmer. Paul was a tentmaker. Moses was a shepherd. Luke was a doctor and Joseph was a great political statesman. Whatever your education or occupation, God can use you in His plan.
Where you are and who you are is not important. It is what you are doing where God has placed you. The key to effective evangelism is to be God’s man or woman, in God’s place, doing God’s work, God’s way.