Good Evening. My thanks to our hosts at Grace Family Bible Church for the invitation to speak here today, and their generosity in making this conference available for free. Thanks to my fellow speakers for their preparation and excellent words of wisdom today, to all of you who have come for a word of encouragement, and to my wife who is faithful to remind me that you have come to hear God’s wisdom and not mine.
Let’s begin with a word from Scripture, from the book of Acts:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it …And so let us pray:
This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they [The people in Jerusalem] heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Jesus, tonight we are here to consider what it means to evangelize. What is it that you have set us to do, Lord, until you come again? As we think about this, let us first give up our pride regarding any work we have done for your sake in the past. Let us remember, Lord, that we are your ambassadors and slaves and not your peers. Let us have hearts open to the truth of your word, and ears ready to listen to what you teach us about how you intend to save the lost. Finally, Holy Spirit, guard my mouth as I teach today that I will not dishonor you or mistakenly mislead your people. Please use these words for the purpose of glorifying our good and great savior. And we ask these things in his precious and mighty name. Amen.
When Sean and Michael originally invited me to this event, they asked me: “we were wondering if you could come and present a message on Biblical evangelism with a compare/contrast to some of the popular modern ‘methods’.” It’s great topic, and I have a very simple answer for all of you: Don’t do more or less than the Bible says to do, and you’ll be just fine.
Thank you, Good Night, and may God richly bless you.
Listen: given that we are at the end of a long day of very intense preaching and teaching, I am not going to catalogue every absurd abuse of the idea of “evangelism” running around today. There’s a cottage industry on the internet of people who can enumerate every fault of the people who get it wrong, and the great fault in that approach 97% of the time is that it never gets to what is actually good – and the Apostle Paul tells us plainly “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” So that’s what we’re going to do today: we’re going to think about what is right – and what is actually described and prescribed in the Bible – relating to Evangelism. And we will do it quickly while it is still Saturday Night and not Sunday Morning.
The place we are going to end up is our passage in Acts 2, but let’s consider why Peter did what he did at Pentecost. The book of Matthew reports the following in chapter 28, from weeks before, just after the resurrection of Jesus:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.”Of course, you are all familiar with the Great Commission from the last chapter of Matthew. That statement from Jesus is foundational in our understanding of what exactly believers are supposed to do while we wait for Jesus to return.
Consider it: according to Matthew, Jesus was crucified, and then 3 days later the tomb was found empty, and the angel gave the disciples instructions on where to find Jesus. And when they showed up there, Jesus was there. But while they worshipped him, some of them doubted. The context of the Great Commission, in Matthew’s account, is Jesus addressing his followers who, after the greatest miracle of all time, doubted.
These people were looking at the resurrected Christ who just defeated death, and they doubted. And that’s actually our problem, right? The death of death in the resurrection of Christ somehow is not enough. The idea that the problem is diagnosed by God, and then the solution is decreed by God, and then worked out by God – and then all we have to do is repent of our diagnoses and our solutions and turn to Him and worship Him – that seems somehow anticlimactic.
But Christ’s solution to that doubt is plain: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.”
The first thing this means for us is that what we are supposed to do is not by our own authority. You know: in Revelation, John says this by having all manner of created beings cry out, “worth is the Lamb!” This is the Jesus for whom the scroll in the hand of the Father – the deed to all creation – has been given, and he’s the only one who is worthy to take it. So when Jesus begins to address doubt about this plan, he starts by saying that confidence in this plan is not a matter of tactics, or of our star power: it is a matter of authority. He is saying something that is important for those of us who feel impressed with the work of evangelism to remember: we do not go to this task because we think it’s just a good idea.
You don’t become an evangelist, or declare the Gospel, because you’re convinced it’s true.
You don’t do this simply because you like Jesus, or you like other people.
You do this because this message is God’s message, and it only makes sense if it comes from God. You see: Jesus is not saying, “in order to renew all things, and to renovate culture, and to give people their best life now, here is my suggestion.” He is instead saying, “Look: a few days ago, you thought I was defeated by human priests and human empires, and left for dead in the grave. You thought that human authorities could overcome me and my purpose in this world because I was dead. But now? I’m alive. Because I am alive, you should see that there are no authorities greater than me. All authority in Heaven belongs to me – so you have a source of hope. But look: all authority on Earth belongs to me. You have nothing to fear.”
He says: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This is an interesting place to start because it doesn’t imply is that Jesus hopes we are up for the task. He isn’t worried about whether we’re smart enough, or pretty enough, or morally good enough, or whether we will work hard enough, or how we feel about it. He’s saying that the place to start is with his authority, which we can see and trust because he was raised from the dead.
So then he says, “Therefore, GO …” That’s in case you didn’t understand Jesus’ point. Because Jesus has all authority in Heaven and on Earth, there are consequences – necessary consequences.
You know: Jesus could have said, “Go and make subjects of all nations,” or “go and conquer all the nations,” or “go and drive out all the nations,” or “go and make a footstool of my enemies,” and sound very Old Testament and New Testament at the same time. “Go claim the promise to Abraham,” he could have said, I guess. All of those could be misinterpreted to mean, “go and make war on all things,” or worse “go and set people aside until I can come back and finish up here.”
But Jesus says, “Go and make Disciples.” The blessed King James translation says, “go and teach all nations.” That word doesn’t mean you cause people to wear a t-shirt, or get a plastic fish on their cars, or hand them a card to fill out, or to write a date down in the front cover of their Bible. It means you cause them to sit under the teaching. In the days of Christ, it meant that you gave up something in order to follow your teacher around – or at least to be available when he is in town to teach.