Summary: This lesson examines what the Bible means when it talks about evangelism and then compares this to what we see being called "evangelism" today. Have we redefined evangelism to ease our consciences?
Our first lesson was a reminder of our mission. We have been given the green light to evangelize by the Lord, and this mission was given to each and every Christian, not just a select few. Each one of us are called by God to “love our neighbor as ourselves” and to have an active faith in God and His gospel message.
For today’s lesson, I would like to for a few moments look at the New Testament to see how the disciples of Jesus Christ fulfilled the mission that they were given. Our goal is to compare what we see in the New Testament to what we see in the churches today. We will close with the important question: Is this an area in which we are doing what they did? Has “restoring” the New Testament church gotten into this area? Or do we look like denominations and have allowed the doctrines of men to creep in?
Let’s begin by defining exactly what we mean when we use the word “evangelism.” The Greek word used in the New Testament is “Euaggelizesthai”, and it means to share good news or to bring good news. This word is used over fifty times in the New Testament, forty of those times coming after Pentecost in reference to what Jesus’ disciples did in fulfilling the Great Commission. Some of the different ways in which the word is translated in the New Testament:
• “bring/brought good news”: 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" (Romans 10:14-15)
• “Preached the good news”: “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” (Acts 8:12)
• Preaching (Acts 8:4; 1 Cor 15:1-2) “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4)… “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
In all of the uses of the word which we look at in referring to evangelism, we see that evangelism is simply the act of obeying the great commission: Going and preaching/teaching the gospel to someone. This is what God is telling us evangelism is.
A BIBLICAL PATTERN
God tells us and shows us what evangelism is in the New Testament. Just as He gives us examples of what He authorizes when it comes to the worship of His people, He also gives us examples of evangelism in the New Testament. He gives us a Biblical pattern to follow.
Let’s look at some examples:
• The Apostles: We see many examples in the New Testament of the Apostles fulfilling the Great Commission. In Acts 2, when the Gospel is first preached, we see that when a huge crowd collected, the Apostles took the opportunity God gave them to teach the word of God. Of course, they didn’t have to collect the crowd themselves… the Lord did that for them. Nonetheless, they put themselves on the line, even in the face of persecution, to teach the Gospel to thousands of people. They didn’t just teach those who they were close to. They taught everyone they could. One of my favorite examples is in Acts 17, where Paul preaches the Gospel in Athens. His spirit was provoked because of the idolatry and sin in Athens (17:16), and it moved him to action. He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jewish and Gentile worshippers about Jesus (17:17). We are not told that he preached. It may have been that he just walked up to people at the synagogue to engage them in conversation. We are also told in verse 17 that Paul went into the marketplace daily to reason with those who happened to be there. Some of those who he encountered in the marketplace were Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, who brought him to the Areopagus to a larger collection of people (17:19). Through his discussions he was having with people in the marketplace, he got the opportunity to preach the gospel to many.
• Deacons? In Acts 6, we see some men chosen to be servants of the church in Jerusalem. I believe they were deacons. Not everyone agrees with this… Nonetheless, even though they were given the duty to care for the needy widows in Acts 6, this did not mean that they were not obligated to teach the gospel to the lost when they had opportunity. In Acts 6:8-10, we are told that Stephen, who was full of faith, was teaching the people with such wisdom and with such a spirit that none were able to stand up against him. He put his life on the line, and would end up losing it because he boldly spoke the gospel and spoke the truth to the council he was brought before.