The Resurrection (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART IV – Redemption Accomplished

Lesson Ten: The Resurrection

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:4-7; ESV).

Perhaps the element of the gospel we are most prone to forget to mention in our evangelistic discussions is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Often, by the time we have discussed with the unbeliever the holiness of God, man’s sin and its wages, and Christ’s obedience in life and death, we are ready to move on to the gospel commands of repentance and faith. For several reasons, though, it is important for us to remember the significance of the resurrection and how it is essential to the proclamation of the gospel.

Union with Christ. As we approach the task of evangelism, one way to remember the primacy of the resurrection in the gospel is to remember the purpose of evangelism. Our goal is to make disciples. We seek, by the work of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel, to see men forsake their identity in Adam for a new identity in Christ. We want to see them become disciples of Christ united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection.

We must never think of our union with Christ as a secondary doctrine within Christianity. Union with Christ is the essence of what we mean when we refer to ourselves as disciples of Christ. When we speak of our election, we speak of it only in terms of our union with Christ (Eph. 1:3-6; John 6:39). When we speak of our effectual calling and regeneration, we speak of it in terms of our union with Christ (2Thess. 2:14; 2Tim. 1:9; 1Pt. 1:3). When we speak of our justification, we speak of it only in terms of our union with Christ (1Cor. 6:11; 2Cor. 5:21). The same bears true for our adoption, sanctification, and glorification (Eph. 5:1; Gal. 4:4-5; Heb. 2:11; 1Cor. 1:2, 30; Heb. 10:10; Rom. 8:17, 30). Only by means of our union with Christ, the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Christ are all made effectual unto our salvation.

“By this union believers are changed into the image of Christ according to his human nature. What Christ effects in His people is in a sense a replica or reproduction of what took place with Him. Nor only objective, but also in a subjective sense they suffer, bear the cross, are crucified, die, and are raised in newness of life, with Christ.,” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pg. 451).

Victory over sin. In this vein, there are two senses in which we are “raised in newness of life, with Christ.” We are raised with Him in His victory over sin in this life, and we are raised with Him in His victory over death in the life to come. We are raised with Him through the subjective, sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives and the objective reality that we will one day partake of final victory over death with Him.

We must recall that the final consequence of sin is death and judgment in the life to come. Therefore, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection would not be complete merely to address the wages of sin. The atonement must also address the cause of death: sin itself. In order for the fruit of death to be finally and utterly destroyed for the believer, there must be an addressing of the root. Indeed, in our union with Christ in His resurrection, we do see an addressing of sin.

1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin,” (Rom. 6:1-7; NASB).

New disciples must be brought to an understanding that the Christian life is not one of grace abuse. We are not saved to sin all the more. Rather, as we saw in our last lesson, disciples of Christ are those who have died to sin through the death of Christ and our union with Him. In being united with Christ, we have not merely been immersed into His death, though. We have also been raised with Him to walk in newness of life!

Our relationship with sin has been severed. We will still battle against it as long as we live in these bodies and in this fallen world. Like insurgents in a conquered land who wage guerilla warfare against the occupying nation, sin will ever wage guerilla warfare against the Christian who has already achieved victory over it through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. However, the Christian will wage war. The Christian will seek to search out and destroy every last stronghold of sin in his or her life.

After the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves in America, those who had been victims of that system did not automatically take to their freedom as those who had never known slavery. For many, the mindset of the slave could not be shed for the rest of their lives. When in the presence of a white man, their tendency was to revert back to old customs and courtesies and to grant a certain authority that was not truly held by the white man in question. Due to Jim Crow laws in the South, the analogy obviously falls apart at some point.

Surely, though, you get the point. After a life of slavery, it can be near impossible to shake the slave mentality. This is as true in the soul of a man in relation to his sin as it is in the mind of a slave in relation to other men. What Paul means to tell the Christian, here, is that he has been freed from slavery to sin, so he now needs to wage war against his tendency to submit to sin as a slave. He must rid himself of the slave mentality.

By virtue of our union with Christ in His resurrection, we now have victory over sin. If we have died with Him, we have also been raised with Him in the likeness of His resurrection to walk in newness of life. We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are slaves to righteousness.

We have already decried the testimony-only approach to evangelism, an approach that suggests that Christ’s primary purpose in the life of the believer is like that of a genie making all things better. However, here is the one place in the evangelistic encounter where it might be beneficial to offer a personal testimony to the work of Christ wrought in our own life. As we share our faith with unbelievers, it can be beneficial for them to see how, through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, you have personally seen victory over the sin that once enslaved you.

Victory over death. Through the resurrection of Christ and our union with Him, we do not only experience victory over sin in this life. We are also promised ultimate victory over death. Paul writes, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep,” (1Cor. 15:20). Christ’s victory over death was not merely a victory for Himself, just as nothing He accomplished on this earth was merely accomplished for His own benefit.

The resurrection of Christ accomplished victory both for Christ and for those who are united with Him. Just as Christ was raised and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, so too we shall all be raised from the dead with glorified bodies to reign with God for all of eternity. Our victory over sin is merely a down payment of sorts for the great privilege we have yet to receive in Christ.

50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1Cor. 15:50-57; NASB).

In the churches in which I was raised, we did not avoid talking about end times. We were taught at length about the rapture, the tribulation, the millennium, and many other of the less clear events prophesied for the end of the world. Rarely if ever did we hear teaching on the resurrection. Of all of these events, Paul teaches that the resurrection is “of first importance” (1Cor. 15:3; NASB).

The Bible teaches that it is through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ that He secures for us our own resurrection. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the dead will be raised and those who are still living will receive imperishable bodies fit for eternity. Those who are raised in Christ will be raised with bodies fit for everlasting life. All who are outside of Christ, though, will be raised with bodies fit for everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2).

It is not necessarily important for the new disciple to understand all that is wrapped up in the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ. It is helpful, however, for new disciples to learn fairly early the fact that Christ’s redemption has both temporal and eternal implications. In Christ’s resurrection, we are presently raised to walk in newness of life, and we are promised final victory over death unto everlasting life!

Christ’s Obedience in Death (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART IV – Redemption Accomplished

Lesson Nine: Christ’s Obedience in Death

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,” (1Pt. 3:18; NASB).

 

Christians are a peculiar people. We sing songs about death, and we sing them with joy and hope in our hearts. With a sense of great liberation, we sing of one specific death in history. When Christ died, He did not primarily come to die as our example. Certainly, there is a certain character we see on display in Him as He went to His death that is worthy of emulation (1 Peter 2:21-25). Yet we know from observing the whole counsel of Scripture that Christ’s primary purpose in death was not that of setting a good example.

Christ’s purpose in death. If His main purpose were to set a good example, how would that be anything close to good news? If His sole purpose were to set for us an example, the gospel would be reduced down to a message of works righteousness. Christ could be said to have died merely to show us how we might save ourselves. Indeed, there is much we can learn from the cross about how to more accurately and faithfully follow Christ. The primary purpose of the cross, however, was the accomplishment of our redemption.

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed,” (Isa. 53:5; NASB).

In Christ, we see that our transgressions (our violation of God’s law) and our iniquities (our evil deeds) were blotted out. As a result of the cross work of Jesus Christ our sin, which we committed in plain sight of the God who sees all things, is remembered no more. As Christ hung on the cross to receive the punishment we deserve for our sins, we now stand before God in His righteousness to receive the privilege only He deserve: the privilege of sonship.

Christ’s volition in death. This death was no mere accident. Nor was it an assassination or a death by natural causes. Such a death would not do. Instead, Christ was tried by men, received the sentencing we deserve, nailed to an accursed tree, and left to die. In this process, another far greater trial was being decided. An infinitely more important penalty was being paid. Almighty God, out of sheer sovereign love for His people and righteous judgment over sin, poured out His wrath on the Son.

“But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand,” (Isa. 53:10; NASB).

Salvation from sin and death comes to the elect by way of Christ’s willing acceptance of the punishment we deserve. The glorious news of the gospel is that Christ receives the punishment we deserve so that we can enter into the privilege only He deserves, and all of this comes to us as a result of the love of God. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8; NKJV). To reduce Christ’s death down to mere example, then, is a criminal offense against the gospel and the God who secured it for us.

We see then that Christ’s mission was not merely one of perfectly obeying God in life, but it was likewise a mission of obedience in death. Christ came to this earth, took on flesh, and lived the perfect life so that He might die the perfect death. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” (Phil. 2:8; NKJV). Not only did it please God to crush Him, but He willingly came to this earth for that very purpose.

Christ’s sacrifice in death. Christ’s obedience in death not only satisfied the justice of God in punishing our sin. It also met the righteous requirement of the law of God. As such, we cannot conclude our discussion of the cross without mentioning its accomplishment of our atonement through sacrifice. When Christ died on the cross, His death was not merely a penal death. It was also an atoning death. That is, it cleansed us of the sin that separates us from God.

John Murray insists that the death of Christ ought to be viewed in reference to Old Testament sacrifices. In the Old Testament, animals were regularly slaughtered to make atonement for the sins of the people. These sacrifices were expiatory, meaning that they were meant to remove the sin from the sinner in the eyes of God. Murray explains:

“This means that they had reference to sin and guilt. Sin involves a certain liability, a liability arising from the holiness of God, on the one hand, and the gravity of sin as the contradiction of that holiness, on the other. The sacrifice was the divinely instituted provision whereby the sin might be covered and the liability to divine wrath and curse removed,” (Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg. 25).

What we have then, in the death of Christ, is a complete removal of our identity as sinners and the substitution of a much more glorious identity: the identity of sons. Christ’s sacrifice was the final sacrifice. Nor is there any other. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,” (1Pt. 3:18; NASB).

Union with Christ. When the biblical authors speak of Christ’s obedience in life and death as it applies to us in our redemption, they speak of it primarily in terms of our union with Christ. It’s only by virtue of our union with Christ that we come to be partakers of the great privileges afforded us in the cross. As such, what Christ has accomplished for us the Spirit applies to us as He engrafts us into the body of Christ.

1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:1-3; NKJV).

When Paul writes in Romans six and seven of the Christian’s relationship to sin, he speaks of it in terms of a deceased man. We are those who have died to sin. This is an accomplished action in the past. We no longer live under the threat of the penalty or the reign of sin. When we came to faith in Christ, we were immersed (baptized) into Him and now are seen as perfectly obedient in life and death. What is true of Christ is now true of all who are immersed into Him. We weren’t merely immersed into His obedient life. We were also immersed into His death, and so we have died to sin.

Our great assurance in Christ. This is one reason that Roman Catholics and other cults of Christianity cannot rise above their guilt. If you believe that Christ must be recrucified every mass the atonement cannot possibly be accomplished, and your eternity cannot possibly be secure. The saints of the Old Testament trusted in the God who would eventually make full and final atonement for sins, and we look back to the Messiah who did fully and finally atone for them.

With this great Savior comes great assurance, an assurance that had all but disappeared until the dawn of the Reformation. The only assurance Rome could offer hinged upon the obedience of the individual in her observance of the sacraments. The Bible clearly stands in opposition to such a doctrine. Our assurance is bound up solely in the obedience of Christ in His death, His obedience in burial, and in His resurrection.

Application to evangelism. When speaking with the unbeliever about these matters, it may be necessary to convey just the general idea of what we are here describing. This can be a lot to take in at once. That’s one of the reasons why it is so important that we not merely reduce evangelism down to little five-minute encounters on a street corner, and the gospel down to a five-minute, cookie-cutter presentation. The gospel (the good news) is a multi-faceted diamond that must be observed from several different angles. Reception of the full gospel, then, requires a regular, weekly attendance to the ordinary means of grace, and especially to the preached word of God.

Again, we are not called to be about the work of making converts and leaving them as spiritual orphans. We’re called to make disciples, to baptize them, and to teach them to observe all that Christ commanded. As such, while it is important that disciples search the depths of the obedience of Christ and what is secured for us in it by virtue of our union with Him, we are not necessarily called to try to convey it all in our initial discussions with the unbelievers in our lives. For this reason also, the death of Christ should ever be a central focus of the church and her services.

“With the apostles the church affirms that it was the eternal Son of God, the Word who became flesh, the Lord of glory, who died on Calvary (Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; John 1:1, 14; 20:28; 1 Cor. 2:8). Accordingly, in its best moments, the church has ‘gloried in nothing but the cross’ (Gal. 6:14) and has ‘resolved to know nothing among [the nations] except Christ Jesus and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2),” (Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, pp. 624-625).

What is meant in Galatians 6:14 and First Corinthians 2:2, that Paul gloried in nothing but the cross and resolved to know nothing among the Corinthian saints except Christ Jesus and Him crucified? Only that the central focus of the gospel ministry ought to be that of the cross work of Jesus Christ. The highest work of the gospel minister is to ever put the crucified Savior on display for the people of God, so that they might come to saving faith in Him and, having been saved, that they might be ushered time and again back to the fountainhead and object of their faith: their crucified Savior.

Christ’s Obedience in Life (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART IV – Redemption Accomplished

Lesson Eight: Christ’s Obedience in Life

“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous, (Romans 5:19; NASB).

 

Having established that the Great Commission is the driving motivation behind our evangelism, the church are the messengers, and the unregenerate are the recipients, and having discussed God’s holiness and man’s sin and its wages as the backdrop to the gospel, today we finally arrive at the gospel itself. We have just spent two lessons describing man’s terrible predicament. Now, we will discuss God’s great remedy. In the next three lessons, we will observe Christ’s accomplishment of redemption through His perfect obedience.

Is Calvinism the gospel? One famous preacher is often quoted as having said that Calvinism is the gospel. I have even been out doing door-to-door visits before with individuals who insisted on bringing up the five points of Calvinism in their gospel presentations. While it is certainly helpful in one’s evangelism to know and affirm the doctrines the doctrines of grace, conveying them in an initial evangelistic encounter is not always wise. Besides, our goal in evangelism is to make disciples, not Calvinists.

This is not to say that there aren’t some elements of the doctrines of grace that are essential to explaining the gospel. For instance, we certainly want the unbeliever to understand his or her depravity and the fact that Christ provided an atonement for His sheep. Discussions about election, the irresistible call, and the perseverance of the saints can come later in the process of discipleship. How redemption is applied to the individual may be necessary to discuss at a certain point in the discussion, but the main thrust of the gospel message in evangelism should focus primarily on how Christ accomplished our redemption.

Redemption and atonement. First, we must ask, “What is redemption?” The term redemption stems from the biblical concept of being bought back. When a man sold himself into slavery in order to pay off a debt, in the Old Testament, a kinsman redeemer could come and purchase him back and restore him to freedom and to his land (Lev. 25:47-50, 25). In the same way, we are told that the unbeliever is enslaved to sin and in need of a Redeemer.

16Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness,” (Romans 6:16-18; NKJV).

As slaves to sin, we must have a Redeemer if we hope to be free. John Murray wrote at length about the doctrine of redemption in his book Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Again, it is this accomplishment of redemption that should be our primary focus in our evangelistic discussions. Murray explains in the opening sentence of his book, “The accomplishment of redemption is concerned with what has been generally called the atonement,” (John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg. 9).

Second, then, we must ask, “What is atonement?” Atonement is observed in the historic acts of Christ in which He “by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father has given unto Him,” (The Baptist Confession, 8.5). For our study, we will observe three specific elements of Christ’s work of redemption: His obedience in life, His obedience in death, and His resurrection.

Christ’s obedience in life. In understanding the necessity for Christ’s obedience, we must begin by understanding that we are disobedient. Each of us have the work of God’s law written on our hearts (Rom. 2:14-16) such that none of us are excused in our violation of it (Rom. 1:18-21). None of us will be able to stand in the day of judgment in our own deeds, for “If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3; NASB). In ourselves, then, we are deemed to be the pupils of Satan, sons of disobedience, and children of wrath.

1And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.,” (Eph. 2:1-3; NKJV).

However, from the initial sin of Adam, God has been about the work of redemption. From the beginning, He provided for His people the hope of a coming Messiah, one who would make atonement for their sins and reconcile them to God. We know that the many prophesies of this Messiah to come were finally and fully fulfilled in the Person of Christ Jesus. As a result, all who turn from their sins toward God and place their full trust and allegiance in Christ are now considered sons of God, obedient children (1Pt. 1:14).

This transaction required the full and perfect obedience of Christ. The reason Christ needed to live a perfect life is twofold. First, Christ needed to go through all of the trial, temptation, and hardship He did in order to prepare Him for the single voluntary act of dying on the cross for our sins. We’ll explore in more depth the doctrine of the cross next week. Second, Christ had to fulfill on behalf all His sheep the perfect law of God.

“He perfectly met both the penal and the preceptive requirements of God’s law. The passive obedience refers to the former and the active obedience to the latter. Christ’s obedience was vicarious in the bearing of the full judgment of God upon sin, and it was vicarious in the full discharge of the demands of righteousness. His obedience becomes the ground of the remission of sin and of actual justification,” (John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg. 22).

Christ then is not only our perfect Sacrifice, as we will see next week. He is also our perfect obedience to the law. He provides atonement for the sins we have committed, to be sure, but He has done far better. When we turn to Christ, we not only receive a clean slate and new standing with God. We receive Christ’s goodness and perfection and all the blessing and privilege that comes with it. In Him, we not only have the infinite debt of our sin expunged, but we have accredited to our account an infinite sum, an eternal inheritance!

It is imperative that we Christians deeply and regularly consider these truths. In doing so, our evangelism becomes second nature. The truth of the gospel and the joy that accompanies it will readily and bountifully spring from our hearts and through our lips as streams well up and flow from deep within the mountains. Let us not take in this knowledge as a purely academic exercise, for that would be contrary to Scripture. It would also lead to the sure death of our evangelism. Rather, we must take these truths and drive them deep into our souls to be regularly meditated upon and regularly discussed as we commune with the saints.

7who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek,’” (Hebrews 5:7-10; NKJV).

The Recipients of the Gospel (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART II – THE MESSENGERS AND THE RECIPIENTS

Lesson Five: The Recipients of the Gospel

So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek,” (Philippians 2:15; NASB).

 

In the world. When Christians in the West consider the work of evangelism, we often think of it in terms of outreach and church growth. As such, the primary focus is often placed upon getting youth and young adults through the doors of the church. We think of the man-on-the-street style of evangelism that most of us have seen on YouTube and other places. We think of knocking on doors, asking our waiters and waitresses how we might pray for them and leaving them a gospel tract with their tip, and having smoke break, coffee break, and water cooler conversations at work. In other words, our focus in much of our talk of evangelism is outward focused.

Today, I’d like to make the argument that evangelism rightly understood ought to be focused both outside the walls of the church and inside them. First, let us consider those outside the church. These are the most obvious recipients of our evangelistic efforts. It is most clearly modeled for us by the apostles in the Acts of the Apostles. We see not long after Pentecost and the gospel being brought to the Jews that it was soon brought to the Samaritans (Acts 8:1,4-25) and the Gentiles as well (Acts 8:26-38; Acts 10:9-48). This expansion of the kingdom of God beyond the borders of Judea was in keeping with Christ’s words:

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come,” (Mt. 24:14; NASB).

And…

“The gospel must first be preached to all the nations,” (Mk. 13:10; NASB).

As Gentiles living in a predominantly Gentile nation, we must recognize that our mere presence in this land is a fulfillment of Christ’s commission to take the gospel to the nations. When we leave our gatherings on the Lord’s Day and go into our homes, the marketplace, and our workplaces, we are going into the kingdom of man. We are entering the nations and bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. We are on mission, witnesses of Christ Jesus in our own context.

We see this idea expressed in Luke’s account of the Great Commission. Matthew is not the only apostle to have recorded the Great Commission for us. In Luke’s account, we see a bit more of Christ’s intent for the gospel. In Matthew’s account, Matthew highlights Christ’s command that we go into all nations in order to make disciples. In Luke’s account in Acts, we get a little more specificity.

7He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,’” (Acts 1:7-8; NASB).

The church was commissioned not merely to go into every nation, but into “even the remotest part of the earth” in order to make disciples. We see in some denominations today a push to plant churches only in urban centers like Dallas, Chicago, New York, Paris, London, etc. Jesus did not only command that the gospel penetrate the urban centers of the nations in which we sojourn, but that it should be taken even to the remote pioneer locations like West Texas, rural China, the mountains of Chile, and even to tribes whose languages we’ve yet to learn.

Christ taught not to forbid even little children from coming to Him. He likened forbidding a child from coming to Him to forbidding every citizen of His kingdom from doing so, because “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it,” (Mark 10:15; NKJV). All who come to Christ are to believe in Him and trust in Him just like a little child. This is one reason we should not be opposed to properly ordered children’s ministries, like catechism classes, as are some in the church. We must labor to minister the gospel to the children in our midst. This is also why fathers and mothers must preach the gospel to and catechize their children. Do you have children at home? There should be no space in your home where the gospel is not being preached.

Are you the only true Christian, or one of only a few true Christians, in your workplace? You have an opportunity there to help your coworkers to understand the lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives and to, Lord-willing, be used of Him to make disciples in that very particular context. What other contexts might lend themselves to the making of disciples? Local political organizations, college classes, sports teams, scout troops, home school communities, etc. For our context, these are our “remotest parts.” Should the gospel have no representation in them? Should these be considered “safe spaces” from our witness to Christ?

In our midst. Certainly, we are called to make disciples of those who are outside of the church. Our gospel ministry does not stop there, though. We are also called to minister the gospel in our midst. Consider the words of Paul as he instructed the church at Corinth on the topic of Christian liberty.

19For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you,” (1Cor. 9:19-23; NKJV).

Paul did not merely assume that all of his readers, by virtue of the fact that they were members of a local church, were necessarily saved. This is a common mistake we often make in Reformed churches today. We just assume that everyone is already a believer merely because they profess to be so. On the contrary, Paul encouraged the church at Corinth: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified,” (2 Corinthians 13:5; NKJV). He didn’t just assume that they must necessarily be in the faith.

This is the reason why he wrote three entire chapters on the church’s use of Christian liberty. We are to practice our liberty in Christ with joy and liberality, but also with love toward our weaker brothers. If by our lack of caution and concern for our weaker brothers we cause them to stumble, we might also by the same act prove that we were never truly saved. “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified,” (1 Corinthians 9:27; NKJV). Therefore, all of us—teachers and disciples—are called to self-examination. We’re all called to make our calling and election sure.

Knowing that many within the church may not truly be saved, it is incumbent upon the church to minister the gospel on a regular basis. This is also why weekly attendance to the preached word is also important. As we sit under the preached word, we get more and more of a full picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is one of the main reasons why I am no longer convinced that we must have a cookie-cutter, five-minute gospel presentation that we preach every time we talk to our lost friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. Our job is to make disciples (learners), not converts. Whether someone is yet saved or not, if they are regularly sitting under the preaching of Christ, there is a very real, practical sense in which they are disciples. As these disciples sit and add weekly to their understanding of the gospel of Christ, they are also weekly subjecting themselves to the power of God unto salvation.

It’s not just the lost, though, who need to hear the gospel on a regular basis. We each need to be regularly reminded of the law of God, the gospel of Christ, and our need for continued repentance and belief in Him. So the weekly reinforcement of the gospel through the preaching of the word is not just for the benefit of the lost. It is also for the benefit of the saints. Consider the fact that Paul himself calls the Roman church saints (Romans 1:7). It was only a few short sentences later that he tells them that he is “eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome,” (Rom. 1:15; NASB).

Was this because he thought them not to be saved? Surely, based on what we’ve already observed from his letters to the Corinthians, he knew that not all of them were necessarily saved. That was not his primary concern, though. Paul recognized the duel effect of the gospel when preached in the assembly. For the lost, it is the power of God unto regeneration, justification, and adoption into the family of God. For the saints, though, it is the power of God unto sanctification, edification, admonition, and preservation. In both cases, it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

Also, where the gospel is not regularly preached in the midst of the saints, there is a great danger of a false gospel creeping in. Paul recognized this when he wrote to the churches of Galatia. He assumed that there were faithful ministers still preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, though there were some who were already trying to still them away with a false gospel.

8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed,” (Gal. 1:8-9; NKJV).

Let us be careful, then, to preach the gospel to all. Whether we are in the church or outside of the church, whether we are talking to a professing Christian or a raging atheist, let us ever have the gospel of Jesus Christ on our lips. Preaching the gospel to all people in all places, then, we will by exhausting all means at our disposal save some.

Teaching Obedience to Christ’s Commands (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART I – THE GREAT COMMISSION

Lesson Three: Teaching Obedience to Christ’s Commands

 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [a]always, even to the end of the age,’” (Matthew 28:20; NASB).

 

Defining a disciple. What is it to be a disciple. Discipleship means learning. That’s what the term in the Greek means: “to learn.” Christian disciples are first and foremost disciples of Christ. They will have to answer directly to Him on the day of judgment. However, they will not be the only ones answering for their souls. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews was very clear that teachers, too, will have to give an account for every soul they have been commissioned to teach.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you,” (Hebrews 13:17; NASB).

This was the practice of the early church. They gave themselves regularly to the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42). Teaching was so paramount in the early church that the apostles even requested that men be set aside from the church to aid in the administrative matters of the church so that they could more fervently devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:1-5). This is a vital role within the church. Deacons are necessary for the freeing up of elders for prayer and the ministry of the word, and as the word is preached, new disciples find their place in the economy of Christ as true, teachable disciples.

When Christ makes disciples, He does not leave them as orphans. Rather, He gives them the Holy Spirit as a Helper, a Comforter, and an Advocate. When Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, He sent the Spirit to us to guide us into all truth (John 14:16-26; 16:5-15). This same Spirit gives gifts to the church that are necessary for her unity in the faith (Romans 12:3-8).

Christ told His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed that it was for their benefit that He go. Why? In the giving of His Spirit, He was also giving godly men to the church for their preservation in the unity of the faith. He was giving them, and all subsequent teachers, to the church for her edification, refreshment, admonition, exhortation, and sanctification. The Spirit of God does His work primarily through the teaching ministry of the church.

7But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it says,

‘When He ascended on high,

He led captive a host of captives,

And He gave gifts to men.’

9(Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:7-13; NASB).

If a disciple is one who learns, then what is a disciple of Christ? What kind of disciples are we to be seeking to “make”? A disciple of Christ is one who submits to the teachings of Christ in His present teaching ministry, and Christ presently teaches through the teachers He has given the church through the Spirit.

What are disciples to be taught? Disciples are those who are to be taught to obey all that Christ commanded. They are not mere converts left to their own devices with no expectation of growth in holiness. They are meant to be brought into the church and taught the statutes of Christ. It is through the preaching and teaching ministry of the church, then, that we come under subjection to Christ. Outside the auspices of the local church, then, growth in godliness is not to be expected.

 “The bottom line is that God has designed the church to be the context in which we move from sinfulness to holiness. Attempting to grow in Christ outside of the church is like trying to learn to swim without ever getting into the pool!” (Mack and Swavely, Life in the Father’s House, pg. 29).

Consider then what a horrible thing it is to assure someone of his or her salvation outside of regular attendance to the preaching and teaching of the church. To offer a person such assurance is like assuring a blind man that he is in no danger as he walks toward a 500-foot cliff. Such assurance would be terribly unloving. Yet, this type of assurance is offered regularly by well-meaning Christians in the name of evangelism.

Disciples, then, are to be taught two main things:

“what man ought to believe concerning God, and what duty God requireth of man,” (The Baptist Catechism of 1693, Q.6).

This means that the disciple is to be trained thoroughly both in right doctrine and in right practice, orthodoxy and orthopraxy. We are to believe what God has said about Himself and, at the same time, walk in accordance with that belief. The word of God has given us sufficient testimony to both. As such, the role of the church in the life of the new disciple is to be one of pointing him or her to the word of God.

This is not just the job of the pastor in the pulpit. Other Christians are to be committed to the task of training up the new disciple in what we ought to believe concerning God and what He requires of us. The pastor cannot be everywhere at once. The whole church is required for the teaching of new disciples.

A further requirement for disciples is that they be teachable. After all, that is what a disciple is: a learner. The moment a disciples ceases to learn in accordance with Christ’s ordained means, he ceases to be a disciple of Christ. We must labor, then, to remain teachable at every turn of our Christian lives.

Baptizing in the Triune Name (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART I – THE GREAT COMMISSION

Lesson Two: Baptizing in the Triune Name

 

“baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,’” (Matthew 28:18-19b; NASB).

Why baptism? For many Christians today, baptism has no place in any discussion of evangelism. That is because many Christians do not believe evangelism and discipleship to be intrinsically linked. In fact, to consider their practice, many Christians today do not even consider discipleship and baptism to be intrinsically linked. Yet, when Christ commissioned His church to make disciples, baptism was the first step He listed in which these new disciples were to take part.

The whole of the Great Commission is a corporate effort. The church goes, the church baptizes, and the church teaches. It also has an individual aspect, though. After the church goes and makes a new disciple, that disciple submits to baptism and submits to the teaching of the church.

For the new disciple, then, there are two aspects to discipleship: the one-time submission to baptism and the ongoing submission to teaching. Both of these two aspects of discipleship require a common denominator: the local church. The local church is essential for the carrying out of the Great Commission. There is no sense in which baptism and teaching in the New Testament was expected to occur outside of the authority of local congregations.

The very nature and structure of the New Testament testifies to this fact. All but three of the epistles and Revelation (itself an epistle to the seven churches) were written either to local churches or to be circulated among local churches. The other three epistles were written to church leaders for the benefit of local churches. The other five books of the New Testament are the Gospels and Acts, in which must instruction is given for a godly ordering of local churches.

“The New Testament is a church book, a book for Christians in the context of a local church. The New Testament knows nothing of a churchless Christianity. There can be no ‘teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you’ or no continuing ‘in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, and breaking of bread and prayers’ unless a Christian is a member of a visible body of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 28:20 & Acts 2:41,42 & 47),” (Earl Blackburn, Denominations or Associations? pg. 28).

Our subjects this week (baptism) and next week (teaching) only make sense within the context of the local church. The commands will necessarily be fulfilled by a Christian if he or she is truly disciple of Christ, and these commands are only fulfilled within the auspices of the local church. This fact makes membership within the local church absolutely necessary for the Christian. “Far from being only one of many options for the Christian, the church is the primary means through which God accomplishes His plan in the world,” (Mack and Swavely, Life in the Father’s House, pg. 21).

Baptism is an absolutely necessary part of Christian discipleship, because church membership is an absolutely necessary part of Christian discipleship. If we are to be discipled by Christ, it will occur within the body of Christ. The first step in Christian discipleship, and the first step in church membership are the same: baptism.

“[Baptism] is what the Bible presents as the first step for the Christian, and the assumption in the New Testament is that all Christians have been baptized,” (Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, pg. 160).

Baptism, as a public admission of a person into the church, accomplishes two things. The first thing it accomplishes is to recognize the disciple’s willing submission to the authority of the church in his or her life. This is a countercultural concept, especially in America. We don’t like to think of any human being as having authority over us. However, the Bible is very clear that we are to subject ourselves to one another in Christ (Eph. 5:21). When I submit myself to a local church through baptism, I am declaring my desire to be submitted to that local congregation for admonition, teaching, exhortation, rebuke, edification, and training in righteousness.

This willing submission assumes a second desired end. It assumes that a church desires to corporately come alongside the new disciple and provide him or her with godly admonition, teaching, exhortation, rebuke, edification, and training in righteousness. For those who have left everything to follow Christ, it means even more. It means that the church will provide him or her with “a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms,” (Mark 10:30; NASB). This submission, then, is necessarily reciprocal, and baptism is the rite through which we enter this relationship of mutual submission.

“[Baptism] ratifies our union with those who are saved by Christ (1 Cor. 12:13-26). It is therefore often called the rite of initiation into the Christian Church,” (J. Aspinwall Hodge, The System of Theology Contained in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, pg. 138).

Christian disciples today are rightly skeptical of joining themselves to churches, because many if not most churches are either ill-equipped or unwilling to join themselves to new disciples. This is one of the great tragedies of our day. Churches have forgotten, if they ever knew, how to be churches to those who come through their doors.

“Biblical membership means taking responsibility. It comes from our mutual obligations as spelled out in all of Scripture’s one another passages—love one another, serve one another, encourage one another. All of these commands should be encapsulated in the covenant of a healthy church,” (Mark Dever, What Is a Healthy Church? pp. 95-96).

One reason we don’t often think about what we owe to one another and, specifically, what we owe to new disciples among us, is because we have forgotten the solemnity of baptism. We have forgotten the fact, or perhaps were never taught the fact, that baptism is the sealing of a covenant bond between Christ’s disciples. Baptism is a solemn vow between new members and churches, a commitment to mutual submission and a reciprocal consideration of one another’s welfare.

Baptism is not merely an individual decision. It is not merely the decision of a believer to join himself or herself to a church. Rather, it is the mutual decision of the church and the believer to enter into vital union with one another. The church is not the church without her members, and Christians are not living as true Christians apart from the church. As such, baptism is just as much a submission of the church to the member as it is a submission of the member to the church (Mack and Swavely, Life in the Father’s House, 48).

The mode and formula of baptism. In Baptist churches, we teach that new members who enter into the covenant community through faith are the only rightful recipients of the sacrament of baptism. According to An Orthodox Catechism, “Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, and faith in and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ” are the “proper subjects of this ordinance,” (Hercules Collins, An Orthodox Catechism, Q.69). This is well known among Baptist churches. What though, are the proper mode and formula for baptism?

Before discussing mode we must note that the mode, though important, is of far less importance than the order and formula of baptism. Many of the first generation Particular Baptists, though baptized as believers, were nonetheless baptized by pouring or sprinkling, not immersion. When considering the authenticity of a baptism, I am far less concerned about the mode than I am about the order and formula. Nonetheless, Baptists have historically recognized immersion as the true mode of baptism.

This was the preferred mode of the early church. Pouring or sprinkling were only used in instances were immersion was not an option. The early church clearly understood, as we see in the Didache, that immersion was the proper mode employed by Christ and the apostles.

“The procedure for baptizing is as follows. After rehearsing all the preliminaries, immerse in running water ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’. If no running water is available, immerse in ordinary water. This should be cold if possible; otherwise warm. If neither is practicable, then sprinkle water three times on the head ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’” (The Didache, 7).

Finally, as new disciples are added to our number through baptism, they are to be baptized in a Trinitarian formula. This practice, as we see in the above quote, was clearly the practice of the church from the earliest times. It is also a practice that the church has continued to this day.

Why do we baptize in the Triune name, though? We baptize in the name of our Triune God to signify baptism in His authority. Remember that we go forth in Christ’s authority to make disciples. Christ further commands that we baptize in the authority of the Triune God any who enter into discipleship with Him. Baptism being the entrance point into the church, and baptism being divinely commanded of all who enter into the discipleship of Christ in the authority of the Triune name, all who would come to Christ as Lord must also submit themselves to the local church through baptism.

As such, it is proper to follow in the apostles’ footsteps in our discussion of baptism. Just as they preached baptism as a part of their evangelistic message (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16), so ought the church today. If we are not baptizing we are not making disciples, and if we are not making disciples we are not being faithful to our King. Let us, then, reconsider the importance of baptism for the work of evangelism.

Going in Christ’s Authority (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART I – THE GREAT COMMISSION

Lesson One: Going in Christ’s Authority

 

18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,’” (Matthew 28:18-19a; NASB).

All authority. It is essential on the outset that Christians, with the task of evangelism set before them, recognize that it is a task that must be done in boldness. It must be done in boldness, because it is a task that has behind it all of the authority of heaven and earth. It has divine authority. The task of evangelism is a task that has been demanded of us by divine authority, and its message bears the divine seal.

As we are going weekly into our contexts—our homes, our workplaces, the marketplace, and our neighborhoods—we are carrying with us the King’s message. When a mother instructs her children, she must recall with great urgency the divine message she has been given to imprint on those young hearts. As we take a smoke break or a coffee break at work, we must remember that Christ’s authority is over the whole earth, even our workplace. Our coworkers sorely need to be compelled by His gospel to submit to His rightful authority. . . in this life! Our neighbors both in the marketplace and on our block should readily see the gospel of Jesus Christ adorned by our character, our actions, and certainly our conversation. After all, this gospel is not our message. It is the King’s message, and we are His ambassadors as we sojourn in this world today.

How is it that the early church was taught to adorn the gospel of Christ and the doctrine of the apostles? They were called to have Christian character. Slaves were encouraged to have a strong, Christian work ethic, so that their character would support the Great Commission in the workplace and not detract from it.

9Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect,” (Titus 2:9-10; NASB).

We who work for others ought to regularly consider what our work ethic conveys to those with whom and for whom we work about what we truly believe. If we claim to be Christians, we must live, work, rest, and play in such a way as to adorn His and His apostles’ teachings. If we claim the name of the King, and we bear the message of the King, we must adorn His name with such virtues as integrity, loyalty, equity, and efficiency.

Sadly, I’ve spoken with some Christian business owners who have lamented to me the fact that they have hired a great many Christians who do not adorn the name of Christ. Christians can be known for shoddy work, for talking on the clock, and for laziness. What we should be known for is an above-standard work ethic that raises all our peers to the next level. As we show all good faith in our work, we will truly adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. Wives, likewise, were encouraged to adorn themselves with godly character:

3Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands,” (1 Peter 3:3-5; NASB).

Rather than seeking to win their unbelieving husbands with the latest fashions and jewelry, they were to let the hidden person of their heart be exposed, but with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit. Peter, in essence, wants women to understand that men are not won by their wives’ external beauty. Ungodly husbands are won to Christ by the adorning of godly character in support of the gospel that has been preached. Peter conveys as much in the preceding two verses.

1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior,” (1 Peter 3:1-2; NASB).

Everything the Christian does either supports or detracts from the Great Commission. Do we love our co-workers as we have been called to love all men? Do we hope to see them saved? We must adorn the doctrine of God our Savior then through a godly work ethic. Do we love our unbelieving family members? Do we hope to see them saved? Then we must adorn the gospel of Christ in our love and respect for them in all of our conversations.

We must adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ for their sake, but also out a sense of its authority. Again, this gospel we have been given is the very message of the King. It comes with His authority upon the hearts of the hearers, but it should also fall with His authority upon our hearts. If it bears no authority upon the church, how will they ever hear? We can wish all day long that they would just happen to the pew by the sheer will of God, but we know that is not at all how God accomplishes His will.

The gospel is God’s power unto salvation (Romans 1:16). They must be compelled to submit to godly discipleship by its power, or we should expect that they will never have the slightest desire of discipleship. The lost must see their great need of Christ and of His church if they are to be brought into the church and taught to observe all that Christ commanded. That is one of the goals of preaching the word: to help regular church members be so immersed in the word that we can all explain, bare minimum, a person’s need for discipleship in Christ. If the average church member can’t explain that, then the local church has failed him.

Going, therefore. This great authority having been given to Christ, the church is now commissioned. We are commissioned to make disciples of all nations. In the Matthew 28 account of the Great Commission, there are several participles providing subpoints to this main point. The main verb is to make disciples. The participles are ‘going,’ ‘baptizing,’ and ‘teaching.’ Each of these participles is given in support of the main verb, so it could be said—and has been said—that the main verb gives us the objective, and the participles give us the plan of attack.

Christ, in His incarnation, accomplished several pivotal goals in the church. One of the great feats He accomplished was to mobilize the church. The assembly, before Christ’s incarnation, had been bound up within one single ethnicity: the Israelites. The worship of God’s congregation was to occur according to a strictly regulated ceremonial law code in which four festivals were to be observed on Mount Zion a year. The covenant community of God was shored up within a very neatly defined set of geographical boarders.

When Christ came to this world and took on human flesh, He removed the enmity that existed between circumcised believers and their Gentile counterparts:

14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity,” (Ephesians 2:14-16; NASB).

Now, the assembly includes all ethnicities from which any have bowed the knee to Christ. In His incarnation, He also removed the sense of geographical, earthly worship and declared that we who worship Him must worship Him instead in spirit and in truth.

21Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth,’” (John 4:21-24; NASB).

Jesus’ congregation then gathers not on Mount Zion to observe a regular church calendar of feast days, new moons, and sabbaths. Rather, we gather together wherever we can with a true, local body of believers to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Not only Has God expanded His assembly to include all ethnicities and abolished the requirement for the congregation to gather on Mount Zion, teaching them instead to worship in spirit and truth. Christ also broke apart the geographical boundaries of the kingdom of God, mobilizing the church to go forth into all nations. However, He did so through interesting means.

In Acts 7, we read of the stoning of Stephen, the deacon, at the hands of the Jews in Jerusalem. Up until this time, the church of Christ had met locally in one single location in Jerusalem. It was by all accounts an obscure, insignificant, geographically challenged church, though their numbers had grown quite large in a short amount of time. God used the murder of Stephen, though, as an occasion to mobilize the church and to move them out into all the known world.

“Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles,” (Acts 8:1; NASB).

Our God has a knack for taking the things that men mean for evil and using them for good. He did so in the life of Joseph. He did so in the death of Christ. Here, we see that He even did so in the stoning of Stephen. After the stoning of Stephen, a great persecution broke out in the church, and the saints were scattered.

On the day of Pentecost, we’re told that many Jewish men from all over the Roman empire had made their way to Jerusalem for the festival. Many of them repented of their sins as a result of God’s sovereign work on their hearts through Peter’s preaching. However, rather than going back home and making disciples, they remained in Jerusalem. We read in Acts 2 that this was a sweet time of fellowship, self-sacrifice, and learning at the feet of the apostles.

This time of growth in the faith would be needful in the days ahead. By Acts 7, the religious leaders in Jerusalem had reached a boiling point in their disdain for the Way. Many had been pierced to the core by Peter’s public preaching. Those who remained hardened were only growing in their animosity toward the church. When Stephen stood and boldly accounted to them the chronic unfaithfulness of Israel and their murder of the Messiah, it was more that they were willing to stand, so they stoned him. At this, a great persecution broke out, and the church was scattered. The church was scattered such that, by the time that Paul wrote to Colossae from prison, he declared that the gospel had already gone out to all the known world.

5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth,” (Colossians 1:5-6; NASB).

Of course, as the gospel went out, support was soon needed. As people were brought into the church, fulfilling the gospel on a micro level, finances were needed for the sending of missionaries and the support of struggling churches. In First Corinthians, Paul writes of one such need:

1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. 3And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. 4But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me,” (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; NASB).

Most commentators are in agreement that a collection was needful because of a local famine that was affecting the saints in Jerusalem. In the ancient church it was understood that, when one local church was in pain, the entire church experienced the same pain. This famine in Jerusalem was no different.

Support was not only required for established churches, though. Missionaries like Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, Titus, and Timothy needed to be supported as they took the gospel to the ends of the known world. In another prison letter, Paul commends the church at Philippi for their financial support of him.

15Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account,” (Philippians 4:15-17; NKJV).

Though Paul was a self-sufficient tradesman and had time to apply his trade as well as preach the gospel—having no wife or family for which to provide—he still required financial support, especially while in prison. This is a privilege for local churches. Local churches who have the ability to support missions should count it all joy to do so. It should not be seen as having been done so for the sake of the gift given to the missionary himself, but as fruit that abounds to the account of the giving church!

This blessing, however, should not be seen as something that can be bought. We do not earn the favor or the blessing of God through unwise stewardship. There were times in the lives of local churches in which they were unable to provide financial support for missions. Not only is it okay to go through seasons in which we are unable to give. It is biblical. Even the church at Philippi, who Paul is praising for their generosity in this text, went through a season in which they were unable to meet his need.

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity,” (Philippians 4:10; NASB).

A natural outworking, then, of fulfilling the Great Commission in the immediate context of the local church is the increase of opportunity to support the fulfilling of the Great Commission in greater contexts. As the Lord gives ability through the increase of a local church, the local church is to be increasingly focused on the work of the universal church. As we focus on the spread of the kingdom abroad, we will then be encouraged to take part in the spread the kingdom in our contexts.

Introduction to Defining Evangelism

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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This course is not designed to be a practical treatment on the subject of evangelism so much as—as the title suggests—an attempt to define a doctrine of evangelism by examining key texts. There will be times when we consult church history to see how godly men of earlier ages understood these topics, but these lessons are designed primarily for the purpose of getting us into the word. As such, we hope to deeply consider several major biblical themes touching evangelism and the Great Commission, and to make practical application to our own lives.

Since this is not primarily a “how-to” on evangelism, there are some practical matters we want to consider first. Of paramount consideration is our own relationships with God and with our neighbors. We read in Matthew’s gospel:

“And He said to him, ‘‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets,’’” (Matthew 22:37-40; NASB).

Love for God. We must consider how much time we spend in the word and on our knees in communion with the God with whom we claim to have been reconciled. If I do not spend adequate time with my wife and with my kids, it will show in the way that I talk about them and converse with them in public. As I seek to give marital or parenting advice to others, they will know by their observance of my own relationships that I am disqualified to offer such counsel. The same is true for evangelism. If we are to be qualified to bring people to Christ, both in the eyes of our hearers and in reality, we must regularly strive to bring ourselves to Christ in His word and in prayer.

If we hope that others are to know Christ, we must know Him as well. We’re not called to know Him on a merely academic level. We can have a great abundance of knowledge about people. Just talk to any avid baseball fan, and they will soon be rattling off to you player stats for their favorite players. If the player has been in the game for a while and has written an autobiography, they may have even read it. However, how foolish would it seem if, by virtue of this public knowledge of a public individual alone, they were to invite you over to his house for a cookout that is not open to the public.

In the same way, we are not to so belittle a relationship with our Redeemer as to invite people into such a relationship without first being in relationship with Him ourselves. Before we explain to men and women their dreadful state before God apart from Christ, we must have first taken stock of what it means for us. If we are then to educate them on the merits of Christ through which He accomplished our redemption, we must examine ourselves to see if we are truly living according to the grace that has been given us. If we are to call them to repentance and faith, we must first examine ourselves to see if we have truly repented and believed.

Love for neighbor. Love for God is the first Great Commandment. We must labor long and labor consistently at cultivating a love for our God. As we do, we will increase in yet another love: love for neighbor. This call to love our neighbor is the second great commandment. As we come daily to the word and to our knees in prayer seeking to grow in love for Christ, we should seek also to have our hearts inclined toward our neighbors.

Have you ever been excited at the prospect of meeting with a couple for dinner for the first time only to find that they had invited the whole neighborhood to their house for dinner and a sales pitch? They recognized that hospitality can be a great way to get people through your doors and gain a listening audience, but they did not care to use their home for the purpose it was originally intended. You came in the hope of a potential new friendship and instead were treated like a potential customer. What was lacking? Love.

Dynamics change drastically when love is at the core of the relationship dynamic. Jennifer and I had some friends at our last church who had us over to their house on a couple of occasions a year. They sold products through their home for one of these companies, but by the time they actually spoke with us about the products they had, it did not come off as a sales pitch. We were friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord. There was no suspicion there. We either bought their products or we didn’t but, either way, they still loved us and we loved them.

We must cultivate the same love for our neighbors to whom we hope to bring the gospel. It does no good to tell people your message is one of love if they perceive that there is no love for them in your heart. This isn’t an evangelism method I’m proposing to you. It doesn’t matter to me if churches knock on doors, host neighborhood cookouts, organize evangelistic conferences, rent booths at local festivals, hand out gospel tracts, or preach the gospel in the open air from on top of egg crates. Each of these methods will rub wrong people of different personality types.

Each of these methods will also be met with some measure of success. The difference is not necessarily in the method. The difference is in the love that we have for our neighbors. If we do not love them, they will know. In our skeptical world, it is much easier to spot someone who is lacking in love than to discern the authenticity of actual love. Nevertheless, let us pray for our neighbors, let us ask God to grant us a heart for our neighbors, and let us regularly seek His power and wisdom in conveying that love to our neighbors.

Structure. Our approach to defining evangelism will follow the structure of the “Working Definition” above. The first two parts of our study will be preparatory, while the last three parts will be definitive, explaining what evangelism is. In the first part, we will examine the foundation for evangelism: The Great Commission. The main verb in the Great Commission is the verb make disciples. This verb is modified by three participles: going, baptizing, and teaching, so our first three lessons will center on these three modifiers.

In the second part, we will consider the messengers and the hearers of the gospel in the act of evangelism. Is every Christian meant to be engaged in evangelism in exactly the same way as all others? Is evangelism solely the work of ordained, or recognized, leaders within the church, or is it the responsibility of every member? Who are the proper recipients of the evangelism? Is it only for those outside the church, or should it be a major emphasis of the preaching and teaching within the church? Part Two will be covered in lessons four and five.

It has been well noted that the good news of Christ does not make sense apart from the bad news. The cure for a terminal disease does not become precious to the patient until the doctor issues the dismal diagnosis. In the same way, the unregenerate must understand the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man before the good news of Christ’s work of atonement makes any sense. Part Three, comprised of a lesson on God’s holiness and a lesson on the sinfulness of man, will help us to understand the importance of these truths for evangelism.

In Part Four, we will finally come to an observance of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. In lessons eight through ten, we will note three acts of Christ essential to the gospel message: His obedience in life, His obedience in death, and His resurrection. As we observe each of these doctrines, we will see how Christ accomplished for us our full and final atonement and, through union with Him, come to have reconciliation with God in heaven.

Lessons eleven and twelve will comprise the fifth and final part of our study. In them, we will observe the gospel commands that come as a result of having heard the gospel of Jesus Christ: repentance unto life and saving faith. Having explained the joyous news of our accomplished atonement in Christ Jesus, the church has one final declaration to our hearers in our work evangelism:

30Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead,” (Acts 17:30-31; NASB).

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 211

Day 211

Of Saving Faith.

Chapter 14, Paragraph 3.

“…and therefore, though it may be many times assailed and weakened, yet it gets the victory, growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.”

Scripture Lookup

Ephesians 6:16

1 John 5:4,5

Hebrews 6:11,12

Colossians 2:2

Hebrews 12:2

Reflection

Often in times of struggle we berate ourselves for not having enough faith. We wonder if we will pull through this ordeal. Frail, fickle, and still full of sin as we are, frustration sets in as we see how much we lack. Walking away from belief altogether is a real temptation.

But who has granted us this faith?

“The Grace of Faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts:…” (LBCF 14.1)

God Himself, the infinite, eternal, immutable Being, the One who is most loving, gracious, merciful and long-suffering, is the One who has worked this faith in our hearts. The most holy and righteous God, who suffered and died for your salvation, is the One who enabled you to believe in Him. Do you think He will let this faith fade away to nothing?

Listen to what He says:

I will never leave you nor forsake you. -Hebrews 13:5

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. -Matthew 28:20

…the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. -Romans 8:27

Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. -Romans 8:33

Is this a God who will walk away from you? Who will extinguish the faith that He worked in you at great cost to Himself?

Saving faith, no matter how much it waxes and wanes, overcomes in the end. This victory is solely because of Christ, who is the Author and finisher of our faith. It is not dependent upon us, thank God for that! When your faith is waning, look to Him with the little faith you have. Trust that He will strengthen it, and walk in that trust. Victory is assured.

Questions to Consider

  • If Jesus is the Author and finisher of our faith, who should we turn to when our faith is weak?

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 210

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Day 210

Of Saving Faith.

Chapter 14, Paragraph 3.

“This Faith although it be different in degrees, and may be weak, or strong; yet it is in the least degree of it, different in the kind, or nature of it (as is all other saving Grace) from the Faith, and common grace of temporary believers;…

Scripture Lookup

Hebrews 5:13,14

Matthew 6:30

Romans 4:19,20

2 Peter 1:1

Reflection

Do you have enough faith?

That is the wrong question to ask.

Somehow some think that if you achieve a certain level of faith, then you’ve arrived. Then you can be a good Christian, and be considered saintly.

Such thinking is not Biblical.

Your faith may be incredibly strong. It may be flickering. But if it is saving faith, then it still enables you to believe God’s word, trust in Christ, and act upon that belief, whether it is a mustard seed or a mountain. The degrees of faith are not what defines saving faith: it is the nature of saving faith that determines its value.

Do you despise a diamond because it is not the largest one in the world? Of course not. You recognize it for the treasure it is, because it is a diamond. Such is the case with saving faith. Your faith may be the size of the smallest diamond in the world, but it is still a diamond and not a cubic zirconia. Saving faith is a grace of God, who gives good gifts to His children. Thank Him for the faith you have, and then humbly ask for more.

Questions to Consider

  • What is the nature of saving faith?