Evangelism is the communication of a divinely inspired message that we call the gospel. It is a message that is definable in words, but must be communicated in word and power. “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…” (1 Thess. 1:5). That message begins with information and includes explanation, application and invitation.
The information is how God, our Creator and Judge, in mercy, made His Son a perfect, able and willing Savior of sinners. The invitation is God’s summons to mankind to come to that Savior in faith and repentance, and find forgiveness, life and peace.
“And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23).
“Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29).
The definition of evangelize is as follows: “To present Jesus Christ to sinful men, in order that they may come to put their trust in God, through Him to receive Him as their Saviour and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.” You will notice that this definition is more than “winning souls,” or saving people from hell, or saving them from their personal problems, or from life’s casualties, and you will notice that the definition includes serving Christ in His church. Much present-day evangelism would not fit this definition.
Evangelism is a Good Work
We want to consider evangelism as a good work, and we must ask, “What determines a good work?” There are three things that determine when a work is a good work.
First, a good work must be done by a right rule, and in the case of evangelism, that rule is the Word of God. We must examine all we do and say in evangelism by the Word of God. That is going to be shocking and revealing, but, this will be our only appeal—the Word of God. The question is not going to be, “Does it work?” but, “Is it true?”—”Is it biblical?” The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ system works because they get converts, but is it true?
Second, a good work must have a right end in view. What is that end? The glory of God! God’s grace, mercy, and power will be glorified in the salvation of souls, or, His righteousness, holiness, and justice will be glorified in the damnation of ungodly rejectors of His revelation. Therefore, our job is to be true to the message of evangelism, regardless of the results.
When a preacher of a church tries to effect that which only God can effect, it has shifted from God-centered evangelism to man-centered evangelism. Therefore, the end we must have in view in God-centered evangelism must be first and foremost, the glory of God. If our end is only man, then our evangelism will soon become man-centered, which represents most modern evangelism.
Third, a good work must have a right motive. What is the right motive in God-centered evangelism? There are two proper motives:
- Love to God and concern for His Glory.
- Love to man and concern for his good.
Both of these motives spring from the Ten Commandments. Let me explain what I mean. When Jesus was asked by the lawyer, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36-40). Here our Lord gave a summary of the Ten Commandments.
Now, I said our motive for the good work of God centered evangelism must be:
- love to God and concern for His glory, and
- love to man and concern for his good. Well, how do we glorify God?
We glorify God by doing His will—and it is His will that we spread His name and His message of His salvation. Jesus said He glorified the Father by finishing the work that the Father gave Him to do: “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4).
He has given us the work of taking His message to all the world, thus our first motive must be love to God and concern for His glory. This is expressed in obedience to His revealed will. Therefore, if we are obedient to spreading God’s message, He will be glorified regardless of the results. The results are past our reach, past our ability, and, thank God, past our responsibility.
Our second motive — love to man and concern for his good — again springs from our Lord’s summary of the commandments, “…the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). If we really love our neighbor, we will want to share with him the message of salvation. I must add a personal note. The greatest good that has ever been done to me, or for me, in this world was done by the man who brought me the message of salvation, the message we call the gospel. He loved me; he was concerned for my good in this world and in the world to come. The Christ of this message changed my life, my home, and thank God, my destination.
In God-centered evangelism our motive is important. Evangelism is a good work; therefore, it must be done:
- by a right rule — the Word of God.
- with a right end in view — the glory of God.
- with a right motive — love to God and love to man.
I am convinced that many of our churches would not be in the spiritual condition they are in if our past evangelism had been done by a God-centered rule, with a God-centered end in view, and by God-centered motives.
Evangelism is a good work and, like all our work, will be tried as to what sort it is. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:13).
From Today’s Evangelism, P&R Publishing Co.