April 4, 2008

What is biblical evangelism?

Posted in Evangelism at 12:32 am by Dan Lowe

What is biblical evangelism?  There are so many different models which are being espoused today that sometimes we forget how simple it actually is.

Acts 11:19-21 gives us a succinct description of biblical evangelism:

Acts 11:19-21(ESV)19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.

Although there is much that could be said about this passage… for our purposes note four things:

1) The identity of those doing evangelism – They were ordinary Christians.  No one special.  Not necessarily church leaders.  Notice how there is not a single proper name mentioned in these verses.  These were simply average, ordinary, everyday Christians… just like you and me.  Nothing special about them whatsoever.

2) The activity of those doing evangelism – They went about “speaking” the good news of Jesus.  The word translated “speaking” in verse 19 and “spoke” in verse 20 is the Greek term λαλέω (pronounced “laleo“) and it simply refers to ordinary speech.  There was nothing unusual about their means of communication.  They were simply talking. 

3) The message of those doing evangelism – They were “preaching the Lord Jesus.”  The word translated “preaching” is the Greek term εὐαγγελίζω (pronounced “euaggelizo“) and it literally means “to announce good news.”  They were speaking good news about “Jesus”, Whom they call “the Lord.”  They went about talking about a literal, historical Person named Jesus.  They talked about what this Man, Jesus, did. 

– He lived a sinless life to merit the rewards of heaven for sinful people. 

– He willingly died a humiliating death on a cross to atone for the sins of His people. 

– He rose again from the grave on the third day. 

This is the good news they announced (I Cor 15:1-8.)  Jesus… a sinless Man… lived and died and rose again to save His people from their sins. 

But this Man, Jesus, is also “the Lord.”  This implies His sovereignty and deity.  Although He is fully human… He is also fully God… and, therefore, the Sovereign Ruler of the universe.  All authority in heaven and earth is entrusted to Him… and one day He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31.)  Apart from repenting of one’s sin and trusting in Jesus… there is no salvation (Acts 4:12.)  This is the message they proclaimed.

4) The results of evangelism– “…a great number who believed turned to the Lord.”  They heard the message of who Jesus is and what He had done and they turned away from their sins (biblical repentance) and began to trust in Jesus to save them from the judgment to come.  This took place because “the hand of the Lord was with them.”  God was at work here.  He emboldened these men to share this message with others and He caused many among those who heard the message to be born again by His Holy Spirit (Jn 3:1-8.)  This is the sovereign work of God… granting new life to those who were once spiritually dead in their sin (Eph 2:1.)

This describes biblical evangelism in summary form.  As a Christian, we are commanded to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20.)  This means that we must engage in evangelism.  What is our role in evangelism?  We are to speak about who Jesus is and what He has done on behalf of His people wherever God might send us… and leave the results up to God.

Suggestions for applying this:

1) Study the gospel.  Memorize I Cor 15:1-4.  Read good books on the gospel.  Some good basic books on the gospel include “The Gospel for Real Life” by Jerry Bridges, “The Gospel and Personal Evangelism” by Mark Dever, or (my personal favorite) “Living the the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing” by C.J. Mahaney.  Study the gospel.  Pray through the gospel.  Preach the gospel to yourself every day.

2) Share the gospel with others.  Just do it!  You don’t have to be a pastor or a deacon or a Sunday School teacher.  Just do it!  Pray for boldness in witnessing… then tell others who Jesus is and what He has done.  Announce the good news of Jesus Christ to all that God brings across your path.

3) Pray for God to save those you witness to.  Salvation is of the Lord.  Unless the hand of the Lord moves upon them… they will not be saved.  Pray for God to cause them to be born again by His Spirit through the hearing of the gospel. 

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