Evangelism Now Compared to the Old Testament
God has revealed himself and worked through his people differently in each dispensation. In the Old Testament, Israel, through the keeping of the Levitical law, was a light to the nations. All who wished to follow Yahweh came to them. God through the prophet Isaiah spoke, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).
There is still only one way man can be saved from judgement. In the New Testament Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). However, now we live in the age of the church, post Christ’s resurrection, but preceding his second coming. Rather than unbelievers coming to the church, the church instead goes out to the ends of the earth to spread the gospel until Christ comes again (Matthew 28:19-20). But why does this age continue, after 2,000 years since the Day of Pentecost, when the church began with 3,000 people coming to faith (Acts 2:41)?
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:9-13)
Often, “waiting” is associated with sitting in a doctor’s office or going to a mundane job, while waiting for a vacation. However, the purpose from now till the destruction of this earth is not boring or mundane; rather, it is so more sinners would come to faith. The only way unbelievers can come to faith is if they hear the gospel (Romans 10:9-17). Peter asked the question, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness?” The end of this present age will not only be the judgment of non-believers but believers: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil,” (2 Corinthian 5:10). Scripture even warns that we must acknowledge God before others in order to be acknowledged by him (Luke 12:8).
Becoming Like Christ
We are more like Christ when we evangelize. Because of Jesus, we are now reconciled to God. Evangelizing is telling others how they may be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Jesus Christ, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” (Luke 19:10). Through sharing the gospel, we “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter,” (Proverbs 24:11). One cannot become more sanctified, more Christ-like, without evangelizing. With eternal death on the line, we cannot make excuses (Proverbs 24:12). The guilt of many condemned souls will be on us if we do no share the gospel. In Ezekiel 3:18-19, God tells the prophet,
“If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”
However, we should not only evangelize to avoid judgment, but there should be a soft and tender heart like Jesus who, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” (Matthew 9:36). If we saw a little puppy without its owner or a lost child looking for their mom, we would want to help them find and be found by their caretaker. God has chosen to use His church to accomplish grace. Christians should recognize the responsibility as “ambassadors” to make known the decree of our king calling his subjects to the feast (2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Matthew 22:1-2).
A Heart for the Lost and Commitment to God’s Plan
Sadly, even though Christ told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful,” he also said, “ the laborers are few,” (Matthew 9:37). There are many peoples and languages in unreached areas of the world, and even many who have grown up in Judeo-Christian cultures have not heard the gospel. To reach everyone with the gospel intentionally, personally, and consistently takes the whole church; “Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,” (Matthew 9:38).
Proclaiming the gospel requires humility and generosity. Paul in I Corinthians 10:23 points out that something may be “lawful”, not inherently sinful, but it may not be “helpful” or “build up” others. We should seek the wellbeing of our neighbor rather than our own self-gratification. Evangelizing it not an easy, one time endeavor, but a sacrifice of our lives. There may be other activities and desires we wish to pursue with our time and resources, but we must exercise discernment: Will this action fulfill, or even compare in worthiness to, taking part in God’s purpose of bringing salvation? Unlike other worldviews and religions, we do not seek power or self-importance, “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ,” (2 Corinthians 2:17). If there is hesitancy to speak because of the uncertainty of what to say, we can trust in Jesus’ promise, “Do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say,” (Luke 12:11b-12).
We commit to preach whether or not there is an immediate and seen response. When the Lord asked in Isaiah’s vision, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answers, “Here I am! Send me,” (Isaiah 6:8). Even though the people would not listen, it was the Lord’s desire at that time that Israel would not “understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed,” (Isaiah 6:10). Even if we do not see results right away, we know the future in Revelation:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10)
Evangelism is not a losing battle but a “triumphal procession… for we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life,” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).
Post by Elsa Braun