1960 Synod Convention Essay
“Revive thy Church, Beginning with Me” is the title of a recently published book on Evangelism. Whatever else that title may imply, or the book itself may contain, the title does suggest a most appropriate prayer that every one of us ought to pray daily, because it is only as the individual becomes a living, throbbing, vital member of Christ’s body that the Church of Christ can be a living, thriving, working organism.
That it was, and is, the Lord’s will that every member in His body should be such a revived, living, vital organism follows from the very nature of the Gospel which the Lord Jesus entrusted to His Church. It is the “dynamite” of God, “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” The Gospel, then, is not a dead theory, an inanimate thing. Jesus said: “My Words, they are spirit and they are life.” This Gospel is the depository of the Holy Spirit among men. If this Gospel is in the heart of a man, that heart must be pulsating, throbbing with a new life, and that new life must ever express itself.
Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well said: “… whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Again, in Jerusalem: (John 7:37) “In that last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If a man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as Scripture hath said: out of his belly flow rivers living water.”
It is the work of the Gospel to bring men to repentance, save souls, hurl down idols from their thrones and drive superstition to its den forever. And since it is will of God that all men should “be saved and come to the knowledge of the “ He has commanded that Church, the fellowship of His Saints, lift up the voice,” “to publish the good tidings, to make known that “the Lord hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see salvation our God.”
“Publish, announce, proclaim unto the end of the earth.” This, then, is the command of the Lord of the Church who said “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel unto every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
In spite of this we hear voices raised in the church warning against launching out on a full scale missionary program. They express the fear that to be overly concerned about mission work, “evangelizing,” entails the danger of losing the true character of the Church and leading it into liberalism and loss of the Gospel.
That there are dangers and pitfalls cannot be denied. But it is those very dangers that the Church of Jesus Christ is called upon to face and which are to serve as a spur for the very zeal and fervor that the Church is to manifest. The history of the Christian Church shows it was while the Church was most devoted and zealous for the Gospel that it was most active in mission work, and when the dangers were most pronounced, it was most glorious in its obedience to the Saviour’s command.
When the Church was first founded in Jerusalem, we are told: “they continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:46–47) In this comfortable situation the Church soon seemed to forget its great commission as it concentrated on cultivating this compact society in Jerusalem, dealing more with inner problems of administration than with witnessing to the ends of the earth. It was then that the Lord stepped in, permitting persecution to descend upon the Church and — “they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (Acts 8:1) And v. 4 tells us: “therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.” That “therefore” is a mighty significant word in this connection. Because they were persecuted, “therefore” they went everywhere preaching. Chapter 11 tells us: “Now they winch were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the Word — and the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord.”
Persecution drew them close to the Lord, made the Gospel a living thing of comfort and joy in their hearts, broke up the tendency to isolate themselves as an island of refuge in the midst of a turbulent sea. They again became part of that turbulent sea of humanity, and the Gospel, through them, a living power for bringing peace to the hearts of men. Celsus, the first literary opponent of Christianity, wrote: “Even the weavers, the cobblers and fullers, persons of the most uneducated and rustic character preach their faith and invite into the kingdom of their God everyone who is a sinner, who is devoid of understanding, who is a child, and generally speaking, whoever is unfortunate.” —
The early Christians did not recoil from, but rather sought to create occasions for faith-conflict, for such occasions gave them opportunity to declare their faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the risk of persecution they moved among the masses contesting every expressed or implied pagan loyalty while inviting all and sundry to embrace the “illicit and subversive” Christian faith. —
It was in the 4th century of the Christian era that organized persecution of the Christian Society came to an end by the Edict of Constantine the Great. Christianity soon thereafter became the accepted State Religion. In that sheltered atmosphere the Church again became complacent and inbred in its life and attitudes. The big problem was to make its empirical position even more secure and to glory in its advantages rather than to share its own blessings. The invasion of the Barbarian tribes which ended the glory of the Roman Empire brought a new era and forced a new role upon the Church. Once again it was forced to move and made to be a Church militant, on the march, as Christians were scattered to new areas and environments by being carried away captives and hostages or forced to wander about as displaced persons. Another “missionary” era was upon the Church. It is during this period that we hear of Ulfilas, missionary to the Goths, Boniface, Ansgar, and the evangelization of the northern European nations.
Unfortunately the leadership of the Church was composed for the most part of men who had been trained in the schools of the Roman Empire. They were “organizational men” who gave to the Church the burning ambition to establish an empire to replace the fallen Roman Empire. This they succeeded in doing when Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
The zeal was no longer for witnessing to the Lord Jesus Christ but to transform a culture. This transformation was so thoroughly and completely accomplished that both the transformed culture, and the geographical area, came quite properly to be known as “Christendom,” the Christian domain, and the culture as “Christianity.”
The preachers and theologians discussed and debated among themselves the nature of the “Church” and “the Christian life,” but seldom did their eyes focus upon the non-Christian world beyond Christendom’s restricted boundaries. In fact there is little evidence that they much concerned themselves with the evangelization of the non-Christian world, or that the individual Christian was either encouraged or equipped to be a bearer of the glad tidings of great joy to his fellowmen. The result was a sterile church which was decadent in spirit and purpose.
During this period the “hordes of the Turks” were pounding at the doors of the Western World, but, with a few notable exceptions, such as St. Francis, who went to Syria and Egypt preaching the Gospel, the Church made no attempt to formulate and carry out a Christian approach to the Islamic faith. Instead the Christian Church countered Islam with crusades and vituperation. Consequently building up a partition of hostility between itself and the Islamic world which persists to this day.
A contemporary writer has stated: “It is worth considering long and seriously that the Protestant Reformation occurred within this context of a Christian world turned in upon itself, and of the Church preaching only to itself. It is questionable whether the Reformation could have created so great a rift within the household of faith, or if, indeed it could have occurred at all, had the Church been engaged in a mission (witness-bearing) to a non-Christian world, so that the synthesis of Culture with Christian faith could not have been taken so easily for granted.” Edmund Perry, The Gospel in Dispute.
The Reformation did not immediately change the picture. There were too many inner problems to be solved and overcome. But eventually the results of the release of the Gospel and the restoration of a free and unconditioned salvation produced a society of God that was bent on a mission. The Gospel in the heart made itself felt in the witness of the mouth, and under the leadership of such men as Francke, Zinzendorf, Loehe, Carey, Wesley, Walther, Harms, to mention but a few, the Church was again “a people on the run for Christ.”
The purpose in calling attention to these events in the history of the Church is not to fault the Church or belittle its efforts in any age. After all, the true Church of Christ has been in evidence and at work, the right kind of work, in every age. But we wish to call attention to the fact that when the Church was institutionalized, the individual tended to depend on the institution to carry on the work, and the responsibility reposing on the individual is lost to sight. On the other hand, the break-up of the “old ways” or state of culture once again focused attention upon the individual and his responsibility of witness-bearing.
Today, all the complexities of culture which in the past were found scattered in the areas of the world which most of us of the Western world would never reach, are placed right in our front yard. The world has come to us. The “old ways” of our Western civilization known as Christendom are being challenged as never before. Christianity is placed “on the spot.”
Some there are who would answer this challenge by creating larger institutions, more complex church organizations, so as to make an “impact” on the world. This way is doomed to failure. But we are in danger of being sucked into the maelstrom of this confusion and find ourselves fighting to maintain an institution, a form of expression, a way of life, rather than being a witness unto Him who said, (Acts 1:8) “Ye Shall be Witnesses Unto Me.”
Following the suggested. outline of Acts 1:8 we shall consider
1. The Nature of Christian Witnessing
2. The Forum of Christian Witnessing
3. The Manner of Christian Witnessing
The Nature of Christian Witnessing
The nature of Christian witnessing is revealed both by its inner essence and its external objective as set forth in the Book of Acts, which Chap. 1 v. 8 is commonly regarded as the theme: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria …”
The use of the future tense in both verbs, “shall receive” and “shall be,” is very significant. Power to bear witness and the essence of bearing witness are dependent upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. Christian witnessing is thus clearly seen to be a production of the Holy Spirit. Implied in this word of Jesus is the command that when the condition was fulfilled the disciples should witness, beginning in Jerusalem, and going out from there unto the “uttermost parts of the earth.”
Faith and trust in the Lord Jesus was indeed established in their hearts. But it was the “Baptism with the Holy Spirit not many days hence” that would give them courage and power to carry out the great commission of proclaiming Christ to the world and bringing His salvation to all men.
And so we read: (Acts 2:) “When the day of Pentecost was fully come — they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak in other tongues (languages), as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” “— we do hear them speak in our tongues (languages) the wonderful works of God.”
Again in the fourth chapter we are told that following their first arraignment before the high court of the Jews, when the disciples were threatened and commanded not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus, the disciples being let go, they went “to their own company” and joined together in prayer. Verse 31 tells us: “When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” So that, in spite of arrests and threatenings, “— daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” (Acts 5:42)
The same thing happened in Samaria when the evangelist Philip visited that area after the persecutions had scattered the believers into all parts of the country. The people believed the preaching of Philip, and of this group also we read that: “they received the Holy Ghost.” The signs of His presence were truly evident as can be seen from the request of Simon, the former sorcerer. Again, in the house of Cornelius where Peter was sent to preach the Gospel, (Acts 10:44): “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.”
Also in chapter 19 where we are told of Paul finding a group of twelve believers who had been baptized with the baptism of John and had never even heard of the doctrine of the Holy Ghost (or that the Holy Ghost had been given); when Paul had baptized them with the Baptism of Jesus Christ, v. 6 tells us — “the Holy Ghost came upon them and they spake with tongues and prophesied.”
No doubt each of these incidents is recorded to indicate that God had granted the same Pentecostal grace to each of these groups which marked new beginnings in various areas where the Gospel had been brought.
But it also follows from the record that where Word and Sacraments are, there the Holy Spirit is, and where the Holy Spirit is there is the new life in Christ. And where the new life is there will follow witnessing for as He says: shall be witnesses unto Me.
This witnessing follows as a fruit of faith, as that is cultivated by the Holy Spirit. We learn to confess: “I in the Holy Ghost.” We fellowship with the Holy Spirit in the Word and Sacraments. We converse with the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. We are enveloped by His presence in the Holy Word. He fills our heart and mind, as He is poured out upon us in this Word. We are truly “Baptized” with the Holy Spirit. He testifies unto our spirit and fills us with knowledge of Jesus Christ as “true God, begotten of the father from eternity, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary, my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death, that I might be His own live under Him in His Kingdom …”
This was the preaching of the Apostles, as we see from Acts chapter 2 (Pentecost); in Solomon’s Porch ch. 3:12–26; the house of Cornelius ch. 10; Philip to the Eunuch ch. 8, and many other recorded sermons in the Book of Acts.
Here then we also see the external objective which is part of the nature of Christian witnessing. This is inherent in the word “Witness” which Jesus used.
Christian witnessing, then, is a very personal, individual thing, produced by the Holy Spirit, and has for its sole objective the exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord and only Saviour of lost mankind. It is most beautifully exemplified in the case of the apostle Peter when arraigned before the Jewish Court for the healing of the impotent man. In answer to the question: “By what power or by what name have ye done this?” he answered: “Be it known unto you all — that by name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here you whole.” (Acts 4:10) “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among whereby we must be saved.” (v. 12) “And they called them commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (vv. 18–20) “Martyres” is the Greek word in this form and derivative forms some twenty times in the Book of Acts and over eighty times in the New Testament. “Martyres” equals etymologically, “one who is mindful; heeds,” probably allied with the Latin “memor,” from which comes our English word “memory.” A “martys” or “martyres” (plural — as here) is one who can aver, from his memory, what he himself has seen or heard, or knows by other means.
It is used in a legal sense of witnesses in a court trial. It is used in a historical sense, as in Acts 10:41, when Peter in his sermon before the household of Cornelius states that “God raised Jesus up on the third day, and shewed Him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses (Martysin) chosen before of God, even unto us who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead,” or again in verse thirty-nine of the same chapter, Peter says: “we are witnesses (martyres) of these things” in other words, they had personal knowledge of that which had taken place in this historical event, and they were to make it known. It is always used with the genitive of the possessor. This also is significant in this verse ch. 1:8. They are possessed of Jesus, they are to be witnesses to Jesus, even as they also possess Him. The word has a third use, in our ethical sense: those are called witnesses who after the example of Jesus have given proof of the genuineness and strength of their faith in Jesus by undergoing a violent death forced upon them because of their faith and the testimony to their faith. These are called (martyres Jesu) as in Acts 22:20, when Paul says, “the blood of Stephen, thy (martyr) witness was shed.” It is from this use of the word we get our English word “martyr,” which strictly signifies one who has suffered a violent death for the sake of the testimony to Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Not every one is called upon to be a martyr in the sense of Stephen, though it certainly follows from the meaning of the word that every believer will be prepared to face that possibility. (Cf “Spiritual Chain Reaction” p. 17, paragh. 4.) However every believer is called to be a witness of Christ in the historical sense.
The very fact that we have become believers, is evidence we have received the Holy Spirit, for no man can call Jesus Christ Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual eyes to see the Christ presented in the Word. He convinces us that this is the true God and eternal life. We know Him by faith, we walk with Him by faith, we eat with Him at His table. We possess Him by faith. “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” He possesses us. “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus,” and to such then is the command given: shall be witnesses unto me,” because we also, as the disciples old, have received the Holy Ghost and “power” from on high.
We return to the word Jesus used in this divine commission. It is not the first time He used it. It was in that upper room of sacred memory that Jesus said to His disciples: (John 15:27) “Ye also shall bear witness because ye have been with me from the beginning. The disciples are called “witness bearers,” men in whom Jesus places implicit trust that they will not fail Him but will tell what they have seen and heard and experienced.
A witness speaks what he knows. He is not asked to his personal opinions or judgments. An uncertain witness is a poor witness indeed. Such a witness will be laughed out of court.
In I John 1:1–3 “bearing witness” implies personal experience and conviction: “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of Life; for the life was manifested and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested unto us; that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you that ye may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
John 3:11 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, we speak that we know, and testify that we have seen; (and ye receive not our testimony).”
Phil. 3:7–11 (Paul) “I know whom I have believed …”
Man Born Blind — (John 9:25) “One thing I know …”
I John 3:2–5–14–19–24
v. 2 “We know that when He shall appear …”
v. 5 “and ye know He was manifested.”
v. 14 “We know that we have passed from death unto life.”
v. 10 “hereby we know that we are of the truth …”
v. 24 “… and hereby we know that he abideth in us”
“Thou Holy Fire, Comfort, true,
Grant us the will Thy work to do
And in Thy service to a-bide;
Let trials turn us not aside.
Lord, by Thy pow’r prepare each heart
And to our witness strength impart
That bravely here we may contend,
Thro’ life and death to Thee, our Lord ascend.
The Forum of Christian Witnessing
When we speak of the Forum of Christian witnessing we are thinking in terms of a witness being called upon to present his testimony before a court or tribunal. Witnessing always presupposes a forum and an audience.
The words of the Lord Jesus are very specific regarding the forum of Christian witnessing. He says “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” — This verse has been called the “Index” or “table of contents to the Book of Acts.” “In Jerusalem” covers the first seven chapters of the Book of Acts. “In all Judea and Samaria,” Chapters 8:1–11:18; and the remainder of the book deals with the progress of the Gospel outside the frontiers of the Holy Land until at last it reaches Rome.
This, then, was their commission, and when the risen Lord had made it sufficiently plain to them, He disappeared from their sight, and no further resurrection appearances were granted to them.
There is no indication in the inspired record that the disciples ever complained about not having the organization or the means for carrying out this task. They were concerned only with telling the “good news” of the salvation that was accomplished in Christ Jesus.
It was not the intent of the Lord that they should first organize all of Jerusalem into a Christian community, and when that was accomplished, go unto Samaria and all of Judea, and when that was completed go to the uttermost parts of the earth. This was to be done simultaneously. They were to confront the whole world of men wherever they might be, and there was no provision made for any organization or institution to carry out this assignment. This fact lends a special aspect to the thought expressed in the word “Forum.” The whole world is the court in which the individual Christian (as well as the community of Christianity) is to have his case heard.
Let us look at the court that confronted them. It certainly is not a forum that was favorably disposed to the testimony of these witnesses.
Jerusalem was the seat of the high court of Israel that prided itself on being members of God’s chosen nation. It was from this council that the opposition to Jesus came that led to His rejection and crucifixion. They certainly were not of a mind to hear the testimony of the witnesses of Jesus. They exercised a tight control over the city of Jerusalem and the people of Israel. But the disciples never thought of fleeing from the city, or opposing the rulers and inciting rebellion against them. They placed themselves under their administration and welcomed the opportunity to testify before them. When threatened, they did not pray the Lord to destroy these wicked people but said: “now Lord behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy Word.” (Acts 4:2.9)
Thus in the very heart of the area, where Jesus had been reviled, rejected and crucified was established the first community of Christ’s followers whose way of life and fellowship made a deep impression upon the people: “and the Word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly: and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)
The disciples of Jesus did not think of themselves as a sect of Judaism or a separate organization, but a fellowship that met together to encourage one another in bearing witness “of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (ch. 4:33) and all that this implied wherever they might be heard or seen.
The fellowship was pleasant and Samaria did not look attractive. After all: “The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9); Samaria was hostile territory. Going into Samaria was postponed. Had not the Samaritans turned Jesus away when He wanted to stay over night in one of their villages? The Samaritans despised the Jews and would have nothing to do with their religion, and this religion, this preaching of Jesus, was of the Jews. This was their Messiah. But this was also the Messiah that the Samaritans had been looking for: “the Samaritan woman saith unto Him (Jesus), I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when He is come, He will tell us all things.” (Jn. 4:25) And Jesus had said “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me — in all Samaria.” (as well as Judea). This hostile territory of despised people was also to be the Forum for Witnessing.
God had to lay the heavy hand of persecution upon that company in Jerusalem to send the disciples on the way as missionaries or witness bearers. Everywhere they appeared they would have to give a reason for their being there, and this gave them an opportunity and an opening to testify. Here was “the court” asking for an accounting. This was the Forum waiting to hear what they had to say, and which would decide the merits of their testimony.
But God’s power is with them. God’s approval accompanies them. They are accepted into the culture of the community: “And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake — and there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:6–8)
God indicates that this work is the establishing of another base of operations for the spreading of the Gospel by granting another manifestation of the Pentecost outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:6–8)
It was a little difficult for these Christians to realize that they must go out among the Gentiles as well. The Gentiles were looked upon as people that did not count, truly the “lost” generation in our popular sense of the word — the “unclean ones” in the Jewish sense. It took a special vision, in which the Lord admonishes Peter: “what God hath cleansed call not thou unclean,” to send Peter to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. It was here that Peter recognized the purpose of the Lord and said: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons;” (Acts 10:34) and God gives His sign of approval by another sign of the Pentecostal outpouring. This is another beginning — the mission of witnessing among the Gentiles. The disciples are not to withdraw into a separated exclusive community but are to be part of the community or civilization where they are and bring the testimony of the gospel of the Crucified One into that community or culture. They are ever “in the world,” though not “of the world.”
As the old Israel had its Diaspora among the gentiles, so must the new people of God dispersed. An old apocalyptic writing states: “I will scatter this people among the Gentiles that they may do good to the Gentiles.” (2 Baruch 1:4). The old Israel had failed pitifully in carrying out its responsibility. The new must not fail. These dispersed disciples of Jesus did the utmost good to the people among whom they went, by proclaiming the good news of the deliverance accomplished by Jesus Christ. Not only did they do this in Palestine, but far afield, as we read (Acts 11:19) “Now they which were scattered abroad, upon the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.” However there were some: “men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.”
So it was some unnamed and unheralded individual Gentile converts who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch “where the disciples were called Christians first —” (Acts 11:26). The verb rendered “were called” literally means “to transact business.” (F.F. Bruce: “Book of Acts”) To transact business under a particular name is to be generally known by that name. So these early Antioch disciples must have made it their business to speak “the name of a crucified Christ” before a forum that certainly was not friendly to something so obviously to their culture and civilization.
Antioch was at this time the third largest city in the world coming next to Rome and Alexandria. The city was proverbial for its lax sexual morals mainly due to its ancient worship of Astarte with its ritual prostitution. In it were also to be found a variety of the “mystery cults” of the Eastern world through which many were trying to find a “god” or “Lord” who would guarantee salvation and immortality to his devotees.
But a new chapter was now to begin in the city’s history as the disciples of the Lord proclaimed to the pagans of Antioch that what they vainly sought in their mystery cults and corrupt religions could be secured through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had lately become man, suffered death and conquered the grave in Palestine.
However, it was Paul, the former persecutor Saul, who catapulted the Gospel into the Gentile world. Many roads were open in several directions for the carrying of the Gospel unto “the uttermost part of the earth.” Paul chose the road that led to Rome because he saw in that direction lay the opportunity to spread the Gospel to the greatest number people in the shortest possible time. Rome carried influence, Roman citizenship demanded respect. It was not the intention of Paul to identify the Gospel with Roman culture or Roman imperial organization, but to make use of the facilities the Roman Empire supplied as a means of extending the forum where the witnesses of Christ could be heard. He laid stress upon “the uttermost part of the earth” to establish the fellowship of God’s Covenant people.
It was Paul more than anyone else who perceived that the Old Testament call to Israel: (Is. 43:10) “ye are my witnesses saith the Lord” — and which Israel as a nation had not fulfilled, — was taken up by Jesus, as the perfect Servant of Lord, and passed on by Him to His disciples. The close relation between God’s call to Israel in these Isaiah passages and Christ’s words to his apostles can be seen in Paul’s quotation of Isaiah in Acts 13:47. There the heralds of the Gospel are described as being a light to the Gentiles, bearing God’s salvation “unto the uttermost part of the earth.” The “uttermost part of the earth,” and short of that, is Paul’s vision. He sees believers in Christ as pioneers of the new Israel taking up the torch entrusted to them by their master, and bearing His light throughout the nations. “Shun not suffering, shame, or loss, learn of Jesus Christ to bear the cross” surely sums up Paul’s whole concept of the Christian’s life as he went everywhere inspiring men and women in all parts of the Empire to carry out the Commission of the Lord to bear witness unto Him. The forum the Roman arena, the stake and the dungeon, Here the witnesses of the Lord sang the “praises of Him, who died upon the cross;” saying “for this we count the world but loss,” and rejoicing that they were counted “worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
A third century writer observes: “Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind in country, or speech or customs. For they do not live somewhere in cities of their own or use some distinctive language or practice a peculiar way of life. They have no learning discovered by thought and reflection of inquisitive men, nor are they the authors of any human doctrine, like some men. Though they live in Greek and Barbarian Cities, as each man’s lot is cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and the rest of their living, their own way of life which they display is wonderful and admittedly strange. They live in their native lands, but like foreigners. They take part in everything like citizens and endure everything like aliens. Every foreign country is their native land, and every native land a foreign country.” (Apostolic Fathers: Epistle to Diognetius)
This individual characteristic of the Christian community or fellowship is what caused the comment: “They have turned the world upside down with their doctrine.” As the Christian community gained in power and prestige, it lost in individual devotion and zeal. It became known as a “culture, a “civilization.” The church created what we know as “Western Civilization.” It became a powerful organization looked up to all over the world, whose favor was curried by the Kings of the realm and merchant princes who used her for their purposes even as she had used them. The church becomes identified with colonization and exploitation, not necessarily by reason of guilt in every instance but by reason of association. Individual witness bearing becomes less marked and the voice of an institutional “Church” more prominent in the forum where the Gospel is on trial before men, and the sound thereof is confusion.
This is not said to belittle organization or the establishment of an organized fellowship of believers. To do so would be fanaticism. The believers in Jerusalem and other places formed “communities” which assembled for worship and instruction in the Word of God and for mutual encouragement. The Holy Spirit encouraged the formation of such communities and ordained the holy ministry to shepherd these communities. (Acts)
But we must remember, the Gospel is not a culture, an ethic or an ideology, but it is a living power, “The Church”, the Community of God’s own people in history, called into being by the Gospel. The Gospel is preached by the administration of the Word and Sacraments. The Gospel is preached only by the “Church,” Christ’s witness bearers, in this sense; and the Church in this sense is continually being created whenever the Gospel is preached. The call to faith in the Gospel is a call to membership in the body of Christ and participation in the life which He gives: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches;” and the resultant fruit to be found on the branches is that “ye shall be witness unto me — unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
When the “vines” are weak in production, God, the husbandman, clips and prunes and trims to make the vines more productive. Such treatment by God is often necessary, for, as one writer has put it: “We have not lived every moment of our lives in the missionary context.”
Today the very ends of the earth have crowded in upon our doorstep. The religions and cults that the church in its beginnings in the Roman Empire did not meet or specifically deal with are clamoring for recognition in the “Open Forum” of the world. In its foreign mission work the church has made only minor forays into the ranks of these religions, however impressive these forays may be. Asia’s total population is 1,490,599,000. The number of professed Christians is 47,175,562. Of Africa’s total population of 209,914,000 the number of Christians is only 30,879,417.
“THE GOSPEL IN DISPUTE,” a book by Edmund Perry, chairman of the Department of History and Literature of Religions at Northwestern University, is addressed to this new situation in which the Christian faith no longer seems to hold a dominant position in the world. He says “The most obvious and appalling thing in the present situation of the Christian mission is that the entire geographical world has reverted to a mission field. There is no geographical domain over which the Christian faith any longer holds reigning influence. … Respect for the Church is no longer axiomatic in the West and the norms of Christian behavior do not, as formerly, dictate the morals of Western culture … It will be recalled that during her first three centuries the Church was conspicuously alien to her environment in the Roman empire. She had to create her own culture which challenged her mission on every side and so made every Christian necessarily a missionary. She had to confront, contend with and seek to confute the multifarious claims of Greek and Oriental philosophy, syncretistic mystery religions and cults of family, city and state. The climate of opinion then, like our own at the present time, was pro-religious and precisely for that reason was emphatically anti-Christian. … The early Christians did not recoil from the conflict, but rather welcomed it. It gave opportunity to declare their faith in Jesus Christ. … At the risk of persecution they moved among the masses contesting every expressed or implied pagan loyalty while inviting all and sundry to embrace the ‘illicit and subversive’ Christian faith.”
For the first time in its history, the “Christian Church,” as an institution, is on the brink of a life and death struggle with the other major religious systems the world which now seem determined to define the battle on their own terms. Up to now the Christian Church was in a position “to call the shots.” When Islam was pounding at the door of the Western world the Church slammed that door with the force of the military might of the Holy Roman Empire. But today the religion of Mohammed is making tremendous conquests in all parts of the world, including the “Christianized” West. Could this have happened had the church engaged in witnessing to Islam instead of launching “Holy Crusades”? Every one who has read world history knows of the lack of love and missionary concern that characterizes the Crusades.
By the very nature of his faith every Muslim must be a missionary. In so far as they are faithful the well over 400 million Muslims in the world today are missionaries of “God’s revelation”: “I testify there is no God but the God (Allah) and that Mohammed is the prophet (Messenger) of the God (Allah),” and their mission is to make this SHAHADA heard by, and appeal to, all men everywhere. President Nasser of Egypt personally directed the solicitation of several million dollars for the revival and spread of Islam. Several hundred missionaries have gone into Africa to spread the faith among the non-Muslim tribes. Recently 16 Islami nations cooperated to open a mosque and an Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. There are other less imposing Centers in other cities. Within Islam there is an active missionary society which operates missions in 23 countries.
Within Hinduism the century-old Ramakrishna mission is receiving various and extensive kinds of support for its message to the world: that to Hinduism has been given the divine disclosure that all religions are ultimately one and that all men are brothers. The concrete objective of the Ramakrishna mission is not to make Hindus but to convert people from the intolerant attitude that one religion (their own) is alone the true religion.
In Ceylon, the Buddhists have made an extensive study of the special favors granted to Christian missions in the 450 years of Colonial rule. Their report has been widely circulated under the title: “THE BETRAYAL OF BUDDHISM.” Funds are being publicly solicited for the spread of Buddhism among “the heathen of Europe.” In 1950 the two major divisions of Buddhism, Theravada and Mahayana, which are described as “differing from each other more basically than Roman and Protestant Christianity, united into “The World Fellowship of Buddhists;” Their fervent desire is to make the “D’hamma” or teaching of the Buddha known and influential throughout the world. The Buddhists of Burma have constructed a “World Peace Pagoda” in Rangoon, and adjacent to it a Missionary Training College where Buddhist monks spend five years in training for missionary work among the English- and Hindu-speaking people of the world. The “SHIN” of Japan, a Buddhist sect, already maintains 130 active missionaries on the American Continent. Plans are carefully laid to introduce Buddhism in those countries which once were regarded as Christian. Buddhists in opposition to Christianity ridicule the Christian claim to be the religion of the Prince of Peace. It is pointed out that ours is the only nation to have dropped the Atomic bomb. The emphasis on peace in the missionary message of Buddhism is dramatically accented by the construction of a second Peace Pagoda at Hiroshima. Christianity is indicted as “the religion that failed” and “has no resources to promote peace in the world.”
No longer are these ancient non-Christian religions and cultures passively contained in far away places with strange sounding names but are crowding into our lives daily. They come into our living rooms via T-V, Radio, and the daily newspaper. No place on earth is more than a hours away from our country by plane. Daily we are being visited by Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems. They come to us as exchange students, technical research teams, and teachers. They live in the homes of our Western families. On the campuses of our colleges and universities they proudly their beliefs, ideals and achievements of their religions.
In Christian Economics (June 14, 1960) it was asked “Do our children belong to Caesar? In Pennsylvania, a Mohammedan refusal to send their children to public schools on Fridays (their holy days) had come to court in 1950 in the case of Commonwealth vs. Bey. The court decided against the Mohammedans declaring: ‘In this realm, the right of the State is superior to that of the parents’.”
The “Christian” church today finds itself set in the midst of a culture which she helped create but which has little interest in her other than past history. We in America are surrounded by a religious culture as hostile to Christian faith as any in the world.
Current popular religion says: “God is indispensable, faith is inevitable, and any religion as such is good.”
Scientists, historians, and philosophers place their imprimatur on the axiom that “faith is indispensable to man’s psychic and social existence.” We hear that “not only man individually, but man collectively, human society and civilization can survive only when sustained by some religion.” But from which God, or through which religion, we ask our daily bread for mental, physical and social survival makes no difference. This “popular religion” with its axiom that “all religion is good,” obstructs therefore the church’s God-given mission, and has given rise to the strangest sects and produced the hopelessness of the “Beat” generation.
Because our present civilization is a product closely identified with Christianity it has become almost blasphemy to criticize it. “Collectivism” has become the watchword. Government is taking the place of God, cf. Christian Economics.
Numerous church members in the Western world for a long time have not been at all persuaded that people should be converted away from another faith to the Christian faith. A Swami lectures before the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, and a newspaper article comments: “After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.” A professor of World Religions in a Christian seminary writes: “Let Christians make their confession of faith that for them Jesus is Lord; but let them not try to legislate to Jews, Hindus and Buddhists that Jesus must also be Lord for them. — We must respect the right of each person to travel at his own tempo — Just as we must let a child be a child in order that he may move through childhood to true maturity, so we must be willing to let persons be Christians, Buddhists, Moslems, Atheists etc. with hope that each will grow toward an even larger spiritual maturity.”
In the late thirties a group of laymen issued a report called: “Rethinking Missions: A Laymen’s Inquiry After 100 Years.” In this report these laymen called into question and rejected Christianity’s claim to singular knowledge and relationship to God. They recommended the continuation of sending Christian missionaries, not for the purpose of converting people to Christ but “to share religious experiences and relative truths — ‘for’ — our present Christianity does not include all that other religious have.”
On the other hand no devotee of the ancient world religions is willing to think of his faith as a preliminary faith which should give in to or lead into Christianity. From his of view the Christian claim “to exclusive truth and grace is of the same cloth as the attitude of racial superiority which characterized the political and economic domination of Asia and Africa by the white man …”
In 1954 the governor of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India, appointed a “Christian missionary activities Committee” to make recommendations to the governor regarding future operations of Christian missions. They came up with a lengthy report of 165 printed pages which includes that: “Evangelization in India appears to be part of a uniform world policy to revive Christendom for reestablishing Western supremacy and is not prompted by spiritual motives.” The strategy of missions is apparently to create minority pockets with a view to disrupt the solidarity of the non-Christian societies. Therefore since conversion muddles the convert’s sense of unity and solidarity with his society there is danger of his loyalty to his country and state being undermined “and in the light of the mission’s ulterior motives mass conversions are fraught with danger to the security of the state.”
This then is the forum into which God has thrust His Church today. It is fraught with as many dangers for the Christian as any situation faced by the martyrs of old. The lions of the Roman Arena are not in evidence, but the lions of unbelief, ridicule, and mockery, are everywhere, ready to tear his faith to shreds. These challenge our faith and compel us to be missionaries in our own homes as well as in all the world. It has been said, and we can well agree: “To be a Christian at all anywhere in the contemporary world is to be a responsive and responsible WITNESS BEARER, “Missionary Christian.” … It is not the challenge of competing faiths, the threat of godless ideology, or the defiance of a hostile environment which makes the Christian today a missionary Christian. These point up the necessity and of our being what our faith declares us to be, but we are missionaries by the Gospel of Jesus Christ which elicits our faith. Our “field” is the world, (Matt. 13:38) because the author of our faith claimed it for His own.
May the words of the apostle Paul burn themselves deeply into our hearts: “Woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:16) This is the Gospel imperative.
We close our consideration of this section with a thought provoking quotation:
“That God is a jealous God means that He vvill tolerate no competitors. It does not mean that His people can be snobbish toward unbelievers. Only when the Gospel is misunderstood or betrayed is it possible for Christians to feel superior to non-Christians and to be intolerant of them. The truth of the Gospel does not however, depend upon how it makes me feel, but upon whether it really does come from God. Because it has come from God and declares that He has forgiven men and accepts them in spite of their unacceptability, the Gospel gives me no basis for pride in my acceptable relationship to God, yet at the same time it provides me an un· shakable assurance even when I doubt or when I feel my utter unworthiness.
“CHRISTIANS LEGITIMATELY DISTINGUISH THEMSELVES FROM OTHER SINNERS ONLY BY THE FACT THAT CHRISTIANS HAVE RECEIVED GOD’S FORGIVING GRACE AND ARE UNDER MANDATE TO INFORM ALL MEN THAT THIS GRACE IS INTENDED FOR ALL ALIKE.
“God has chosen to dispense His grace through the ministry of Christians, but this fact must not lead any to conclude that Christians merit any special praises.” ( p. 217 “Gospel in Dispute”)
Thou Fountain whence all wisdom flows
Which God on pious hearts bestows,
Grant us thy consolation
That in our pure faith’s unity
We faithful witnesses may be
Of grace that brings salvation.
Hear us, Cheer us
By thy teaching; Let our preaching
And our labor
Praise thee, Lord, and serve our neighbor.
The Manner of Christian Witnessing
The Lord Jesus did not lay down any fixed pattern of operation when He said: “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me.” The very nature and forum of the Christian witness indicated the method.
The Christian should offer men nothing but the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its full relevance to their lives in whatever environment, and having placed the Gospel in the consciousness of the hearer, the Christian should be content to allow the Gospel to create its own form of adaptation in the culture of each community.
The theme of Jesus’ public preaching was “The Kingdom of God has come.” By the kingdom of God He meant the administration of God’s full, free, and unconditioned forgiveness over the whole creation, for the sake of His Son the Redeemer, through His redeemed people. Jesus’ first operation in bringing this Kingdom to mankind was to train the twelve for their participation in, and leadership of, this mission after His death. These in turn would instruct and train others who would go out among their fellow men to bring the good news.
In this sense the Church, that is, the fellowship or community of believers, is an apostolic and discipleship community. It is never one without the other and never more one than the other. It is simultaneously both the one and the other. In other words, the “Church” is at the same time the “Body” of Christ and His “mission” by receiving the benefits of His death and resurrection through the Word and observing the discipline He taught. As “Christ’s Mission” it is His community going forth to the nations, preaching the Gospel and calling all men to repentance and faith.
We note two distinct presentations of the Gospel in those early days. They were the presentation through preaching and through teaching. The preaching or proclamation was addressed to unbelievers and was intended to persuade them to “repent and believe the Gospel,” just as Jesus had called His disciples through preaching. The teaching or instruction was carried on with those converted or interested by the preaching, and its purpose was to instruct in the meaning of the new faith and its application to the daily conduct of their lives. The preaching was of course not devoid of instruction: and teaching was not without its appeal; but preaching and teaching were two separate ministries carried on by this earliest Church.
The Apostles began their apostolic work by proclaiming the “Good news,” that in the coming of Jesus Christ God had fulfilled His Old Testament promises and established the blessing promised to Abraham. (Acts 2:14–37; 3:22–26). The first disciples did not consider themselves to be a sect within Judaism. They claimed rather to be the true eschatological community of God’s people, continuous with the people of the Old Testament.
The vision of the mission to the Gentiles was present in the preaching of the apostle before Paul, and in the “Church-Consciousness” of the Christian community gathered in Jerusalem by the preaching of the Apostles.
However it was Paul’s call to lead the campaign into Gentile territory. Paul believed as deeply as did Peter that the Gospel should always and everywhere he preached to the Jew first (Rom. 1:16), and he observed this policy on his mission journeys. Where there was a colony of Jews he would preach his first sermon in their synagogue. Having presented the Gospel in the tradition of Israel’s faith, he would go on to declare it to be the means by which Gentiles are covenanted to God and by which Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to each other in a new faith-community. When the Jews refused the Gospel Paul hastened to preach to the Gentiles “the hidden mystery” revealed by the Holy Spirit, that in Jesus Christ “The Gentiles are fellow heirs,” “members of the same body,” “partakers of the promise;” and that it pleased God to call them to Himself through the preaching of the Gospel. (1 Cor. 1:21; II Cor. 5:18–19; Rom. 10:14–15)
Paul had grown up in the Gentile world. He spoke its language, knew its history, culture, and religions, and was acquainted with all its ways. Yet he did not shun to mingle with its citizens. He became all things to all men, that he might by the means of the Gospel save some. He declared: “I am debtor both to the Greeks and the Barbarians; both to the wise and the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you who are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:14–16)
“Preaching the Gospel of Christ” was the only method known and followed by the early Christian Church. There were no lectures delivered or campaigns put on for “cleaner politics,” “better government” or “raising the standards of civilization.” Of course the disciples were concerned about these things, but their testimony was: “Repent therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out. (Acts 3:19) “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16:31) “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “And by Him all that believe are justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold ye despisers and wonder and perish.” (Acts 13:39–41)
As the hearers were convicted and convinced of of righteousness and of judgement, their hearts were gripped by the love of Christ transmitted to them in the Gospel, they were filled with a desire to praise God and serve their fellowmen. They gathered together to study the Word of God, “they continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship and breaking of bread.” They visited one another from house to house, encouraging one another. And together they also were concerned about one another’s health and welfare and the welfare of all men. But always it was for the purpose that the Gospel of Christ might find entrance into the heart and do its saving work. To be a disciple of Christ is to be responsibly related to the whole of God’s creation and to the eternal purpose and program of God. No new developments in the realm of organization or methods can equal in importance this basic principle of the Gospel as the only power of God to salvation and sanctification.
This work rests primarily on the individual. God works His work through the individual. Jesus’ command is specific: “Ye shall be witnesses unto me.” He is addressing individuals, not an impersonal institution or organization. He sent out individual workers. Philip is sent to meet the Ethiopian. Peter is sent to the house of Cornelius. Ananias is sent to baptize Saul. Paul is sent to the Gentiles.
Nor is this command or its execution limited to the Apostles or designated “workers” in the Church. The book of Acts tells us that the individual believers, “displaced persons,” “they that were scattered abroad,” driven out of Jerusalem by the persecutions, “went everywhere preaching the word” literally: “bringing the word of glad tidings (or good news).” (Acts 8:4) They who received the Word naturally found each other and formed a fellowship or assembly where they studied the Word together and encouraged one another.
An example which comes closest to our day and age, of how this worked, is the situation in Antioch, the first Gentile congregation. It was founded by “the Good news” being brought to the Gentiles there by some unknown and unnamed Gentile Christians from Cyprus. “And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21) When the news of this remarkable occurrence reached the Church in Jerusalem, they decided to send a representative to confer with this new and different group. They seemed very careful in choosing the man to be sent They chose Barnabas, himself a Cyprian convert. His sympathies and understanding would be wider and more embracing than those Christians of Jewish extraction had never set foot outside of Judea. The name “Barnabas” means “Son of Consolation, or Encouragement” and he evidently showed a very encouraging and optimistic spirit and was highly regarded by the rest of the company. When Barnabas reached Antioch his generous spirit was filled with joy at what he saw, and true to his name he gave all the encouragement he could to converts and the work grew apace. As each one would reach one: “much people was added to the Church.” (Acts 11:24) They soon needed an assistant pastor. Barnabas went out to look for Paul, who was eminently fitted for this place because of his cultural background. Under the guidance of these two men the converts received systematic instruction in the principles of Christian faith and life. Antioch was a cosmopolitan city; there were people there of most diverse cultural backgrounds. But the new life into which they had entered was wide enough to accomodate all. Racial and religious differences which loomed so large in Judea seemed much less important here. No difficulty seems to have been experienced in joining Jewish converts with Gentile converts into Christian fellowship. The Antioch Church from the outset had a world outlook that was distinct from the Jerusalem Church. And as these people from the Gentile world banded together in Christian fellowship, they did not keep quiet about their Christian faith but spoke about it everywhere to everyone they met in the city. This is how they got the name “Christian.” They made speaking about Christ their business. They also expanded their business and sent out the first Gentile missionaries.
From this example we can see the truth of the statement: “The Christian Congregation is not only a field to be cultivated but a force to be wielded and enlisted.” And “every live Christian must of inner necessity be a witness to Christ, hence a missionary.”
It is encouraging also to note from the book of Acts the words of Peter: the Lord “has commanded us to preach to the people.” (Acts 10:42) If commanded, then also empowered, — His power will be with us, as His Holy Spirit is upon us.
As the Lord gave Peter a special vision to prepare him for the visit to Cornelius, and to Paul an early training and a soul-shaking experience to fit him for the work to the Gentiles, so every Christian is prepared by the Lord to carry out his task in the situation where God has placed him. It is only a matter of believing it, of taking the first step. We have every reason to take that first step. Salvation is our “business.” We know what the unbeliever needs, he does not.
The Lord leads His workers in the way they should go as He led Philip to the Ethiopian, Peter to Cornelius, Acquila and Priscilla to Apollos. Sometimes this is accomplished by a peculiar combination of circumstances which even may be aggravating at times. The Good Samaritan was on a business trip when he found the wounded man lying before him. God is laying souls in our way: at home, at work, at lunch, in school, on the golf course; in prison, hospitals and on trains, where time hangs heavy on the hands and where the one sitting next to you is easy to talk to.
Conversion, edification, sanctification, Christian fellowship, all the steps and processes in the spiritual life are matters of the individual soul. People are brought into the Kingdom of God one by one, here one, there one. Faith, courage, patience and prayerful effort coupled with good common sense will enable each and everyone of us to become vessels unto honor, fit and meet for the Master’s use. Christ Himself does the soul-winning through the lives and lips of His yielded disciples. However there is individual effort and preparation needed.
Each church member should be concerned that first of all there is daily Bible reading and devotion in his home. Then, that there are Bible classes and instruction periods where fellow Christians get together, as did the Bereans, to be led into the scriptures, because we are called upon to bear witness to the Gospel, not to our opinions about the Gospel.
There may be and should be evangelistic suggestions and training in connection with all the different working groups in the congregation. Such as the Church Council, Voters, Ladies Aid or Guild, Youth groups, Sunday School and certainly the Christian Day school. Such discussion (not only lectures) well prepared and properly presented can and will stimulate much interest. Many books and pamphlets on mission work and evangelism are available to make for lively and interesting discussions and giving practical working ideas.
But above all, make a study of the “armour of God.” The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. It is a two-edged sword, and we must know its proper use. That portion of the Bible which we know by heart measures the length and breadth of our sword. The rest is in the arsenal. Jesus said “Ransack the Scriptures,” as one searches for a lost pin in a dresser drawer. Our searching is for Christ and the life that is in Him. As we learn to know Him and His grace we will become more proficient at helping others to find Him and be saved through Him.
Coupled with this must be a knowledge and understanding of human nature, and a love for people as Jesus loved them and you. There must be no compromise with sin, for it is deadly. Study the example of Christ in his denunciation of sin, and His loving invitation to the sinner. “The Gospel must be presented as the ‘Good news from God.’ It is God’s Gospel and must be proclaimed in God’s sense of good and not man’s sense. Many today want the Gospel preached as ‘good news’ in man’s sense of good, as a confirmation of the higher aspiration of man as revealed in his various religions and philosophies. But God’s definition of ‘good’ as given in the Gospel, declares all human definitions of good to be false. Therefore the good news of God is first of all bad news, until we give up our little empires and acknowledge God in Christ to be Lord and King’.” Learn to appreciate the value of a soul as Jesus evaluated it. (Matt. 16:26)
Do not get lost in fruitless arguments. State the condition of the person to yourself in different forms. Try to understand the person’s attitude and need. Ask such questions as: “What truth has he set aside and ignored? What is the exact truth he needs? What pertinent, striking Bible passage will meet this need?” Never fail to invite or bring him to church services or Bible study classes with you. What will finally convince and convict is a personal experience of the convincing and convicting testimony of the Holy Spirit.
Pray constantly. The Apostles and early Church were constant in prayer for the success of the mission work of the Church. Believe confidently that the Lord will give success (Acts 2:47; 11:21; 16:14) “Have faith that it has been granted to you and you shall have it.” (Mark 11:24 — Goodspeed Translation)
The propagation of the Christian faith is the vocation of every Christian and not a group of professional missionaries. We are in harmony with the apostolic Church when we say that every Christian should be a missionary, bearing witness to Christ whenever and wherever he has an opportunity to do so.
It is also certainly true that whenever we do so, great changes are going to come upon the church to which we belong. Some of these are not going to be so pleasing to our flesh and blood. It is only the regenerated heart that can rejoice at seeing the old “home church” fill up with strangers, many of whom may have new ideas to contribute to the work of the Church. They will not be able to understand many of the customs and prejudices that might have crept into the congregation. But this does not mean we are in danger of losing the Truth of God as long as all continue “steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” It can only serve to strengthen and solidify us.
And think what joy it will be to see men and women and children in heaven who were brought there by our efforts, and who will eternally thank us that we told them about Jesus and invited them to hear His Word. Then, as we feel the thrill of having brought a soul to the “pleasures forevermore,” no prayer, work, money, blood that we spent for others here on earth will seem too much. “He that wins souls is wise.”
When I enter that beautiful city,
And the saved all around me appear,
I want to hear somebody tell me,
“It was you who invited me here.”