I have been challenged by a commenter on this post to explain why I say every Christian has been commanded to proclaim the gospel. I appreciate his challenge, because it has motivated me to further my understanding of what the Bible teaches about evangelism.
The Great Commission
I had been faced with the objection that the Great Commission was only to the 11 disciples in the past. If you think it through, and take what Jesus said in context, you’ll see that this commission was given to every Christian.
Jesus commanded the 11 disciples to go and make disciples. Then, He told the disciples to teach the new disciples to obey everything He commanded them to do.
Here are some of the things Jesus commanded the disciples to do:
- Believe in Him (John 6:29).
- Take up your cross (Matt 10:38).
- Seek first the kingdom of God (Matt 6:33).
- Go and make disciples (Matt. 28:19).
- Teach the new disciples to do everything on this list (Matt 28:20).
Clearly, the new disciples should be taught to make disciples, unless someone can explain why the command to go and make disciples isn’t included in everything Jesus commanded them to do.
The Office of Evangelist
The commenter made another point that evangelists are the only ones who should preach the gospel among the unsaved. One problem is that there are only three verses in the New Testament that use the word evangelist: Ephesians 4:11, 2 Timothy 4:5, and Acts 21:8. There is very little explanation offered as to what an evangelist specifically does, and to be dogmatic about one’s favored explanation seems presumptuous.
One thing we do know is that the job of the evangelist is to prepare God’s people for works of service (Eph. 4:11–12). This would indicate to me that one of the principal jobs of an evangelist is to lead God’s people in their evangelism efforts and train them in evangelism.
One Body, Many Parts
It’s true that not every Christian holds the office of evangelist. Does that mean that only those who are evangelists should evangelize? Think about it this way: We’re all commanded to pray. No one can say that he or she shouldn’t pray because that individual doesn’t have the gift of prayer. Likewise, we’re all commanded to evangelize. There is no such thing as the gift of prayer, and there is no such thing as the gift of evangelism. We have the privilege of both prayer and evangelism.
Did All Christians in the Bible Witness?
There are a limited number of stories of lay Christians preaching in the New Testament. Most of the accounts of evangelism involve Paul, Peter, Philip, and other early church leaders. However, this doesn’t mean that they were the only ones who spread the gospel.
In Philippians 1:14, Paul says, “And that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.”
After Stephen was stoned, persecution was on the rise, and all except the apostles (Acts 8:1) were scattered from Jerusalem. “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
How Can You Keep the Gospel to Yourself?
Those of us who have had our sins forgiven by God’s grace and mercy and will spend eternity in heaven have understood the greatest news in the history of mankind, and we have been made eternal beneficiaries of it. If we have truly received such a glorious gift, how can we keep it to ourselves? The joy it inspires must be evident in our lives—and spread to others. In Luke 8:16, Jesus said, “Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light.”
We will spend eternity with the One we pray to, the One we worship, and the One whose Word we read. This short life is our only opportunity to tell the unsaved about the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.