Witnessing for Christ Paul’s Way
|By: Mike Gendron; ©2003|
|What can we learn from Paul to motivate us to engage in evangelism? Mike Gendron explains.|
Witnessing for Christ Paul’s Way
One of the common misconceptions about the divine command to evangelize is that it only applies to those who are given the gift of evangelism (Mat. 28:18-20). Consequently there are many in the body of Christ who never enjoy the privilege of being an ambassador for the King of Kings. There is no higher honor than to represent King Jesus as an ambassador by proclaiming His message of salvation to a world that is perishing in sin. Paul informs us that every Christian is given this divine privilege and responsibility. He wrote: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:17-20).
Other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the most divinely gifted and inspired evangelist in the first century was the Apostle Paul. As the most prolific writer of the New Testament, there is much that we can learn from his example and teachings, especially in dealing with opponents of the Gospel. In the first century, the greatest opposition to the spread of the Gospel came from the corrupted religion of Judaism. Today, the Gospel’s greatest opposition is the deceptively false religion of Roman Catholicism. With its great power, wealth, control and influence, many evangelicals are reluctant to expose it as an enemy of Christ and His Gospel. In both corrupted religions, the authority of God’s word runs smack into the unbending traditions of men. With this in mind, let us look at the Apostle Paul’s motivation and ministry and how he contended for the faith.
Paul’s love for God compelled him to faithfully proclaim the Gospel and to exhort others to do the same. He wrote: “For the love of Christ controls us…He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf (2 Cor. 5:14-15). A Christian’s love of God is best demonstrated by obedience to Him. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3). The last command of Jesus must become a Christian’s first concern: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat. 28:19-20).
A great love and deep compassion for the lost also motivated Paul to be a faithful witness for Christ. This was demonstrated by selfless desire to give up his salvation in exchange for the salvation of his Jewish brethren. He wrote, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren” (Rom. 9:3). Although Paul knew this exchange was impossible, his words reflected his genuine love and compassion for the Jews. He went on to write: “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation (Rom. 10:1). Here we also see the most vital element of Paul’s ministry—his prayers to the sovereign Lord for the salvation of the lost. As we witness to our loved ones, let us not forget to pray for open doors of opportunity and open hearts to receive the message with gladness and joy.
At the end of Paul’s ministry on earth, we see a summary of how he served the Lord Jesus in the 20th chapter of Acts. What a great model he is for all of us who desire to be an effective ambassador for Christ Jesus. In verse 19 we see that he served with humility and compassion. His humility is reflected in his overwhelming gratitude to God for granting him mercy when he “acted ignorantly in unbelief” as a persecutor of the church (1 Tim. 1:13). Paul’s humility was also seen in his complete dependence upon God’s grace and nothing of who he was or what he had accomplished (1 Cor. 15:10). His only boasting was in the cross of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:14). Paul faithfully served God despite the persecution and trials he endured as a result of the relentless opposition from religious leaders.
Paul taught publicly from house to house, declaring that all must turn to God in repentance and have faith in the Lord Jesus (v. 20-21). Like a mail carrier, Paul took the message of Christ to everyone on his route. As he was going from place to place, he would testify to the Gospel of God’s grace (v. 24). He faithfully proclaimed the whole counsel and purpose of God (v. 27).
Another important part of Paul’s ministry was warning Christians of false teachers who were distorting the truth for the purpose of drawing away disciples (v. 30). Paul had already confronted “professing Christians” who had taught and embraced a distortion of God’s Gospel. He condemned with anathema anyone who would dare pervert the Gospel of God. This included even himself or any apostle who would distort God’s only means of saving sinners (Gal. 1:6-9). Paul confronted the Judaizers, who believed in Jesus, but perverted the Gospel by adding works of the law as another requirement for salvation. Any human effort that is added to the Gospel nullifies God’s grace—the only means sinners can be saved. For this reason Paul taught antithetically, proclaiming what the Gospel is, as well as what it is not. This technique is so important when witnessing to “professing Christians” who have been led astray by a perversion of the true Gospel. Paul’s antithetical teaching declares salvation is by grace and not of works (Eph. 2:8-9) and by God’s mercy and not righteous deeds (Titus 3:5). If we follow Paul’s example we will warn Catholics that: 1) sinners are justified by faith in Jesus, not by water baptism; 2) sinners are purified by the precious blood of Jesus, not by purgatory’s fire; and 3) sinners have their sins expiated by the redemptive work of Jesus, not by penance and indulgences. To follow Paul’s example is to call “professing Christians” off the broad road that leads to destruction while pointing them to the narrow road that leads to eternal life.
Paul also urged believers not to be partakers or partners with deceivers (Eph. 5:6-7). Accordingly, he renounced secret and shameful ways and urged believers to mark and avoid deceptive teachers. This vital element of contending for the faith and exposing deception is not practiced by many in the body of Christ today. In fact there are many parachurch ministries that embrace Roman Catholicism as a valid Christian denomination. As a result, the church has given the enemy free reign to sow tares among the wheat (Mat. 13:25). Many churches have more tares than wheat and thus reflect a picture of the world rather than a sanctified sanctuary of believers.
Aware of the many spurious believers, who had believed in vain and continued in sin, Paul exhorted, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). Those who believed in vain are those who departed from the Gospel Paul delivered: Christ died to save sinners, Christ was raised from the dead and Christ appeared to many witnesses (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Paul proclaimed the word of God in all its power. He did not speak with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (1 Cor. 1:17).
Paul’s focus and commitment to evangelism is reflected in his writings: “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the Gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Cor. 9:22-23). He said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel and its singular approach to God. By divine revelation Paul knew there was only one message of hope, only one Gospel. For in the Gospel we observe the greatest exchange in human history—man’s sin for God’s righteousness. Paul summed up this gracious and merciful substitution in one verse: “He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). As we follow Paul’s example let us seek to “know Christ and Him crucified” and proclaim this powerful message to those who have embraced another gospel (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul urged his disciples to hold firmly to the Gospel he preached. Those who did had the assurance of eternal life. Those who embraced other gospels had no assurance, and thus believed in vain (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
Since all Christians have been entrusted with the Gospel, let us be exhorted by the words of Paul: “We are to speak, not as pleasing men but God who examines our hearts (1 Thes. 2:4). The true Gospel will disturb those who hear it for it speaks of both heaven and hell. It informs sinners of the righteousness of God and His demand for the payment of an infinite debt caused by sin. With this in mind, our primary motivation must always be to glorify God by accurately reflecting the heart of His revelation to mankind.