No more daunting task could have been given the church than to evangelize the whole world. Surely for such a job God would have chosen angels to speak to the world as they first spoke the good news to shepherds and caused such urgency on their part. Or perhaps a multiplication of apostles and prophets throughout the gospel era with their miraculous power and prophetic voices would persuade far more than average Christians. Even letting the rocks cry out would draw more interest than most preachers! But His ways are not our ways and whether it seems like an impossible task or not, it is plain that God has commissioned His own people to reach the people of the world.
Our Lord did promise us power to accomplish our monumental task by the witness of His resurrection and the possession of the Holy Spirit. We see that power on display in the book of Acts as the church spread the gospel around the world during that generation. G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “The essential message of the Gospel is the declaration that through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ a new dynamic is at the disposal of men, in the power of which they may be victorious, trampling under their feet the lust of which hitherto they have been the slaves.”1 With this power at our disposal we can be successful in the stewardship to which Christ has called us.
Opposite errors in evangelistic fervor have been made on both sides of the theological ledger throughout the church’s history. There have always been those such as John Ryland who told Carey, “When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid or mine.”2 There have also always been those who simply manipulate sinners into verbal professions of faith that do not last beyond the back door of the church. Between these two extremes lies a biblical evangelism that, as Ignatius said, prays as though everything depended on God and works as though everything depended on you.3
There are at least four reasons why power for evangelism comes from God’s part and also from our own submission to His plan.
1. God’s Part:
Calvary – The most powerful message
Paul explained to the Corinthians that The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). Only Christianity has a message of redemption. This plan that upholds God’s righteousness while at the same time condemning man for his sin and yet providing for his salvation will make the hearer fall on his face and report that God is in you of a truth (1 Cor. 14:25). John Bunyan, in the account of his conversion records,
I remember that one day, as I was traveling into the country, and musing on the wickedness and blasphemy of my heart, and considering the enmity that was in me to God, that scripture came into my mind, Having made peace through the blood of his cross. Col. i. 20. By which I was made to see, both again and again, that God and my soul were friends by His blood; yea, I saw that the justice of God, and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other, through His blood. This was a good day to me; I hope I shall never forget it.4
The Holy Spirit – The most powerful Being
Paul’s gospel came to the Thessalonians not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance (1 Thes. 1:5). To the Corinthians he wrote, And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:4-5. Of preaching with Holy Spirit power, Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “There is a cord of three strands which should not be broken. Without the endeavor of the preacher, the reaction of the congregation, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, whatever might result, preaching would not.”5 But if we would preach the Word as we ought, the Spirit would be freer to use us mightily in our evangelism.
The Word of God – The most powerful book
The word of God is quick (living) and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). Writing in The Fundamentals, L.W. Munhall wrote, “The Bible assumes to be from God in that it meets man face to face with drawn sword and says: ‘Thou shalt!’ and ‘Thou shalt not!’ and demands immediate, unconditional and irreversible surrender to the authority of heaven, and submission to all the laws and will of God, as made known in its pages.”6 God said through Isaiah that, as the rain falls to the earth and does not return to the sky until it waters the ground and brings forth food for the eater, So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it (Isa. 55:11).
The Love of God – The most powerful emotion
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10). Though in a real way the sinner does not want an unconditional love because he would rather think there is a virtuous reason to be loved, God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . . for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Rom. 5:8, 10). When the sinner is about to be crushed under the weight of his own sinfulness, the love of God comes streaming in as a powerful morning light in a dark room. “A human heart cannot produce love, but it can experience it. To have a heart that feels the compassion of God is to drink of the wine of heaven.”7
2. Our Part:
The power to be witnesses comes from God but needs earthen vessels from which to be broken and spilled out that this power may truly be of Him and not of ourselves. Therefore, we are at least four kinds of tools in God’s hands.
A Fool – The most self-effacing messenger
We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23). Paul scolded the Corinthians for their refusal to be seen as foolish by the world, We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised (1 Cor. 4:10). The power of God is lost when His messengers protect their image at all costs. We will either be willing to be shamed by the world or we will become ashamed before the world. E. Glenn Wagner, calling for servant-leadership in our churches writes, “We must come to see that part of a pastor’s glory is being willing to accept and even to embrace the foolishness, disgrace, and shame of the cross.”8
An Ambassador – The most dependent being
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). Just as an ambassador is representing the homeland to a foreign country, the soul-winner is representing his homeland of heaven to this foreign land of earth. He is here in Christ’s stead. Peter declared to the Jerusalem council that God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name (Acts 15:14). God desires to go visiting in our bodies! G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “The Holy Spirit is waiting in the far-distant places of the earth for the voice of [some] anointed man to preach, in order that through that instrumentality He may carry on His work of convicting of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”9 We are truly a habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2:22), a “habitat for divinity!”
A Herald – The most restricted reader
A preacher is a herald (a khrux, 2 Tim. 1:11) who is sent out by a King to proclaim His message. He has no right to change or negotiate with the hearers, but must proclaim the King’s message just as He gave it. So are we heralds of God’s Word and must preach it (khrrussw, 2 Tim. 4:2) in the way it is given so that we preserve the message (khrugma, 2 Tim. 4:17) of salvation exactly. Oswald Chambers put it this way:
The Word of God is never without power, and as a servant of God you have nothing whatever to do with whether people dislike and reject the Word of God or purr over it. So you preach it no matter what they think of you — that is a matter of absolute indifference; sooner or later the effect of that word will be manifested. The great snare is to seek acceptance with the people we talk to, to give people only what they want; we have no business to wish to be acceptable to the people we teach.10
A Servant – The most demanding emotion
The love of God, the most powerful emotion, is only properly used by His servants who willingly display a selfless and giving spirit. Our generation has taken the Lord’s words, whosoever will be the greatest . . . ., shall be servant of all (Mark 10:43-44), as a way to greatness rather than an invitation to servanthood, the greatest of occupations. We should be as Paul and Bunyan and see ourselves as the chiefest of sinners rather than chief executive officers! Of such an occupation the world knows nothing. Luther said “A Christian man is a free lord over all things and subject to nobody. A Christian man is a ministering servant in all things and subject to everybody.”11 In this day of success and achievement, the Lord chooses servants to entrust with His gospel.
And So . . . .
May the Lord help us to be instruments in His hand for the salvation of a lost world. Moody, a man who knew something of the power of God, after searching for joy in ministry, wrote, “But I found, afterward, namely, the joy of the salvation of others. Oh, the privilege, the blessed privilege, to be used of God to win a soul to Christ, and to see a man or woman being led out of bondage by some act of ours toward them. To think that God should condescend to allow us to be coworkers with Him. It is the highest honor we can wear.”12
1. G. Campbell Morgan, Understanding the Holy Spirit (USA: AMG Publishers, 1995) 134.
2. Thomas Armitage, The History of the Baptists, vol. II (Watertown: Maranatha Baptist Press, 1976) 581.
3. Bruce Shelley, Church History In Plain Language (Dallas: Word, 1995) 277.
4. John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (Belfast: Ambassador Productions, nd) 69.
5. Tony Sargent, The Sacred Anointing: The Preaching of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994) 175.
6. L.W. Munhall, “Inspiration,” The Fundamentals, vol II, orig. printing 1917 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000) 55.
7. L.S. Chafer, He That Is Spiritual (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972) 48.
8. E. Glenn Wagner, Escape From Church, Inc. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999) 185.
9. Morgan, 109.
10. Oswald Chambers, “The Moral Foundations of Life,” Biblical Ethics (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1998) 290.
11. Quoted by R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of First Corinthians (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1963) 374.
12. D.L. Moody, Spiritual Power (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997) 105.