Don't Stop Evangelizing
We have come now to the sixth and final week of our series on evangelism. If you recall, evangelism is basically the proclaiming or the teaching of the evangel, or the gospel., the good news of Jesus Christ.
One of the foundational passages that we have referred to is Matthew 28:19-20. This is the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
One of the observations from that passage that we haven’t talked about in this series is the recognition that the Great Commission is not strictly aimed at evangelism, at least not in the way that many of us normally think about it. The primary command in that passage is to “make disciples.” But the Greek word used there refers both to gaining and to training a disciple. The Great Commission includes both.
Even if you’re already a disciple of Jesus, we are still being obedient to the Great Commission when we teach you about Jesus and equip you to obey Him more.
So, the Great Commission is not just aimed at making converts. The goal is to teach people more about Jesus, and about how to live for His glory. That’s the mission of the church in every place.
Typically, in the way we talk about it, that task gets divided in two. On the one hand, we have evangelism, which is teaching the truth to a non-believer. And on the other hand we have discipleship, which is teaching someone who is already a believer.
That distinction isn’t always helpful though, and more importantly, it’s not exactly a biblical way to talk about it. Biblically speaking, evangelism is not something we do just for unbelievers. Evangelism, the proclamation of the gospel, is something we are supposed to be doing to ALL people, believers and unbelievers.
Unbelievers need to hear the truth of Jesus Christ. And believers need to be reminded about the truth of Jesus Christ. And while the response might be different, what we’re trying to do is basically the same—we want people to respond to the truth of Jesus Christ. And so, we evangelize.
At the end of Acts chapter 5, after the Apostles are beaten and commanded by the Sadducees not to speak any more about Jesus, verse 42 says: “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”
That last word “preaching” is actually the word evangelizing. They were telling the good news. And this was done in the houses of believers. They rejoiced in that good news. It sounds a little odd to us to say that the Apostles were evangelizing the brothers, but that’s a better translation of that verse because again, at their heart, evangelizing and discipling are the same thing. We are teaching people and calling them to respond to the truth of Jesus Christ.
My friend, PJ Tibayan, who pastors a church here in Bellflower, likes to use the word gospelize as a translation for this verb. That helps keep the connection between the gospel and our task. We gospelize unbelievers, and we gospelize believers.
The same idea comes through later in Acts 15. Paul and Barnabas and Judas and Silas stayed in Antioch to encourage and strengthen the brothers. Judas and Silas are then sent off, but Paul and Barnabas, verse 35 tells us, remained in Antioch teaching and preaching the word of the Lord. And a more literal translation is “teaching and evangelizing [or gospelizing].” They were proclaiming the good news of the word of the Lord. That was Paul’s task.
Look with me for a second at Romans chapter 1, verse 7. It says there that Paul is writing this letter to those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be His saints. And then Paul tells them that he anxiously prays for the opportunity to visit with them in person. VERSE 11-12.
He has tried to make his way to Rome in the past, but he hasn’t been successful. And VERSE 15.
And that again uses the same Greek word that we typically translate as evangelize. Paul wants to evangelize the believers, preach the gospel to the them. Why? Because that’s what Christian ministry is. Teaching and unpacking and applying the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what matures us. That’s what grows us. That’s what corrects us. That’s what sanctifies us and equips us for ministry.
If you are a Christian, and especially if you’re a member of this church, your responsibility is not just to evangelize those outside the church. It is also to evangelize those inside the church—as Ephesians 4 says, to build up one another.
Turn with me, if you would, to Hebrews chapter 3. Hebrews chapter 3. The author of Hebrews, though we aren’t completely sure who it is, knew about the importance and the necessity of believers to be ministering, not just to outsiders, but to one another. And so, notice what he says in verse 12. HEBREWS 3:12-14.
There is always the possibility of a professing believer falling away from the truth he once claimed to believe and live in accordance with. And in order to keep that from happening, we are called to exhort one another, or encourage one another. That means coming along another person and helping them stay on course, stay connected to Jesus Christ.
We all need that because, as this verse says, sin is deceitful and it has the potential to harden us. It makes us blind; it makes us stubborn. Earlier in chapter 2, we are warned about drifting from the truth.
And what we need is a brother or sister in Christ, with a different perspective than our own, coming alongside and helping us see what we aren’t able or willing to see at the moment. That’s why chapter 10 tells us not to neglect meeting together. We encourage one another. We stir up one another to love and good deeds.
That’s part of the Great Commission. That’s part of our task to evangelize, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. We do it to unbelievers, and we do it to believers.
When we’re talking about evangelism, one question that might come up is: “What about if a person responds? What if they actually accept the gospel of Jesus Christ? What do I do next? What do I do next?”
Well, if you take into consideration what we’ve been talking about, the answer isn’t that difficult. You keep talking to them about Jesus. And what you do is connect them to a local church that teaches the Bible faithfully and includes people who will encourage them in their Christian walk.
Look with me at Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2, verse 37. This is right after Peter preaches a sermon on the day of Pentecost. He exalts Christ as the Risen and Resurrected Savior, the Son of David who will rule forever, and he exposes them to their sin of rejecting him. And notice the response. ACTS 2:37.
What do we do? They felt the weight of their sin. And what did Peter say? He didn’t walk them through a sinner’s prayer. He didn’t have them sign a card or raise their hands. What did he say? VERSE 38-40.
Why did he mention baptism? Because that was Jesus’ command, and because that is the external sign of being united to Jesus and to the local church. He didn’t say: “Well, if you really mean it, then you’re saved. And don’t ever doubt it.” No. He directed them to be visibly joined to the local church. Baptism, and by extension membership, is the New Testament way that a believer gets affirmed by a church. And many responded to Peter’s message. VERSE 41.
And then what? Were they baptized, and then went back to their normal life? No. The church instructed them. VERSE 42.
That’s not just a description of the life of the church; it’s a description of what new believers were added into. They were taught. They were joined to a spiritual family. That’s God’s design.
If you reach out to a person, and they respond in genuine faith, then your next step is to get them connected to a church. Get them connected to a spiritual family.
Well, what about assurance? What about assurance? Should I tell that person that they’re saved? Should I give them that guarantee?
Well, I would say “no.” You shouldn’t. Because that’s not your job, as an individual. We can, with the full authority of God, say what it says in Romans 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved… Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
That’s a promise of God. But what you don’t know is whether or not their faith is genuine or sincere. That may take some time to see. Do you remember the parable Jesus told about the various types of soil? Only 1 of the soils was good. Only one produced fruit. Two other soils seemed to bear fruit, but because of temptations and persecutions and worldliness, they fell away. So, I think, you want to be cautious about affirming someone’s faith immediately because that’s not your job, as an individual.
Well, whose job IS it? Who provides someone with assurance? Who does that? There are two main answers. One is external, the other is internal.
Externally, assurance is given by the church, corporately. This doesn’t mean that the church has the power to grant salvation. It means that church is a visible, tangible expression of Christ. It has been placed here on earth by Christ as a testimony of the truths of heaven.
If you’d like to look into this a little more, I would encourage you to study Matthew 16:13-20 and Matthew 18:15-20. Those are two sections where Jesus talks about the church. And what you find in those sections is the language of binding and loosing. The church declares someone as bound in their sin or loosened from sin. We don’t determine it, but we declare it based on the principles of the Bible—based on evidence of repentance and faith.
Can the church be wrong? Of course it can. Only Jesus will give perfect judgment when He comes. Every church has false believers. There are weeds among the wheat. But, by and large, the more a church is committed to Scripture, and the more its people are committed to living for Jesus Christ, the better we will mirror heaven and the kingdom of God. The church, corporately, gives external affirmation by receiving a person into the spiritual family.
That’s why baptism is so significant, and membership as well. If you read through Acts, you’ll notice how often baptism is mentioned. It comes as part of the call to repentance. And it’s how the people responded. Because it joined them to a local church who could testify to the person’s profession.
And, according to the passage in Matthew 18, if the time comes when a person refuses to repent from an ongoing sin that is inconsistent with a disciple of Jesus Christ, even after being called to repentance by an individual and then a small group, and then the entire church, that person is removed from the church, removed as a member. They’re treated like an unbeliever. Because the church is here to reflect the truths of heaven.
So, the church, corporately, has an important role in testifying to the reality of someone’s faith. The church acts in this world as an external witness.
The second witness is the internal witness. This is the witness of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, and He resides in every true believer.
Let me read to you what it says in Romans chapter 8, verse 16. This is a chapter that focuses on the Holy Spirit’s role in the Christian life. By the power of the Spirit, we are to put to death the deeds of our sinful nature. We need to do battle against it. And verse 16 says: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." He is the internal witness.
Well, how does that happen? How does the Spirit bear witness? Well, there is a level of subjectivity to it. It’s possible for a person to have false assurance. But the objective instrument that the Spirit uses as the internal witness, is the same instrument that the church uses as the external witness. And that instrument is the word of God. It’s the word of Jesus Christ.
And what I want to do now, with the short time we have remaining is take a quick tour through a book that is specifically aimed at assurance.
And doing this has, I hope, four major results. First of all, if you’re already saved, I hope it will help confirm you in your faith. I hope it encourages you.
Secondly, if you’re not saved, my hope is that this would expose that to you. It’s a terrifying thing to consider hearing from Jesus on the final day, “I never knew you. Depart from Me.” And then to go from the gates of heaven into eternal judgment. We don’t want that for you. Christ doesn’t want that for you. So listen closely and ask God to teach you.
Thirdly, going through this study, I hope, will help shape the culture of our church. The more our church models what we see in the New Testament, the stronger we’ll be, the more effective we’ll be, and the more difficult it will be for false believers to feel comfortable. We’re not on a witch hunt, looking for false believers. That’s not our task. But if our church is strong and healthy and loves Christ, that will be used to expose the false faith of others. They will see the difference.
So, I hope this study encourage those with genuine faith, confronts those with false faith, and strengthens the culture of our church.
Lastly, my hope is that a brief study like this, equips us for continued evangelism to professing believers. Not just here in our own church, but even outside this.
You’re going to talk to people at work or at school, or in your family, who think they are already saved. They say they believe in Jesus and the Bible. But if they aren’t marked by the evidences we’re going to see, then you can lovingly and graciously say to them: “Are you sure you’re a Christian? Because this is what Bible says, and I don’t really see that in your life. And I’m worried for you.” I hope this study helps you.
Turn with me to the back of your Bibles to the book of First John. Not the gospel of John, that’s 21 chapters. But to the epistle of John, which is only 5 chapters long. First, Second, and Third John are almost near the end of your Bible. They come right before Jude and Revelation. And to start, go with me to First John chapter 5, verse 13. This is the purpose statement of the book. FIRST JOHN 5:13.
John the Apostle, and God Almighty wants believers to have assurance. To know with certainty that they are saved. John’s gospel was written so people would believe in Jesus and have eternal life. John’s epistle, however, is written so that people would be certain about it.
And so, this letter is filled with verses that say things like: “This is how you know. This is how we can know. This is how we can tell who is a child of God.”
Like I said, we’re going to through it very quickly. We don’t have time to study it in depth. But I would definitely recommend that you give this some extra attention in your own life. What are some of the evidences of genuine faith?
Let’s go back to the beginning of the book, we’ll move through this in the order it comes to us. But upfront, I’ll tell you we’ll have six evidences. Six criteria for genuine faith.
- Walking in the light (1:5-7)
- walking in righteousness brings assurance
- walking in the light brings sanctification
- Ongoing confession of sin (in action and in heart, 1:8-10)
- this is not just a conversion verse, it’s a daily verse
- real Christians don’t just admit that they aren’t perfect. They have a deepening awareness that they are corrupted, that nothing good dwells in them.
- If you think you’re a good person, and God is just helping you be better, you don’t understand Christianity. You don’t understand the glory of God.
- Obedience to God’s Word (2:3-6)
- Is the pattern of your life one of obedience to Jesus Christ and His commands?
- Do you submit to the government? Do you honor your boss or your teacher at work?
- Children, do you obey and submit to your parents?
- Is there a pattern in your life that would bring a stain to the message of Jesus Christ?
- This is why it’s so sad to see people today claim to follow Christ, but live in open and unrepentant adultery or homosexuality or fornication. They are self-deceived.
- Regeneration = new heart = new pattern = new direction = new growth
- Love for the brethren (2:9-11)
- Love = attitude AND action
- We need a biblical definition of love.
- What examples are there in your life of laying down your preferences, sacrificing something of yours for someone else?
- Is that the pattern of your life?
- This is not a general command simply to be polite and kind. It’s the command to show the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ to our brothers and sisters in the faith—to those in our own local church
- Jesus said (John 13): By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. [En esto conocerán todos que son Mis discípulos, si se tienen amor los unos a los otros]
- Making it more practical: husbands, do you love your wife? Ladies, do you love your husbands? Younger ones, do you love your siblings? Do you love your parents?
- Hatred for the world (2:15-17)
- World = the sinful system that rejects Christ
- Do you love the world? Are you comfortable watching what the world watches, or listening to what the world listens to?
- If you’re comfortable in this world, you’re not a citizen of heaven.
- Abiding in true doctrine (2:19-24)
- The doctrinal test: Who is Jesus Christ?
- Do you believe that Jesus is the eternal, uncreated Son of God?
- Do you believe that the God of Israel, the God of all creation came to this world in human form, and died on a cross?
- Do you believe, as we sing, that in a manger one night there was the fullness of God in helpless Babe?
- Do you believe He died and rose again physically from the grave?
- DO you believe Jesus returned to heaven at the right hand of His Father?
- If you don’t have a biblical and accurate view of Jesus Christ, you’re not a Christian.
Those are six evidences of saving faith.
- walking in the light
- confessing your sinfulness
- obedience to God’s word
- love for the brethren
- hatred of the world
- abiding in true doctrine
People in John’s day were walking away from the faith. And many were left scratching their head, wondering: “What happened? Did they lose their salvation? Could I lose my salvation?” And so John writes this letter to encourage the church. And he says: “No, you can’t lose the salvation of Jesus Christ. But you CAN lose a false salvation. And that’s what happened.
So he writes this letter to confirm those who are genuinely saved. And to encourage them to stay steadfast.
The six evidences we’ve already covered are basically all of them, but John keeps repeating it over and over again.
Look at CHAPTER 2, VERSE 29 (practices righteousness)
Look at CHAPTER 3, VERSES 4-10 (practices righteousness)
CHAPTER 3, VERSES 13-18 (love the brethren)
CHAPTER 3, VERSES 23-24 (believe in Jesus, love one another, keep His commandments)
In chapter 4, John goes back to the doctrinal conviction that gives evidence to salvation.
FIRST JOHN 4:2-6 (stays committed to the teaching of the Apostles)
1 JOHN 4:7-11 (love one another)
1 JOHN 4:13 (the indwelling Spirit)
VERSE 15 (confesses Jesus as the Son of God)
VERSE 16 (abiding in love)
1 JOHN 4:19-21 (loving the brothers)
CHAPTER 5, VERSE 1 (believe Jesus is the Christ)
1 JOHN 5:10 (believe Jesus is the Christ)
VERSE 18 (does not keep on sinning, God protects)
God protects his own. God watches over His own. He does so by His Spirit. He does so by His word. But be also does it by one another. God ministers to us through our brothers and sisters within the context of commitment to church.
And so, as we wrap up this series on evangelism, I want us to walk away with this in mind. Evangelism isn’t just a means for reaching those outside the church. It is the means of keeping people on the inside as well.
Don’t neglect teaching the gospel to one another. Do it in your Family Life Groups. Do it in whatever other small groups. Let’s help each other respond to life in a way that accords with the gospel.
Don’t be content simply with a gospel affirmation. Use the opportunities and relationships God has given you to see that every person connect with and thrive in a local, gospel-affirming, Bible teaching, soul-winning church. Point people back, every day, to the gospel of Jesus Christ, who died was raised for the forgiveness of our sin, and the transformation of our lives.
Let’s be united in evangelism, and united in the gospel of Jesus Christ.