This blog started as a comment on one of my other posts, but it kept growing. This post is self-explanatory without seeing the comment I’m responding to, but if you’d like to, it’s on my September 20 post.
The Great Commission
The statement that the great commission was for more than the apostles is made often, in the same way that you just made it … without justification or reference.
It’s simply the doctrine of the Evangelicals. There’s nothing Scriptural about it, though.
As I said, there is nothing in the epistles exhorting the church to evangelism. Nothing at all. The absence is very noticeable when one compares it to modern doctrines.
You add, “the book of Acts evidences what manner of preaching the apostles and the scattered church primarily actively engaged in.” However, there’s nothing in any of those Scriptures about anyone except the apostles preaching. When Acts speaks of the church, it says the church shared their possessions and spent time together and the apostles gave witness to the resurrection.
How Shall They Preach Except …
Stephen and Philip preached, too. Timothy did as well, and Timothy is exhorted to do the work of an evangelist. Remember, to the church, Paul said, “How shall they preach except they be sent?” Some are sent.
We have to stop sending those that God has not sent. Even Paul went nowhere preaching for over a decade before God sent him.
The Word in the Believer
Yes, the scattered believers went everywhere preaching the Word. A believer that has the Word in him cannot help but speak it. The Word is the Word. It is not the Silence. However, the fact is, today we exhort Christians to evangelize, evangelize, evangelize. The Scriptures don’t. It’s really as simple as that.
If Christians were doing what the Scriptures do command, then they’d have something to speak. They would be obedient to the Word, and the Word would grow inside of them. They’d speak automatically. In fact, quite often people would ask them the reason for the hope that is in them, which happens to us quite often.
It is the results of the message RCV preaches that I love. I evangelized all the time in the 80’s. There was little fruit, and what fruit there was did not remain except with rare exceptions.
Preachers hold great revivals nowadays. Thousands “come to Christ.” Six months later, church attendance is not one iota different. Thousands of backsliders, not Christians, were created, inoculated against the Gospel.
Or, there’s people who proclaim a less “user friendly” Gospel, as your friend Chesterton put it. Those basically get no results, at least not in the US. That’s because there’s no demonstration of the life of Christ.
Henry Blackaby wrote a book called Experiencing God. He had people going to a college to witness. He basically told them to stop preaching and start following God around. Within a week, an unbeliever had invited one of their members to a Bible study to teach her unbelieving friends the Gospel.
The Navigators call that method “Friendship Evangelism,” and it is remarkably effective because it is close to the method recommended by the Scriptures. It involves believers being together and being in the world but not of it. It was so effective that one believer said, “I don’t like to invite people to our Bible studies because they always get saved there. I don’t get a chance to lead anyone to the Lord.”
The fact is, the reason people were being saved at their Bible studies is because those people were being led to the Lord. The Lord is present wherever two or more are gathered in his name.
The Effectiveness of the Church
When Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus, Jesus himself appeared to Paul. Jesus did not preach to Paul, though. Jesus sent him to the church in Damascus.
As anyone who reads my blogs knows, I have been reading the writings of the 2nd century church for a couple decades now, getting light from them on the writings of the 1st century church (the New Testament).
It’s interesting to note that there are no famous evangelists of the 2nd century. However, the 2nd century church was so effective that by the end of the 2nd century, around A.D. 200, Tertullian could write the emperor (who likely never saw Tertullian’s letter) and tell him that if he banished all the Christians for refusing to participate in war, he would be left with no one to rule over.
That’s an exaggeration, of course, but it does tell you the extent to which Christians had spread by the end of the 2nd century.
How did that happen?
When Justin, who also wrote a letter to the emperor, but fifty years earlier, describes those who have been converted, he mentions just three ways. They …
- Saw the consistency of their [Christian] neighbors lives
- They saw the honesty with which Christians transacted business
- They saw the extraordinary forbearance of Christian travelers when they were defrauded
The testimony of the Church is powerful, just as Jesus said it would be. Our unity and love will convince the world (Jn. 13:34-35; Jn. 17:20-23). Together we create, not a little light, but a light so bright that it cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:13-16).
Thus, Isaiah cries, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”
That’s from Isaiah 60:1. Read what the results of our arising and shining are. Talk about effective evangelism!
Preaching is excellent. Preaching is a wonderful thing. As I said above, when a believer is attached to the vine, which means being in the church, which is the many-membered body of Christ, then he will be full of the Word. Wherever he goes the Word will come out of him, whether by speaking or by extraordinary forbearance when defrauded. People will actually ask him for the reason for the hope that is in him.
If you read through Romans 3 and 4 and James 2, you will see that Paul had a much different emphasis than James when it comes to faith and works. This isn’t because James and Paul had a different message. This is because the Christians in Rome needed faith emphasized in order to deliver them from the bondage of the Law. The Christians to which James wrote needed to be delivered from their belief in a false faith detached from works.
There is a time for everything. It would have been inappropriate to send James’ letter to the Christians (there was likely no church yet) in Rome. It would have been inappropriate to send Paul’s letter to those with a false faith that James wrote to.
So, it is wrong to emphasize preaching to evangelicals today. It is time to emphasize the church to the Protestants, who have forgotten it, its authority (1 Tim. 3:15), and its promises of truth (1 Jn. 2:27).
If this blog, and the comments in it, were being written to Mennonites or Amish, then probably an emphasis on evangelism would be a good thing. The fact is, though, that Protestants have created, by their emphasis on evangelism, a false doctrine that gets in the way of Christian growth, divides the saints, causes many to fall away, and prevents far more people from coming to Christ than it brings to Christ.