Ancient Evangelism. Part II. The Message Proclaimed.
Ok I’ll admit it; I’m a Tebow fan. Yup, despite all the hype, I’m in. Is he the best quarterback in the league? Probably not. Is he good enough to even be in the league at all? Some of his fans say yes even though they don’t know a thing about the game. On the other hand some of his critics say no even though Tim is better than other quarterbacks already in the NFL. If I had my pick, I’d trade him off to Dallas instead of NY. Then my favorite team would now have my favorite QB. Sorry Romo; nothing personal. Just business you know. But with the huge divergence in opinions on the guy, it would seem that there’s more to the story than just football. Even if he’s not that good now, he’s still early on in his game with time to improve. So why the fuss? The answer is obvious; he’s an “outspoken” Christ follower. Yes, there are other Christians in the NFL. But Tim seems to have taken the spotlight because of his starting in the 6th game of the 2011 season for the Broncos and winning while still living for and speaking out for Christ in a public way. That’s the rub that people don’t know how to handle. People ponder about how outspoken a Christian should live today. Some believe he ought to just keep it to himself as this is a “private” matter. Unfortunately those who believe and teach such things really don’t understand the essence of being a disciple of Christ at all. Actually, the actions and spoken message of Tim really illustrates for us the second part in this study of Ancient Evangelism.
Lifestyle evangelism is a big deal these days. But while it’s true that your life must have a positive influence on the culture, the overwhelming picture in the book of Acts was the spoken word and not merely actions. Referring to this ancient evangelism, the theologian Michael Green noted that, “Christianity is enshrined in the life, but it is proclaimed by the lips. If there is a failure in either respect the gospel cannot be communicated.” In other words, no matter how noble our lives may be, the saving message of Christ cannot be known by the lost unless we speak up and out. This imperative call is first seen in Acts 4:20 where Peter and John state before the Sanhedrin that they “cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” They were moved by what they had witnessed in Christ and thus were compelled to speak. But what was it that they “spoke”? Glad you asked. Grab some java or a diet coke and let’s look at a few of the foundational truths that must be spoken to effectively proclaim the message.
1. The first and foremost subject of evangelism is the person of Jesus Christ. While speaking to the Ethiopian in Acts 8:35; it was the good news about Jesus that Philip taught. The focus was on who Christ is and therefore what he was able to do for the lost souls of women and men. It’s interesting today that we can almost always get away with talking about “God’s love” in general, but once we bring up the name of Jesus pressure can begin to mount. I saw this up front the last time I was asked to give prayer for a city council meeting back in California. I closed my prayer then just like I always do; in the name of Jesus. I was not making a scene. I was just doing what I naturally do. But I was never asked back. Some may take offense at the name, but without Christ as the central focus, we are not proclaiming the message, but a placebo.
2. In all his teaching, Peter always included the death and resurrection. Note Acts 10:39-40. The death and resurrection are crucial to the message. Because of the death of Christ we can know there has been a perfect sacrifice for our sin. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can trust His claims to deity and that the Father has accepted His sacrifice.
3. Following the proclamation, the message always included a deliberate plea for the hearers to respond positively to what was presented. With the ancients, simply hearing the message and then casually discussing the highlights was not considered a healthy conclusion. Rather, the New Testament illustrates at least three areas of response called for from those who heard the message.
- Paul exhorted the Philippian jailer to “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved.”
- Beyond mere intellectual assent, the message called for the believer to turn from his old life in repentance. In Acts 2:38, the believing Jews were told to “repent and be baptized.” In 3:19 the audience was called to “repent and turn to God” while in chapter 11 verse 21 states that a “great number of people believed and turned to God.”
- In the book of Acts, each of these occasions of turning to Christ was immediately followed by being baptized. For the ancient Christians, there was no hesitation between a hearer accepting of Christ and his being immersed. In fact Herbert Kane states that it “was not until the post-apostolic period when the church was beginning to substitute ecclesiastical power for spiritual power, that candidates for baptism were required to undergo a period of probation and instruction.”
I suppose the best way to emphasis the necessity of proclaiming the message of Jesus is to look directly at his own words. Matthew 28:19 and following record some of the best words of Christ on this commission. Jesus said, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
Remaining in the book of Acts, Jesus said to the first Christ followers that they would be his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That is exactly what the apostles and first followers of Christ did. Because of their faith, the message of Christ has come all the way down to us today. They took Jesus and his message seriously and changed the world. For us today, when we “proclaim the message” we are indeed following in the steps of Ancient Evangelism.
The thing is; you don’t have to be a star quarterback to speak up for Christ. You just have to be yourself and speak. A great picture of this is seen in Acts 11:20 where we find average Hebrew Christians who “began to speak to Greeks also.” They weren’t star athletes. They were just everyday people like us. But maybe Tim can be an encouragement to all of us to take up the torch wherever we’re at. Who is it in your sphere of influence or friendships that have not yet heard the full message of Christ? Who is it that you could share the story with today? You might be surprised at who will be receptive when you’re sharing as a friend. Who knows, you might even be the one who throws the pass they need in order to find the love of Christ. So, take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and then jump up off the bench and share the message with a friend today. Then write me a note and share how it went.