Jesus’ entire ministry was focused on evangelism. When He called His disciples, He promised to make them “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Interestingly, He didn’t entice them with the promise of stature, respect, or power. He didn’t promise to make them healers, deliverance ministers, miracle workers, or prophets, although He did endow some of them with these gifts. Instead, His promise to make them fishers of men was to characterize their calling.
It also characterized Jesus’ ministry. Peter and the others had found Him praying on the mountain and wanted to know why He was up there instead of coming back down to the people waiting to be healed. Jesus’ answer revealed His priorities:
· And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” (Mark 1:38; ESV)
It seems that preaching to save souls took precedence over all of His other ministries, even healing and delivering the evil spirits.
Jesus certainly taught His disciples to perform acts of mercy, but even these had a greater purpose:
· “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Good deeds were to be performed for the glory of the Father to turn the hearts of the people to Him. Evangelism was also the prime focus of Jesus’ final instructions to His followers – the Great Commission given to spread the Gospel throughout the world:
· “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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
· “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48)
Regarding evangelism, there is something that we often forget or, perhaps, overlook. We also need evangelistic for our spiritual health and the health of the Church. Towards the end of the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul had written instructions for the purpose of enabling us to stand against satanic attacks. He described these defensive measures as “the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11, 13). This armor consisted of the “belt of truth” and the “breastplate of righteousness” (14) followed by a piece of unusual armor that doesn’t seem to be defensive at all but offensive:
· As shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. Ephesians (15).
Our feet should always be ready to carry forth the Gospel. However, this is not defense but offense, right? I think that it is both. We have often heard it said, “A good defense is a good offense.” This would suggest that the Church best defends itself as it moves forward, rather than waiting defensively and fearfully for the next blow to fall.
This understanding made me think about Daniel’s description of the Church during the last days of this current era. The Church would not be cowering in the corner awaiting the next wave of persecution. Instead, the Church would be showing forth the glory and courage of her Savior:
· He [the anti-Christ king] shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. And the wise among the people shall make many understand [evangelism], though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. (Daniel 11:32-33)
I rejoiced to read this! Although we might “stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder,” we will not be cowered into submission. As He had promised, our Lord will be with us. We would endure the pain and threats by moving forward, by fulfilling our commission!
This also accords with Jesus’ teachings. After teaching how the Church would be torn by dissension and how we would be hated by the world (Matthew 24:9-12), Our Lord illustrated how that those who continue with Him will courageously carry out His evangelistic mission to the ends of the earth:
· “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
If our Lord is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31-32)!