March 31, 2011
Spiritual Gifts Series
The Spiritual Gift of Evangelism:
“And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,”
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We have reviewed the life of Philip as an example of the Spiritual Gift of Evangelism. As with some of the other spiritual gifts, all Christians have a duty to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but not all Christians have the Spiritual Gift of Evangelism.
The Spiritual Gift of Evangelism: Definition. The Spiritual Gift of Evangelism describes a special gift from God, used by the Holy Spirit, to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in various ministries. Sometimes the audience has been specifically prepared to receive the good news, and other times the audience will reject the good news. So, let us summarize the description of this gift in Scripture.
Evangelists May Hold Church Office. Philip was one of the seven “deacons” (deacons and elders were offices in the New Testament church), selected to be in charge of the food ministry to the Hellenistic widows at Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-5; Acts 21:8). Not only was Philip called a deacon, he was the only person called an “evangelist” in the New Testament. During the time of great persecution of the church in Jerusalem, many believers in Jerusalem, except for the apostles, scattered into Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). Therefore, we see that God used Philip the evangelist to work in Jerusalem and Samaria, and even in Caesarea (his home, Acts 21:8), a very Gentile city, built by Herod the Great and designed to be the chief Mediterranean port of Palestine. It later became a Roman colony.
Evangelists Build Up the Church in Numbers. In Ephesians 4:12, we see that evangelists work, in part, by equipping the saints for the work of service. Evangelists often take a strong interest in helping other saints learn about sharing their faith in Christ. We read in the Bible about the many men Paul took with him and demonstrated this ability to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with special power and ability, so that Jesus made many converts in many places (for example, at Iconium, a large number of Jews and Gentiles believed, Acts 14:1).
Evangelists May Minister Alone or in Teams. Philip the Evangelist worked sometimes by himself (Acts 8:5) and sometimes others followed with him. Consider Simon who believed and was baptized. Simon attached (“προσκαρτερῶν“) himself to Philip. When Peter and John laid hands on believers and they received the Holy Spirit, Simon asked them if he could purchase that authority. Peter rebuked Simon, saying that Simon should pray for forgiveness, because Simon was “in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity” for his desire to purchase the gift of God with money (Acts 8:20-23). In later church history, Roman Catholic popes, bishops and priests bought and sold church positions and this practice came to be known as Simony, after the character Simon. Scholars dispute whether Simon actually became a true believer in Christ (compare others who were temporarily believing in the signs performed by Christ in Jerusalem, but apparently some of them were not really saved from their sins (John 2:23)). Even if Simon was not a true believer, the New Testament records many examples of people receiving faith in Christ and joining the team who shared the Gospel with them (consider Paul and the people who joined him).
Evangelists May Minister to One or Many at a Time. From Philip, we have seen that he ministered to whole towns by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them (Acts 8:40) or by speaking with just one man, the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:25-39). Sometimes, the evangelist shares the good news privately and sometimes publicly. Remember that some evangelists may never speak to crowds.
Evangelists Do Not Always See Conversions Immediately. As we read through the New Testament, we see that Jesus taught His disciples to sow the seed of the Gospel. That seed would fall on different places, and He meant that not everyone hearing the Gospel would receive the truth and abide in the truth. Not everyone would become a believer just because they heard the Gospel (Luke 8:4-15; compare Romans 10:16). In the same way, not everyone listening to the Gospel from the evangelist today will respond with salvation, but the evangelist has special ability from God to present the facts of salvation, based upon the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, in a persuasive, clear way to people often prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should remember the testimony of Paul: “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7). The focus should never be upon the gift or the gifted, but upon the Gifter, Jesus Christ, and His message of eternal life.
Every Believer Must Do the Work of an Evangelist. Paul urges Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5). We may not know if Timothy had the gift of evangelism, but we do know he should share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, just like evangelists do. You may not have the gift of evangelism, but you have the great commission of Christ before you to share the Gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ. Paul said to the Corinthians: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” God always works with evangelists and teachers, and every other spiritual gift, to produce unity in the Body of Christ. The gifts work in harmony, to produce a symphony of glory to God in the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). In fact, consider the very close relationship of evangelists with every other believer in Christ: “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8). Evangelists should never start a following after themselves, but rather should always focus all of their efforts upon Christ and Him alone (see 1 Corinthians1:12-17 and 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and John 4:42).
Evangelists Always Share the Same Gospel. Philip preached Christ from the Scriptures (the Old Testament) (Acts 8:35). Jesus Himself had commanded His disciples to spread the Gospel to the whole world (Matthew 24:14; Matthew 28-19-20), but had previously forbidden His disciples to preach to the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). Later, the resurrected Jesus authorized His disciples to spread the Gospel to the entire world, including Samaria (Acts 1:8). The preaching of Peter (e.g., Acts 2:14-42) and Paul (e.g., Acts 17:22-31; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5) and Philip emphasized the sinfulness of man, the grace and mercy of God, the crucifixion of Christ for sins and sinners, the bodily, glorified resurrection of Christ, and the need for faith in Christ alone for forgiveness.
Evangelists Bring Good News of Good Things. In Romans 10:14-17, God tells us that preachers bring the good news of Jesus Christ to unbelievers. God declares: “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things” (Romans 10:15). God sends evangelists. We know that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Therefore, the evangelist receives the blessings of God for spreading the Gospel, using the Bible to tell people of Christ. Any Gospel at odds with the Biblical message of Christ denies Christ, and must be rejected (2 Corinthians 11:1-4). True evangelists preach and share only the same Gospel of Jesus Christ preached by the apostles, focusing upon the good news of good things about Christ and Him crucified and resurrected (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 1 Corinthians 15:1-19).
Evangelism Builds upon the Principle of Multiplication. Jesus intends to reach more people with His Gospel through individuals sharing the Gospel with new people who will share the gospel. With each conversion, a new person begins a life of sharing the gospel with others. Each new believer does the work of an evangelist, sharing the Gospel. Remember that the woman at the well went and shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire city of Sychar (John 4:4-43). She did not preach to them, but shared her story about the Messiah. This same pattern of one person sharing the Gospel to one more person characterizes the Biblical pattern of evangelization by every believer sharing with unbelievers. This process involves spiritual multiplication. The Spiritual Gift of Evangelism will never replace the joy of every believer being used by God to share His love and Gospel with unbelievers.
So we learn more about the gift of evangelism today.
● We learn that God uses the Spiritual Gift of Evangelism to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people. Conversions may not be immediate, but God directs evangelists to share the good news of salvation to every tribe, nation and tongue (compare Revelation 14:6).
● We learn that evangelists share the same Gospel all the time, and do so publicly and privately, in a variety of ways, for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
● We all must do the work of an evangelist, and sow the seed of God’s word, for God is not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to salvation in Christ Jesus (2 Peter 3:9).
Application for Today
Today, I want to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, encourage evangelists to spread the word, and watch God cause the increase in the Church of Jesus Christ, as we all grow in unity in Christ Jesus. Will you evangelize today?