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The Basics

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Lesson 2-3: The Commission—Evangelism
In Matthew 16, Jesus Christ declares that His Church will be a body on the march. In Mark 16, He reinforces that idea, telling the disciples to go into all the world with the Gospel. Every believer is an ambassador, commissioned to represent the Lord Jesus Christ to a world full of people who do not know Him.
We cannot be properly motivated to lead others to Christ until we understand God's love toward us. In Romans 5, Paul writes about this love. Though we were ungodly, though we were totally helpless, though we were hostile to and enemies of the Creator, yet "God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (ROM 5:8).
This love of God for us is the only force that can motivate us to fulfill our commission.
For the love of Christ controls us ... (2CO 5:14)
"The love of Christ" is not love for Him that we produce. It is God's undying, eternal, infinite love for us, manifested to us through the Lord Jesus Christ, and produced in us by the Holy Spirit (ROM 5:5; GAL 5:22).
When Paul says that this love "controls" us, he uses the Greek word sunecho. Sun means " together," echo means "to have and to hold, to possess and to control." The word can be translated "hold together," "constrain," "press on every side, urge," "impel." It carries the idea of someone possessing something and controlling it for his benefit. In this case it is God's love that possesses and controls us, that drives us continually upward in spiritual growth for our good and His glory.
This driving force is available to every one of us, but not until we begin to understand it through the study of the Word will it be activated in our lives. As we study, we see Jesus Christ more clearly. We understand with progressively more depth and intimacy what it took for Jesus to lay aside the riches of eternity and step in the flesh into time.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," Paul writes in 2CO 8:9, "that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." For us, the awesome God emptied Himself and came in the form of human flesh to live the life of a bondservant. For 33 years, He humbled Himself, taking one step down after another after another until the final humiliation of death on a cross (PHI 2:5-8). He did it all to bring to us the love that provides eternal life.
This is the love that compels us. The more impressed we are with it, the more clearly we will see how empty are the things of time that we once so eagerly sought. We will find ourselves, like the Apostle Peter in John 6, with only one real option. At a time when many of His disciples turned away from following Him, the Lord asked Peter if he, too, were going to leave. But where else could Peter go? He knew no one but Jesus and nothing but the plan of God would ever be able to satisfy the longings of his soul. The love of Christ had taken hold of Peter.
... having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (2CO 5:14-15)
When Paul tells the Corinthians that "one died for all," the "one" he is talking about is Jesus Christ. The entire human race was thrown into sin with the fall of Adam. When he fell, Adam died spiritually (GEN 2:17). The children of Adam and Eve were born in the likeness of their parents. They—and their children—were all born spiritually dead, separated from God.
But because of His love, God sent His only begotten Son into this world of death and darkness (JOH 3:16). Jesus Christ came to die for every member of the human race. He did so with a goal in mind: "that they who lived should no longer live for themselves." The phrase "they who live" refers to all who by faith in Jesus Christ come out of spiritual death into life. "Life" is zoe, the word used in JOH 1:4 to describe the essence of life which is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ took our place on the cross so that we could take His place in the world. He was imputed with our sins so that we could be imputed with His righteousness. He died for us so that we could live for Him. If we are living for ourselves—following our own plans, seeking our own desires—then we are not fulfilling the purpose for which Christ came into this world. He died so that we who live should no longer live for ourselves, but for Him.
Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2CO 5:16-17)
When we stop living only for ourselves and start living for Christ, we begin to look at other people differently. Before, we saw others only "according to the flesh," from human perspective. We were interested in other people for what we could get out of them or for how they made us feel. But now we know that God wants us to look at others with His eyes. He wants us to see in every unbeliever what He sees—someone precious enough for Christ to die for and, therefore, someone who has the potential of becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Paul is saying that if we are driven by the love of Christ and can no longer live simply for our own pleasures and purposes, then we are no longer able to look at other people superficially. We have to look at people as potential believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to see in them the infinite worth that God vested in them when He sacrificed His own Son. Therefore, our attitude to other members of the human race is completely transformed from human viewpoint—which sees only the surface, to divine viewpoint—which sees all the potential.
Our perception of other people is able to change because of the profound change that has taken place in us. Paul says that "in Christ" we are totally new creatures. At the moment of our salvation, the Holy Spirit placed us in Christ and we became new. In the twinkling of an eye, He gave us new position, new life, new power, new purpose, new destiny. The old things passed away and new things have come.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2CO 5:18-21)
All these changes that take place when we believe in Jesus Christ are from God. None are the result of our own work. God's plan is a total grace operation. We will never fulfill His plan for our lives unless we understand grace and orient ourselves to it; the only way we can orient to grace is by faith.
What God gave each of us, He gave us for others. The "ministry of reconciliation" is from two words: diakonia, which means "service," and katallasso, which means "to effect a change or a transformation." Reconciliation is power to effect a change. The change is between estranged parties—man on one side, in rebellion against and an enemy of God; God on the other side, constantly faithful to man. Between the two was the barrier of our sin. But God reconciled us to Himself by not imputing, or charging, our sins to us. He imputed them instead to His Son on the cross.
God will never impute sins to any member of the human race. No one ever has or ever will commit a sin that was not paid for by the work of Christ on the cross. All it takes to be reconciled forever to God is to believe in that work.
God has entrusted to us the word of this reconciliation. We are ambassadors for Christ to the unbelieving world. Our message is simple and beautiful and of eternal consequence: God made His own beloved Son to be sin on our behalf. Our sins can no longer separate us from God, and thus from all that is good. The Father made Him to be sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. But the righteousness, the reconciliation, and the life are found only in one place: in Christ. We can enter that place one way: by faith.
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1PE 3:15)
The greatest key to effective evangelism is satisfaction in our own Christian lives. In the Greek, the first part of this verse says, "Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts." It means put Jesus Christ in His rightful place—first place, the place of preeminence—in your life. Then you will be satisfied and you will have hope.
"Be ready" is from hetoimazo, a military word that means "to be prepared, equipped, adequate for the task at hand." To be effective in evangelism, we have to be prepared. To be prepared, we have to be occupied with the person of Jesus Christ. We have to set Him apart from—and above—all the details of life and then fix our gaze where He is.
"To make a defense" is the Greek apologia, from which we get the word "apologetic." Apologia means "verbal defense." It refers to someone who has the facts available and who gives reasonable evidence in court. If the prosecuting attorney in a trial does not have convincing evidence, he will never get a conviction from the court. This verse is saying that until Jesus Christ is given the place of priority in our lives, we will not be able to win our case before the unbelieving world.
Another courtroom word is used repeatedly in the Bible in relation to evangelism. Martureo, from which we get "martyr," means "to be a witness, to testify, to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something." These two judicial terms tell us we had better have our facts—and our personal experience—straight about Jesus Christ and about salvation. We will not have an effect on the unbelieving world until we are able to give evidence that will stand up in court.
When Peter inserted the phrase "to everyone who asks," he put an amazing twist on what we usually think of as "the right way to evangelize." He is describing evangelism by response, evangelism upon request. When we are equipped and prepared, God will bring people to us, people who wonder why we have such hope.
These people will ask us "to give an account" of the hope that is in us. "Account" is from fogos and it means "a word or message." "Hope," from elpis, refers to absolute assurance, security, stability.
In English, "hope" is an "if" word. When we hope for something, we want it to happen, but do not know whether it will or not. In both Hebrew and Greek, hope always means absolute assurance. Peter is telling us that when our lives are marked by victorious confidence, by spiritual boldness, then the people around us will sit up and take notice. They will want to know where our stability comes from.
Why should the unbelievers, in their cosmic power and their self-sufficiency, and in all their human support systems, why should they consider turning to Jesus Christ unless we can show them something they do not have? Until unbelievers around us are able to see something that they cannot generate by themselves, they are not going to be interested in what we have to say.
If our neighbors and friends do not see hope in us, they will not ask us about what propels us in life. A breakdown in our spiritual life impedes our ability to meet the needs of other people. The living water that Jesus promised in John 7 has to quench our thirst first, before it can flow through us to quench the thirst of others.
God intended His power to be seen in the life of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot hold the Bible in front of the world and expect people to see the power that is in it. The power is there, but they will not see it until it has gone through the converter of our souls. The greatest evidence of the reality of the Word of God is stability, consistency, constancy in the individual Christian's life.
If they see confidence in our lives day in and day out—not just when everything goes right, but when things go wrong, when we are under pressure, when we lose loved ones, when we falter and fail but get right back up—then they will want to know what makes us tick. If they consistently see in us an attitude of spiritual boldness because of the absolute eternal confidence we have in Christ, they will begin asking what this hope is that is in us.
When we are asked what the source of our hope is, we always answer in "gentleness and reverence." Prautes, usually translated "gentleness" or "meekness," is another word that in English has a completely different connotation than in Greek. In English, meekness is usually equated with weakness. In Greek, prautes means power under control.
To respond in gentleness means that we have all the power in the world available to us, but we hold it always in proper proportion. We never demand of others any more than they are able or willing to give. We allow other people maximum freedom because we expect the same for ourselves.
The way to build people is not to discourage and frustrate them, not to stomp them down, but to take them little by little to the limits of their own ability and beyond. Those who are strong have to restrain their own power, so that they can constantly keep leading those younger or weaker on into maturity and to greatness.
This gentleness with which we are to deal with those to whom we would give answers is, like the love that drives us, not a quality we can produce ourselves. It is a fruit of the Spirit (GAL 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit—the Helper, the Comforter, the Encourager—is the power in evangelism. In Him alone do we find the motivation, the knowledge, the strength, the gentleness, to take the Gospel to the world. By Him alone can the unbeliever be convicted of his need for Christ.
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