A Question I Was Asked:
'Must We Preach the Gospel If We Don't Want To? Surely Thats a Minister's Job!!'
I was asked this question recently:
'I know some believers (I am not sure whether they could be called “Christians”) who believe it is only a minister/pastor's job to preach and to evangelize. The local leader of the group told me that – as far as he is concerned - it is only the minister's job to preach and to evangelize because it takes a minister to decide where and when this should be done! This group also believe that today is not the major time of salvation and we don't need to get too 'hot under the collar' about preaching the gospel. Can I have your comments?'
I would like to start my answer by asking this question:
How – according to the Lord Jesus and the New Testament – should those who have accepted that the Christ has come, now respond to the knowledge of His coming?
'Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18.
(First of all, please note that Jesus said that this authority was granted to Him after His death and resurrection – not that it will only be granted to Him at His Second Coming, as some teach).
“Therefore (the use of 'therefore' means that something is now possible in the light of this) go and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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...”' Verses 19-20.
Before Jesus ascended to the Father, He made plain what task would now fall to those who believed on His name:
'”But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8.
The entire Book of Acts offers a clear testimony of the zeal and urgency which the disciples and apostles used to preach the good news of Jesus to all who would listen. The very word 'gospel' (meaning 'good news') sums up this wonderful message of the sacrifice and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which was received with such joy by the first believers.
The very word 'gospel' (which – don't forget - we are told should be preached because 'all power' had now been delivered to Jesus) occurs in the New Testament 101 times !! Now some New Testament uses of this word are doctrinal, others might be called conversational but many uses of the word are clearly examples/admonitions/exhortations that we are meant to follow – check any good concordance! The examples are too many to list here!
The New Testament appears to be crystal-clear in proclaiming that this age of the Church is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2 is quite specific about this - also Mark 15:15; Luke 16:16; Hebrews 1:1-2) and so it is vital that all Christian believers have some involvement (at whatever level) in preaching the gospel. This, however, does not mean going around and bashing people over the head with our Bibles! We can be subtle, there are many ways to 'preach the gospel', but let us at least recognise that it is the responsibility of all of us!
But isn't it only ministers who should evangelize??
There is not a single New Testament Scripture anywhere which ever says such a thing! On the contrary, from the time of Christ's resurrection right through to the final pages of Revelation the New Testament assumes that this is an activity for all! Of course ministers and pastors will have a more organisational role here, yet the Great Commission applies to every single one of us. The record of Christian history is quite an astonishing one here because the gospel has often spread fastest when missionaries and ministers have been expelled from a country (China is a good example)! We may also consider Soviet Russia. The communists discouraged the Orthodox Church in every possible way during that country's communist years and no evangelisation by the leaders of the church was possible. But when the iron curtain was finally raised, many were - and are - astonished to find that Russia, Hungary and Poland have millions of Christians! Of course, evangelism had never stopped but it had been carried on by ordinary believers, often just by the power of example, not by 'high-profile' leaders!
The Bible is clear that the worldwide preaching of the gospel from the time of Jesus until the present time is for the purpose of a witness and a testimony (Matthew 24:14; Luke 24:45-48; Acts1:8 Ephesians 2:6-7) rather than being a desperate attempt to get everyone saved before it is too late! This has been a well-meaning assumption of well-meaning men and women. However, those who correctly respond in faith to that message will certainly be saved. But, of course, it is true that not everybody will hear the gospel (and it is estimated that a huge majority of the human race never heard it during their lifetimes) and we simply have to leave these people to God's ultimate mercy, rejoicing that we serve a God who allows mercy to triumph over judgment (James 2:12-13).
The Bible never states that such people are simply destined for Hell, but assures us that every man, woman and child will stand in the Final Judgment (Revelation 20:12). Since we serve a God of supreme mercy, compassion and justice we need not worry about these people; rather, for those who do experience a direct gospel confrontation and challenge during their lifetimes, it is the specific rejection of Christ which appears to be the Bible's own yardstick for being condemned to Hell (rather than ignorance). Check out Mark 16:15-16; John 3:16-18; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:22-23; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Revelation 14:6-7. Where God allows any of us to interact with His Dynamic Revelation, He always expects a response!!
This is the age of the Church and the age of salvation. All believers in the Christ – not just pastors and ministers - are charged and commissioned to go out and preach Christ! This much is absolutely clear! (Although pastors and ministers will have a greater organisational role). There is absolutely no biblical mandate or approval to hide our Christian 'lights' (Matthew 5:14-16)!
God may well finally be merciful to countless millions who – through no fault of their own – never knew the name of Christ during their lifetimes, but that is within His own supreme power, authority and jurisdiction. The message for us in this age, however, is abundantly clear:
'...”Repent and be baptised every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call......Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”' (Acts 2:38-40, partial quote, NIV throughout).
THIS is the message which came to us! – THIS is the message which we are now exhorted to take to others!
Robin A. Brace, 2005.
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