When it comes to evangelism, many times the content of the gospel is put to the side or completely forgotten. Some view evangelism as social activism or they say, “I take the gospel to people by giving them clothes” or “I present the gospel to people through my good works and feeding the hungry.”
These things are good and even necessary for us to do as Christians (Ephesians 2:10), but our good works are not the gospel. We have to be careful not to equate the things we do as a result of our being saved by grace with the message of the one who saved us by grace. Our good deeds are not the gospel, Jesus is the gospel. People need to hear the message of Jesus in order to believe and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I believe we have been influenced by the culture around us where truth is relative to each individual. As Paul Washer said “We live in an age of relativism- A belief system based upon the absolute certainty that there are no absolutes. We hypocritically applaud men for seeking the truth but call for public execution of anyone arrogant enough to believe he has found it.”
In this view of the world there is no absolute truth, only things which we as individuals choose to believe. There’s an opposition to any claims to certainty. People are supposed to come to their own personal conclusions about any given topic.
Once again, because the Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice we need to turn to Scripture to see what sharing the gospel is.
From Scripture, we see that our good works are not enough for others to know Jesus. We must proclaim the good news of Jesus clearly and truthfully.
The Gospel is Good News
As we look to the New Testament, the words that are used regarding sharing and preaching the gospel, refer to “communication by speech, by words, by talking.” In the early church, the gospel spread through verbal communication. It was the content of the message, not the act of sharing, that was important. The gospel is a word-message communicating the good news of who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He continues to do today. As Will Metzger mentions in his book, “The gospel is a proclamation of an amazing historical event. It is to be heralded and proclaimed.” A herald is someone who makes public announcements on someone else’s behalf.
This is the idea of preaching and sharing the gospel. It is sharing the good news of Jesus on his behalf to others that they might hear and believe. This is the word that Paul uses in First and Second Timothy when he refers to himself as an appointed preacher of the gospel. He is a herald, someone speaking on behalf of God.
This was a significant realization in my life when I finally understood this concept thanks to Will Metzger and my pastor for recommending this book. I hope that you can understand this crucial idea: the importance for us in sharing the gospel is telling the story of Jesus. It’s not about anything we can do for anyone, any change we can make in society, or our ability to persuade or reason people into becoming believers. No. It’s all about carrying the message of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Vern Poythress explains this idea of the herald, the preacher in this helpful way,
In a vision, Paul saw a man from Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” He concluded ‘that God had called us to preach the gospel to them,” (Acts 16:9-10). Did he begin to feed and clothe the poor? Help change the laws regarding slavery? Improve health conditions in the town? No. We find him preaching a message which called for a response. A wealthy business woman listens and “the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14). Later Paul tells a jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved–you and your household” (Acts 16:31). He gives help by giving the gospel message. This reminds us that, “consequently faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
So what did Paul do to help those in Macedonia? He gave the gospel message. How do we ultimately give help in the world? We proclaim the gospel message. This goes completely against what we see in the world today and even in many parts of the church. The greatest good we can do for people is to give them the message of Jesus. The content of the message is what gives help. This is the doctrine, the teaching.
True and Honest Heralds
It’s absolutely crucial that we be sure that the content of the message is true. A herald does not have the liberty to adjust the message. He is to communicate the message given to him. We need to be sure that we’re giving out the God-given solution for the problem that all of mankind has.
This is why doctrine can be referred to as “healthy” and “unhealthy.” It can also be referred to as sound doctrine, or false doctrine. If the doctrine is false doctrine, false teaching, it is “godless chatter” that leads people to ungodly living. Those who teach and believe a false gospel will suffer the just wrath of God.
So we see there’s a direct connection between doctrine, teaching, and our lives, our behavior. What we believe affects how we live. And we can see what we truly believe based on the way we live our lives.
We see this throughout the New Testament. In Paul’s letters in First and Second Timothy, and Titus. Paul repeatedly emphasizes that doctrine affects the way we live. If you look at Romans 1-11 and Ephesians 1-3, the first half of each book is primarily about the truths of who the believer is in Christ, the doctrine. And then Paul transitions to the practical implications, the commands of what you the believer are to do because of who you are in Christ. This is referred to in theology as the indicatives lead to the imperatives. What is true of you leads to what you do. The doctrine leads to behavior. It all starts with a true understanding of doctrine.
Yet, in today’s age, we live in a time where doctrine is a trigger word, “oh, I don’t want to talk about doctrine or theology.” And it seems that this distaste for doctrine or theology, is because of this separation that has been made between understanding the truths of the faith, and how to live out the Christian life, yet these things go together.
Proclaim the Gospel
In summary, it’s imperative, in our evangelism, to proclaim the Biblical message of Jesus.
Someone can have the right motives, the right desire, the right heart, and still, lead people astray. And surely, no Christian would want to do that. When we think about evangelism, it’s extremely important to think about what we are saying, because the truth is our soul food. Doctrine is central to Christianity.
So each of us as individuals are called to share the gospel with those around us. We must clearly and truthfully proclaim the good news of Jesus. Though our good works are not enough in evangelism, our lives still play a vital role in our Christian witness and we’ll talk about that in the next article.
Together let’s make God’s name famous!