What does it mean to Evangelize? Some Christians are called evangelists. We are told we should evangelize. But what is evangelism? The word “evangelize” was translated from Greek, the language of the New Testament, in different ways. When taken together the different translations give us a very good idea of the original meaning of the word. Consider the following translations of the Greek word euaggelisqai in Acts 16:10: “to preach the gospel” (KJV, NIV); “to preach the good news” (NLB); “to tell them the good news” (ESV); “to announce to them the glad tidings” (JND); “to proclaim the good news to them” (NRSV).
All these translations are good because when we evangelize we announce the good tidings to the lost. It is good news, or glad tidings to the unsaved because the person separated from God by sin has no inner peace and no real relationship with God. God has set “eternity in the hearts of men” (Eccl. 3:11 NIV). In His infinite wisdom, God has put into the hearts of all people a realization that there is a God, and that there will be a void in their hearts and a lack of peace until that void is filled by God Himself and their eternal destiny is secure. Evangelism is the process by which the disciple brings this need to the attention of the lost, explains how they can be reconciled to God, how their sins can be forgiven, and how they can have the assurance of eternal life.
The Lord Jesus spent three and a half years training His disciples before sending them into all the world with the good news of Salvation. He gave them this commission just prior to His ascension into heaven: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 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” (Mt. 28:18-20). He also said, “You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The disciples took these commands literally and began evangelizing.
How did the disciples Evangelize?
At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit baptized the believers into one body, the work of evangelism began. Peter, who had earlier denied the Lord, was now filled with the Holy Spirit and stood among the many Jews present and boldly proclaimed the first gospel message. He began by telling the people around him that what was happening to all the disciples – the joy, the exuberance, and the fact that all were speaking in the many languages of the people visiting Jerusalem – was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 (Acts 2:9-11).
He then told them about Jesus and how His miracles were proof of God’s power on Him. He told them how the religious Jews had handed Jesus over to be crucified, after which He rose again as proof that God had accepted His sacrifice, and that He was now Lord and Christ (Acts 2:13-36). The hearers’ hearts were touched and they asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” They needed to repent of their sin and be baptized in order to show that they now were followers of Jesus. Three thousand made that soul-saving decision.
This was one of the “keys” Peter used to open to the Jews a full and free salvation (Mt. 16:18-19). A few years later, Peter had a series of visions to show him that the Gentiles were also to be included in the outreach of the gospel (Acts 10). Moments after seeing the vision the third time, messengers came from the Roman centurion Cornelius. He had been instructed by an angel to find Peter, who willingly went to the Gentile centurion’s home where he preached the gospel. The Holy Spirit came upon all there, confirming that the gospel was for all men everywhere. In this way another of the “keys” was used to open the doors to all who would believe on the Lord Jesus and follow Him. The disciples slowly came to realize that what the Lord had said to Nicodemus – “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” – was an open invitation to the unsaved from every nation, tribe and language (Jn. 3:16).
Stephen, the first martyr of the new and growing Church, was criticized for using his spiritual gifts to glorify the Lord Jesus and do the work of an evangelist. He was taken by the same religious leaders that had slain the Son of God, but they gave him the opportunity to speak before they killed him. He presented the gospel and paraphrased a lot of Scripture as he did so. Something we should always remember when presenting the gospel is to emphasize Scripture. It is by presenting the Word that faith will come to the unbeliever: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
Stephen then focused on Jesus and how they had slain “the Righteous One,” challenging them as to their disobedience. This only angered his accusers and he was stoned to death (Acts 6:8-7:60). Three important things are seen in Stephen’s example. He used that opportunity, preached the Word, and stood firmly in the face of opposition. This last fact is important today as we live in a world of tolerance and political correctness, and many are fearful of presenting the truth of the Word, seeking instead to pander to the norms of a degenerate secular society.
With the martyrdom of Stephen, a great persecution broke out against all the followers of the Lord, with the result that they had to flee for their lives. But this did not stop the spread of the gospel; instead it helped the cause, as those who were running for their lives were always ready to speak out to others about their faith in the Savior. They “conversed” the gospel; in other words they used the opportunities in their conversations with people they met to tell them the way of salvation: “They who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). Philip was one of those who had left Jerusalem. He went down to Samaria and “proclaimed the Christ” (Acts 8:5).
What was Paul’s example of Evangelism?
As we follow Paul’s missionary journeys we get insights into his approach and practice as he announced the glad tidings in many different ways. He also used different tactics to get the people’s attention, and above all we see the heart of the message as he declares the purpose of the gospel to the new churches.
As Paul began his evangelistic adventures, he usually went to synagogues where there were Jews who understood the Scriptures. We have a glimpse of Paul’s methods in his first recorded message to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch. In Acts 13:14-52 we touch on some of the main points of his message. First he told how throughout the history of Israel, God had been preparing His people for the coming Messiah (13:16-25). Next he explained that the religious leaders had not only rejected Jesus as their Messiah, but had crucified Him. However, the Lord Jesus was proved to be their Messiah by the resurrection (13:26-37). He explained how Jesus was their Messiah and that He had died in fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures, and that through the Lord Paul could proclaim forgiveness of sins. He applied the message, appealing to them to continue in the grace of God (13:38-43). Many Jews were converted, others opposed the message, but Paul began his most rewarding ministry, announcing the good news to the Gentiles and to any who would listen to him (13:44-52).
Another example of methods for evangelism is Paul’s approach and message to the Athenians on Mars Hill, the place where the intellectuals of the day met to philosophize over any new or interesting concept (Acts 17:16-34). Unlike the Jews, these people did not know the Scriptures so Paul addressed them on the basis of their education and culture as a way to present the good news.
Paul had seen an altar to “the unknown god” as he approached the place where they gathered, and he began his message using that altar as an illustration to drive home the point that they did not know the one true God. Among the many altars they used to sacrifice to their many strange gods, they had one marked, “to the unknown God” (Acts 17:23). This was something they knew and to which they could readily relate, giving Paul an ideal opening to introduce them to the God who was unknown to them. He explained that the God they did not know is the Creator God, who gives life and breath to everything. Unlike idols made of gold or silver or stone, the Living God is not far from anyone who seeks Him, but He demands that all who would come to Him should repent of their sin. He spoke about the resurrection and the fact the God had raised Jesus from the dead. This was a concept that many Greeks could not understand or accept, nevertheless some who heard the message became followers of the Lord Jesus.
What we can see from Paul’s varied methods of presenting the Gospel is that he was ready to use any opportunity to evangelize. He spoke in market places, from prison, when shipwrecked, using local culture, language, and literature when applicable – all to make sure the message of salvation could be announced so that people could be saved.
What about us?
Are we using all the opportunities God is giving us to evangelize? God is calling every believer to be a witness for Him. We are ambassadors for the King, and we have the greatest message people will ever hear. We can point the way for them to be reconciled to their Creator God. That tremendous void in their lives can be filled with the presence of God Himself through the Holy Spirit who lives in every believer (1 Cor. 6:19).
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:17-20).
We should get to know our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and all who come into the sphere of our activities. We should carry gospel tracts and be ready to give them to the teller at the bank, the check-out clerk at the supermarket, and all those we meet. Opportunities abound if we are truly looking for them.
We should regularly read the Word so the message we present is based on Scripture. We should memorize verses pertaining to evangelism so the way of salvation is clear, and have other verses in mind to help when someone asks a question about the Christian life (1 Pet. 3:15).
At the right side of this article is a bookmark entitled Help For Wintessing which you can download, print and keep in your Bible. It gives some pertinent verses to help you lead a soul to Christ, and verses to help a new believer grow in Christ. Make sure you are able to present the gospel clearly, and then ask the Lord to give you opportunities. As Paul told Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5).
By Ian Taylor
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org