Evangelism – A Biblical Theological View

One of the consistent drumbeats of the Scriptures is that the Good News of Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed to the world. A heart to share the Gospel with others should flow out of a church committed to the Scriptures because the natural result of the work of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures is a desire to share Christ with others. John Stott says:

It is the Bible that lays upon us the responsibility to evangelize the world, gives us a gospel to proclaim, tells us how to proclaim it, and promises us that it is God’s power for salvation to every believer. It is, moreover, an observable fact of history, both past and contemporary, that the degree of the church’s commitment to world evangelization is commensurate with the degree of its conviction about the authority of the Bible.

The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is a call to Christians to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the lost. As we prepare for our outreach through Life Explored, we hope to give a thoroughly biblical basis for why we share the Gospel.

The Great Commission (Matt. 26:19-20) is important for the call to proclaim the gospel to the nations. But it is but one passage that reflects the consistent message of whole of Scripture. The story of God presented in the Scriptures is that of a God committed to glorifying himself in the redemption of the lost through the mission of the church.

The God of the Old Testament is a missionary God. The Old Testament begins with the pre-existence and immanence of God. Before there was anything, there was God. And all things that exist come about by the power of his word. All of creation proclaims the glory of God (Ps. 19:1, Rom. 1:20). God is Triune. He exists in perfect fellowship among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He needs nothing and creates out of no deficit. He simply creates by his grace and for his glory. God creates man as the crowning glory of all creation (Gen. 1:26-31). In his image and with the ability to fellowship with him, God creates man. And he instructs man to fill the earth with more image-bearers. He is to populate and subdue the whole of creation. He is to cultivate and exercise dominion over all things. God’s original purpose and design for man was to fill the earth with worshipers of God.

The fall of man (Gen. 3) did not change this purpose, though it changed the path. Because of the alienation from and enmity with God caused by sin, man needed atonement and redemption. God in his infinite wisdom and grace promised a Redeemer (Gen. 3:15). The promise of atonement and redemption would come through God’s anointed. This Chosen One would come through the line of Abraham. “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3). This seminal promise of atonement and redemption is unfolded and expanded throughout the Old Testament. From Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to the people of Israel, the promise of a land, a seed, and a blessing continues. The promise is not snuffed out by their slavery in Egypt, instead a redeemer is raised up in Moses. And the global reach of the promise continues to grow.

The scattering and confusion of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11) is slowly undone by the centripetal force of God. The nations are drawn into the people of God. The nation of Israel was never just the ethnic people of Israel, but it always included the sojourner, the alien, the fatherless, and the slave. The promise of God had a gravitational pull that drew in the nations.

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many people shall come, and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’ (Isa. 2:2-4, Micah 4:1, 2).

The house of the LORD will be made the highest of mountains, but notice what happens on this great peak; the nations flow up to it. Rivers and streams flow down mountains. They don’t flow up. They only flow up if there is something at the top with a tremendous force of attraction. The God of the Old Testament is a missionary God who draws the nations to himself.

The God of the New Testament is a missionary God. The Gospels display the transcendent God stepping into humanity to walk among us. The fullness of God comes to dwell in the fullness of man. The Christ of the Gospels is God on a mission to provide atonement and redemption for God’s people. The book of Acts displays the Holy Spirit coming to dwell among the Church. The Spirit descends upon the people and the curse of Babel is reversed at Pentecost (Acts 2). Suddenly, the centripetal force which drew the nations in toward God explodes outward. The movement of the gospel becomes centrifugal as the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ is broadcast outward into the world. The epistles of the New Testament display a church that exists to mature the faith in believers and to proclaim the faith to non-believers. The gospel is meant to be received, accepted, and then passed along. And the book of Revelation displays the climax of the missionary purpose. As man was given a mandate in creation to fill the earth with worshipers of God, that purpose is fulfilled in the new heavens and new earth as “a great multitude, that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, … crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev. 7:9, 10).

The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is a call to Christians to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. This is the redemptive focus of the Bible. If we believe the Bible to be the Word of God, then the Church needs to be about the mission of the Bible. A church that does not embrace the missionary and evangelistic call of God in the Scriptures is not a church. Let us heed the call and lift up our voice to proclaim that message.