The Message and Purpose of Evangelism

Walton Weaver
Memphis, Tennessee

While there are many kinds of evangelism and even many methods within each kind, evangelism has only one message and purpose. Yet, each of these may be described variously.

The Message

1. What the message is. Evangelism is the telling of God's good news, the gospel. The definition of evangelism must be specific in identifying which Gospel is to be told. True evangelism must have the gospel of God as its message. No other message is adequate since no other gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and only in this gospel is the righteousness of God revealed (Rom. 1:16-17).

The message of evangelism is called many things in the New Testament. It is called the "gospel of God" (Rom. 1: 1; 1 Thess. 2: 2, 8, 9; 1 Tim. 1:11) because God is the ultimate source of it; the "gospel of Christ" (Rom. t5:19; 1 Cor. 9:12; Gal. 1:7) because Christ is the subject, object and very life of it; the "gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24) because it is the medium of God's grace to man; the "gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15) because through it man makes peace with both God and self; and the "gospel of your salvation" (Eph. 1:13) because it brings salvation home to us. It is this gospel and this alone which must always be the message of evangelism.

2. What the message is not. Human philosophy, the tradition of men, and the rudiments of the world (the elements which belong to the sphere of material things) cannot take the place of the gospel in evangelism (Col. 2:8). All of these are "persuasiveness of speech" (Col. 2:4), "vain deceit" (Col. 2:8), and "falsely named knowledge" (1 Tim. 6:20). They degrade Christ who is to be exhalted. They are opposed to "the word of the truth of the gospel" (Col. 1:5), as both wisdom and knowledge as revealed in Christ (Col. 2:3). The "social gospel" which aims at social betterment in "the life that now is" and places little emphasis on the need for the death of Christ for man's salvation is no part of the message of evangelism.

The Purpose

1. To reconcile men to God. The greatest need man has is to be reconciled to God. The word "reconcile" means to change from enmity to friendship. The one thing that stands between man and God is sin, "for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), and "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6: 23). God who did no wrong and has no need of being reconciled to man took the initial step to bring man, the offender, back to him. He "commendeth his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

Christ's death not only abolished the law which was contrary to us, but it made it possible for us to be reconciled unto God in one body (Eph. 2:13-16). The "word of the cross" (1 Cor. 1:18) is the "word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:19) by which sinful men are brought hack into friendship with God. The process of telling the "word of reconciliation" is the "ministry of reconciliation'' (2 Cor. 5:18). Thus, to reconcile men to God by "the word of the cross" is the primary purpose of evangelism.

2. To save self. When God called Ezekiel to be a watchman to the house of Israel He told him his blood would be required at his hand if he failed to warn the wicked, or the righteous man who turned to iniquity. Only by giving them adequate warning could he deliver his own soul. (Ezek. 3:16-21).

In principle, at least, what was true of Ezekiel is true of every Christian. The souls of the lost whom we fail to warn will be required at our hand. Every person is responsible to the limit of his possibilities. We must reach as many as we can. "How many" we shall be able to save will be determined by our abilities and our opportunities, and how well we meet up to our responsibility. How many of us can say, with Paul, "I am pure from the blood of all men" (Acts 20:27)? One thing for sure, only by "holding forth the word of life" (Phil. 2:16) can we deliver both ourselves and them that hear us (1 Tim. 4:16). Christians cannot save themselves without saving others. Our own salvation, then, is a very important purpose of evangelism.

Conclusion

The message of evangelism is adequate in every way to meet the spiritual needs of man (Cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The purpose underlying the telling of the message is sublime and unequalled. Evangelism could have no greater message or purpose.

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