I Thessalonians 2:1-20
"we were bold in our God to speak the gospel unto you"
The desire and longing of every believer should be winning lost men and women to a genuine experiential saving knowledge of Christ (I Cor. 9:22). God's divinely appointed means whereby this goal is achieved is called evangelism. Under the cover of an expedient and ecumenical evangelism, however, Satan is seeking to dilute and destroy Biblical evangelism by pawning off his deceptive counterfeits.
Therefore, it is imperative that believers recognize the marks of genuine New Testament evangelistic methods and pursue these Biblical traits in their soul-winning endeavors. In I Thessalonians chapter two, the apostle Paul delineated the characteristics of model evangelism via his own evangelistic efforts, with timeless methods that serve as a pattern, standard and yardstick for all evangelistic undertakings today.
1. MODEL EVANGELISM IS CONTROVERSIAL EVANGELISM. To begin, model evangelism is controversial evangelism. Paul states in I Thess. 2:1-2 that he preached the Gospel of God with "much contention…not pleasing men" nor using "flattering words."
In Acts 17:1-9, where the historical background of the Thessalonian church is given, the Scripture states that as Paul preached the Word a "great multitude of devout Greeks believed the gospel. When these conversions occurred, certain rabble-rousers created an uproar in the city assaulting the house of Jason and alleging that Paul and his faithful companions were "turning the world upside down."
Almost everywhere Paul traveled, three results inevitably occurred. (a) People were converted; (b) Paul's preaching caused controversy, debate and division among the ungodly world of his day, resulting in inevitable persecution of his ministry; (c) N. T. churches were established and edified in the faith.
The so-called "positive gospel"; that avoids and eliminates controversy concerning the depraved nature of human beings and apostate religion had no place in Paul's evangelistic preaching. This so-called "positive" gospel is a "perverted" gospel (Gal. 1:6-9), that condemns souls rather than saving them for eternity. Dr. Bob Jones Sr.'s statement that "you can't move without producing friction" certainly has a Scriptural precedent, of which Paul's evangelism stands as a classic illustration.
Compromisers may raise the straw man issue about the difference between "contending" and "being contentious," but such objections cannot eliminate the offence of the Gospel. The believer should certainly do everything possible within his power by a Christ like gracious character to make the Gospel palatable (spiritually seasoned) to unconverted men since food that is properly seasoned is much more appetizing than unseasoned bland serving.
The negative elimination of evil habits and poor mannerisms (abrasiveness, rudeness, etc.) and the positive qualities of compassion and tenderness, etc., can positively assist in the Gospel's presentation, but the intrinsic truths of the gospel such as man's inherent sinful nature and the distinctiveness of Christ's shed blood as the only atonement for sin, etc. will always be an offence to the unbelieving world. When ardently presented, without compromise, these truths will not only produce conversions but also harassment by those who oppose the Gospel.
2. MODEL EVANGELISM IS CLEAN EVANGELISM. (I Thess. 2:3,6,10). Clean evangelism contains three elements that Paul's endeavors vividly illustrated in this chapter: Holiness, honesty, and humility. Paul's evangelism was holy (not of "uncleanness" v. 3). In verse 10 he declared that "ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe." In evangelistic endeavors, there is no substitute for a consecrated holy life!
Paul's evangelism was also honest ("not of deceit…nor in guile," v. 3). Paul didn't make foolish promises that he could not fulfill and he did not list vast numbers of converts where there was no validation to substantiate excessive numbers. Paul was open and above board in all his evangelistic endeavors. An evangelist/preacher who reports huge numbers of people being saved, but whose converts could not be located even by an FBI investigation is guilty of dishonest evangelism.
Humility was another vital element in Paul's clean evangelism efforts, for in I Thess. 2:6 he said, "nor of men sought we glory." While Paul magnified his office (Rom. 11:13), he never forgot his servant's role (Rom. 1:15). In I Tim. 1:15, he referred to himself as "the chiefest of sinners." Ford Porter, the author of the world's most widely distributed tract, "God's Simple Plan of Salvation" was awarded an honorary doctorate by this writer's alma mater. When asked to make his acceptance speech, he simply stepped to the microphone and said "Ford Porter, only a sinner saved by grace," and then promptly returned to his seat.
3. MODEL EVANGELISM IS CLEAR EVANGELISM. In I Thess. 2:5, Paul stated "neither at any time used we flattering words." In I Cor. 2:4 Paul said, "And my speech was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Paul did not present the gospel in a "subtle" manner, like so many CCM musicians, religious entertainers and entertainment evangelism oriented preachers.
Individuals and crowds listening to Paul's preaching did not have to imagine what he was proclaiming as his message was plain, simple and clear. There was no "uncertain sound" (I Cor. 14:8) in Paul's gospel trumpet, for the redemptive truths about Christ's atonement were clearly delineated as he preached the Biblical themes. At one of the churches he formerly pastored, yours truly had the following three words inscribed on the pulpit where he (and guest speakers) could see them plainly every time he preached: "MAKE IT PLAIN."
4. MODEL EVANGELISM IS COMPASSIONATE EVANGELISM. Paul tenderly wrote: "being affectionately desirous of you…ye were dear unto us." (I Thess. 2:8) Paul's evangelism was motivated by the love of Christ (II Cor. 5:14), bathed with tears (Acts 20:19 & 31) and saturated with prayer (Rom. 10:1).
In his book The Soul Winner's Fire, evangelist John R. Rice delineated the great need for believers to have a burning compassion for the lost. Cold, calloused and indifferent saints need the kind of consuming fire that this old time evangelist described in that volume. An unconverted world desperately needs to see Holy Spirit compelled believers going forth with broken weeping hearts for souls (Ps. 126:5-6).
5. MODEL EVANGELISM IS COMFORTING EVANGELISM. In I Thess. 2:11 Paul wrote that his evangelistic team "exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you…" While Biblical evangelism uncovers and exposes sin, it also presents hope for lost sinners and encouragement for longing saints. While delivering a message of hope to unconverted souls, model evangelism also edifies and builds up the saints.
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, a great Bible expositor in the first half of the 20th century declared as he neared the conclusion of his long profitable ministry: "If I had my life to live over, I would invest more time giving comfort." As yours truly preaches in meetings, one of his chief aims is to give comfort and encouragement to N. T. pastors and churches who face adversity, opposition and persecution from the Christ deniers, the compromisers and the Charismatics.
6. MODEL EVANGELISM IS CONCENTRATED EVANGELISM. Model evangelism is concentrated around the person and work of Christ and centered in local N.T. churches. In I Thess. 2:14 Paul asserted that "ye brethren became followers of the churches of God which…are in Christ Jesus." Model evangelism concentrates its themes around the great redemptive themes of Christ's atoning work and presents this message in and through local N.T. assemblies that are the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15).
While para church entities can sometimes assist local N. T. churches in their evangelistic endeavors, they can never replace or serve as substitutes for God's divinely ordained organism to fulfill the Great Commission Mandate, local N. T. churches. This writer has given his life, first as a pastor for 20 years and now as an itinerant evangelist and writer for over 26 years, to encourage and assist local assemblies in their Biblical task of fulfilling that great missionary mandate (Matt. 28:18-20).
7. MODEL EVANGELISM IS CONSERVED EVANGELISM. As Paul concluded this incisive chapter concerning his evangelistic labors, he wrote in I Thess. 2:19-20: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy."
There is nothing wrong in "big days". With proper motives, the writer believes and promotes them, but Paul’s major concern was not just to have a "big day". It was to see people genuinely saved and see them produce spiritual fruit.
It is this writer's hope that all saints who read this editorial will aspire to manifest the traits of model evangelism that Paul delineated and demonstrated in I Thessalonians chapter two. D.J.
Also in this issue:
|Editorial – August - September 2007 The Fundamentalist Digest: Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given.|