For some time now I have been concerned and disappointed that so many people who are pastors, preachers, and other church leaders do not preach the gospel of Christ, and worse, some have made it clear they don’t know what the gospel is.
My beloved friend Edward Fudge shares some wisdom in his most recent gracEmail about evangelism today compared to what happened in the first century. We would do well to pay attention to his words and make some corrections if necessary.
Two of the most glaring contrasts between the evangelism reported in Acts and much evangelism done today involve the message itself. The word “evangelism” comes from the Latin (evangel) and Greek (euanggelios) root words for “gospel” or good news. News, of course, is the report of a deed or event. The message in some evangelism today is not good news at all, but at best good “do’s”–a list of things (varying by denomination) that the hearer is told to do to enjoy God’s favor; or, in other evangelism, at best “good views”–a system of doctrine that the hearer is told will bring God’s favor if faithfully learned and followed. These examples both differ from New Testament evangelism in two important ways. First, their message is not good news. Second, their message spotlights the men and women to whom it is directed, instead of spotlighting God who has done marvelous deeds of which the gospel brings the good news.
By contrast, the evangelistic reports in Acts summarizes parts of the story of Jesus’ life on earth, variously including his miracles, arrest, and unjust execution by the Romans, incited by the Jerusalem Temple establishment. Some reports also mention Jesus’ ascension, exaltation, and enthronement at God’s right hand. But the major element in this “good news”–the item in the apostolic spotlight–is this: “God raised him from the dead.” The gospel is about God, not about us. It tells the great deeds God has done for us, not good deeds we are to do for God.
The core of the apostolic gospel is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and its promise that we also can receive immortality from God and enjoy eternal life. This is so central to the evangelism reported in Acts, that when the apostles are put in prison in Jerusalem for preaching the gospel, the angel who releases them during the night encourages them to go to the Temple and “speak to the people all the words of this Life” (Acts 5:20). In conversion, God gives repentance that leads to life (Acts 11:18). When the gospel is heard and understood, people do one of two things: those who are appointed to eternal life, believe; those who reject the gospel judge themselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46, 48). Jesus went into hades, the realm of death, but he had no sin and death had no power over him. When he arose out of death and out from among all the dead, Jesus conquered death and the devil who ruled through fear of death. Because Jesus arose, all who are in Jesus, whom he represents, also will arise from death.