By Sam Horn. Read Part 1.
4. We must celebrate the accomplishment of the gospel.
The gospel is also the record of God fulfilling His purposes and promises in four specific ways. By means of the gospel, God has fulfilled an ancient promise made to our first parents in the presence of their mortal enemy, Satan. Though this enemy bruised the heel of Jesus at the cross, the resurrection was the cosmic proclamation of Christ’s victory over our ancient foe.
The gospel is also the means by which God is in the process of reversing the ancient curse whose mark is death. In vanquishing death and defeating the grave, Jesus announced that eternal life is now the present possession and future hope of every dying believer. Death has lost both its power and its sting (1 Cor. 15:50–57). By means of the gospel, God has transformed death from a prison to a door by removing any cause for fear (Heb. 2:15).
Though active in this present age, Satan has been defeated and will soon be crushed under our feet (Rom. 16:20), and God will deliver His people of all ages and dispensations from the suffering, pain, and death that is our common lot in this present, evil, passing-away world (1 John 2:17). This is the good news of the gospel!
5. We must participate in the display of the gospel.
As recipients and participants of God’s rich mercy through the gospel, all believers are called to live in ways that display the transformative power and divine purpose of the gospel. By means of the church, God intends to display to the powers that exist in the cosmos the richness of His grace (Eph. 2:4–7), the strength of His might (Eph. 1:19–23), and the multifaceted nature of His insurmountable wisdom (Eph. 3:8–10). Because the church is the public display of the reality of God’s future purpose for Creation, we are to live worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1). This means that we are to exercise continual, living faith (Titus 3:5) that is accompanied by God-enabled repentance from sin (1 Thess. 1:9–10) resulting in grace-energized sanctification displayed through holiness of life (Titus 2:11–12). This is what makes the gospel credible in the sight of unbelievers. Evangelism is a declaration as well as an invitation, but effective and credible evangelism rests on the foundation of the gospel’s power to transform those who believe its message and embrace its Messiah. All believers are evangelists in this sense. We are daily proclaiming or obscuring the power and attractiveness of the gospel by how we live as well as how we speak the gospel message.
6. We must prioritize the proclamation of the gospel.
We live in a period in which the evangelical church has largely domesticated the power of the gospel, diminished the fullness of its scope and intent, and truncated the demands and truth-claims of its content. Against all of this stands the unchanged mission of the church, articulated by her Head as the all-sufficient strategy for growing the church as He promised in any age and in any culture. That strategy is to go everywhere announcing the good news to initiate people into the faith and make obedient disciples of them. This strategy is divinely designed, singular, timeless, and universal. Commonly called the “Great Commission,” this strategy is summed up precisely and concisely in five separate places in the New Testament. Matthew 28:16–20 presents the objective and the authority of this strategy. Mark 16:15 reveals the breadth and scope of this strategy; no one is to be excluded regardless of social status, ethnic identity, creed, or deed, and no place is off limits. Luke 24:46–48 contains the content of the message that is to be heralded to all people in all nations; namely, a remission for sins has been made and is now offered to all who will repent and believe on Christ. John 15:16 assures the messengers that there will be true, abiding fruit in converts who remain. And Acts 1:8 speaks to the sufficiency, enabling, and overarching strategy for the preaching of the gospel.
Together, these five texts remind us that we have been appointed as witnesses authorized to announce and extend the forgiveness that is in the gospel to any who will embrace its simple terms. As authorized witnesses, we must ourselves be partakers of the gospel and give evidence in our own lives of the reality of its transforming power. Finally, these texts assure us that we have received an enabling power that is more than sufficient to help us carry the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Evangelism flows out of these divine realities. In this sense evangelism is not an activity we engage in separate from the life we are called to live. Rather, it is the natural outflow of the daily rhythms of our life. Truth travels best down the road of relationship, so it is most natural that those closest to us would see, hear, and receive the gospel we display to them. Sadly, many Christians live in ways that contradict the gospel they profess to believe.
The gospel is displayed through our lives, but it also must be proclaimed and explained by our words. A picture may be worth a thousand words on certain occasions; but when it comes to the gospel, the picture our lives portray must be clearly explained by Biblically faithful words.
We are authorized to extend the promise and the benefit of the gospel to others. We are not authorized to change its terms or modify its demands.
Which is why the words of the Puritan prayer I mentioned at the beginning are so relevant.
Blessed Lord Jesus,
No human mind could conceive or invent the gospel.
Acting in eternal grace, thou art both its messenger and its message,
lived out on earth through infinite compassion,
applying thy life to insult, injury, death,
that I might be redeemed, ransomed, freed.
Blessed be thou, O Father, for contriving this way,
Eternal thanks to thee, O Lamb of God, for opening this way,
Praise everlasting to thee, O Holy Spirit, for applying this way to my heart.
Glorious Trinity, impress the gospel on my soul, until its virtue diffuses every faculty;
Let it be heard, acknowledged, professed, felt.
Teach me to secure this mighty blessing;
Help me to give up every darling lust,
to submit heart and life to its command,
to have it in my will,
controlling my affections,
moulding my understanding;
to adhere strictly to the rules of true religion,
not departing from them in any instance,
nor for any advantage in order to escape evil, inconvenience or danger.
Take me to the cross to seek glory from its infamy;
Strip me of every pleasing pretence of righteousness by my own doings.
O gracious Redeemer,
I have neglected thee too long,
often crucified thee,
crucified thee afresh by my impenitence,
put thee to open shame.
I thank thee for the patience that has borne with me so long, and for the grace that now makes me willing to be thine.
O unite me to thyself with inseparable bonds, that nothing may ever draw me back from thee, my Lord, my Saviour.
Sam Horn (PhD, Bob Jones University; DMin, The Master’s Seminary) is executive vice president for enrollment and ministerial advancement and dean of the school of religion and the seminary at Bob Jones University.