The Mission and the Work of the Church – Evangelism

Jesus mission while he was upon the earth was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Inasmuch as the church belongs to her Lord (Matt.16:18), she is to be about that same mission as well. Within that mission, there are those who need to be saved and there are those who are saved. Evangelism concerns itself with the former category. There is no doubt that the church needs to be in the business of evangelism. The church is God’s plan for man’s salvation today and as such needs to sound the message of the gospel to those who are not saved. This is epitomized in the great commission. Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19, 20 ASV). The twelve had the specific charge to get this done within their lifetimes. The church was the instrument through which this charge was carried out. Today, the church stands as the instrument for world evangelism as well.

Often times when we think of world evangelism we think about supporting evangelists in other parts of the world. While the concept of world evangelism certainly includes this, we should not think of world evangelism as exclusive of our own communities. World evangelism includes THE ENTIRE WORLD. We cannot fulfill the great commission without taking the gospel to our “neck of the woods” as well. We find, in fact, that this is exactly the pattern that Jesus had for the apostles. In Acts 1:8b we read, “�and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Notice the order in which Jesus charges the apostles to work: First, Jerusalem, then Judaea, then Samaria, then the rest of the world. They were to start locally and then branch out over time. Herein lies a great principle. Local evangelism ultimately supports foreign evangelism. Do you wish to expand your foreign evangelistic efforts? Expand your local evangelistic efforts.

I am afraid that in the United States we have allowed the general apathy of her citizens to quash our efforts at local evangelism. It is true that there is a great deal of apathy regarding biblical things within the United States, but this should not hinder us. Our job is not to “grow the church” but to plant the seed and water (1 Cor.3:6, 7). God will give the increase! It would be great if every single individual Christian were a personal worker extraordinaire! However, we know from experience that not everyone is able to do this. Moreover, the Bible teaches that different people have different abilities (1 Cor.12:12-25). Thus, it is biblical for different people to have different roles within the church. This is why it is often very expedient for some sort of local evangelistic plan to be put into place. The specifics of the plan are not what is important. There are various methods for doing personal work within one’s local community. What is important is that the plan includes the potential for everyone within the local congregation to aid in the effort. The plan should come from the leadership of the congregation–the eldership. The plan should be something on which these men are united. The congregation should understand and want to be involved in the execution of the plan. The involvement of the local preacher should be participatory and not administrative–it is the work of the church! If the book of Acts teaches anything, it is that when the people worked, the church grew!

Foreign evangelism should not, however, be discounted. A balanced approach is the best here. There are some that say, let’s merely focus on local evangelism and not foreign evangelism. There are some that say we should focus only upon foreign evangelism and not local evangelism. Both would be incorrect in their assessment. The church has an obligation to the local community to preach the gospel locally. However, the church has the additional obligation of expanding beyond the local. The church of Jesus was not created to be a static institution. But how can a local congregation support missionaries in every single country of the world? Simply answered, she can’t. It would be virtually impossible for one congregation with her limited resources to do such. This is why the great commission was given to the church as a whole through the apostles. The church as a whole must cooperate to ensure that the world is evangelized. This means that some local congregations will only have part in specific areas of the world and not the world as a whole. It is not wrong for a local congregation to focus upon one particular area of the world in foreign evangelistic efforts. It would be wrong for the church as a whole to say we are not going to evangelize any particular part of the world. This involves and necessitates cooperation with other churches. We find that this is exactly what the early church did in regard to evangelism. Various congregations supplied various different missionaries to go into the work in various different locations. Paul and Barnabas were associated with Antioch (Acts 13:1, 2). Philip was associated with the church at Jerusalem (Acts 8). Timothy came from the congregation in the area of Derbe and Lystra (Acts 16:1). However, we see that they all worked together to evangelize the world. So must we do today.

Understanding our individual and collective obligations in evangelizing the world goes a long way toward fulfilling those obligations. There is one additional obligation in which each and every person must participate in our efforts at evangelism–prayer. Jesus instructed us to pray that the Lord of harvests would send more laborers into the harvest (Luke 10:2). Paul instructed that we pray that the word of the Lord have “free course” in the world (2 Thess.3:1). He also instructed that we pray that God open doors of opportunity for us to work in His kingdom (Col.4:3). Let each one of us resolve that we will pray for the work of evangelism both locally and foreign as if everything depended upon God and let us work as if everything depended upon us. With God for us, who can be against us?

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The Baptism of the Twelve Ephesians

At the end of Acts 18 and the beginning of Acts 19, we have a very interesting account of salvation. The account is one in which those who were candidates of salvation submitted to two different baptisms, the baptism of John, and then, the baptism of Jesus. This account is an interesting one, because it teaches us some things about baptism that are not found anywhere else in the Bible. Let’s study this passage together and see if we can learn some things from God’s word.

First, we see that one can teach that Jesus is Lord, yet teach baptism wrong. We read in Acts 18:24, 25 the following: “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.” Notice the facts that we find here regarding Apollos. First, he was a Jew. Second, he was born at Alexandria. Third, he was an eloquent man. Fourth, he was mighty in the scriptures. Fifth, he came to Ephesus. Sixth, he was instructed in the way of the Lord. Seventh, he was fervent in spirit. Eighth, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord. Ninth, he knew only the baptism of John. Apollos was both instructed in the way of the Lord, and taught the things of the Lord, yet, he did not know the Lord’s baptism? How can this be? Evidently, Apollos had been around Jerusalem sometime during the earthly ministry of both John the baptizer, and Jesus, but Apollos had missed the Lord’s critical teaching about baptism during the period of the Great Commission. Therefore, he did not know that baptism was now being administered by the authority of Jesus. Those who submitted to the baptism that Apollos knew, were not submitting to the authority of the Lord. Did Apollos teach that Jesus was the Lord? Yes. Did he teach others to believe in the Lord Jesus? Yes. It should be obvious that just because one believes in Jesus doesn’t mean that one’s baptism is correct.

Second, we see that if your baptism isn’t right, you’ve got to get it right! It is interesting that Paul came after Apollos to the same city, Ephesus, and inquired about the baptism of these disciples. We read in Acts 19:1-3 “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.” Paul used a process of discovery to determine if their baptism was valid or not. He first asked if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed. (Again, we note that the text says that they had believed. They believed that Jesus was the Christ, but their baptism was not right.) Their response was that they had not heard of the Holy Spirit. This response was indicative of their baptism, because Paul then asked, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” They should have heard of the Holy Spirit at their baptism because the baptism that Christ commanded in Matthew 28:18-20 was “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The fact that they did not hear about the Holy Spirit, indicated to Paul that they were not baptized correctly. Their baptism wasn’t right and they had to get it right!

Third, we see that to get their baptism right, it had to be by the authority of Jesus. Paul explains in Acts 19:4, 5, “Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus” means by the Lord’s authority. John’s baptism was not based upon the authority of the Lord Jesus. Was it based upon the belief that the Messiah was coming? Yes it was (Luke 2:4). Was it based upon repentance unto remission of sins? Yes it was (Luke 3:3). Was it water baptism? Yes it was (Luke 3:16). Was it immersion? Yes it was (John 3:23). What was different about the baptism of John from the baptism of Jesus? The baptism of Jesus was based upon the authority of Jesus as given in the Great Commission. Jesus said, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” This meant that after this time, John’s baptism had no more authority. Only the baptism commanded by Jesus, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit had the authority of Christ. This authority was powerfully demonstrated in the resurrection of Christ of which baptism is a likeness (Romans 6:1-10). If our baptism is not based upon the authority of Christ, then all we did was get wet like these men at Ephesus. What is baptism based upon the authority of Christ? It is baptism for salvation (Mark 16:16); it is baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38); it is baptism for discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20); it is baptism for washing away sins (Acts 22:16); it is the point at which we believe God forgives us of sins (Colossians 2:11-13); it is baptism that saves (1 Peter 3:21). John’s baptism did not have THIS authority-the authority to grant salvation! We must understand that to be baptized right, we must acknowledge what Christ has authorized baptism to do-forgive sin and grant salvation! The beautiful results of the reception of the Holy Spirit by these disciples indicated this very fact. Verse 6 states, “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” The prophecy made by Joel and quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17-21 proved the relationship of the miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit with individual salvation. These men were now saved.

Let us always respect the authority of Christ in baptism and understand that one may teach that Jesus is Lord, yet teach baptism wrong. Let us understand that if your baptism is not right, you’ve got to get it right! And let us understand that correct baptism only comes as authorized by Jesus today and that His authority has placed baptism and salvation together (Mark 16:16).

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I Don’t Want You to Join My Church

We run into people on a more or less frequent basis that are looking for a church. Many times you will hear people who are undergoing this process say things like, “How do I know which church to join,” and “How do I choose the right church?” It is well understood that these individuals are looking to be a part of a particular church but they just do not know which one they should be a part of. However, I submit to you that this type of terminology when looking for a church is foreign to the Bible. In fact, let me emphatically say that I don’t want you to join my church.

I don’t want you to join my church because it is not my church. It may be the church I attend or the group of people with whom I assembly, but technically speaking, it is not my church–it is the Lord’s church. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “And I say unto you that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The church belongs to Jesus; it is His church; He is the Owner. The Bible also says that Jesus is the Head of the body (Eph.1:22, 23), the Savior of the church (Eph.5:23), the King of the kingdom (1 Tim.6:15), the Husband of the bride (Eph.5:21ff), the Foundation of the church (1 Cor.3:11) and the Chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:5, 6). So I want you to be part of the church that belongs to Christ, not “my church.”

I don’t want you to join my church because you can’t join the church. One will search the scriptures all day long and never find an instance of a person “joining a church.” We read of the church having members in 1 Corinthians 12:12ff and Romans 12:4ff. However we never read of someone “joining” the church. Rather we read where God adds a person to the church. In Acts 2:47 we have, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” The Lord adds those who are saved to the church. If you are saved you already have membership within the church. The question that stands before you is whether or not you will worship with God’s church. If you are not a Christian, the question that stands before you is “Will you be added to God’s church?” I don’t want you to join my church; I want you to be added to the Lord’s church.

I don’t want you to join my church because you nor I have a right to determine the characteristics of the church. Many people visit different churches in their search for a church. They look at the church and weigh the differences and then determine which characteristics most please them. This is not, however, how we should view the church. We should look for the church whose characteristics most please God! God has given us His word so that we can know about His church and He has given us His church so that we can know about His word (Ephesians 3:10). It is God’s church that we should be seeking. I don’t want you to join my church; I want you to seek God’s church (Matthew 10:33).

There are some things that I do want. I DO want you to be obedient to God. I DO want you to worship God. I DO want you to be a faithful Christian. I DO want you to be saved. I DO want you to be a member of the Lord’s church for which He shed His blood (Acts 20:28). Take the necessary measures today to ensure that you are part of the church that belongs to Jesus–the church of Christ (Romans 16:16)!

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