Then he said to them,
"Go into all the world
and preach the gospel
to all creation.”
– Mark 16:15
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.
And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:19-20
Sharing the good news of the gospel isn’t simply a suggestion.
It’s a command that Jesus set out for us:
to be the catalyst for eternal heart change
in our neighbors and throughout the world as we
share God’s Word with others.
Romans 10:14 says, “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”
This passage goes on in verse 17, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.”
We most clearly hear the message about Christ in Scripture,
and so we know that
discipleship does not occur apart from the Word.
What a charge to be
faithful in sharing God’s Word
and the story that he has fulfilled through Jesus, of bringing those far from him into fellowship with him!
For all who have experienced God’s saving grace,
may God’s Word bubble out of you
like a hot spring!
After all, God’s Word is meant to be shared.
I love that God gives us a promise,
that when we obey and share,
his Spirit will do the rest.
We can rest in knowing that God’s Word
will not return empty,
but it will accomplish what God pleases (Isaiah 55:11).
God could have found many conduits to deliver his message, but he chooses to allow us to join him in the work.
It is an honor to be able to share the story of God’s grace and mercy that has been revealed to us in the Bible. May we love God’s Word so much that we cannot keep the good news to ourselves: this is one message we can share that never grows stale!
“The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
For some time now, American Christians have conceived of their witness in terms of “sharing the gospel.” Read any book or listen to any talk on personal evangelism, and you’ll inevitably encounter the phrase. On one level, the terminology is positive, conveying the gracious act of giving others a treasure we possess. However, if by “sharing” we imply a kind of charity where we only give the gospel to willing recipients, then our Christian vernacular has become a problem.
I first awakened to this reality while doing language study in Central Asia. As I took a course in spiritual terminology, a missionary teacher bemoaned the fact that many Westerners had imported the idea of sharing the gospel into the vocabulary of the local church. He asserted that such a concept was completely foreign—to their context and the Bible. Scripture, instead, spoke primarily of preaching the gospel, declaring and proclaiming a message.
But what, you might ask, could be wrong with sharing the gospel? Isn’t the greater problem that people aren’t sharing it at all? However, I’ve come to wonder if these dual realities aren’t somehow related, with the way we speak about evangelism imperceptibly affecting the way we do evangelism.
More Than Semantics
Throughout the Book of Acts,
we find repeated examples of
authoritative witness even in the face of suffering
from the apostles and early church.
We find them proclaiming the gospel and speaking boldly.
We read of them persuading others.
We see them reasoning from Scripture,
both expounding and applying it.
We observe them testifying before rulers and governors,
bearing witness before civil crowds and angry mobs.
What we don’t find them doing is “sharing” the gospel.
So it’s more than a bit curious that the dominant way American Christians describe the act of evangelism is in terms of sharing. And I believe this lack of clarity is more than an issue of semantics.
What if a baseball coach instructed his pitchers simply to toss the ball? Not to throw strikes. Or work the corners. Or change speeds. Or pound it inside. Just toss the ball. Would the pitchers have an accurate understanding of their responsibility?
Our conception of evangelism is similarly lacking in precision and nuance. When simply sharing the gospel becomes our default instruction, we fail to convey the attitude, approach, and authority necessary for the act itself. What begins as a subtle change in terminology results in a massive shift in our whole ethos of evangelism.
That’s because “sharing” typically involves giving something to someone who desires it. Children share (or don’t share) Legos with other kids who want them. Friends share a great cookie recipe with another friend who asks for it. In each case, we share with others because they’re asking for what we possess.
But the reality is,
few people are ever begging us to
share the gospel with them.
We must ask ourselves, then, whether casual Christianese has influenced the way we view the gospel mandate. Why are we only willing to speak the gospel when we perceive openness on the part of the hearers?
Do we even have a category for proclaiming a message that other people actively oppose?
To evangelize is to preach good news.
Far more than just sharing, evangelism involves
testifying to Christ
—warning, persuading, defending, pleading, and calling.
Such authoritative witness
need not be in opposition to gentleness and respect.
But sadly we often value certain relationships
more than a clear statement of the truth.
Rarely do we engage people with a sense of
authority or urgency.
Sensing the Urgency
Last year I had the privilege of teaching 2 Timothy to church leaders in a South Asian country.
Our focus was Paul’s exhortation to faithfully preach the good news. Throughout the week,
I reminded them of Paul’s farewell to his young apprentice, encouraging Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord but rather to embrace suffering and persecution
—like Paul and Christ—for the sake of the gospel
(2 Tim. 1:8–9).
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
~ 2 Timothy 1:7
What Is a Sound Mind?
When used as an adjective, sound has the meaning
of "sensible, or something that you can rely on and that
will probably give good results."
Therefore, a "sound mind" is a proper faculty
of reason and rationality for humans.
Having a sound mind is synonymous
with being sane, lucid, and logical.
Furthermore, a sound mind in the biblical sense pertains to the understanding of right and wrong.
It is the ability to discern what is good for our soul and what is harmful (sin). Along with discerning moral behavior, a sound mind has the self-control (as translated in ESV) and self-discipline (NIV) to behave morally, not being a slave to passions of ego and pride. This is the freedom Christ bestows us, liberating our free will from sin.
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
A Gift of God
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you
through the laying on of my hands.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
(2 Timothy 1:6-11)
The gift of God is the grace of the Holy Spirit
given to Timothy at his ordination, the "laying on of [Paul's] hands".
This grace fills up what is lacking and
gives authenticity to the priesthood.
But it is not automatic,
and we must "stir up" and rekindle it
through continual repentance.
2 Timothy 1.
God has not given us the spirit of fear, but the spirit of power, of courage and resolution, to meet difficulties and dangers; the spirit of love to him, which will carry us through opposition. And the spirit of a sound mind, quietness of mind. The Holy Spirit is not the author of a timid or cowardly disposition, or of slavish fears. We are likely to bear afflictions well when we have strength and power from God to enable us to bear them.
As is usual with Paul,
when he mentions Christ and his redemption,
he enlarges upon them;
so full was he of that which is all our salvation,
and ought to be all our desire.
The call of the gospel is a holy call, making holy.
Salvation is of free grace.
This is said to be given us before the world began,
that is, in the purpose of God from all eternity;
in Christ Jesus,
for all the gifts that come from God to sinful man,
come in and through Christ Jesus alone.
And as there is so clear a prospect
of eternal happiness by faith in Him,
who is the Resurrection and the Life,
let us give more diligence in making
his salvation sure to our souls.
Those who cleave to the gospel, need not be ashamed, the cause will bear them out; but those who oppose it, shall be ashamed.
The apostle had trusted his life, his soul,
and eternal interests,
to the Lord Jesus.
No one else could deliver and secure his soul
through the trials of life and death.
There is a day coming
when our souls will be inquired after.
Thou hadst a soul committed to thee; how was it employed?
in the service of sin, or in the service of Christ?
The hope of the lowest real Christian rests on the
same foundation as that of the great apostle.
He also has learned the value and the danger of his soul;
he also has believed in Christ,
and the change wrought in his soul
convinces the believer that the Lord Jesus
will keep him to his heavenly kingdom.
Paul exhorts Timothy to hold fast the Holy Scriptures,
the substance of solid gospel truth in them.
It is not enough to assent to the sound words,
but we must love them.
The Christian doctrine is a trust committed to us;
it is of unspeakable value in itself
and will be of unspeakable advantage to us.
It is committed to us, to be preserved pure and entire,
yet we must not think to keep it by our own strength,
but by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us;
and it will not be gained by those
who trust in their own hearts, and lean to their own understandings..
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
~ 2 Timothy 1:7
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
~ Romans 12:2
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. ~ 1 John 4:18
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
~ 1 Peter 1:13
“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
~ 1 Corinthians 2:16
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
~ Isaiah 26:3
whatever is true,
whatever is honorable, whatever
is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable, if there is any
excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
~ Philippians 4:8