Torch, Fall 1978

01~ l~OSSlllZl~ 5:8-21. Here he uses language that defines what biblical evangelism is all about. Such statements as, "we persuade men" (v. 11), "all things are become new" (v. 17), "we are ambassadors for Christ" (v. 20), and "Jesus Christ has given us the ministry of reconciliation" (v. 18), all point to our privileges and responsibilities to evangelize, preach the gospel and win lost souls to Christ. What stirred the heart of Paul should motivate us to be witnesses for Christ. Here are three reasons, selected from several found in 2 Corinthians 5, why we must faithfully endeavor to win the lost to Christ. A MEETING IN THE FUTURE "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (v. 10). This is an appointment no Christian now living will avoid. Soon after Christ returns for His saints every believer will be "laid bare" before Him at the judgment seat of Christ. Then every excuse given on earth as to why we have not engaged in evangelism will evaporate and be revealed for what it is- hypocrisy. The certainty of this appointment with the Savior should stimulate us to action. To the Thessalonian church it was written: "Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (1Thess. 2:19-20). The souls we win on .earth will be the basis of a crown we receive in heaven. The question is not, "Will there be any stars in my crown?" but "Will there be any crown?" The judgment seat of Christ for the believer is not an execution of wrath, but an estimation of worth. The "terror" or "fear" of the Lord should motivate every Christian who grasps its seriousness to become evangelistic in his life and ministry. A MIRACLE IN THE PAST "Christ . .. died for all . . . that they which live should . .. live . .. unto Him who died for them and rose again" (vs. 14-15). The love of God in sending His Son, and the love of Christ in giving His life, constrains us to be concerned about the "all" for whom He died. "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). Jesus Christ died the death all should have died. He died in our place, bearing the penalty of sins! What a miracle He wrought when He died for our sins and was raised again for our justification. Christ's love for Paul "shut him in, confined him as between two walls." The word "constrained" also suggests the idea of a wrestler being pinned to the mat by his opponent. The love of Christ controlled, burdened, and directed Paul's life. This great love for lost humanity "shuts us all in" to the responsibility of telling the world what He has done. This constraining love of Christ is seen in all His amazing grace when we understand He is the One who knew no sin, had no sin and did no sin. He was "made ... sin for us . .. that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corin. 5:21) . To be indifferent to evangelism is to be calloused to the miracle of His redeeming grace. One who is in this spiritual state of lethargy is either terribly backslidden in heart or has never experienced the saving grace of Christ in the first place. A MESSAGE FOR THE PRESENT "God . .. hath given unto us the ministry of reconciliation . .. and hath committed unto us the word (or message) of reconciliation .. . we are ambassadors for Christ" (2 Corin. 5:18-20). Accepting the work which Christ has done in our behalf, a change toward God is effected so that now we no longer have enmity toward Him, but rather love and trust Him. Having been reconciled and made a new creature in Christ, we will say, "Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel" (1 Corin. 9:16). When one has been reconciled to God he will be willingly involved in declaring the message of reconciliation. The reconciled sinner becomes an obedient ambassador who speaks in behalf of, and in place of, the Sovereign from whom he has received his commission. The message, the authority, and the power of Christ are all imparted to him by the Lord. 5 This privilege and responsibility of evangelism is not that of one or two especially appointed people in the local church. Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 and ask God to show you how personal this ministry of reconciliation or evangelism really is. Years ago Dr. Lee R. Scarborough said: "Every Christian is called at the hour of salvation to witness for Jesus Christ. Nothing in heaven or on earth can excuse him from it. God gives no furlough from this heaven-borne obligation-not ignorance or poverty or environment or difficulties of any kind- nothing can exempt or excuse any child of God from its possessing daily importance. The difference between the preacher's and the layman's call is one of extent and degree. They are both called to answer to Christ." How can redeemed sinners be unconcerned and lack motivation to reach others for whom Christ died when they know it is an act of disobedience not to be involved in reaching them? Someone said, "If God gave the command to angels to evangelize the world, heaven would be empty in five minutes." On the other hand, some professing Christians waste a lifetime and never become active in winning the lost to Christ. They remind us of some old ships which were at anchor in a harbor. Some tourists were taking pictures from every convenient angle. A seaman, noticing the unusual interest in the warships, said: ''They look formidable, but they are perfectly harmless. They were enclosed there eighty years ago and haven't turned a wheel since." Some of us profess to be "anchored" to Christ but haven't "turned a wheel" in His services. Why evangelize? Why witness? Why present the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to sinful men? The death of Christ in the past and the judgment seat of Christ in the future are two good reasons why we must tell the story in the present. These are sufficient motivations for all of us to evangelize while there is time left to do it. Dr. James T. Jeremiah is Chancellor of Cedar– ville College.