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Personal Evangelism?

This is written concerning the use of evangelism in the article by Rev. Kortering in the March 15, 2005 Standard Bearer entitled, “Evangelism in the Established Church (3)” and also the article by Rev. Mahtani in the April 15, 2005 issue entitled, “Equipping Our People for Personal Evangelism.” Although I disagree with their use of the word evangelism I am appreciative of the good instruction, effort, and time put into the articles.

While not a writer by profession nor desirous to enter into public discussion, I contend that the concept that we all should evangelize or be equipped for personal evangelism is biblically incorrect. Thankfully, the writers and others in our churches who use evangelism as described in the articles confess preaching is the main means God uses to save and instruct His people. In that light my warning is comparatively minor, but nevertheless this relatively new use of evangelism in our churches causes confusion.

Young’s Analytical Concordance shows that preaching and evangelism are the same. The reference for preaching lists many verses under the Greek word euangelizo and also many verses under the Greek word kerusso. Admittedly I do not know Greek, but I am confident that the concordance and our Bible translators are correct. In almost all verses the Greek word for evangelism translated as preaching refers to men called and ordained. One may conclude that euangelizo refers to unofficial preaching and kerusso to official preaching, but such an argument fails to show that everyone is to be equipped for personal evangelism.

Prof. Engelsma, in his pamphlet entitled “Evangelism and the Reformed Faith,” written many years ago, writes, “Evangelism is the activity of preaching the gospel to those outside the congregation already established in the truth, in order to bring them to Christ.”

The pamphlet also states,

Evangelism, or missions, therefore, is the work of the Church. It is the Church, the instituted Church, that preaches the Word. This is the Biblical pattern: the congregation at Antioch, Syria sent out Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey and supervised their work. (cf. Acts 13:4, 14:26, 27

Evangelism is not to be done by societies and para-ecclesiastical organizations. They have no authority. They have no power—they lack the office of preaching.

But does not every saint have the duty to evangelize? Is not every child of God a missionary? Emphatically not! It is unbiblical to hold that every believer may and must evangelize. This is to maintain that every saint can and must preach the gospel. Where in Scripture is this authority given to every believer? Where in the practical parts of the New Testament epistles is this made the responsibility of every Christian? The notion that every member of the church is a missionary destroys the fundamental truth of the office in the church. Most pernicious of all is the utterly reckless act of putting this awesome burden on the shoulders of our teenage children who, altogether apart from the matter of office, ought not to be teaching, but learning the Word of God.

This new view of everyone being active in personal evangelism was not promoted twenty or thirty years ago in our churches (my age is showing here). Certainly our evangelism committees and our members ought to be eager to speak and encourage those with whom we come into contact to come and hear Christ where faithful preaching takes place from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day. But that is not evangelism according to Scripture.

To say that all our members must be equipped for personal evangelism conflicts with the teaching of Scripture concerning various gifts that God gave to some, not all, as we read in Ephesians 4:11, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists….” Saying that evangelism is an activity all members of the church are to do clearly conflicts with this verse. The logical implication of saying that all members must be involved in personal evangelism is to say that all are to be evangelists.

All of us who are sinners saved by grace should live a life of thankfulness as Christians for the salvation we have in Christ. But let’s not confuse our walk and talk with evangelism. It is also not my intention to accuse the writers or others of any personal or intentional wrongdoing in their application of evangelism. May we and our evangelism committees earnestly promote the Word of God faithfully preached. We may need encouragement to be willing to confess Christ in a world of unbelief but we are not all called to evangelize.

Ken DeJong,

Lansing, IL

Response:

We thank the brother for taking the time to read our articles on evangelism, but more particularly to send our way a question that he has with the use of “personal evangelism.” We also appreciate the spirit in which he writes, not judging us but posing an apparent difficulty he has. We trust that this discussion will enhance our understanding of the Word of God as it relates to mission work.

The word evangelism is a transliteration of the Greek word euangelizo. As the brother indicates, it is used most frequently (but not exclusively, as he desires to maintain) as referring to preaching, which is not the work of individual Christians but the work of the church through her pastors and missionaries. There are, however, uses of that same word as it relates to individual Christians. Acts 8:4 is the most often referred to in this connection: “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.” Certainly more people were scattered abroad by this persecution than ordained men. It is noteworthy that, in connection with Philip, who is mentioned in the very next verse, the Greek word kerusso is used. This word means to herald and is always used for official preaching: “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them” (Acts 8:5). The word evangelize is used in Philippians 1:14-17: “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel.” In this passage as well, verse 15 uses kerusso, but verses 16 and 18 use euangelizo. This would allow for the fact that certain members of the church, as well as the clergy, were involved in this preaching.

It is not correct to say that the English word evangelism must always be used as referring to the official preaching of a pastor or missionary. What is important, and this appears to be what the brother seeks to preserve, is that we must not confuse official preaching with personal evangelism. This is done very often in our day, and that is a fatal error in the work of missions. We must not, however, be so reactionary that we force this view on the Bible. We must be open to the instruction of the Word of God. Evangelism is the general word that covers all aspects of outreach. Evangelism by the church is her official ministry, preaching. Personal evangelism is personal witnessing concerning the gospel. Both are recognized and taught in Scripture and both must be maintained today.

The quote from Prof. Engelsma’s pamphlet Evangelism and the Reformed Faith indicates this as well. Prof. Engelsma is quite capable of interpreting the use of this quote for himself. To expedite the matter a bit, we can make this observation. In the context of the quotation, the brother is dealing with every individual Christian preaching, which is a pernicious error that keeps on eating at the heart of the gospel in our day. From this point of view, he says that evangelism is the work of the church and not of individuals, because preaching belongs with the church. Notice that later in his pamphlet, in the context of the individual Christian’s role in evangelism, Prof. Engelsma says,

This is not to say that the believer should not witness to the truth as he has the opportunity; he should—this belongs to the office of believer. I Pet. 3:15.

Let us not forget, however, that we witness, not only with our mouths, but also—and very powerfully—with our behavior. By our godly conduct, others may be gained to Christ (Heidelberg Catechism Q. 86). Nor do we intend, by denying that every believer is an evangelist, to exclude the saints from the great work of evangelism. How could this be? Evangelism is the work of the Church, and the saints are the Church.

Then he explains how they do this, they do it through the work of the missionary as they speak through him, they support him by their prayer, they confirm the gospel by their action.

The brother is not contesting the work of evangelism by the individual Christian, but rather he contends that it ought not be called evangelism, since that term ought to be reserved for official preaching. You notice, however, that Prof. Engelsma refers to this activity by the individual Christian as his being involved in “the great work of evangelism.”

Clearly, our use of the term “evangelism” in the phrase “personal evangelism” does not refer to preaching but to the things that evangelism and mission committees do to promote the preaching. If one disagrees with using the word “evangelism” for such labors, then these evangelism and mission committees ought also to have a name change. But everyone understands, we think, that the labors of these evangelism committees and that of Christians in personal evangelism is not the official preaching of the Word but rather a lively witness that serves the preaching of the Word.

In conclusion, we may on the basis of Scripture call all outreach ministries evangelism. We bring the good news of the gospel to others. The content of this good news is the same whether it is brought by a preacher or by an individual believer. Nevertheless, we must insist on a distinction. The church preaches. The minister, who serves as the ambassador of Christ, says in the place of Christ, “Be reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:20). The Old Testament prophets expressed this authority with the resounding, “Thus saith the Lord.” The personal evangelism of the believer is much different. It is the believer testifying and speaking (witnessing) concerning Christ Jesus as he shares the Word of God on an individual basis. It lacks the authority of the church and office. Nevertheless, it is very effective because the same Holy Spirit works through such witness both as spoken and obeyed. Such witnessing is not on the level of preaching, nor in competition with it. Rather, it is always subservient and obedient to the word preached.

Pastor J. Kortering

Pastor J. Mahtani


On Separation of Church and State

In reference to the article “Islam (3): A Little Politics and Law; Shari’a (concl.)” in the May 15, 2005 edition, I have a question and some comments. How can the State be deemed separate from the Church in civic obligations, and to have any role other than a subordinate role under God’s sovereignty? As in the misinterpreted and misused “separation of church and state,” the State is one function of power under God, as is the Church. Christian citizens and magistrates must abide by biblical mandates and laws. To give an inch of ground in interpretation of these institutes is not biblical. Christians are losing the battle in everyday conversations by not confronting relativism or pragmatism or whatever the illogical argument the false prophets and self-claimed atheists offer. We are told to study to show ourselves approved, so we then can offer a ready answer when questioned of the faith residing in us.

Jesus tells us to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. He (the Word) also tells us inDeuteronomy 8:18 that God gives the ability to get wealth. Caesar (or Pharaoh) does not have autonomous authority outside of God’s authority (common grace) to demand or accept anything, but rather must render to God. Are faith-based initiatives wrong? Yes, if the agenda is Statism. Who gave the federal government the power to rule over us? The federal government was designed and instituted for the overseeing of the States, to protect her citizens from foreign invasion and tyranny, to provide aid for her citizens. It was not created to usurp her citizens’ rights and prohibit the pursuit of happiness. So who is the U.S. Government to assume anything other than bowing before Christ Himself as Potentate and before His bride?

In Article 34 of the Maryland 1776 Constitution it was stated that a magistrate should be tested by no other test than his oath and fidelity to the State and Christian faith. You could not hold office otherwise. I agree with that prerequisite. In Article 33 it states that a general tax was collected to support the Christian faith. Keep in mind that every State has the right to set itself up under the Constitution. Was it fair to impose a tax on the Catholics (and others) to pay for the Protestant church of 1776?


In reference to the Descartes/Rationalism article in the same issue. What Descartes and other philosophers failed to understand is the Transcendental proof for God’s existence. This proof states that to the impossibility of the contrary, no other worldview can account for abstract, universal, and invariant entities. No other worldview can either keep contention from its premise and conclusion, or maintain a coherent approach to logic and the explanations needed to express that particular view. As for the author’s use of explaining God by human logic, I assume he refers to autonomous human logic. As for just dismissing all other views without refuting them, we cannot be fideists when addressing those who question our faith. A fideist says that where science or reason ends, faith begins. The truth of the Christian faith is that reason and faith can and do co-exist when we engage in reasoning.

Michael Ramel

West Bend, WI

 

Response (1):

Thank you for your reaction to my article. In your letter you express concerns involving the separation of church and state, and the role of the magistrate with respect to “biblical mandates and laws.”

The separation of church and state must be maintained, not because Thomas Jefferson discovered a “wall of separation” between them, but in light of the fact that they have very different purposes under the rule of our sovereign God. The state’s work is primarily the keeping of good order in society. God has given the magistrate the physical sword as his weapon to accomplish this. However, the state is not equipped to take on the church’s task of preaching the gospel. This is a spiritual work for which the church only has been given the sword of the Word. A few references to Scripture and the Reformed confessions make this clear: God requires of governments the exercising of justice, keeping good order in society and providing for the defense of the nation (cf. Rom. 13:1-7I Pet. 2:13-17; Belgic Confession, Article 36, with the appended note of the Synod of 1910). On the other hand, God mandates His church to provide for the spiritual needs of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven in order that they faithfully fight the battle of faith (cf. Matt. 16:13-19Rom. 10:14-15Eph. 6:11-18; Belgic Confession, Articles 27 and 29; Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 21). In my articles I tried to demonstrate from examples in history that the meddling of one (church or state) in the affairs of the other leads to serious trouble.

For the state to function in its God-ordained place, civil authorities need not be Christians or even know about God’s written law.Romans 2:14, 15 explains why: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness….” This is also expressed in the Canons of Dort, where natural man apart from God’s grace is described in this way: “There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil” (Canons III & IV, Article 4).

Thus by virtue of the works of the law written in his heart, even the unbelieving magistrate knows his God-ordered responsibilities. He doesn’t need God’s writtenlaw to know that lying, stealing, murder, adultery, and rebelling against authority are wrong and must be punished. If he is to have order in his realm, these may not be permitted. Consider, for example, the ancient Babylonian king Hammurabi. Secular historians extol him for his famous Code of Laws. But where did these laws come from? Had he somehow heard about the Ten Commandments? Since God’s law had not yet been written, this was not possible. Clearly Hammurabi’s laws were a product of the works of the law written in his heart.

Further, I submit that it would be a mistake for the Christian magistrate to impose the Ten Commandments on his subjects. Will he imprison or fine the atheists under his rule for failure to attend God’s house on the Lord’s Day? What will he do about the young woman coveting the evening dress on the showroom floor at Yonkers? Will all the Deists be shot at dawn? His executioners will be busy! Remember, this is exactly what has resulted in Islamic countries where Shari’a law has been enforced. Interestingly, our own country is headed in the same direction with its “hate crime” legislation.

History demonstrates that godless magistrates serve God’s church withoutenforcing the Ten Commandments. Paul in Romans 13 identifies the higher powers of the Roman Empire as ministers “of God to thee for good.” After all, it was the good order in Roman society that served well the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Furthermore, unbelieving magistrates serve the cause of God’s church without even realizing it, as the case of Cyrus recorded in Isaiah 45:1-7 clearly shows. Surely this continues to happen today unbeknownst by the church. “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known” (Ps. 77:19).

If what I have written has raised more questions in your mind, or I have missed something that is of concern to you, feel free to respond. Also, you might find helpful the special issue of the Standard Bearer on the subject: “The Reformed Faith on Civil Government” (Dec. 1, 1988), and the article by Prof. D. Engelsma titled: “The Messianic Kingdom and Civil Government” found in the April, 2004 issue of theProtestant Reformed Theological Journal (www. prca.org).

Mr. Cal Kalsbeek

 

Response (2):

Concerning the matter of logic in its relation to faith, I much prefer and find much more correct Luther’s description of reason as the handmaid of faith. The statement: “A fideist says that where science or reason ends, faith begins.” That statement makes faith the handmaid of reason, coming to reason’s rescue only when reason fails.

I reiterate: Reason is no proper epistemological tool for the Christian because man’s reason is blinded by sin. He can and will reason only that which is contrary to God and God’s Word.

Faith gives us the key of all knowledge, for faith has as its object Scripture. And faith in Scripture is faith in Christ.

This is not to deny that all truth is logically consistent. It is. The letter writer is correct. Unless this were true, no apologetics is possible. God is a logical God. His revelation is also logical.

No rational truth can “prove” God’s existence. Rational proof deals with human (earthly) categories. God is transcendent: infinitely beyond and essentially different from all human categories. And there is no such thing as “natural revelation” in the sense that it can give us true knowledge of God.

Prof. Herman Hanko


The TNIV

I am a new reader of the Standard Bearer, so I hesitate to speak up. But in your current issue (May 15), in the “All Around Us” section, Rev. VanBaren reports on the problems and controversies surrounding the TNIV. When the New Testament TNIV was first published several years ago, I happened to be on a conservative, fundamentalist Baptist e-mail list, and readers were notified that the real danger of this translation was that it changed the requirements for the offices of elder and deacon. I was able to go to the TNIV website and search specific passages, and so here below is one such problematic verse. Notice “husband of one wife” is no longer there, but instead just the call to be “faithful” to whatever number wife a man happens to be on. In other words, through silence, it condones divorce and remarriage among church leadership. Slick, huh? What’s worse is that the Council for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, who reviewed this new version forChristian Renewal years ago, never mentioned this important omission.

“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,…” (I Tim. 3:2 TNIV).

Sharon Gordon (Mrs.)