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July 6, 2014 am                                    Basics Index

BACK TO BASICS 21
The New Testament Church – 5
The Work of the Church – Evangelism

 This past month we discussed the New Testament church identifying it – both universally and locally.  It is associated with those who are saved.  We have spent considerable time discussing the local church and some of the qualities you ought to consider as you are seeking to find a “church of Christ”. 

Because of its importance and our need for a solid foundation on what the church is we are going to continue studying the church this month.  Beginning today and for the next few lessons in our study we are going to address what the work of the church (a local church) actually is.  In addition to identifying what that work is, we want to notice the pattern that was followed in the first century and see if we can follow that pattern today.

 I.                    What is the work of the church?

a.        Evangelism – seeking the lost. 

b.       Edification – building up the saints

c.        Benevolence – relieving the material needs of our brethren

d.       Worship – something we do as we assemble as the church.  Typically, in describing the work of the church this is included as part of edification – and it DOES belong there.  But worship is MORE than simple edification.  We will talk more about this in our next lesson as we address edification. 

e.       In each of these areas, we find in the religious world and in some cases, even among brethren, this purposes have been lost, replaced or redefined.  Churches today are more interested in catering to the masses, turning the worship “experience” into something more contemporary and entertaining, and appealing to their material wants and needs of people rather than to the gospel.  It is often reasoned that we should use such means as a tool to provide opportunity to preach the gospel.  The only problem is: IS IT AUTHORIZED?  Are such activities what God intended the church to be?  Let us examine what the Bible teaches about the work of the church in each of these areas. 

 II.                  Evangelism

a.        One of the primary works of the church is to evangelize. 
Evangelize – the English word is defined as to convert or to try and convert to another religion. (Merriam-Webster). 
Random House is more specific in defining the word as, “to preach the gospel to.  To convert to Christianity”  
The word is NOT found in many of our English versions, though the word “evangelist” is found 3 times (Ac 21:8, Eph. 4:11, 2 Tim. 4:5).
BUT, the word evangelize is actually based upon a Greek word that IS found often in the New Testament – the word, ε
αγγέλιον (euangelion) is the Greek word for “gospel” in most of our English texts.  IT is defined as, “to tell the good news” (L&N, 33.217).  BDAG defines the word as, “God’s good news to humans, good news as proclamation.”
SO when we see the word gospel (about 77 times in the New Testament) we are dealing with the message of evangelism.
As you study scripture you will find that the church in the first century increased in numbers, even in the face of difficult circumstances.  This was done through evangelism.

b.       IT is through the preaching of the gospel that man is saved – Romans 1:16-17, 10:14-17, James 1:21, etc.
1 Cor. 1:21, to the world it is foolishness, but it is God’s power unto salvation. 

c.        The Great Commission was about reaching the lost.  Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16. 
Acts 1:8 as Jesus gave His apostles instructions, they were to open the kingdom to the whole world.
As I have noted in previous lessons, I am convinced that while the Great Commission was given to the apostles, its fulfillment applies to all of us.  I state this because the apostles did not act alone in the spread of the Gospel in the first century. 
Acts 8:4 describes disciples going everywhere preaching the word.   Philip (not an apostle) went to Samaria where he taught many including Simon the sorcerer (Ac. 8:5-13).
2 Timothy 2:2 illustrates how it is passed on.   
My point is that evangelizing was important. 

d.       Christians are to be engaged in evangelism. 

                                                   i.      Acts 8:4 – the disciples went everywhere preaching the word.

                                                  ii.      1 Peter 3:15, we are all instructed to Sanctify God in our hearts and be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us.

                                                iii.      2 Cor. 5:10-11 – we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ…Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.

                                                iv.      Phil. 2:14-16 speaks of us shining as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. 

                                                  v.      1 Peter 2:9,  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

                                                vi.      NOTE: While the church is involved in evangelism, the truth is EVERY example of conversion recorded in scripture was the result of individuals taking the gospel to them. 

e.       Churches are involved in evangelism. 

                                                   i.      1 Thessalonians 1:8 finds Paul commending the church in that community.  For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” (1 Thessalonians 1:8, NKJV)

                                                  ii.      A study of the book of Acts finds churches growing as a result of the efforts of both Christians and congregations in evangelism.

                                                iii.      Acts 13:1-3 while in Antioch, the church received word to separate Paul and Barnabas to do the work they were called to do (evangelize).  The brethren prayed and fasted and sent them on their way.

                                                iv.      1Timohty 3:14-15 describes the church as “the pillar and ground of truth.”

                                                  v.      NOTE: The survival of the TRUE church depends upon its support of evangelism among its members 

 

 III.                HOW did Churches Evangelize?

In the New Testament churches were involved in evangelism in 2 different ways.

a.        They edified the saints – built them up spiritually and in knowledge (more on this next week) – Eph. 4:11-16 so that they could defend and teach the word of God.  They were taught to teach (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2)

b.       They supported efforts to preach the gospel

                                                   i.      Locally – again note 1 Thess. 1:8 – throughout the region would have included the city of Thessalonica.

                                                  ii.      Locally -  Acts 20:31 – Paul was in Ephesus for 3 years (cf. Acts 19:10)
Acts 18:11 – in Corinth Paul continued for 18 months. 

                                                iii.      Considering the growth of the church in Jerusalem we see local churches involved in evangelizing the lost.

c.        They supported preachers as they carried the gospel to the lost

                                                   i.      Philippi supported Paul – Phil. 1:3-5 – Paul commended them for their fellowship in the gospel.  Phil. 2:25-30 – they accomplished this by sending funds to Paul through Epaphroditus.  Phil. 4:14-20 – more than once they sent to his aid – while in Thessalonica and at times they were the ONLY church supporting him (in Macedonia). 
Concerning this note that:

1.       NO human organization (such as a missionary society) or “sponsoring church” (a congregation that takes up a work and solicits funds from other congregations to do the work.  In essence, they become managers of the work – whether evangelistic or benevolent) was utilized to accomplish this work.

2.       They sent the funds directly to Paul to preach – NOT to the church, which in turn wrote Paul a check.

3.       They maintained their independence and autonomy.  No human organizations or sponsoring churches. 

4.       This is corroborated by the context of our passages.   NOTE: Some say that Philippi was a “sponsoring church” in this work, but that is not indicated in the text.  Consider that IF that were true, then all the churches sending funds to Philippi had no “fellowship” in the work.  The word “shared” in Phil. 4:15 has a base form of κοινωνέω, (koinoneo).  This is the word for “fellowship” and means to share with.  When Paul commended Philippi in 1:5 he used the same word and commended them for their “fellowship.”  IN addition to this, Phil. 4:17 speaks of “the fruit that abounds to your account”  speaking again ONLY of Philippi.  IF other churches sent to Philippi, they did not benefit in God’s eyes from it based on this text.
Understanding this fellowship NEGATES the whole premise behind establishing a “sponsoring church” (at least the pitch that is made to receive funds).
Furthermore, sending funds to a “sponsoring church” or other organization to do the work God intends for a local church is surrendering autonomy and independence with that work. 

                                                  ii.      Several churches supported Paul while in Corinth – 2 Cor. 11:7-8.  The expression, “robbed other churches” does not mean he was a thief.  He is using sarcasm to note that other churches supported him to preach in Corinth so they could not accuse him of profiteering. 

d.       Examples today

                                                   i.      In this age of electronic media, we have many more avenues through which to evangelize.  They can be useful and some are very effective.  BUT we must still respect God’s authority in HOW we carry our evangelistic efforts.  Not all do this.

                                                  ii.      Among churches of Christ today there are several broadcast programs that are televised in multiple markets.  Many of them solicit and receive funds from other churches (and individuals) and become a sponsoring church of the work.  Examples include: The Truth in Love broadcast (ttil.tv), searchtv.org, (Edmond, OK) and gbntv.org (Southhaven, MS), etc.  These works are either soliciting and receiving funds from churches or they have in the past.   WHILE the works are good, and they even preach the truth (for the most part), the question is if such an organizational structure is scriptural.  The answer is NO! 

                                                iii.      Sometimes a church will take on the work of evangelizing in a specific area of the world.  Doing such is not wrong within itself.  Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the church at Antioch (Acts 13:3).  But what often happens today is a congregation takes on the work of selecting, sending and monitoring the preaching in a given area.  They solicit funds for the work from other congregations and give reports, etc.  They determine who goes and who does NOT go, etc.  The problem with this is there is no pattern for it in the New Testament.  All we find is the examples above and other similar examples.  Churches sent DIRECTLY to the preacher and supported him, even in places where the church needed correction (cf. Corinth).

                                                iv.      There are local churches that have solely aired programs while respecting the autonomy and independence of a congregation.

e.       One more concern.  There is a problem with many congregations simply failing to carry out their responsibilities in this area.  Some do not encourage or engage their members enough, and others are just plain indifferent.  Such an attitude is wrong and needs to be addressed and repented of.  BUT, failures in various congregations to do and be what they ought to is no reason to dismiss God’s pattern.  The truth is, it WILL work if we seek to do it. 

 

And thus we can see the work of the church in the area of evangelism.  It is very important and it is often neglected and limited because of the lack of resources.  But that does not have to be.  May we strive to follow God’s pattern and will as we seek to reach the lost.