"For everyone, whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him into whom they do not believe? And how shall they believe Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without preaching? And how shall they preach if they are not sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those preaching the gospel of peace, bringing glad tidings of good things." (Rom10:13-15)
When persecution arose: "...those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word." (Ac8:4)
And when the apostles were dragged before the magistrates and threatened to stop preaching Jesus Christ, they returned to the assembly and prayed... "And now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants to speak Your Word with all boldness...and when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness" (Ac4:29,31)
Some like to go knocking, door-to-door, rousting people out of their private at-home actitives, to give out tracts; perhaps invitations to church meetings; some will even obnoxiously start 'preaching', even if the home dweller indicates that they are busy, not interested, and/or want the person to leave.
Some like to walk around at malls and other public places, handing out tracts to everybody in sight, and if they can get a word in edgewise, they try to start preaching. Or they will leave tracts in conspicuous places, often without the permission of the business owner on whose counter they left the tracts. Or in some other cases, because of where they got left, the tracts are highly likely to become dislodged, blown around, and become "litter" on the ground/floor. (Littering: under "Caesar", a finable offense in many municipalities)
Back when I was in college/university, Campus Crusade was into the concept of going around, engaging other students in conversations, asking questions as though to fill out a "questionnaire", where the questions were 'leading', from one topic to the next, eventually ending up alleging to present the Gospel.
There are also the "street preachers" who pick a spot, stand, and start shouting out to passers-by, preaching. One such, even, when I was in college, at the end of the music department's performance of Handel's "Messiah" (for which the text is all, totally, quoting from the Scriptures, and if the performance is good, the combination is a powerful 'sermon' in its own right, no other speaking is necessary), as the final "Amen" was scarcely fading throughout the church building out the rafters, from the balconey shouted out, "People of Bellingham!!! Hear the word of the Lord!!!" at which point the audience quickly (rather than finishing 'savouring' the receding sounds) drowned him out with their applause for the performance. He and his 'group' were already known around town and on campus; sometimes the campus hippies would pair up and 'slow dance' to their singing of hymns with accordion accompaniment, and when the hymn was over, would 'applaud' and cheer the 'dance music'...tauntingly.
Often those who specifically consider themselves to be "soul winners" do so with the notion that: those who get more names signed on 'decision cards' are somehow more spiritual and more fervent in their zeal for the Lord. Often, back at the church building, there seems to become a 'competition' as to who got more people to "pray the prayer". There becomes an unspoken "shame" to those who produce less, or even worse if they don't even participate in "visitation" night.
Around the time this is being prepared, 'recently' we had some Q/A mails with the subscribers (not posted at the website) about this topic. In a totally different context, a concept from last month's article was mentioned: that when a Christian is functioning as a Christian should, when the Christian is 'working' properly, not malfunctioning, that it is not always necessary for words to be spoken, but one's 'works' will show and testify to the person's righteousness, and to the glory of God; that one's light will shine; that 'excrement' will NOT be pouring forth.
A subscriber objected. A couple more Q/As resulted; reminding everyone that when God says "speak", we speak; and when the Holy Spirit says "shush", we shush. And another exchange or two privately.
The basic gist of this individual was on the order of: Due to Christ's
command to "preach the Gospel" (like in our opening passages), that that
command indicates that, if a person is in a 'questionable' situation,
that the "default" command from God is to "speak/preach". I'm still not
understanding the thoughts, but I guess it means: If a person isn't
getting a clear leading from the Lord in some specific situation, and is
questioning what to do, that they should open their mouth and start
talking. That that is the "default" command from the Lord.
Nor are we going to talk about the -cult- called "soul-winnerism". We've done that on other occasions.
HOW does a Believer know when and how to proclaim Jesus Christ? And does every Believer engage in the same physical activities at the same time, to everybody? Is there a 'one-size-fits-all' for evangelism? Are we -always- supposed to yap with our yaps?
There is no such thing in the Christian life as a "default". Well, of course we are to be characterized by the "fruits of the Spirit" by default (Ga5:22-23) As we said last month, that is a Christian who is 'functioning' properly; they are 'working'. And equally, the Christian should "default" away from sin; that is the Christian's anti-sin "filters" working properly.
But when it comes to doing the works of God, ministry, witnessing, there is no such thing as a "default". Christian ministry is not like computer software where, when certain things are done, a 'box' pops up with a certain default highlighted, and click Yes/No. But it is more like the program runs, and a 'blank' field pops up, which must be filled in, in order to proceed. There is no default, nor "A thru D" choices, because each witnessing situation is different. No two people are the same; God's "drawing" (Jn6:44) of them is in accordance with their own unique persona and situation in life up to that point. Just as each optical or dental prescription or work is unique to each pair of eyes or teeth, so too is God's working in the soul of the sinner He knows is going to be saved.
Regarding people who were saved, Jesus spoke differently to Nicodemus (Jn3) than He did to the woman of Samaria (Jn4) than He did to Zacchaeus (Lk19) than He did with Peter (Jn21) than He did with the dying sinner on the cross next to Him (Lk23)
On the other hand, Jesus spoke in parables to those He knew whose hearts were hard, "-lest- they should convert". (Mk4:11-12) While it is not God's "purpose" for any to perish (2Pet3:9), nevertheless He also knows those who are His (2Tim2:19), and by contrast those who are not (the ones to "dishonor" vs20) for whom the "time" (Rev22:10-11) has come and there is no further grace. Jeremiah was commanded to not pray for Israel because they were scheduled for judgment (Jer7:16,11:14,14:11)
If a person was blabbing with their mouth, witnessing to a person, trying to evangelize... when God's knowledge of that person was that they had crossed the line and would not be saved, and no further grace was being extended to them... and God was not commissioning the person to preach to them, but they did anyway... Would that not be DISOBEDIENCE? Is it possible to be preaching the Word, and to be 'sinning' while doing so? If God was putting the brakes on it, but the person was plowing ahead anyway...? YES.
Saul was getting ready to go to battle, but the command from God was to 'wait' for Samuel to show up, to offer the sacrifice. Samuel hasn't showed up, the enemy is closing in, and Saul's soldiers are beginning to desert, and so, in order that he could engage the battle, Saul offers the sacrifice himself. And -then- Samuel shows up. What does Samuel say? "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Jehovah your God, which He has commanded you. For now Jehovah would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not stand. Jehovah has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and Jehovah has ordained him to be ruler over His people, because you have not kept what Jehovah has commanded you." (1Sa13:13-14)
Is not the offering of a sacrifice a 'good' thing? Not when it is not done according to God's command; according to "His own heart".
So, how does the Christian know when/if to speak?
How did Philip find himself in Gaza in the first place? The "angel of the Lord spoke to Philip" (vs26) and told him to go. Once he got there, there he was, with no other instructions, until "then" the Spirit tells Philip what to do. The "angel of the Lord" did not tell Philip, all in one command, to go to gaza -and- preach to the Ethiopian. Philip is commanded to go south "along the road". For what purpose? He hadn't yet been told. Along comes the Ethiopian, and "then" the Spirit gives the next instructions. Step by step, a step-at-a-time.
The same way Israel traveled through the wilderness. They traveled as the cloud lifted, and stayed put as the cloud remained over the tabernacle. It says, "At the mouth of Jehovah they remained encamped, and at the mouth of Jehovah they set out; they kept the charge of Jehovah, at the mouth of Jehovah by the hand of Moses." (Num9:17-23)
If the command is to "go into all the world and preach the gospel" how could anybody say there are times or places NOT to? Well, it happened. "Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them." (Ac16:6-7) Why were they not permitted to go to these places? Because God wanted them to go to Macedonia, as Paul received instruction in the vision. (vs9-10)
Supposing Philip, while walking along the road in Gaza had decided to (by default) engage everybody along the way in conversation, and preach to them, what would have happened when the Ethiopian came along? Might he have missed the Spirit telling him to engage the Ethiopian? As soul-winningly noble as it might have seemed to witness to everybody else along the way, it would have been disobedience, because God was specifically 'targeting' the Ethiopian, who had purchased a copy of Isaiah and was reading. The Ethiopian was a prepared and open heart, 'ready' to hear the gospel; something which God knew.
A person finds themself in a situation, but there is no command. No "speak", or no "shush". What to do? Since passages like Mk16:15 say to "preach the gospel to every creature", do we just kick into "automatic" mode and open the mouth and start yapping? Is Mk16:15 our "automatic" and "default" command, when nothing else is going on at the moment?
Well, as we've already seen (and there are many more similar passages to what we've looked at, that we have not referenced here); just as there are commands to speak, there are also commands NOT to. When God knew that Israel had hardened their hearts, He commands Jeremiah to "do not pray for this people" (Jer7:16, etc) He also makes Ezekiel mute for periods of time while among his audience. (Ezk3:26, 24:27, etc)
B'b'but...the person is running head-long in the direction of the cliff. Don't you want to 'warn' them of the cliff that they are blind to; they don't realize the cliff is there, and if they keep running, they will fall over, to their death? Are we not watchmen, with "blood" on our hands? (Ezk3:17-18, 33:7-9)
The "Lord knows those who are His" (2Tim2:19) Remember: that most are on the "broad way" leading to destruction (Mt7:13) for most of whom the "time" has come and passed. (Rev22:10-12) Just as He knows who are His, He also knows those who are not. There's going to be -many- who "will wail because of Him. EVEN SO, AMEN." (Rev1:7) They are going to run along and fall over the cliff. Even so, Amen!
Jesus said, "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into the ditch." (Mt15:14)
Notice how many times people prophesied or proclaimed things, and it says they did so with the foundation of being "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Lk1:15,67; 4:1; Ac4:8,31; 13:9, etc not to mention 'tons' of similar mentions throughout the OT) Please note that this has nothing to do with charismania and pentecostalism; of being "spirit-filled" from having engaged in 'worship'. The Christian is commanded to "be filled by the Spirit" (Eph5:18)
Any ministry we do is through the Holy Spirit. (1Co12 please open your Bible and read that chapter) The Spirit gives the gifts, and empowers to use the gift. Jesus promised that when He left, He would send the Holy Spirit, who would "guide you into all truth" (Jn16:13) If the Holy Spirit is not directing, the work is not of God. If a person goes off on-their-own, thinking they must do this or that "by default", but the Spirit did not direct them for -that- 'specific' thing they are doing, they are NOT FOLLOWING. They are being like Peter, who was continually running off at the mouth. Notice when Peter "stood up in the midst" (Ac1:15) to suggest that they needed to replace Judas with Matthias, it does not say that Peter at that moment was "filled with the Spirit". The Holy Spirit hadn't yet come. They had been instructed to "wait". (Ac1:4) From history, it seems quite apparent that God's choice was S/Paul.
Those who go ahead... is that not the very definition of what it is to be "presumptuous". These are ones who "walk according to the flesh" (2Pet2:10) But Jesus commanded Peter "You follow Me" (Jn21:22) Which is how He called all His disciples, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of me". Actually, the Word says, "Come after Me..." (Mt4:19) And the command to anyone who would serve the Lord is to "follow Me" (Jn10:27, 12:26, etc)
When a person follows, the -other- one is 'leading'. If in Jesus' (physical) absence the Holy Spirit is here to "guide" us, then, for -whatever- we do, do we not "wait" for instructions? If we go off half-cocked, without instructions, by that act have we not made ourselves into leaders? But we are to follow the Holy Spirit. He takes from Christ and "[makes] it known to [us]" (Jn16:15)
Also: is our purpose in witnessing to go around tearing down all the other religions, wearing placards that say, "Your pagan religion stinks!" ? Some do this sort of thing.
Israel, as a -national- entity was commanded in the OT, as they were taking over territory militarily, to smash down all the pagan altars. When idolatry had crept into Israel, there were various ones, Hezekiah, Josiah, Jehu, etc who engaged in campaigns to clean out the idolatry. This in the context in which Israel was a thocracy, under Jehovah.
But the Church lives under "Caesar" (Mt22:21) whose laws we obey and pay taxes. (Rom13:1-7) Caesar's realm contains idolatry, since right now satan has dominion over the world's governments. (Lk4:6, Eph6:12)
When Demetrius stirred up the mob, the town clerk, while calming down the crowds, said, "these men....are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess" (Ac19:37)
There are some who have as their primary ministries to investigate and tear apart everything false they can find, and lay it out for all to see. They call themselves "discernment" ministries. While it is true that we notice the false and "reprove" the "unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph5:11), and are also to "rebuke" sin and false doctrine (1Tim5:20, 2Tim4:2, Tit2:15), even mentioning the offenders by name when necessary (3Jn1:9, Php4:2, etc); our prime directive is to "preach the Gospel to every creature"
What is the "Gospel"? It is the "gospel" (good news) of SALVATION, that Jesus die for our sins, and rose again from the dead. (1Co15:1-4)
And how does the sinner obtain salvation? By REPENTING towards God, and RECEIVING Jesus Christ in FAITH. (Lk24:47, Ac20:21, Jn1:12, Eph2:8-9)
When Jesus spoke, it says the people were drawn to His "gracious words" (Lk4:22) Some prophets, certainly, would proclaim with vehemence, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (Jonah3:4) or..."Offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Mt3:7) And Peter preached Jesus "whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead" (Ac2:36,4:10) But others proclaimed, "Come now and let us reason together, says Jehovah" (Is1:18) Which is how Paul did, "as his custom was" he "reasoned with them from the Scriptures" (Ac17:2) And Philip: "do you understand what you are reading?" and "beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him" (Ac8:30,35)
As the Church is the 'body' of Christ and "members individually" (1Co12:27), made up of different parts, does everybody do the same things? Or, if the mouth is for -speaking-, is it supposed to speak ALL THE TIME? When Paul was going to go in to the crowd and make a defense, the 'feet' kept him outside, and the 'hands' covered his mouth (Ac19:30)
This is how the body functions...
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