Gospel Gold Standard
Religious faith was part of the Roman Empire. Polytheism thrived, giving space for everybody to adhere to one or more deities. Religious oratory was a major spectator event and enabled Paul to get a public hearing. However, unlike the gods and goddesses who had no personal life (Psalm 115:2-8), Paul spoke about God who was seen alive, who was killed and then rose from the dead (Acts 2:22-24). Jesus was the Creator of everything and was able to have personal encounters with people (Acts 22:6-16). As people believed in Jesus their lives were transformed with the power to live like Jesus. However, the Apostle Paul’s highly intentional approach to evangelism and discipleship attracted much opposition – because it involved admitting sin and becoming the servants of the Saviour.
Paul’s proclamation of Jesus had seven key objectives. Firstly, his message was exclusively about Jesus Christ: Paul was not promoting a religion, a way of life, or an ethic - he proclaimed the need to believe in the crucified Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2) as God's only answer to the personal human question, ‘How can I find peace with God?’ Secondly, he had to warn (admonish) people that, without Christ as the centre of their lives, they were heading for eternal disaster (John 3:18). Thirdly, he taught the truth about Jesus which had been revealed to him (Galatians 1:15-17): nobody can work out the Jesus salvation-story by themselves ... they need God's revelation explained to them.
Fourthly, he was determined to present Christ to everybody, irrespective of their cultural, social, intellectual or religious background, because "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12). Fifthly, he presented the truth about Jesus wisely, stirring rebellious people to stop resisting Christ and receive Him (Acts 7:51), so that they could be made perfect in Christ and acceptable in heaven. Sixthly, Paul committed himself to the task, without holding anything back, being willing to struggle through the difficulties and endure the suffering (2 Timothy 2:3-6). Seventhly, he knew he could not work alone (2 Corinthians 2:13): proclaiming the message about Christ effectively demands everything: it is impossible without the energy of Christ but for those who allow Him to work in them, the effect of a Christ-centred ministry is truly remarkable (Colossians 1:29).
Compared with this description of true gospel ministry, much which passes for evangelism today seems tepid and timid – less proclaiming Christ and more hoping that people will like us and want to join our ‘club’! That kind of gospel is a long way downstream from the apostolic 'gold standard' of ministry! In a world which so greatly needs the salvation Jesus offers, every believer needs to play a part in gospel ministry. It will be helpful to assess your 'ministry development' needs by using Paul's seven objectives as a checklist. And don't forget that gospel opportunities are mainly outside of the church. They are found in the workplace, as you travel, in the community, online, in cafes, in social networking, as well as with family and friends. Perhaps today's prayer will be a good starting point in placing yourself before the Lord as His servant.
© Dr Paul Adams