Shall I, for fear of feeble man,
The Spirit’s course in me restrain?
Or, undismayed in deed and word,
Be a true witness of my Lord?
Awed by a mortal’s frown, shall I
Conceal the word of God most high?
How then before thee shall I dare T
o stand, or how thine anger bear?
Shall I, to soothe the unholy throng,
Soften thy truth, or smooth my tongue,
To gain earth’s gilded toys, or flee
The cross endured, my Lord, by thee? — Trans. by John Wesley.
Arise, go into Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee — Jonah 3:2
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. — Ezekieh 3:17
Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. — Mark 16:15-16
To evangelize is “to instruct in the Gospel; to preach the Gospel; to convert to a belief in the Gospel.” All this may be done by pen, word of mouth, or by a holy life. In LaRochelle, which was a stronghold of the Huguenots for many years, there is an ancient cathedral whose aisles were once trodden by the bravest men and saintliest women. As one enters, he may see at the right a magnificent window, in which are the figures of an apostle, a life-size, and an angel. The angel has a long trumpet in his left hand and an open book in his right hand. On the left-hand page is “Tuba mirum spargens sonum;” and on the opposite page is written “Liber scriptus proferetur.” The interpretation is manifest. The written book, the Bible, which reveals the will of God and makes known the plan of redemption and salvation, shall be published. But the Gospel trumpet scatters the joyful news, the wonderful news, the glad sound, far and wide over all the earth. The evangelist must be more than a writer, more than a teacher, more than a book; he must be the living incarnation of Gospel truth, and he must translate his life into words aflame with love and compel the attention of toiling, suffering, dying, despairing men and women, until they shall come out of the regions of the shadow of death into the light and liberty of every minister of the Lord Jesus Christ in spirit and purpose should be an evangelist.
The Master was an evangelist. The supreme evidence of his divinity was not that he gave sight to the blind, strength and soundness to the lame, cleansing to the lepers, hearing to the deaf, and life to the dead, but that he preached the Gospel to the poor—that he evangelized. In truth, he was a restless, itinerant evangelist; for he went about all Galilee, “teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom,” and, incidentally, “healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” Almost at the instant when he was taken up from the earth, and a cloud received him out of the sight of his astonished followers, he said, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations;” “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature;” “And ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” These words of the risen Christ ought to inspire every loyal heart with an all-consuming desire to spread the knowledge of the truth abroad and win this world back to its rightful allegiance. When these words take possession of the soul, then we know what Paul, the great evangelist to the nations, meant when he said, “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord:….that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comfortable unto his death.” Hence, if we study the example and commands of the Lord Jesus, if we study the thought and spirit of Paul, we must be impressed with the idea that, so long as there are careless souls to be aroused, penitents to be confronted, and saints to be instructed and encouraged, there will be needed a thoroughly evangelistic ministry.
The conditions of every age are peculiar. The first century of the Christian era had scarcely anything in common with the opening of the twentieth century. Then there was but one nation. Rome was everything. Rome claimed dominion from the Hebrides to the Sahara, from the pillars of Hercules to the banks of the Indus. The empire was magnificent, irresistible, and supposed to be eternal. Christians were few in number, humble in rank, powerless in politics, despised by the learned, persecuted by tyrants, and scattered here and there, uncertain of the future. Today the nominal Christians of the world number half a billion—a third of its entire population. Christian nations control all things by sea and land. There is no terra incognita. Even Africa has been explored and is being rapidly apportioned among the Christian nations of Europe. Men fly from country to country as on the wings of the wind, sending their thoughts around the world with a speed that nearly outstrips the light. Everybody in Christendom may know every morning at the breakfast table or every evening at the supper table, most of the main events that have taken place in the preceding twenty-four hours in all the lands between the frozen circles of the North and the South. We are neighbors by nearness to everybody. There are no hermit nations; there are no somnolent peoples. The rush of events has awakened the whole mass of humanity. If there are comparatively few great and all-embracing scholars, there are innumerable millions who know more or less about men and things, about the past and present, about matters with which they ought to be familiar, and equally about those they would do well to ignore and forget forever. Nor can there be any doubt concerning the perils surrounding the Christian faith.
No longer persecution involves the loss of liberty, possessions, or life. We have freedom almost everywhere to worship God according to the dictates of our consciences. Nonetheless, are there manifest efforts to undermine the foundations upon which Christianity has been built. A persistent, malicious determination in every way to set aside the authority of the Bible. A specious or virulent antagonism to the claims of the Lord Jesus. A calm, quiet, invulnerable indifference, intense devotion, slavery to fame, fashion, wealth, pleasure, and all worldliness and sin. To compare the conditions of 1900 and those of the year 100, in not a few respects, it will appear that the opposing forces, the enemies of Christianity, are as formidable now as then.
There is one fundamental fact we must always remember. Humanity itself, in all essentials, is always the same. This is true of all the races now living. It always has been true and always will be true. The ideas of ought not and ought, of sin and penalty, of God and responsibility, are thoroughly ingrained in the nature of man. They are found in all lands. They cannot be obliterated. It is equally true that souls everywhere desire and long to be delivered from the burden—may we not say from the guilt, the pollution, and the power— of sin. Human souls are not orphaned. They are not outcasts, and they are not forgotten. God has them in mind, and his love flows out to all, and he will surely be found by those who feel after him. Human hearts are hungry for pity, compassion, sympathy, and love. This hunger is just as natural and just as universal as the hunger of the body, and is it not reasonable to suppose that some provision should be made to satisfy this heart hunger? The very existence of hunger proves that somewhere there must be an adequate supply of what is needed to appease the inevitable longings of the deathless spirit. The one sufficient, supreme, divine remedy for all ills, whether of individuals or humanity, is the Gospel of the Son of God, for it is the infinite, omnipotent, all-efficient power of God, the eternal and ever-blessed heavenly Father whose name is Love, unto salvation—the salvation of soul and body, for time and eternity—to everyone, of every race and nation, that believeth. The remedy is brought within reach of everyone, and it may be obtained upon conditions that all can easily comply with.
We need to remember always that the Gospel is complex and comprehensive. There is much more to it than is embraced in that puerile proverb, “Be good, and you will be happy.” When it is assumed that such a proverb covers the case, we relegate the Gospel to the low standard of Confucius and Mencius. There must be the foundation of good conduct in the intelligent apprehension of truth. So the Gospel implies the search for truth. The Gospel has its greatest triumphs in intellects such as those of Paul, Newton, and Wesley. The Lord recognized the use of the intellect when he said, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.’’ And the use of the intellect in consideration of the Gospel is commended in that memorable passage where it is said, “These were nobler than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” But the Gospel requires faith and belief because there are depths and heights of divine wisdom that can never be fully grasped by human understanding and because the human reason may not be able to perfectly adjust all the relations of revealed truth. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
By Bishop W. F. Mallalieu
Updated 2023 Nathan Zipfel