Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The Great Giving of Authority and Promise
At the end of his Gospel, Matthew writes, “16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:16-20).
For years we have called these verses the Great Commission and have guilted people into unnaturally and awkwardly “sharing their faith” with others. I have read books which tell us that 10% of people are evangelists but 100% are witnesses. I have read books on how to share your faith. The question I would like to begin addressing is this: “Is there specifically a Lutheran approach to witnessing/evangelism and accomplishing what is given in Matthew?”
I believe that there is a Lutheran approach which flows out of what we believe, teach and confess. I believe it is a Biblical approach based on this Matthew passage. In this passage we are told that Jesus tells His eleven disciples that He has all authority, that is God has restored to Jesus full use of His divine powers, of which He had given up full usage when He came down to earth and was incarnate in Bethlehem. I believe that this was important information for these eleven because we are told that some of them had doubts. Interestingly enough, these eleven who had been with Jesus for the past three years, watching Him do miracles, heal, walk on water, raise the dead, cast out demons, change water into wine and so on, doubted. This kind of gives me comfort and hope.
So, Jesus (ἐδόθη - aorist, passive, indicative) has been given authority. It already belongs to Jesus, so it is His to give. And what is this authority? This authority (ἐξουσία - noun) is the authority, power, ability, and right to exercise what Jesus commands. Jesus gives us His authority. He gives His authority to use which means we have the right as well as the power and ability to baptize and teach.
How do we use that authority? Are we commanded to go? No, we are not commanded to go. Instead Jesus tells us that as we are going (πορευθέντες - aorist, passive, participle, nominative) we are making disciples. This is not an imperative but a participle and a passive participle at that, so that as you are going, as you are living your life, you are to make disciples (not apostles, not ministers), and there is a way in which you are to make disciples, students of Christ, by baptizing and teaching.
And in order to squelch our fears, God gives us His promise that He will be with us. Earlier in His Gospel Jesus encourages us by telling us that we will suffer for His name’s sake, and we will have opportunities to bear witness of our faith, but He tells us, “do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour” (Matthew 10:19b).
The Apostle Peter encourages us as well telling us that, “14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14-16).
So, what does all this tell us about a Lutheran Theology of Evangelism? It tells us that we are all evangelists as well as witnesses. It tells us that God gives us the authority to be evangelists as well as witnesses. It tells us that, as we live our lives in our various vocations, we live in such as way that others witness our faith in Christ so that as they ask, we are prepared to give an answer for our faith and that God will give us the words that we need when we need to speak.
Evangelism is not necessarily confrontational, rather it is a part of our daily lives. We are not all ministers or pastors, but we are all priests in the priesthood of all believers. As priests, we offer our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1). As priests, we offer Philip’s simple invitation to Nathanael, “Come and see” (John 1:46). And then we let God do His work. Through Holy Baptism and/or through His Word, God gives and works faith when and where He pleases.
Lutheran Evangelism then is a living faith. It is not being concerned about how many calls are made, how many people are invited, how many people show up. It is not concerned about getting anything right or wrong. It is about simply living and inviting, about being ready to give an answer as directed by God. It is about letting God do His work and believe He will do His work (often in spite of us).
Lutheran Evangelism then necessarily includes making regular and diligent use of God’s means of grace. It means being in Divine Service and Bible class as often as offered. It means a Divine Service which is permeated with the Word of God and good Lutheran doctrine which teaches those gathered so that they will have the words to speak that the Lord will use when they have the opportunity to give an answer or defense of their faith. And it means not being worried about whether or not we say the right thing.