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.
Friday, December 25, 2015
Evangelism - Christmas Day - December 25, 2015 - Text: Matthew 28:18-20
This year during the season of Advent and following through to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve we have been addressing a topic that may not seem too tied to the season of Advent, we have been addressing the topic and/or issue of how doctrine and practice relate, that is how we do what we believe. Last night we took up the topic of worship. Does God prescribe how we should worship? And what should a worship service look life, especially as we keep in mind what we believe, teach and confess and how that should be seen in our worship service. This morning we will address the subject of evangelism. Does the Bible speak to us about what our evangelistic efforts should look like? If so, where and how?
So, does the Bible speak to us about evangelism? If so, where and how? Perhaps the most misused passage of God’s Word in speaking about outreach is what is often labeled the “Great Commission.” I say this passage is misused because if you actually go back and read the passage and read it grammatically correct, you will note that there is no co-missioning involved. So, this morning we are going to go back and reread what God is telling us and giving to us as we read His first instructions in evangelism. We read, from Matthew 28: “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 28:18-20). Unfortunately the very first words of verse nineteen are translated as an imperative rather than as an indicative, the difference being that an imperative is a command word, a word that needs to have an exclamation point after it, whereas an indicative conveys a sense of the usual way of things, a word that is followed simply by a period. So, instead of this being a command to “Go!” (exclamation point), this is a description of a usual occurrence that is that as you are going about your life something usual will happen.
But, first things first. You may have noticed that we began this passage at verse eighteen with the words of Jesus explaining to His disciples, and us for that matter, that having lived a perfect life, having taking all our sins and paying the price on the cross for our sins, all our sins as well as all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times, having died and risen from the dead, now, once again as true God enjoying all the attributes of God in heaven, now once again having all authority as His, now the implication of those words is that He is now endowing, giving to His disciples and to us that same authority. In other words, when His disciples are asked, even when we are asked, by what authority do we speak what we speak, or to use our modern lingo, “Who gave you the right to say such things?” we might boldly profess that Jesus has given us the right as He has given us His authority to speak as such. So we begin by noting that God is giving us the authority to speak for Him as we evangelize or “good word” other people. That is what the word “evangelize” means, good news, good word, good message.
The next “aha” of our text is the how of our use of His authority, that is how do we exercise the authority Jesus has given us? We exercise His authority through the means He has given us to exercise, that is through the means that He uses to give the gifts He has to give, by baptism and teaching which we know as the means of grace. Indeed, God has never promised to give any of His gifts through any other means, namely and in particular through the means of anyone person, nor any other word, spoken or read, but only through the means of His Word, as well as Confession and Absolution and the sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
So, as we are going, as we are living our lives, we have Jesus’ authority to speak His Word and to Baptize with the confidence that through these means God gives the gifts that He has to give and we would add as we read in the confession of our church, when and where He pleases. In other words, God does not act according to our time and will, but according to His good and gracious will which is always best and right. But, we do have this added benefit, that is that we have His promise that He will be with us as we have and use the opportunity to speak and baptize. We have His promise that He will give us not only the courage, but also the very words to speak so that when all is said and done we never need to question whether or not we said the right thing, but trust that God will use whatever we have said to His glory.
Thus, the sum of what is given in Matthew 28 is not a great commission but rather a great word of what we might call vocational evangelism, that is that as we live our lives in whatever our vocation we live in such a way that as we are asked we are able with God’s authority and promise to give an answer, even a defense of our faith in Jesus and then let the Holy Spirit do His work when and where He pleases.
Today we are celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus, God in flesh, the promised Messiah, the Christ, the one for whom we are named, Christians. Christmas is a great time for evangelism. At Christmas time we have the witness of the angels as they make their announcements, of course we might include the announcements to Mary and Joseph some nine months earlier, but also the announcement to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. The announcement included who was born, the Savior, where He was born, in Bethlehem, and how they would find Him and know that it was Him, that He would be wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.
We have the witness of the shepherds who listened to and believed the angels. They went into the city of David, Bethlehem and found everything just as the angel had told them. They arrived to find Jesus, most likely in the main part of the house because, as we were told, the guest room had been taken by other relatives. Jesus was lying in the manger, the animals food trough. And as they witnessed the truth of the angels they could not help themselves, but as they were going they told all who would listen to what they had seen and heard.
We also have the witness of the towns people who heard the message of the shepherds. These same people probably went and saw the baby as well and most certainly as they went on their way, as they lived in their various vocations, as they had opportunity they also speak of what they had seen and heard.
We also would include the later witness of the birth of Jesus by the star that lead the Magi. Indeed, even before they knew what they would see, even before seeing the boy Jesus they bore witness of what they believed they would see as they believed the promises of God through the prophets of old. And we have the witness of the Magi who came and saw the boy Jesus and most certainly as they went on their way spoke of the things they had seen and heard as well.
Today Christmas is an opportunity for us to bear witness as well. We bear witness of our faith in the Messiah, in Jesus the Christ as we live lives that celebrate the birth of Jesus, God in flesh. Indeed as we decorate, as we speak, with God’s authority, words of, not “happy holiday,” but boldly words of “Merry Christmas” we bear witness of our faith as we are living our lives. As we live lives of faith and celebration there are those who will notice that we are different and when they ask, why we are different we may be bold in expressing our faith through the very means God has given us to express that faith namely through His Word and then we let the Holy Spirit do His work, when and where He pleases, thus we do not witness through coercion, but simply in quiet confidence.
Most certainly when asked what we celebrate, even if we do not know what to say, even if we may falter according to our human nature we may simply follow Phillip’s example and invite them to “Come and see.” Come and see Jesus.
As always, as we have been bold to profess through this Advent and Christmas season, our focus is on Jesus. As we live lives of faith focused on Jesus and our faith in Jesus, we are evangelists and we are witnesses of what a great God we have, a gift giving God, a God of love and grace. Finally, we bear witness of our faith so that our very lives say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen