The Apocrypha

The Apocrypha

As we continue our study on Bibliology in this month’s newsletter, we move from the transmission of the Bible to a somewhat mysterious subject, the Apocrypha. I am often asked questions related to the authority of the Apocrypha, that section which is in the middle of Roman Catholic Bibles but not necessarily in ours. How are we, as Evangelicals, supposed to perceive this list of books? Why do certain Christian traditions adhere to it as authoritative and others do not? These are all very good questions that I hope to answer in this edition of the newsletter.

First, we will begin by describing the nature of the Apocrypha. The word apocrypha relates directly to the Greek concept of “hidden,” relating to the ideas of something being secretive or well, hidden. In the early church, the word took on the meaning of non-canonical, and was perceived as such for centuries. These fifteen books or additions to books first arose in the Alexandrian canon of the Greek Old Testament, often called the Septuagint. The books include The First Book of Esdras (150—100 B.C.); The Second Book of Esdras (c. A.D. 100);  Tobit (c. 200—150 B.C.); Judith (c. 150 B.C.); The Additions to the Book of Esther (140-130 B.C.); The Wisdom of Solomon (c. 30 B.C.); Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach (c. 180 B.C.); Baruch (c. 150-50 B.C.) The Letter of Jeremiah (c. 300-100 B.C.); The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men (2nd - 1st century B.C.); Susanna (Daniel 13 in the Catholic Bible) (2nd – 1st century B.C.); Bel and the Dragon (Daniel 14 in the Catholic Bible) (c. 100 B.C); The Prayer of Manasseh (2nd or 1st century B.C.); The First Book of the Maccabees (c. 110 B.C.); and The Second Book of the Maccabees (c. 110-70 B.C.). Twelve of these books are included in the Catholic Douay Bible.

Second, we will answer the question “why do we as Evangelicals not accept the Apocrypha as authoritative?” The main reason that these apocryphal books are not in our Bibles is because, simply put, they were never included in the Hebrew canon to begin with. Jesus, Himself, infers that the canon of the Old Testament was closed around the time of the prophet Micah (Luke 24:44; Luke 11:51; Matthew 23:35). Further, Jesus nor His Apostles ever quote the Apocrypha as authoritative or even refer to it. They, however, do quote extensively from the Old Testament canon in recognition of its authority. The apocryphal books were not considered authoritative by Jews like the historian Josephus, the philosopher Philo, those who composed the council of Jamnia, and the writers of the Talmud. Further, most of the apocryphal books were written in the post-biblical era according to men like Josephus and the writers of the Talmud. Early Christian writers like Origen and Jerome also communicate that these books, called the Apocrypha, were not authoritative.

Another point that strongly opposes the authority of the Apocrypha relates to its content. The Apocrypha includes information that is inaccurate, including issues of doctrinal concern. 2 Maccabees 12:45-46 promotes prayers for the dead, which contradicts a proper interpretation of Hebrews 9:27 and Luke 16:25-26. Also, Tobit 12:9 teaches salvation by works, which the Scriptures firmly oppose in Romans 3-4 and Galatians 3:11. In fact, the Apocrypha was never considered authoritative until the Council of Trent, which met in the 16th century AD. And this acceptance appears to be a response to the strong criticism from many, during the time of the Reformation, who were questioning the teachings and practices of the Church at that time.

Thirdly and finally, the question is posed as to whether the Apocrypha is of any benefit? The answer of course is . . . absolutely yes! Though it is not part of the canon of Scripture, many of the books in the Apocrypha, like 1 Maccabees, give us historical information. They also help us understand the origin of certain feasts, like the Feast of Lights which is also known as Feast of Dedication, found in John 10:22.

In conclusion, we do not recognize that the Apocrypha is part of the recognized canon of Scripture, but we do consider it valuable as we do many non-inspired works. We simply must understand that these books were written by humans in a non-inspired state; and therefore, read them in a spirit of discernment. Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

                                    *Special thanks to Michael Vlach for the use of his notes on this subject

The Transmission of the Old Testament

Hello Beloved,

Today, we will continue our study on the doctrine of the Bible. Our focus for this newsletter will be on the transmission of the Old Testament. We must remember that men and women during and even well after Bible times did not have the luxury of paper nor of the printing press. Books of the Bible, often in the form of scrolls, were extremely expensive, being made from papyrus and sometimes animal skins call vellum. Most individuals had to go to their local synagogue to hear the reading of the Scriptures. Certain scribes formed traditional procedures for the purpose of passing on these sacred documents. Because of the high regard for the Scriptures, the process of transmitting or copying these texts was very meticulous. Unlike many of the New Testament manuscripts, the Old Testament copies are comparably new, dating to only around 1000 A.D. (not counting the dead sea scrolls). There are also fewer Old Testament manuscripts as compared with that of the New, probably because of the methods used in copying these documents.

Jewish Scribes were perfectionists when it came to copying the Scriptures. A Jewish commentary called the Talmud helps us better understand many of the regulations imposed on these Jewish scribes who copied God’s Word. Michael Vlach states:

  • The copyist was required to sit in full Jewish dress after a complete bathing.

  • Only a certain kind of ink could be used.

  • Rules governed the spacing of words.

  • No word or letter could be written from memory.

  • Lines and letters were methodically counted.

  • If a manuscript was found to have even one error it was destroyed. (This helps explain why only a few manuscripts survived.)

Interestingly, these strict requirements were a big factor in preserving the accurate transmission of the Old Testament. Many of these manuscripts are called Massoretic texts, which comes from the scribal name of the Massoretes. These scribes copied the Old Testament from about 500 to 1000 A.D., and they were scholars of the first rate.

Some critics questioned the accuracy of the Old Testament copies since the oldest copies we possess were from around 1000 A.D., and in fact there were not very many of these manuscripts with which to compare. However, a funny thing happened around the middle of the twentieth century. A young shepherd boy stumbled on some Qumran caves in the Palestinian area, only to find old jars with scrolls inside. These scrolls contained almost the entire Old Testament, and experts dated these documents to about 150 B.C. When scholars were able to compare these much older copies of the Old Testament with the meticulous copies of the Massoretes, they found they were over 95% in agreement, which is amazing. Of course, this was a big jolt to those critical of the Massoretic texts. For those of us who know God’s Word is truth, it was just another way that God’s providential hand affirmed His message. Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

The Formation of the New Testament Canon

The Formation of the New Testament Canon

Returning to our topic regarding the formation of the Canon, we turn from a focus on the Old Testament to that of the New. It was generally recognized among the Jews of Jesus day and currently among the Protestant and Evangelical Christians of today that the authoritative section of the Canon known to us as the Old Testament was finished in the fifth century B.C. with the book from the prophet Malachi. Four hundred years after Malachi, God once again raised up Apostles and those associated with the Apostles to communicate further progressive revelation about God’s greatest form of communication, the Word Himself (Heb 1:1-4; John 1:1-18). What we have come to call the New Testament, thanks to the Church Father, Tertullian, has been divided predominantly into four sections: the gospels, history, epistles (Pauline and General), and prophecy. Unlike the millennia it took to create the Old Testament, the New Testament was written over a period of approximately fifty years. Another difference regarding the writers for the New Testament, as compared with that of the Old, relates to the geographic orientation of the authors, which is far wider for those of the New Testament, encompassing most of the known civilized world in the Roman Empire.

One might wonder about the process of recognition for those New Testament works that God determined to be authoritatively inspired. This process was conducted through about five phases in the History of the Church. In the first phase, the works themselves were created, starting with books like 1 Thessalonians or possibly even James (which were written close to A.D. 50) and ending approximately in A.D. 95 with John’s apocalyptic work of Revelation. During the second phase which occurred from A.D. 96-150, there was a growing desire among those within the Church for these authoritative works to be placed in a collection. Amazingly, without much consultation, Christian assemblies around the empire circulated and recognized as authoritative the majority of the works that we perceive by the title “New Testament.” In the third phase of this process, the church began to compile these books into a collection, as a standardized record of formally authoritative works. It was during this phase that a compilation called the Muratorian Canon was constructed which contained all the New Testament books except James, Hebrews, and 1 and 2 Peter. During the fourth phase, which occurred during the third century, the Church’s desire for a recognized Canon continued. It was prior to and during this phase that various heresies arose, such as Marcionism, which had its own Canon that differed from the correct or orthodox Canon. Further, many works were formed from other heretical groups like the Gnostics that looked like books from the Bible but in all actuality were frauds. Many of these heretical groups even slapped the name of a known apostle like Thomas on their works so as to deceive the masses into thinking their books were legitimate. The formation of these heretical works and illegitimate lists of canonical books propelled the church to clearly define what it actually recognized as authoritatively inspired by God. Finally, it was during the fifth phase of this process and within the fourth century, after two persecutions which saw many copies of New Testament works destroyed, that Christians felt once and for all that a universally recognized set of books should be agreed upon.

In this process of discussion, there were a few books that were disputed by some called Antilegomena such as Hebrews, a book in which the author was anonymous; James, a book that confused people about the relation of faith and works; 2 Peter, a book in which the Apostle Peter used a different style of writing than in his first epistle; 2 and 3 John which were disputed because of their limited circulation and private nature; Jude, which was disputed because he referenced a couple of works that Believers knew were not authoritative in and of themselves; and Revelation, which some questioned simply because of its teaching on the millennium. However, these disputes did not last long, and the entire set of twenty-seven books was universally accepted and recognized by the church as the authoritative written word of God by the middle of the fourth century.

The criteria that was usually associated with evaluating these books as authoritative revolved around questions like “Is this work inspired?” If it was, it would be consistent doctrinally with that of the Old Testament and the teachings of Christ and His Apostles. “Does this book have Apostolic authority?” This means that the book was written either by an Apostle or someone closely associated with an Apostle like Luke to Paul. It was Jesus Who was sent by the Father, and Who in turn trained the Apostles and then sent them out with His message (John 20:21). “Was this work written during the Apostolic era?” Writings that were written after the Apostles died were not and could not be included in the Canon. “Does the church universally accept these books as authoritative?” There was an uncanny sense in the early church of what was and what was not genuinely inspired. Interestingly enough, both the Apostle Paul and Peter make citations which reveal that they perceived certain New Testament books on par with the authority of Old Testament Scripture (2 Pet 3:16; 1 Tim 5:18).

Officially, it was in A.D. 367 that Athanasius circulated his Festal Letter for Easter in which the Church revealed a fully agreed upon set of recognized Canonical works for both the Old and the New Testament. Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your Spirit.”

Discovering Canonicity in the Old Testament

Discovering Canonicity in the Old Testament

 Last month we addressed the topic of whether the church discovered or determined canonicity, and the clear answer is that the church simply discovered what God inspired and determined authoritative. The next question that one must ask is, “then how was the authoritative value of each book discovered?” The answer can be found by taking a brief look at church history to discern how our Canon came to be. We will begin with the Old Testament, but a brief word of advice, do not call this collection of books the Old Testament to your Jewish friends. To them, it is the Tanach, which is a conglomeration of the divisions for the Hebrew Bible (Torah, Nebiim, Chetuvim) and corresponds to our understanding of Law, Prophets, and Writings.

 What we call the Old Testament was well recognized by the time of Jesus. We can discern this truth from the words of our Lord as he communicates the three sectioned division of the Scriptures for His day: “ . . .  everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Luke 24:44 (ESV). He also gave reference to the entirety of the Old Testament Canon in his citation of those martyred from the beginning of Genesis to the final martyr in the Hebrew Bible, found in Chronicles: “ . . . from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary.” Luke 11:51 (ESV) Even Josephus, the Jewish historian, recognized that the Canon of the Hebrew Scriptures was complete and no more writings were composed after the reign of Artazerxes, which would be about the time of Malachi (the last book of the Greek Old Testament, and the pattern of books our Bibles generally follow today).

 From Artaxerxes (the successor of Xerxes) until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what preceded, because the exact succession of the prophets ceased. . . . For though so long a time has now passed, no one has dared to add anything to them, or to take anything from them, or to alter anything in them” (Josephus, Against Apion I. 8.).

 In AD 90, after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, Jewish scholars discerned the need to gather and affirm the books that they considered canonical at the council of Jamnia. Their conclusions correspond to the books we have in our Old Testament Bibles today.

 Other factors that help us understand the development of the Old Testament Canon and its recognized authority include the progressive collection of Old Testament books as seen in the immediate acceptance of the “Book of the Covenant” as the Word of God (Ex 24:3-8), the immediacy of storing Deuteronomy by the Ark after Moses wrote it (Deut 31:24-26), and Daniel’s reference to “the books” that contained the “law of Moses” and the prophets (Dan 9:2, 6, 11). Later Old Testament Books quote many earlier books as authoritative. Examples of these quotations include Jonah’s recitation of the Psalms (Jonah 2), Ezekiel’s mention of Job and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14, 20), Daniel’s citation of Jeremiah 25 (Daniel 9:2), and the many citations of the books of Moses as referenced throughout the rest of the Old Testament from Joshua 1:7 to Malachi 4:4.

 Jesus’ affirmation of a closed Old Testament canon, Jewish tradition, and internal textual evidence all affirm a recognized inspired collection of works that the Jews deemed to be a standard authority. In our next newsletter we will continue this discussion on the discovery of the New Testament Canon, and some general principles reflective of the books considered canonical.

Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

 (*The above information was taken in large part from the notes for Dr. Michael Vlach)


Why Are There So Many Different Bible Translations ?

I often reflect on the direction that I should take the articles we post in the newsletter. Recently, it was suggested of me to write about why we have so many different translations of the Bible, and the benefits/drawbacks of each. As I pondered this suggestion, my mind returned to the multiple times that individuals have approached me on my reasoning for using the particular translation from which I preach, the differences between Bible translations, whether the King James Version is the most reliable translation, and how we received the Bible that we have today. At Brookes Bible College, I have taught a course that included the doctrine of Bibliology (the study of the Bible) at least three maybe four times. Each time that I teach this course, the students seem to be extra interested in the topic of how we have received the Bible we have today. Therefore, this is the subject upon which I have chosen to focus our newsletter articles for the year 2019.

Before we actually start thinking about translations, we have to run through the basics of how we received the Bible that we have today. Generally, there are four stages that must be considered. We will look at all the stages in the following months, while expanding on the last, which is the stage of translation. These stages include inspiration, canonization, transmission, and translation. I will briefly introduce each of these stages in this article, and then explain them in greater detail within the articles to come.

First, the stage of inspiration is descriptive of the original manuscripts, in which the Holy Spirit moved the human author of each text to communicate God’s revelation. The words that were written where co-authored 100% by both the human author and the Holy Spirit. These authors captured this revelation and recorded it in manuscripts. The original manuscripts are considered to be without error and completely infallible.

Second, the stage of canonization refers to the recognition of these inspired texts as just that, inspired. Many confuse the concepts of “determine” verses “discover” in this process. Some claim that the church determined what books would be considered inspired, and therefore be in the “canon” or “rule of standard” that we call the Bible. This idea would be incorrect. God is the one who determines what is inspired and what is not. However, through God’s providential guidance, He has revealed to man what works are inspired, and man has “discovered” these books that belong in a standard that we call the “Canon” or the “Bible.”

Third, these manuscripts had to be copied for distribution purposes, and over time, the original copies were lost. The copying of these original manuscripts is what we call “transmission.” Before Gutenberg invented the printing press, each manuscript of the Bible had to be meticulously copied by hand. This process occurred from the end of the first century to around the sixteenth century, roughly fifteen hundred years. Comparing the thousands of copies in our possession helps us to identify what was actually in the original manuscript.

Fourth, and finally, the stage of “translation” occurs when we take what we believe was in the original manuscripts, after comparing the copies, and translate the works into different languages. There are many things to consider when one translates ideas from a certain language into that of another. Issues of word definition, order of words in sentences, punctuation, and nuances of communication are just a few aspects that must be considered when evaluating different translations. So, tune in as we begin this new journey in 2019, answering the question, “Why do we have so many translations.” Until next time this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit?”

Bearing Fruit and Evangelism

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (ESV)

 As we finish these articles on evangelism, I want to conclude with a reflection on the source and motivation of why we should evangelize. It is often stated, and rightly so, that evangelism is an aspect of obedience to God. This is true, but we are also Biblically commanded to obey in so many other areas as well. I am commanded to study God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15), discipline my children (Ephesians 6:4), love my wife (Ephesians 5:25), and shepherd Christ’s church just to name a few examples (1 Peter 5:2). All of these Biblical expectations are important, and I am called to obey both out of duty (Luke 17:10) and love (John 15:10). However, I also thoroughly believe that how much I do or how much I do not adhere to these expectations, including evangelism, is directly related to the magnitude regarding which I am abiding in Christ through disciplines like prayer, Bible study, church attendance, etc. As we abide in Christ, and mature in our relationship with Him, an outflow of this relationship is the producing of fruit. Now, unlike some commentators, I do not think that “fruit” is code for “new converts” necessarily, but I do believe that this passage teaches “fruit” is directly related to our witness for Christ. Consider the words of D.A. Carson regarding this passage.

 There has been considerable dispute over the nature of ‘fruit’ that is envisaged: the fruit, we are told is obedience, or new converts, or love, or Christian character. These interpretations are reductionistic. The branch’s purpose is to bear much fruit (v.5), but the next verses show that this fruit is the consequences of prayer in Jesus’ name, and is to the Father’s glory (vv. 7, 8, 16). This suggests that the ‘fruit’ in the vine imagery represents everything that is the product of effective prayer in Jesus’ name, including obedience to Jesus’ commands (v. 10), experience of Jesus’ joy (v. 11- as earlier his peace, 14:27), love for one another (v. 12), and witness to the world (v. 16, 27). This fruit is nothing less than the outcome of persevering dependence on the vine, driven by faith, embracing of all the believer’s life and the product of his witness.

 Considering Carson’s interpretation of John 15, please allow me to communicate some implications that relate to evangelism for what I believe to be a result of abiding in the vine, or in Jesus. First, this means that we should encourage others to abide in the vine and further develop our relationships in Christ. Please notice that I wrote the word encourage. I believe that encouraging and leading by example are consistent with the spirit of this passage and are the appropriate ways that we should motivate others to grow in these spiritual disciplines that relate to the expectations consistent with abiding in the vine. Second, if we are developing these spiritual disciplines and abiding in the vine, personal evangelism should be a natural outgrowth of this process. Therefore, if we are not bearing witness or are not evangelizing others, we should check our connection with the vine. Third and finally, let’s not forget that the outcome of all this abiding in the vine and bearing of fruit is joy. Jesus states, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11 (ESV) So, obedience in fulfilling the commands or expectations of Christ by being a witness of the gospel message to this lost and dying world should result in joy. It’s even better when lost souls come to Christ, but let’s remember, that part of the equation is out of our control. Only the Spirit can make an individual alive in Christ (John 3:3).

Consider these thoughts, and until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Go Make Disciples

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching 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

We call it the Great Commission! One of the most prolific and used passages in the pulpits of our churches. As well it should be, but let us take another look at this passage as we consider the eleventh month of our evangelistic series. So often, I have heard a speaker exhort his audience to the mission of evangelism, and then he often quotes Matthew 28:19-20. Such a use of the passage is accurate and correct but it may not be thorough. In this brief section, I cannot exhaustively deal with explaining in its entirety the text of the Great Commission, but I would like to focus on the concepts that are found in the four phrases “go,” “make disciples,” “baptizing,” and “teaching.” “Go” may not be in command form, but the intentionality of the need to “go,” or bear witness “as we are going” through our many and varied activities is clearly communicated by Jesus. The verb form of “baptizing” infers that one who chooses to follow after Christ will reveal his or her commitment to the Lord wholeheartedly and completely through the physical act of baptism. “Teaching” magnifies the need for followers of Christ to be instructed on a regular basis in the things of God through the Word of God.

 Finally, we turn to the concept of “making disciples,” which is the primary verb among the other four in this text. This concept encompasses both evangelism and what we know traditionally as discipleship. “Making disciples” is a very broad term that relates to all the functions of Christ’s church. It may surprise you that this idea includes fellowship, praise, benevolence, prayer, discipline, as well as teaching and outreach. As my Greek professor, Dr. Matthew Black, used to say on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, “Making disciples is exactly what we do on this campus and in these classrooms.” Now, in order for us to accomplish all these functions of the church, we must first perform evangelism.  We must share the good news of the gospel with the nations, that is with those in our immediate vicinity and the regions abroad. Sean O’Donnell writes.

 To “make disciples” is a broader concept than simply “to make a convert”—evangelizing a stranger in five minutes. The word “disciple” is a “slow, corporate, and earthy” word, as are “baptizing and teaching.” It is an educational term. We are to enroll people in the school of Christ and tutor them therein, meticulously mentoring them month by month, helping them mature in Christ.

 Therefore, the next time you think about the Great Commission or hear someone allude to Matthew 28:19-20, remember that the mission of Christ emphatically calls us to evangelize and share the gospel with a lost and dying world. However, also remember that “making disciples” includes so much more. When we send out Operation Christmas Child boxes all over the world, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we go out on GROW visitation or perform a GROW project by sharing the gospel at a coffee house, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we preach the gospel at the annual block party, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we visit the ill in hospitals or the widows in their homes, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we conduct our prayer meeting on Wednesday night, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we perform Biblical church discipline in a spirit of love and compassion, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we assemble together weekly on Sunday morning and Sunday night to praise God through song and listen to a message from God’s Word, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we offer opportunities for the folks in our congregation to meet the physical and emotional needs of others through the food pantry and the meal ministry, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. And when we conversationally tell someone else about how responding positively to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection through faith and repentance will lead to salvation from sin and death, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. I like what Sinclair Ferguson writes, “being the church is doing evangelism.” Therefore my beloved, let us continue to go and “make disciples” as we even now are involved in this great mission that was given to us by our Lord.

Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Evangelism of the “So called” Brother

Evangelism of the “So called” Brother

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20  let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (ESV)


Beloved, perhaps you recall our study on the fifth chapter of the letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, in which the concept of the “so-called brother” was introduced. (1 Cor 5:11) This passage deals with the very difficult and sensitive topic of church discipline. In the course of studying this text you may also remember that one of Paul’s reasons for encouraging the congregation to discipline the man who was caught in a heinous sin was for the purpose of his “salvation.” Specifically, Paul writes, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. [1 Corinthians 5:5 (NASB)] This man was a member of the congregation in Corinth and a professing believer, but Paul called him a “so called brother.”

 One might ask, “What exactly does the “so called” brother issue have to do with evangelism?” My gentle response would be “everything?” Often we think of evangelism only in terms of winning the souls of those who have never professed faith in Christ Jesus. But what do we do about professing Christians who have wandered from the faith and are living lives inconsistent with that descriptive of new creatures who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit? (2 Cor 5:17) We are aware that the very Apostle who stated, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life,” [1 John 5:13 (ESV)] is the very same Apostle in the very same letter who also wrote regarding children of God, “Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous . . . No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3:7-9 (ESV) It was our Lord who communicated that there are many who initially respond positively to the proclaimed Word but eventually fall away because of persecution or the cares of the world. (Matt 13:18-22) Further, we can identify with the deep sorrow that Paul must have felt when he wrote, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica . . .”  2 Timothy 4:10 (ESV)

 It is true as one could respond, “We cannot see the heart of professing believers who are behaving inconsistently with the characteristics of a Christian,” to which, I would whole heartedly agree. However, I would also counter respond that we cannot definitively claim that there is the type of “assurance” for salvation to which the author of Hebrews alludes for such individuals. (Heb 6:11) We must leave open the possibility that these individuals may never have been saved to begin with. (1 John 2:19) This is why our Lord told us to treat a church member who has been disciplined as “a Gentile and a tax collector,” (Matt 18:17) because he or she is perceived as outside the covenant community and in need of being evangelized.

 To return to my initial idea, this is why Paul calls the man being disciplined in the fifth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians a “so called brother.” Leon Morris states that this individual “denies his profession by the way he lives.” (Tyndale Commentaries - Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – 1 Corinthians.) We simply do not know conclusively the status of this man’s heart condition. Was he a Christian brother or was he not?

 Therefore, the central point of this article is to encourage fellow believers who are walking steadfastly with the Lord to continue to reach out to these “so called” brothers and sisters at work, at family events, in the community, and wherever we might find them for the purpose of reconciling these wandering souls to God and His church. However, communicating either directly or inferentially that professing believers who have strayed from the faith have “assurance” in their salvation could be detrimental to the well being of their souls and the souls of others around them.

Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”


19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Matthew 28:19 (ESV)

Hello beloved,

As we enter into the month of September, I also enter into a new phase on our discussion of evangelism. This month, I would like to focus on baptism. Now I realize that the topic of baptism warrants its own study series, and that is why I am using this month’s newsletter article to promote the new study on baptism that I will be starting after I finish the sixth chapter of Hebrews. I have received several questions about baptism over that past few weeks and even a recommendation that we have such a study. As I am always desirous of listening to you, my congregation, and incorporating your suggestions as much as I can, I am pleased to announce that we should begin this study sometime around the middle of October. In dialoguing with the Deacons about this venture, they also communicated hearty agreement for the need of focusing on baptism. Therefore, I am preparing to tackle this topic with you over a period of at least five Sundays. In this series, we will cover subjects concerning what baptism actually is from a Biblical perspective, who should be baptized, why we require baptism at Grace for membership, when “baptism” is really not “baptism,” and considerations for how the church should practice baptism. Many questions surround this ordinance such as, why are there so many baptismal traditions in Christianity? Why are there so many differences among these various traditions? Where did many of these traditions begin? How can we evaluate these traditions outside that of our own from a fair Biblical perspective? And, what happens when an individual comes to us for church membership from one of these other traditions? How have Baptists historically dealt with such issues, and how are we dealing with these issues today? All these are wonderful questions that will be addressed as we gather on Sunday evenings to discuss this topic by which we as Grace “Baptist” Church are so obviously defined. I will be providing a resource upon which I will base the pattern of this series so you can prepare before each Sunday’s lesson as well as have a resource to read when one of these issues come up again, and they will come up again. The resource that I will be encouraging you to purchase is Bobby Jamieson’s Understanding Baptism from the Church Basics series. The cost for this resource is only $9.00, and you can sign up for it on the welcome desk. Perhaps you might sign up early, so we can get the resource to you ASAP and you can be ready and prepared for the series when it begins. Bobby Jamieson writes:

 (Definition): baptism is a church’s act of affirming and portraying a believer’s union with Christ by immersing him or her in water, and a believer’s act of publicly committing him or herself to Christ and his people, thereby uniting a believer to the church and marking off him or her from the world.

 Our confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message states:

 Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.

 Do you agree?

Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”


Responsible Evangelism

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

Acts 16:31-32 (ESV)

 We recently conducted Grace’s Vacation Bible School, ending our last lesson on Family Fun Night with the passage above from Acts 16. This is a neat story of joy in the midst of troubles, compassion for the lost, and “responsible evangelism.” Perhaps you have heard this story, as it is often taught in many church contexts, but you never thought of “responsible evangelism” when being reminded of the gospel’s simplicity. It is true that Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailer simply “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” However, we must remember verse thirty-two, which states “they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” The concept of “word” conclusively infers that further instruction was required and that believing “in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” was the central point of Paul and Silas’ answer to the jailer’s question but needed further elaboration. Howard Marshall writes of the jailer’s conversion experience, “But all this needed fuller explanation than could be given in a brief formula, and so there and then the jailer and his family were given Christian instruction.” (Marshall, TNTC – Acts.)

What exactly was the instruction that Paul and Silas gave? The text does not specify, but I believe we can safely assume the instruction encompassed a four tiered approach to the gospel that we often find within the narratives of Acts, which includes an accurate understanding of God and His works, the Fall and sin’s consequences, God’s provision of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, and the need for response (repentance and faith). Such an approach should always be characteristic of our evangelism to be responsible. We should be careful in confirming the person we are evangelizing has an adequate understanding of the gospel and the commitment that he or she is about to make. Marshall goes on to write in applying the text of Acts 16:32, “We may note in passing that it is not enough simply to face people with gospel proof-texts; there is normally need for careful instruction adapted to their particular situation and for personal, pastoral care if the task of evangelism is to be successful and lasting in its effects.” (Marshall, TNTC – Acts.)

In conducting responsible evangelism through the sermon, I pose this question after the gospel presentation, “If anyone would like to know more about how to have a right relationship with God through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, you may come forward, and we will have counselors ready to talk more with you on this subject.” The invitation is an invitation to a further dialogue about the gospel message. Such a dialogue can clear up any misconceptions on the part of the “seeker” or any fuzzy ambiguities I, as the preacher, may have communicated inadvertently about the gospel and its requirements.

In conducting responsible evangelism, our policy with children who respond to the gospel, lets say in ministries like VBS, is to have a conversation with them here at the church, and then later to have a second conversation about the gospel with them while they are with their parents or guardians. Even if we are satisfied that they have an acceptable knowledge and level of commitment to the gospel, we want to see the children display a level of commitment to their faith through consistent attendance in worship over the next few weeks and months before we consider baptism. Mark Dever writes, citing Kenneth Chafin:

Do not baptize babies and be careful about baptizing young children into formal local church membership. Here is what a former Baptist pastor and professor of evangelism at Southwestern said a few decades ago, as he noted the trend to younger and younger baptisms: “At a time when he is too young to choose his clothes for himself, at a time when he is too young to choose a life's vocation, at a time when he is too young to serve on a church committee, at a time when he is really too young to vote intelligently on business matters in the church, at a time when he is not considered legally responsible by any agency in the community, there has been a tendency to feel that he is sufficiently responsible to make a life-binding, permanent-type decision concerning his relationship to Christ and his church. If we are unwilling to feel that the child is capable of making lesser decisions, how can we justify our confidence in the efficacy of this greater decision at this age?” The question is not whether a five-year-old or ten-year-old can savingly confess Christ. The question is the congregation's ability to discern. The large number of nominal Christians and rebaptisms in Southern Baptist churches seems to answer the question clearly in the negative. We are not meant to be able to distinguish fully a child's love and trust in God from their love and trust in adults, especially their own parents. That becomes clearer over time as the young adult's life feels the pull of the world, the flesh, and the Devil and yet follows Christ. Baptists around the world know this; Baptists in America used to know this. We can again. (John S. Hammett & Benjamin L. Merkle. Those Who Must Give an Account: A Study of Church Membership and Church Discipline.)

We should be especially careful with children regarding their understanding and commitment to the gospel message lest we give individuals a false sense of security regarding their salvation.

In conducting responsible evangelism, I am also very cautious about giving anyone the wrong impression regarding the salvific effects of “walking an aisle,” “voicing a specific prayer,” or placing trust in the act of baptism. “Walking an Isle” can lad to further dialogue about salvation. “Praying a specific prayer” is a good avenue to express the faith one believes. And baptism is important, for it was commanded by our Lord as a symbolic profession of faith, but none of these acts have salvific merit in and of themselves. Only the work of Christ atones for our sin. However, I have spoken to many nominal Christians who claim their security of salvation is found not in their perseverance of the gospel faith (Col 1:23; 2 Peter 1:3-10); but rather their security rests in the fact that they once “walked an aisle,” “said a prayer,” or “were baptized” at some point in the past. Each one of these actions has a beneficial role in the process of evangelism if communicated correctly, but each one of these actions can have a detrimental role in the process of evangelism if communicated and performed incorrectly.

Finally, I am very cautious about the appearance of any type of manipulation. If as the Scriptures teach, we are called to preach the gospel clearly (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8) the Word of God is powerful to elicit faith (Rom 1:16; Rom 10:17), God is the one who draws the lost to Himself (John 6:44), and the Spirit is the one who regenerates lost souls (John 3:1-6), then there should be a confidence in the Scriptures and God’s effectual work in the life of the unbeliever. Of coarse this does not mean we discount the choice of the one evangelized, nor does it mean that we should not passionately encourage them to receive the gift of God’s grace (2 Cor 6:2). However, it does mean that we should be sensitive to the work of the Spirit in an individual’s life; we should be patient; and we should avoid any appearance of manipulation.

I am sure there are other considerations we could cover in being responsible with our evangelistic practices, but I will leave you with the encouragement to continue studying the intricacies of the gospel; be obedient in sharing the gospel; take time with those God gives you to thoroughly discuss the gospel; do not be hasty or impetuous in the witnessing process; and trust in God’s sovereign control, work, and timing over an individual’s soul.

Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Evangelism in the Worship Service

As we have been considering the concept of evangelism this past year, I now move to discuss evangelism in the worship service. We have seen how as a church; we should be evangelistically relational in our community. We have seen how we should be developing a culture of evangelism within the church. We have discussed the need to be able to carry on a gospel conversation of appropriate depth. We have discussed event evangelism as was observed recently at our Kool Beanz outreach, and we will see in this article how we should be communicating the gospel in our regular worship services.

The Scriptures are clear that when we meet together on Sundays, it is predominantly the church that meets together. The concept of “church” means the assembly or those who are called out. Basically, Christians are those who assemble together and meet on a regular basis for maturity, growth, fellowship, encouragement, and becoming better disciples of Christ. In other words, the primary focus of sermon preparation, song preparation, and general worship service preparation concerns the building up of the body of Christ, which means Christians. (Eph 4:11-13) Now, in any given service, we should expect that unsaved or lost individuals will be among us. In fact, we encourage our congregation to invite their lost friends and associates, and we pray that God will bring the unsaved. Paul infers this concept in the fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians. (1 Cor 14:24) Therefore, we should be sensitive to the presence of the lost in any of our services and their need for salvation. We can even have services that are directed toward the lost, with an evangelistic emphasis, as we have observed prior to our Chili fellowship in April.

During the worship service on any given Sunday, we can be making allusions to the gospel and the hope we have in Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection. This can take place during songs that speak of God’s love and grace, testimonies that are given in between songs, prayers that show gratitude for the provision of God’s gift through Christ, and especially through the gospel presentation at the end of the sermon.

One principle that is strategic to implement, is that every single passage in the Bible can be taken back to the cross. The cross and the redemption that Jesus purchased for our deliverance from sin and the hope of eternal life is the central theme of the Scriptures. So if our sermon is on marriage, we can use the concept of marriage to point to Christ’s sacrificial love for His bride, the Church, and end the sermon on a gospel presentation. If we focus on the concept of vengeance, we can end on the point of God’s justice and the sacrifice of Jesus to appease the just wrath of God as relates to our sin. This is another way that we transition into the gospel presentation. If we speak on the subject of money, we recall Jesus’ words that one cannot serve two masters, and we describe the futility of money in comparison to the heavenly riches for those who are “in Christ.” Afterwards, we once again end on the gospel note. Every passage can be taken back to the cross where a clear gospel presentation can be made. Further, we also have an invitation or a hymn of response to allow the lost an opportunity to respond to the gospel message that has just been presented. And even if a lost person chooses not to respond at that time, the Holy Spirit can use the message preached to work on the heart of an individual wherever he or she may go. This is one reason that we always try to follow up with first time visitors to our church, pursuing the opportunity to speak concerning “spiritual things” and talk more about the gospel. Therefore, let us be sensitive to the lost who enter our worship service. Let us make them feel welcome and loved. Finally, let us make sure they leave having been exposed to a clear presentation of the gospel message.

Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Evangelism and Attracting the Lost

In everything . . . adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

Titus 2:10 (ESV)

What is attractive? Usually when this question is posed we think about what we find appealing in other people. Is it the way they look? Are they pretty or handsome, slim, well groomed, and do they have hair? Is it the way they act? Are they kind, transparent, gentle, and a good listener? Is it what they do? Are they intelligent, have a good job, or a person of influence in the community? All of these qualities tend to attract us to people, but what makes Christ’s church attractive? And further, should we even be considering the concept of attractiveness as it relates to the gospel?

My answer to this question is an absolute YES! Paul states that he and those ministering with him were “to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life”2 Corinthians 2:16 (ESV) Therefore, applying Paul’s principle to our circumstances, for some our evangelism done right will be attractive and yet it will be a repellant to others. Jesus Himself stated that those who rejected Him and His message did so because: “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” John 8:47 (ESV) Jesus       exemplified this very principle in His ministry when after feeding the five thousand, and being followed by the same group, He told them that the only reason they were following Him was because they ate their “fill of the loaves.” John 6:26 ESV In other words, Jesus appeased their carnal appetites the very day before and now they wanted more to fill their bellies. When Jesus explained to them the greater provision that He ultimately came to fulfill, not in physical loaves but in eternal life, they rejected Him and His message as John writes, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:66 (ESV)

So you may be wondering, what exactly is my point. Well the point of the matter is this, the gospel and evangelism done right is going to be attractive so some yet it will be a repellant to others. Therefore, we need to make sure that we are being attractive, but being attractive in drawing legitimate disciples of Christ. At the same time, we should remember that ultimately it is not we that draw them, but as Jesus also states, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” John 6:44 (ESV) However, at the same time, we have a role in the process of the Father’s drawing. We are called to take the gospel message to the lost, (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8) imploring them on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). And, we are also called to make that gospel message attractive.

Now this is where some of you may raise your eyebrows wondering, the gospel message is objectively what it is, repentance from sin and faith in the substitutionary atonement of the resurrected Christ. Further, if it is ultimately it is the Father Who draws the lost, and also knowing that it is only the Holy Spirit that can bring the dead souls of the lost to life in the process that we call regeneration, then how is it that we are supposed to make this heavenly message of truth more attractive than it already is? Good question. The answer can be summed up in one word, testimony! Paul encourages Titus to tell the church in Crete that he wants them “in everything” to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Titus 2:10 (ESV) Paul tells the church in Philippi that they are supposed to be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” Philippians 2:15 (ESV) Jesus Himself stated that kingdom citizens should be humble, mourners of sin, meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, have a singleness in devotion, peacemakers, and those who accept persecution well. In exhibiting these qualities, they can then make the greatest impact on the lost world around them by being “attractive” as revealed through the metaphors of salt and light. (Matthew 5:1-14) And of course, we can never forget that we as the church point others to the gift of salvation, the hope of eternal life, and a confirmation of the gospel message when we love one another. (John 13:35)

Moving forward, I want to encourage you to have attractiveness in your evangelism. However, please      remember to ask the questions, who are we trying to attract, and how are we to go about attracting them? Many churches desire to attract the lost to the gospel, but oftentimes they use a worldly or carnal strategy that ends up diluting the gospel’s pure message of truth. This method often yields worldly or carnal professors of Christ. These professors would be exemplified in the disciples who only followed Jesus to have their bellies filled. (John 6:26) However, as we have seen from the sixth chapter of John, Jesus rejected this strategy and the type of “so-called” disciples that this method of attraction creates. No, let us be attractive, but let us be attractive with the right methods and strategy. Let us obediently fulfill the functions and vision that Christ has given His church in fellowship, prayer, praise, benevolence, outreach, and accurately teaching the Word. (Acts 2:42-47) Let us be a testimony to our community by fervently striving for the purity of Christ’s church through the Biblical practice of church discipline. (1 Corinthians 5) Let us love one another. (John 13:35) Let us portray the reconciliation we have with God through Christ in        reconciling with one another through a Biblical methodology (Matthew 18:15-20). And in all this let us  exhibit to the world which is lost in darkness the change that can be wrought in a       person’s heart when the light of life impacts an individual, (2 Corinthians 4:6) and he or she becomes a new creature in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yes, we should go and preach the gospel, but let us not forget at the same time to adorn this message and make it attractive as God’s Word defines attractiveness.

Until next time this is Pastor Daniel writing, “may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Preparation for Evangelism

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5 (ESV)

Often, during the nights that I perform devotions with my daughters, I ask the question “What does it take to be a Christian?” They know that I am looking for a specific response that relates to the catechism they have been taught. Today, I ask you that same question. Do you know what it takes to be a Christian? I have asked a number of those who have been part of my respective congregations over the years, and I have gotten a variety of responses. Many of these responses were very accurate yet others were not so accurate. Some have stated that “one has to believe in God.” Others claim that “one has to ask Jesus in his or her heart.” Further, some communicate that “the Spirit has to lead him or her, or he or she has to be part of the church.” The answer is pretty simple; “One must repent of his or her sins and trust in Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior.”

Now you may be at home thinking that I am splitting hairs. You could be saying to yourself right now, “Self, I know that many of those folks may not have given the exact words that the preacher wanted, but if he would have just taken the time to ask a few more questions, then they would have given answers to his satisfaction.” If you were thinking that, then you would be correct. Most of the folks who answered in the ways that I characterized were usually confused at the question. As I spent time and dialogued with them about what it took to be a Christian, they generally reassured me that their understanding regarding God’s gift of salvation in Christ and their response to the gospel message was legitimate. However, I must beg the question, why is it that many of us cannot answer this simple question and communicate in clear terminology how it is that one becomes a Christian? Further, if we cannot explain this most elementary of principles as it relates to the Christian faith in our own lives, then how can we communicate the gospel message to someone else whether that be our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, or our brokers for that matter.

As I have written in my previous newsletter articles and communicated countless times from the pulpit, we are all commissioned by Christ to share the gospel with non-Christians in our own community and all around the world. The manner in which we share this gospel is extremely important. There are many of us who do a wonderful job at communicating the clear gospel in a loving manner through a conversation style with the lost. Others of us need a little more work and preparation on our witnessing techniques, but all of us can improve. May I say that asking a person if he or she believes in God, if he or she has asked Jesus into his or her heart, if he or she has been baptized, or if he or she goes to church may open the door to a spiritual conversation, but a “yes” to any of these questions is not a conclusive response to whether this individual is truly a child of God. In fact, if a person were to answer the question about how one becomes a Christian in the specific manner that I previously communicated, they still would not have exhibited conclusive proof that they are indeed a Christian. Does he or she understand the concept of sin and its consequences? Does he or she understand and adhere to the concept of salvation by grace alone through faith alone? Does he or she believe in what we call the substitutionary atonement as it relates to God’s provision of salvation? Does he or she believe that Jesus is fully man and fully God in the way that the Bible defines deity? Does he or she believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead? Is he or she living a penitent lifestyle that is characteristic of a genuine believer? All these questions are so very important as we consider what it means to bear witness to the gospel in a lost and dying world.  

Others may retort that often quoted phrase attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” However, Francis never stated this phrase. He did communicate periphrastically that our deeds should match our words, but the gospel must be communicated in words. Duane Liftin, president emeritus of Wheaton College claims, “It's simply impossible to preach the Gospel without words. The Gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the Gospel is inherently verbal behavior.” Therefore, we absolutely should adorn the gospel we proclaim, but we must dialogue using the precepts and principles of God’s Word to accurately communicate its message.

So what are we as disciples of Christ to do? The simple answer is to prepare. Prepare by attending church on a regular basis where we can be fed the truth, and then we will will be more prepared to give the truth. Prepare by reading books like Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel. We went through this book as a sermon series a few years back. Prepare by reading and studying great gospel tracks that we can leave behind with people after our conversations, such as “Eternal Life,” “Life,” “4 Spiritual Laws,” “Steps to Peace with God,” and Gilbert’s “What is the Gospel” tract. Prepare by receiving intentional evangelistic training, such as the class that will be offered this Summer, “Share Jesus Without fear,” so that we can gain insight regarding how to conduct a gospel conversation. Prepare by joining us in GROW, attending the meal ministry for the purpose of sharing the gospel, participating in the block party for the purpose of sharing the gospel, and participating in our outreach night at Kool Beanz coming up at the end of June for the purpose of sharing the gospel. Evangelism is most definitely a hands-on activity. I can attest to the truth that I have heard others communicate time and again, which is that the best way to get better at evangelism is to do it. Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Evangelism as We Go

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)

 The words our Lord gave to His disciples, and indirectly to us, before he ascended to the right hand of the Father in the Great Commission indicate His desire for us to go and make disciples. Now making disciples encompasses much more than just evangelism or sharing the good news of the gospel, but evangelism is a big part of making disciples. The language of this command communicates that we are to be very intentional about making disciples as we are going. But one might ask, “as we are going about what?” The concept of “as we are going” is reflective of the truth that evangelism is something that should be at the forefront of our minds at all times. We should be thinking about how we can have evangelistic conversations with people in our neighborhood, work place, recreation facility, or hair salon. A simple perusal through the New Testament reveals that Jesus had unplanned evangelistic encounters with a religious leader who came to visit him at night (John 3), a sinful woman who drew water from the same well at which He sat (John 4), a blind man who he healed so that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9), and a wee little man who climbed a sycamore tree just to see Jesus. Deacon Philip was ready to share the gospel with an Ethiopian who was just riding by (Acts 8), Peter was willing to share the gospel with a soldier and his family (Acts 10), and Paul, well there are just too many stories to verify this already established point with Paul, just read the entire last half of Acts. I think it is sufficient to say that Paul also shared the gospel as he was going.

Have you ever wondered how the Roman world went from persecuting and ostracizing Christians to being Christianized itself? Listen to what historian Justo Gonzalez writes about the conquest of Christianity upon the Roman empire.

Although it is impossible to give exact statistics, the enormous numerical growth of the church in its first centuries is undeniable. This leads us to the question of what methods it used to achieve such growth. The answer may surprise some modern Christians, for the ancient church knew nothing of “evangelistic services” or “revivals.” On the contrary, in the early church worship centered on communion, and only baptized Christians were admitted to its celebration. Therefore, evangelism did not take place in church services, but rather, as Celsus said, in kitchens, shops, and markets. A few famous teachers, such as Justin and Origen, held debates in their schools, and thus won some converts among the intelligentsia. But the fact remains that most converts were made by anonymous Christians whose witness led others to their faith. The most dramatic form taken by such witness was obviously that of suffering unto death, and it is for this reason that the word “martyr,” which originally meant “witness,” took on the meaning that it has for us today. Finally, some Christians were reputed for their miracles, which also won converts. [(Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: Volume 1(pp. 115-116)]

These individuals were predominantly those of the lower classes and possessed little if any formal theological education. They were those who studied the Word of God, met with other Christians regularly, and took Jesus’ command seriously that we should be telling others about the good news of His death, burial, and resurrection and calling them to faith and repentance. My friends, we possess the same empowerment of the Holy Spirit that those in the early church possessed, and so in the words of William Carey let us “expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Evangelism - Pt 2

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 13:35 (NASB)


Hello Beloved,

As we move into this next discussion on evangelism, I would like to talk to you about a culture of evangelism. I believe that this form of evangelism should be the most prominent strategy in Christ’s church. Of course, there are a variety of ways that we can get the good news to the lost, but I believe developing a culture of evangelism is the most effective for clarity and longevity. The early church grew so rapidly because people were talking about Jesus wherever they went. They brought people to check out the community of saints, the church. When lost people saw how different the church was from the surrounding world, they wanted in. That is really the way it should be with us. We should be bringing lost people to our services, our fellowship events, our Bible studies, our meal ministry, and our Sunday School classrooms to let them check us out. We are a team. Consider what Mack Styles writes as he describes a culture of evangelism that should be descriptive of Christ’s church:

When I coached my five-year-old son’s soccer team, we would gather the team (very, very cute) and ask, “Okay, team, when the other team has the ball, which of our players are on defense?” They would shout, with gusto, “Everyone!” Then we would ask, “And when we have the ball, which of our players are on offense?” “Everyone!” they answered. However, when it came to an actual game, putting that concept into play proved to be a bit more difficult with five-year-olds. Evangelism is like that. But the goal for both is the same: for all to pull in the same direction together. In a culture of evangelism, there is an understanding that everyone is engaged. Have you ever heard someone say, “Evangelism is not my gift,” as if that excused him from sharing his faith? That’s a kindergarten understanding of evangelism. All Christians are called to share their faith as a point of faithfulness, not gifting (Matt. 28: 19). I long to share my faith in the context of a church that understands what I’m doing and is pulling with me. In such a culture, when I bring a friend to church, others don’t assume that person is a Christian. They are not shocked when I introduce someone and say, “This is Bob, and he’s checking out Christianity.” And not only are they not shocked, but they respond with something like this: “I’m so glad you are here. I was in the same place a couple of years ago, and I’d love to hear about it. Tell me, what are you thinking through?” I long for a culture where we are all working together toward the goal of being witnesses for Christ. (Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus)

On Sunday, April 8, we are going to have an evangelistically oriented Sunday. The sermon will be more evangelistically oriented. We will have a chili fellowship afterwards, which will allow you the church to build relationships with many of our guests. And, all of the proceeds will go to support Rusty Ford and his family evangelize through missions in Spain. Please make plans to attend and be thinking about how you can participate in our culture of evangelism at Grace. Until next time, this is pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”


Hello church family. I would like to take the next few newsletters to talk about the important function of the church called evangelism. What do you think about when you hear the word, “evangelism?” Perhaps you do not think of anything, because the word and the concept are both new to you. Well, evangelism as it relates to our perspective, practice, and preaching should ever be before our minds as disciples of Jesus. It is a critical component in the mission of Christ’s church. It is a challenge that every believer should accept. It is an action that calls for savvy, strategy, and compassion. It is a practice that can potentially be abused or even ignored. It is a duty and privilege universally expected of all God’s children, and in its success, there is great rejoicing.

The word “evangelism” comes from the Greek term euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον), which means “gospel” or “good news.” In its most basic form, evangelism means the good news of Jesus Christ. Consider what William Mounce writes about this concept.

Euangelion, is the “good news” about the salvation God has provided through Jesus Christ. The gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). In addition, it has to do with the fulfillment of the OT promise of the coming kingdom of God. For this reason, Jesus announces, “the time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mk. 1:15). Jesus’ preaching is associated with healings, which are proof of the good news that the kingdom of God has arrived (Mt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). The NT speaks of the gospel in a way that describes its benefits: it is “the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24), “the gospel of salvation” (Eph. 1:13), “the gospel of peace” (6:19), and the gospel that holds out hope (Col. 1:23). The gospel is worth dying for (Mk. 8:35; 10:29).

The gospel is intended to be preached in order to announce God’s salvation in Christ and to elicit a response from those who hear it (Mt. 26:13; Mk. 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:14a; 2 Cor. 2:12; 1 Thess. 2:9). It is to be preached to all nations (Mt. 24:14; Mk. 13:10; 16:15; Acts 15:7; Rev. 14:6). Accordingly, Paul’s calling is to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:1, 9; 15:16, 19; Gal. 2:7; Eph. 3:6-7; 1 Thess. 2:4). At times he refers to “my gospel,” which is the message of Christ’s death and resurrection that God has entrusted him to preach (Rom. 2:16; 16:25; 2 Cor. 4:3; 1 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:8), as opposed to the “different gospel” of false teachers (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6, 7, 11; 2:2).

Paul sometimes uses euangelion to denote the work of evangelism (1 Thess. 3:2). He suffers for the gospel (1 Cor. 9:12; 2 Tim. 1:8; see also Phil. 1:12) and becomes all things to all people for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:23). People give service to the work of the gospel (2 Cor. 8:18; Phil. 1:5; 2:22; 4:3, 15).

euangelion also sometimes refers to the subject matter of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4; Phil. 1:7; 1 Thess. 2:2, 8, 9; 2 Thess. 2:14). Paul reminds the Corinthians of the content of the gospel he preached to them: Christ died, was buried, and was raised on the third day (1 Cor. 15:1, 2; see also 2 Tim. 2:8). The content of the gospel is truth (Gal. 2:5; Col. 1:5) and is meant to be confessed (2 Cor. 9:13), and those who don’t obey it will be punished (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17). Through the gospel message, the Gentiles become part of the people of God (Eph. 3:6). By contrast, most Jews do not receive the “good news” but reject Christ, in fulfillment of OT prophecy (Isa. 53:1 in Rom. 10:16).

The word euangelion was not invented by the gospel writers but was already in use in the Roman world, euangelion. It referred to an announcement of “glad tidings” regarding a birthday, rise to power, or decree of the emperor that was to herald the fulfillment of hopes for peace and well-being in all the world. Mark redefines this concept of “glad tidings” by introducing his gospel with the phrase, “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ,” implying that it is really the birth and subsequent actions of Jesus that will change the face of the world in a cosmic way that no earthly king could ever do. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, brings true and lasting well-being and peace to the world, in fulfillment of OT hope. (Found in: Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words)

Evangelism is a task that we should be very familiar with, but how do we perform this task in our context? That is often the tricky question. Over the next few months, we will consider evangelism as we go, evangelism in our worship services, evangelism in the life of our church, and preparation for evangelism. Until next time, this Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Blazing Your Own Path

5Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

As many of you know, our family visited Disney World for the first time this past Fall. We had countless experiences from this trip to treasure and upon which to reflect. One such experience involved our exiting from the “Magic Kingdom,” a theme park in Disney World. After spending a day of park-hopping, our family was ready to sit back and watch the festivities as fire in the sky would illumine the castle so iconic for the Disney franchise. Unfortunately, the sky began to pour rain about an hour before the show started, and for our family to get a good perspective, that meant we would have to stand in the rain. So we did. And we saw the spectacular show. But it was after the show that things became interesting.

Our family was only one of a multitude who had gathered to witness the experience. After the final rocket had been launched and the last note had been played, the “Magic Kingdom” was closed. Everybody sought to exit the park at the same time. This task of exiting would be additionally difficult for our family because we had a double stroller to push through a crowd of people that was already packed like a can of sardines. I could have stayed put and planted myself where I was for about half an hour while allowing everyone else to exit first, which would have given me plenty of room to push the stroller where I needed to go. But doing so would have meant that we would have been last in line at the bus stop, and with three exhausted children, one of which had already collapsed like a sack of potatoes, I knew I had to get them to bed. Therefore, I did the only thing a “father on a mission” could do, I rode the heels of another more experienced “Disney Dad.”

This other “father on a mission” was blazing a trail through the crowd, so I maneuvered into a spot immediately behind him, following his every twist, turn, step-up, or step-down. Our family was making tremendous headway, and I really did not want anyone to steal my sweet deal, so I had to stick as close to my trailblazer as I possibly could. I might have nipped his heels a few times on accident, but I think he forgave me. Our family made it through the crowd in a timely fashion, found ourselves with a good spot in line for the bus, and got the kiddos to bed after we arrived at the hotel. I sure am glad I had my trailblazer.

Of course, spiritually speaking, the ultimate trailblazer is our Father in Heaven. He wants us to too follow His principles and precepts as given in His Word with every step we take, sticking so close to Him that we metaphorically nip his heels a few times. He will take us through the correct twists and turns, tell us when to step-up or step-down, and make sure we reach the correct destination. Having the Lord to direct our paths can sometimes be difficult. We have a tendency to want to plan and direct our own paths. We often feel as though we know the best path that should be taken which would lead us to the most significance, even though it may not gel with His Word. However, when we do so, we are forgetting this very important principle, “God’s envisioned journey for our lives may not be detailed in the same manner as what we have envisioned for ourselves.” And that is O.K. because God is much wiser than we could ever comprehend.

Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”