What does “evangelize” mean? It is easy to answer, “To preach the gospel to”! However, the word Gospel has almost lost its Biblical meaning in these days of countless religions and philosophies. In the synagogue of Nazareth, the Lord Jesus, quoting Isaiah 61:1, showed the true meaning of “evangelize”: to preach the good news of God for the world.
In reality the word “evangelize” is of purely biblical origin. God had something to declare which men could never discover without a special revelation. To evangelize is to proclaim the good news and joyful message of eternal salvation by the power of God, which He offers freely to every sinner who believes (Romans 1:16; 3:21-24; 6:23). To evangelize is to show to men the entrance to a new spiritual and moral state which God made possible by means of His sacrificial work on Calvary (Romans 5:18; 6:11; 8:16).
Let us take note of the distinction, in the Gospel, between the cross of atonement and the tragedy of the crucifixion. This, the tragedy, showed man in his worst aspect. It was the crime of the centuries which revealed the devilish origin of all human sin (Acts 2:23). At the same time, the cross of atonement was the most sublime act of the eternal and perfect God (John 3:16; Romans 5:8); it was the divine sacrifice which cost as much to the Father as to the Son (2 Corinthians 5:19 ... God was in Christ); it was entirely voluntary; it fully resolved the problem of human sin (Isaiah 56:6; 1 Peter 2:24); it served to undo the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), freeing the believer from his power. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is to accept to oneself, through an act of will and from the heart, the new life which God proposes; the cross will form the motive of this life (Galatians 2:20).
It is important that our preaching presents to the hearer not only his standing in Christ, when believing in Him, but also his relation with Christ in the practical conduct of life, a relation which ought to determine his procedure in all aspects of his daily life, in everything, after all, which he plans and does. All this must be preached as involved in the redemption of Christ (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 2:10).
Each step of this divine life in the believer must follow the principle of loyalty to the light received (John 8:12). Because they fail to understand this, many who entered the church, truly believers in Christ, make little progress in their knowledge of the will of God. A readiness to act, step by step, in obedience to this light, that is all that the Lord requires, and not the understanding of the whole Bible in one day! It doesn’t befit the evangelist, therefore, to require from the hearers the acceptance of a complete system of theology and ecclesiastical order, for there will be time later on for instruction on such things. The essential work of the evangelist is to guide the soul of the sinner to a living contact with Christ, so that he may obtain a personal and intimate knowledge of God (John 14:7-10). It is only this way that the Christian experience may be started and continued (Mark 4:26–28; Philippians 3:13–14).
A common illusion among Evangelical workers is that they ought to convert the people en masse, following the example of famous preachers who promote great evangelistic campaigns. They deplore the fact that only one, two or three people were converted after much preaching, prayers, visits and other evangelistic efforts; then they fall into despondency and want to give up the work just because there were “few” converted.
But one of the remarkable characteristics of the Gospel, is that just one person converted can gain many others through the wonder of a new life. For example, a 17 years old young man entered “by chance” in a small church in London for shelter from a snowstorm; there were few people in the meeting and the preacher was “replacing” the absent pastor. The young man was converted by the simple message he heard, but the preacher and the small congregation didn’t know, and certainly couldn’t know that that unknown young man would become the greatest preacher of the 19th century – the great Charles H. Spurgeon. And so the conversion of one can be the conversion of a thousand; “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (James 3:5).
Let us finally remember that not all men will believe in the Gospel to be saved. Even under the ministry of Christ Himself, not all were converted. Many, seeing the miracles and attracted by His teaching, believed in Him, but when His saying became hard those disciples went back and walked with Him no more (John 6.66). The same Gospel which for some is aroma of life leading to life, to others is aroma of death leading to death (2 Corinthians 2:16). The faithful preaching of the Gospel will result in the salvation of some and in the hardening of others; even the resurrection of Lazarus had this double result (John 11:45-46). The evangelist, admitting this, will do his work and will leave the result with God. He who wins souls is wise (Proverb 11:30).
(Boletim Informativo – IDE – 1976 - Ano 7 - nº7 )