26 November 2010

The Grace To Evangelize

It has been suggested that one verse which exhorts us Christians to evangelize is 2 Timothy 4:5, "As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."

In the previous post, I contended that most passages used to emphasize personal evangelism are misinterpreted or stretched at best and gave one example from Philemon. I believe this passage from 2 Timothy is also stretched at best. Here's why.

We just need a little context. The verse begins, "As for you." Who is Paul speaking to? Me? You? The verse ends, "fulfill your ministry." My ministry? What's that?

Paul is speaking to Timothy. He is telling Timothy to do the work of an evangelist, to fulfill his ministry. It would benefit us to study what this actually meant in the life of Timothy instead of jumping directly to applying it to ourselves as though Paul is speaking to us.

Let's look around 1 and 2 Timothy looking for clues as to what exactly Timothy's ministry is. I find:
1Ti 1:18  This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.
There are specific words and phrases to key in on here. "Charge" and "entrust" are pretty important words you'll find throughout 1 and 2 Timothy. Paul speaks of himself being entrusted with "the gospel of the glory of the blessed God," 1 Tim 1:11. So Paul is "charging" Timothy to stay true to the gospel as it was "entrusted" to him. The "charge" comes to a climax in the final chapter, 2 Tim 4, where he invokes God Himself in the charge:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
 Just verses later this charge continues with, "Do the work of an evangelist."

What about the prophecy mentioned in 1Ti 1:18? We'll find in addition:
1Ti 4:14  Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
2Ti 1:6  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
The reference to prophecy and laying on of hands is likely similar to what we would call ordination. To get to the point already, Timothy was specifically called and gifted by God to be a minister of the gospel. He was ordained to be a pastor. Therefore I believe the charge to do the work of an evangelist applies today to pastors. And obviously, not every Christian today is a pastor. Therefore this call to evangelism does not apply to common Christians. It does not apply to me. If there's anywhere it could possibly extend to me, it's here:
2 Tim 2:1-2  You then [Timothy], my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Through this passage we can understand the charge to extend to others, to "faithful men." It could be that this is simply referring to more pastors, that Timothy also needs to pass the baton just as Paul is now doing. Whatever the case, it is not just "everyone" but qualified as those who are "faithful" and "able to teach." Related to this we find, "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands," 1 Tim 5:22a. Maybe we should consider how well we steward the gospel of the glory of the blessed God. It isn't to be entrusted to just anyone.

Note also that this ministry entrusted to Timothy and pastors is a gift. The Greek for gift is charisma. The Greek for grace is charis. It is important to realize that whenever we speak or read of spiritual gifts that they are simply things of grace. Each Christian receives grace to use for building up the Church. We don't all do the same thing. We each receive a different measure of grace:
Eph 4:7  But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
To some is given that measure of grace to evangelize. It is different for everyone. Some are "fellow workers" like Philemon, while others are "fellow soldiers" like Archippus (Phm 1:1-2, Col 4:17). I feel as though we've made evangelism into the over-arching gift that everyone ought to exercise, whether it is their gift or not, and only after that do we each have differing gifts that we must also exercise. I am concerned for so many Christians who carry a burden of guilt because they don't evangelize as they are told they should, when in reality it just isn't in their measure of grace and isn't their fault. This is one reason why we need to focus on sanctification, so that each person's measure of grace can grow.

Any other verse?

2 comments:

Josh said...

This is a good response. I'll have to think about it more. What about the Matt. 22 passage I mentioned? How can we love our neighbor without sharing the gospel?

Jessica said...
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