- The growth and edification of the church
Why do we want to proclaim the gospel? What is the purpose thereof?
- To make Christ known. Yes!
- Because we are commanded to do so by God. Definitely!
- So that people can be born again by the seed of the word. Absolutely!
- So that unbelievers may hear and receive faith and be justified and adopted into God’s family. We answer in the affirmative, amen!
But there is more to evangelism than this! We evangelize the lost, and we evangelize the saved! The saved you say? Why the saved? Isn’t the gospel only for those who don’t know God? Not at all! The gospel is for the saved and the lost! For those who know Christ and for those who don’t know Christ. Why do I say this?
Listen to the apostle Paul speaking to the church in Corinth:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ESV)
Paul is saying to the church that they have received something. That is the gospel. He goes further. He says that the gospel that they have received is something that they stand in, present tense. It is something which makes them strong. It is their foundation. It makes them sturdy and firm. But he goes further: he says, “…and by which you are being saved”. This is remarkable! The gospel is not only there for one’s justification. It is not only there for one’s forgiveness. We are saved and we are being saved by the gospel and we will be saved by the gospel. By the gospel we are justified and strengthened and sanctified! We need the gospel all the time: every day. Why do we need it as believers? Every time you sin, you need the gospel! Because it is only through the grace of God and by the blood being applied to your heart, the blood of Jesus, that you have any hope of being cleansed and forgiven of your sins. The cross is the basis, the cross of Christ, the atonement of Christ, and the righteousness of Christ, is the only basis of assurance that our sins will be forgiven.
Many times, we think we outgrow the gospel; that the gospel is for elementary level Christianity. We assume we are in secondary school Christianity, or at College or Masters level! We suppose we have graduated from the gospel; now it is the healing ministry that we seek after; now it is about us becoming a success. Now it is about becoming important and a great person in the kingdom – someone of status! If this is the way you think, you have completely “lost the plot” concerning Christianity! The gospel and evangelism are never about you! It never was, nor will be. The gospel is not about our achieving our potential: it is rather about one beggar showing other beggars where to find food; about one sin-sick- soul showing another where to find medicine and healing. It is about searching for righteousness and finding it in Christ. The gospel is about finding the treasure that is worth more than all the gold and diamonds in the world and being ecstatic with joy about it – and then telling people about it. We are not the treasure, Christ is. We have not accomplished salvation, Christ has. He is dispensing salvation, not us. You and I are not raising the dead, Christ is!
The purpose of evangelism is the growth of the church and the strengthening thereof. This happens when we turn again to the glory of the gospel and adore Christ for forgiving our sins, by grace and through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9)! Remember, we did not have the strength to believe: we still don’t. We don’t have the intelligence or wisdom or wit to save or improve ourselves. The gospel is in any case not about improving oneself; it is about resting in God’s resources and Spirit to do what you cannot do. We are sanctified by the gospel, we grow thereby. We grow by grace and we get strong by grace! The power is not in us, but in God (2 Corinthians 12:9-11).
Take the medicine every day. Receive the grace. Feed on Christ. Drink from the Fountain of Salvation. Eat the Bread of Life. It is your sustenance, your life and hope. Christ has become to us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30, 31). Let us boast then in him and not in our own resources or abilities!
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:5-7 ESV)
We evangelize and make God known to help people get power and strength from God, so that they can become like Christ. The purpose of evangelism and the gospel is that Christ be magnified and exalted; it is that we come to the unity of the faith, to the knowledge of the Son of God; it is that we grow into the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ (See Ephesians 4:13).
The purpose of making God known is to be conformed to the image of Christ and no one else. We do not want to be conformed to political figures, nor to any kind of artistic, sport, or scientific genius. We evangelize to become holy and kind like Christ; righteous and generous like Christ and loving and humble like Him. We evangelize so that others can become like Christ: he is the means and the goal of evangelism. We grow together as the church. We want to evangelize so that we all come to the unity of the faith. We teach the gospel and proclaim it so that people can know the power of the resurrection of Christ! (Phil 3:10,11).
May God help us to have no lesser goal and no higher ideal than Christ. He is our strength, our song, and He has become our salvation (Psalm 118). Let us praise and boast in Him!