The substitutionary work of Christ on the cross is marginalized whenever and wherever a fully orbed doctrine of propitiation is marginalized.
J.I. Pack & Gary A. Parrett, Grounded in the Gospel, p. 105
When someone says 'evangelist', it seems that many Christians automatically think of a Billy Graham-esque figure: someone who draws huge crowds and preaches the Gospel to thousands of people at a time. But is this a Biblical picture of the ministry of the evangelist or a cultural model? Although we may be able to learn from historical as well as living examples of evangelists to a certain extent, they cannot be a higher authority than the Biblical picture.
In fact, the Bible doesn't present us with vast swathes of information regarding this ministry. It's mentioned in Ephesians 4:11, and in Acts 21:8 Philip is identified as an evangelist. The third usage of the word evangelist is when Paul tells Timothy (an apostle) to 'do the work of an evangelist' in 2 Timothy 4:5. Perhaps it's because the word is only used these three times in Scripture that we can be so quick to turn to famous examples to learn about evangelists. Three verses doesn't seem like an awful lot, yet these three verses are exactly what God wanted us to know about the ministry of the evangelist. The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture tells us that the Bible means that the Bible tells us all that we need to know on the matter.
In actual fact, there is quite a lot that we can learn from these three verses. Acts 21:8 identifies Philip as an evangelist, which allows us to look at his ministry (recorded in Acts 8) to learn about the ministry of an evangelist. And there we learn something interesting. Yes, Philip speaks to the crowds in Samaria, but he also shares the gospel with individuals (i.e. the Ethiopian eunuch). The work of an evangelist is not simply to fill vast concert halls and sports stadia, but also to tell individuals the Good News. Philip was faithful to his calling to preach the Gospel in whatever situation God set him.
Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us another important detail about the ministry of the evangelist. Evangelists (along with the other Ascension Ministries) are given 'for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry' (Eph. 4:12). That means that an important part of the evangelist's role is directed toward the church. He is not just someone who speaks to non-Christians and tells them the gospel. He is also someone who equips the saints for evangelism. This is something hugely important. Many Christians feel guilty about evangelism. They know that it is something they should be doing, but yet they don't know how, and so they don't. They haven't been equipped for this important responsibility. But God has set in His Church evangelists who will equip the saints for evangelism.
Finally we have 2 Timothy 4:5. What can this verse contribute to our understanding. It's not even actually about an evangelist. Yet this verse can serve as a great encouragement to us. So often we lament the lack of evangelists in the church today. They often seem to be so few and far between. So how can Christians be equipped to make the gospel known if they're aren't evangelists available to equip them. Well, 2 Timothy 4:5 gives us an answer. Other ascension ministries can also be involved in this equipping work. Yes, it might be the primary responsibility of the evangelists, but the evangelists can be joined in that by the apostles (like Timothy) and pastors. So if there is no evangelist, that's no excuse. Pastors can help equip the saints under their care for evangelism and perhaps even through that God will raise up new evangelists.
We need biblical evangelists: evangelists who will proclaim the gospel faithfully in whatever openings God grants them and who equip other believers to take part in the great task of evangelism. Let's pray that God would raise up such evangelists. But let's not just wait around for the evangelists to come, rather, like Timothy, we should 'do the work of an evangelist'.
Believe me, Monseigneur, the Church of God will never be preserved without cathechesis.
John Calvin writing to the Lord Protector of England in 1548.
'God has appointed these in the church: first apostles...' (1 Corinthians 12:28). The Bible clearly states that God has set the apostles first in the church, but what exactly does that mean?
Some have argued that apostles had unquestionable and infallible authority (and so they also argue that there couldn't be any apostles today if we are to uphold the priciple of Sola Scriptura). However, this certainly doesn't follow from the text in question. 1 Corinthians 12:28 goes on to say 'second prophets, third teachers'. This is not a passage that sets up the apostleship in a highly exalted unique position over against the rest of the Church, but rather one that speaks of different positions and different ministries within the Church.
Others, such as D.A. Carson, have argued that this passage is referring to the chronological order in which various ministries and gifts appeared in the history of the Church. But this doesn't stack up either; the verse places 'varieties of tongues' in the last position, yet tongues were given at the founding of the Church on the day of Pentecost, whereas prophets and teachers (the 'second' and 'third') are not mentioned until much later in the book of Acts. So it cannot be a chronological list.
What then does it mean? F.F. Bruce speaks for many prominent commentators when he states that this verse marks out apostles, prophets and teachers 'as exercising, in Paul's estimation, the three most important ministries'. 'First apostles' speaks of the importance of the apostleship, whilst 'second prophets, third teachers' shows that the apostles are not alone in their importance and authority.
As a result, in the Apostolic Church we believe that the Apostle is 'the first office in church government' (Constitution, 18.104.22.168), yet they are not the only office in church government; after all, our Tenet states 'Church government by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders and deacons.'
As the first office in Church government, the apostleship play an important role. In the words of the catechism, the apostleship 'reveals the mind of God in connection with the government of the Church'. The Apostleship functions in a way that the pastorate doesn't, bringing insight that no one else can. And so the apostleship is necessary for the good governance of the Church. God has set 'first apostles' and so we need 'first apostles'.
Seeing as we've just put up a new website for the Leeds assembly and it's all a bit new-fangled, here's a link to yesterday's morning sermon. At the moment we're looking at our Apostolic Identity. So this month we've been focusing on what it means to be Evangelical. Next month it'll be being Pentecostal, and then in June being Apostolic. For this month on being Evangelical we've been looking at the 5 Solas of the Reformation, so yesterday was Sola Scriptura.
Sometimes it's very easy to skip the significance of a word. When the rest of the sentence is so full of important meaning, then it's almost easy to neglect the odd word here and there, thinking of it almost more like filler or simply a linking word. This evening as I was reading Calvin as an afterthought after most of my sermon preparation was done I realized that I was almost doing that with an important word in Sunday's text. It's not that I was neglecting the word; in fact the word in question is actually one of my 3 points. Rather it's that I was neglecting an important implication of the meaning of the word. Happily, a bit of last minute Calvin reading proved profitable.
The word in question is, in fact, profitable. The verse is 2 Timothy 3:16. It's an important verse, with lots of important implications, and so it wouldn't be hard not to notice that one little word like profitable was not getting its full voice.
What Calvin points out is that if all Scripture is profitable, then it should be used profitably. Scripture is not there to satisfy our curiosity. It is not a source for our speculations. It is not there to give us something to talk about or debate. Scripture is inspired by God to be profitable.
I suppose Calvin was reacting to the speculations of the scholastics (you know, how many angels can fit on the head of a pin and that sort of thing). Yet, even if the scholastics and their speculations are no longer with us, his point is still very valid. How many Bible studies have you not been to where someone has been more concerned about speculation than about the clear meaning of the text? How many Christians are more concerned with the 'secret things' that 'belong to the LORD' than with 'the things that are revealed' which 'belong to us and to our children' (Deuteronomy 29:29)? Sometimes speculation can seem more fun than actually putting what the Bible clearly teaches into practice, but it's certainly less important. All Scripture is profitable. And all Scripture should be used profitably.
We live in a world where it's easy not to take responsibility. It seems normal to us that if we don't do something, someone else will. And so that means that it comes very easily to us to neglect the responsibility of personal evangelism. Yes, we know that evangelism is important. Yes, we want to see people saved. Yes, we agree that the church should be doing evangelism. But, it's just there that we so often put off the responsibility onto someone else. "The church" we say, should be doing evangelism. Rather than thinking of evangelism as our responsibility as Christians, we think of it as "the church's" responsibility. And rather than thinking of the church as us, we think of "the church" as some vague entity that does things by itself.
But, the church cannot evangelize unless we evangelize! The Body of Christ evangelizes as the members of the Body evangelize. If it's an important responsibility for the church, then it should be an important responsibility for the members of the church. We can't leave evangelism to "the church"; we must evangelize as the church.
Well, our new website for the Apostolic Church in Leeds is ready, so take a look. The sermon archive isn't working yet, but we hope to get that up and running in the very near future.
1 Timothy 2:5-6 tells us that there is only 1 Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. A mediator is someone who intervenes between two parties to produce reconciliation, so Mediator is a wonderful word to describe Jesus as that's exactly what He has done - He has produced reconciliation between us and God. 1 Timothy 2:6 tells us how He did that; He 'gave Himself a ransom for all'. At the Cross, Jesus bore God's wrath in our place and so He has reconciled us to God. He is our only Mediator! Salvation is found in Christ alone.
The fact that Christ is our only Mediator, our only Saviour, leads us to respond to that marvellous truth. Three important responses spring to mind.
Firstly, such a wonderful truth should draw us to worship, praise and thanksgiving. He is the only one who could save us. He is the only one who has given His life to save us. How could we not want to praise and thank Him for the wonders of His saving work on our behalf. Worship should flow as we gaze on the truth of Christ our One Mediator.
Secondly, the fact that Jesus is the only mediator should encourage us to evangelism. As we think about how there is no one else who can save, we see the urgency of telling others about Jesus, for there is no other way for them to be saved. If they don't have a Mediator, then they have no one to take God's wrath for them and so must pay the price themselves. Unless those around us put their trust in Christ alone as Saviour, they're doomed. We need to tell them about Jesus, because Jesus is the only one who can save.
Finally, the truth that Christ is our one mediator should highlight for us the importance of praying for people to be saved. You see, it is Christ who is the only mediator, not us. We can preach the Gospel; we can tell people about Jesus; we can share the good news of His cross and resurrection; but we cannot save. Only He can. So we should accompany our evangelism with prayer, praying that the only one who can save would.
The fact that Christ is our only mediator is a doctrine of great importance. The fact that Christ is our only mediator should also be a doctrine that impacts how we live our lives.