Article XI of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: Evangelism and missions

Following is another in a series of columns on The Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

“Those who have received the gospel are to share it. This obligation God placed upon redeemed men, not upon angels. If men do not tell the story, it will not be told.”

– Herschel Hobbs

Article XI of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.”

Evangelism and missions are the duties and privileges of every Christian in obedience to the command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). They are grounded in the authority of Jesus, and they find their source in the heart of God, who loves all people and desires them to repent and believe the good news (John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9). 

Simply stated, evangelism is sharing the gospel with the goal of leading others to repentance and faith in Jesus. The word evangelism comes from the Greek noun euaggelion (a good message) and the verb euaggelizo (to announce, declare, or preach this good news).

Notice that the Greek word for angel – aggelos – is tucked inside. An angel in Scripture is a messenger, sometimes heaven-sent and sometimes human. As Jessica Brodie writes, “Those who practice evangelism are indeed delivering a message: One of extraordinarily good news, life-giving and transformative, with eternal ramifications.” 

In Matthew 28:1-7, the Lord sends an angel to roll away the stone from Jesus’ tomb – not so Jesus may get out, but so the first eyewitnesses of his resurrection may see the empty grave. The angel tells the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there .…’” (vv. 5-7).

These are the last recorded words of the angel on that day. He has fulfilled his mission. From that time forward, redeemed people bear the responsibility to proclaim the good news.

As Herschel Hobbs notes, “Those who have received the gospel are to share it. This obligation God placed upon redeemed men, not upon angels. If men do not tell the story, it will not be told.” 

It should be remembered that the gospel is an exclusive message – and a nonnegotiable one – that deliverance from sin and its consequences is found only in Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6; cf. Acts 4:12). We should share this good news graciously, never resorting to coercion, violence, or any other means that denies Christ’s free offer of salvation and the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction (John 16:7-11).

Reaching the nations

Missions may be defined as the church’s responsibility to bring God’s love and the Christian gospel to all people through evangelism, education, and ministry. 

As Charles Kelley, Richard Land, and Albert Mohler point out, “Evangelism and missions go hand in hand, but missions has historically been understood as a means of reaching nations and people groups rather than individuals alone.” 

After his resurrection, Jesus gives many missionary commands to his followers (e.g., John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8). In the Great Commission, he specifically tells them to “make disciples of all nations,” a command that necessarily involves global missions (Matt. 28:18-20). The apostles obey, taking the good news out from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Christ’s command is not just to the apostles and other eyewitnesses of his resurrection. By extension, it is a command to all believers and to his church. 

Hobbs writes that church history is instructive regarding the power of the gospel. The church in Jerusalem resisted the call to evangelize the nations, while the church at Antioch embraced it (Acts 13:1-3). Hobbs further notes that the times of greatest spiritual death throughout the church age are times when evangelism and missions are  at their lowest ebb. In contrast, the times of greatest spiritual power have come “when the tides of evangelism and missions have been at their highest level.”

Evangelism and missions are not the responsibility of religious professionals alone. They are the privilege of every Christian, and they carry a great promise. As we spread the good news, we may rest assured the Lord is fulfilling his promise to Abraham to bless all people through the Messiah. 

The apostle John, in his vision of heaven from the island of Patmos, records: 

“After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10).

Next: Article XII of the BF&M: Education

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