This morning we deal with some of the reasons, or motives, for evangelism. We touched on part of this subject last week, but that was just in passing. And I suppose that it is a much wider subject than to what we’ll reach today. Nevertheless, we’re talking about Biblical evangelism.
How long has Christendom been a part of the American scene? Were there any missionaries on board the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria? What is the meaning of the Spanish words “Santa Maria”? Do you suppose that the Spanish priests might have used the word “evangelism” as they tried to “convert” the natives on North America? Generally speaking, what were the Spanish looking for in colonizing the Americas? Judging from history, what do you think was the reason that the Spanish government sent priests along with the conquistadors? Did those priests have any aversion against helping their soldiers to reap the Inca gold? Has wealth ever been a motivating factor in evangelism?
I’ll come back to some of the ungodly and unbiblical motives for evangelism, but let’s start with some of the Biblical reasons.
Can SELF-LOVE be considered a Biblical motive for evangelism?
Does God love Himself? Within the God-head could the Father’s love for the Son be considered self-love? How about the Son’s love for God the Father?
Is man’s love for himself a natural thing? By that I mean, do we have to teach a child to love himself? If we say that it is natural, does that mean that it is sinful? Could it be that our self-love comes from the fact that we were originally made in the image of God? Can self-love be a good thing? What are some ways in which we see a good variety of self-love? (Self-preservation.) Can things which are good in themselves become corrupt and sinful? What are some ways in which we can see an evil form of self-love?
Do you remember that we looked at this subject before? Is there any Biblical evidence that self-love is not necessarily sinful? According to Matthew 19:19 in what fashion are we supposed to love our neighbors? (“As ourselves.”) In Ephesians 5:28, husbands are exhorted to love their wives as what? Does the Lord love you? How do you know? If the Lord loves you, is it sinful to disagree with His choice and to hate yourself? But note that there is a difference between loving someone, even yourself and loving sin in that person. Doesn’t the Lord’s love distinguish between the person and his sin?
Could it be said that God commands evangelism for His own glory? Isn’t that a kind of self-love? But what would it mean if we became evangelistic out of love for ourselves? Would it be a sin for us to long for the salvation of our children, because of how that would make us feel? Would it be sinful for us to long for the salvation of our mid-night partying neighbor, because we want him to sober-up, shut-up and clean-up his filthy language? We have to be careful in the area of motivation, because wanting the salvation of our neighbor is actually a very good thing, isn’t it?
Matthew 23:15 says that the Pharisees would compass sea and land to make a single proselyte, but after he was converted they made him two-fold more the child of hell than themselves. Does it sound like their motivation was right, but that they just failed in getting the job done? As the Pharisees moved into the church, Paul condemned them because they sought for converts so that they could glory in their flesh. Doesn’t that sound like keeping a score card and counting up the number of their converts?
There can be a great many selfish reasons to try to win the lost to Christ. When I was in Bible I heard more than one pastor and teacher, counseling us that if our pastoral leadership was threatened, all we needed to do was go out and win some people to the Lord, baptize them and get them into church, because they would then be on our side in any church vote. They failed to add that they’d be on our side, only until they learned that we were using them like pawns in a religious/political chess game. There have been pastors who went into foreign missions in order to escape the difficult task of pastoring people more highly educated and Biblically knowledgeable than they were. Others have done the same thing so that they could hide some of their sins from those back home. There have been young people who agreed to become foreign missionaries because of the great adventure that was involved. These are forms of evil self-love laying at the root of “evangelism” and “missions.”
But what about these words of Paul from II Corinthians 5? “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Was Paul mistaken in thinking that he would be judged for his ministry in the Name of the Lord? Was it some sort of sin, for him to serve the Lord with that up-coming judgment in mind? But didn’t it have some self-love aspects to it?
What about these words of Paul from I Corinthians 9? “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.” Don’t we know Paul well enough from the Book of Acts to say that he pleased the Lord as an Apostle. And yet, isn’t there a hint here of self – self-preservation – if not self-love and personal reward? If it brings us great joy to know that we’ve helped some sinner to come to the Saviour, is it sin for us to feel that joy or do try to lead a second person to Christ? What if it is the for the sake of joy? As it is with every emotion, this is something which needs to be given over to the control of the Lord.
Another Biblically based motive for evangelism is LOVE for our NEIGHBOR.
What did the Lord Jesus say is the greatest of all commandments? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all they soul, and with all they strength.” What is the second greatest commandment? Not only are we supposed to have as much concern for our neighbor as we do for ourselves, notice that it is brought almost up to the same level as love towards the Lord.
According to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, can someone be a neighbor who doesn’t live close to us? Can our neighbor be someone of a different religion? Can a neighbor be someone of a different culture or language? Did the Samaritans love the Jews any more or less than the Jews loved the Samaritans? Who was the first Person in the New Testament era to take the gospel to the Samaritans? Might we assume that the Lord had a love for the people of Samaria?
What was the attitude of the Jews towards Paul after his conversion? What was Paul’s attitude toward the lost people of his own nation? “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” But of course there are two different kinds, or degrees of love, for one’s neighbor. It is possible for a lost man to love another lost person with absolutely no interest in his salvation. In fact he may love him and still wish that he was more and more evil, just like himself. Luke 6:32 – “For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.” But generally speaking do lost people love their enemies? That of course is the command which we have been given. A few verses earlier in Luke 6 the Lord said, “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” Is there a difference between love for friends and love for enemies? What is higher and greater? The first comes out of common grace, but the second is a fruit of saving grace.
Does the man who is motivated by love for his friends, have a Biblical brand of evangelism? Was that the love of Christ? Was that the love seen in Stephen? Was that the love of Paul? Only the person born of the Spirit will have the highest kind of love.
There is another comment in II Corinthians 5 which might relate to this point. Notice verse 11: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” I will admit that the experts are divided on whether this is speaking about Paul’s judgment or Paul’s knowledge about the judgment of the lost. I will leave it up to you, but to me the word “terror,” especially “the terror of the Lord” shouldn’t be a part of the Christians vocabulary, except as it relates to others. We may have reason to be ashamed before the Lord when we are judged. We will be humbled, and tearful, and regretful. But terror should be something in the past, because we are recipients of the grace of God. And yet, as redeemed, we should still remember what the Lake of Fire should mean to the lost. There should be a vicarious horror which fills the heart of the Christian as he contemplates the eternal judgment of someone else. And it should be doubly intensified as we picture the judgment of our loved ones.
Godly love is a Biblical motive for evangelism.
And another variety of that is the LOVE of GOD.
The only kind of human love which can glorify God, must have its source where? (God’s love.) Do people find it easy to love things which aren’t worthy of love? Do Christians find it any easier than the lost man to love the unlovely? Is it proper to say that the ultimate motive for evangelism has to be God’s love? The love of God is the motive for Biblical evangelism producing and excelling all other worthy motives.
After the Lord’s resurrection, He met His disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. What had the disciples been doing all night? Were they successful? Who was the first to recognize the Lord Jesus? Who was the first to reach the Saviour? What would you say was the spiritual condition of Peter at that time? (He had denied Christ.) The Lord asked Peter three questions; what were they? (“Lovest thou me, Peter?) What was Peter’s response? How did the Lord reply to Peter’s answer? (Feed, feed, feed.) Is it a stretch to say that at the heart of effectively teaching the Word of God, and at the heart of evangelism, is the question of the teacher/evangelist’s love for Christ? The disciple’s love for Christ is a proper response to what? (Christ’s love for that disciple.)
Let’s go back to II Corinthians 5:14. There are several things that Paul says here which motivated his evangelism. Notice verse 14 – “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” What does the word “constrain” mean? Does the love of Christ refer to Paul’s love for the Lord, or the Lord’s love for Christ? The rest of this verse along with verse 15 make it clear – “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” Christians often think about what depths of love the Lord had to go to save them. Knowing ourselves better than any other person does, if we are honest we have to recognize to what extent the Lord went to save us and what must have motivated Him. And, of course, we begin to love Him as we begin to understand how and how much He loved us. But if we look just beyond ourselves, we should be able to see that there are thousands of others whom the Lord loved just as much as He did us. And that love of Christ ought to constrain us to share with those people the message of that love.
How much suffering will a mother endure for her child? Often that child has great love for its mother, but it’s the mother’s love that is the greater motivator. Has there ever been another child of the mother, who has gone the extra mile for his brother or sister, because of her love for the mother? That is what we have here, we are grown children, loved by our Heavenly Father, and loving Him in return, we should be willing to suffer in order to be a blessing to one of our erring siblings. Because we are loved, we should be willing to give of our wealth to reach others for whom Jesus died. Because the Lord has saved us, we should be willing to suffer persecution, as Paul did, for their salvation. Look at what Stephen endured – not exactly for the sake of Saul, but because of God’s love for them both.
There is one other thing contained in our scripture which deals with our Christian motivation. There is the commission and commandment which our Lord has laid upon us. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” Assuming that we love our Saviour, don’t we want to carry out all the things that He asks of us? If in His love He has given us responsibilities, shouldn’t our love reply as Peter’s did there on the shore of the Sea of Galilee?