A World Waiting To Be Won Duncan Heaster email the author


Introduction ( by Alan Eyre)

1. We're All Preachers: Motivations For Preaching || 1.1  Joyful Urgency || 1.2 Making Disciples

2. Doctrine Based Preaching || 2.1 The Bible is God's inspired, infallible word

1.2 Making Disciples

If we are real witnesses, testifiers to the reality of the Lord's death and resurrection, we must therefore, by the very nature of our experience, be witnesses of these things to the world. The resurrection is the witness that God has given of His Son. Whoever believes that witness, will have within themselves the witness- they will be witnesses to God's witness (1 Jn. 5:10 Gk.). The Lord twice told the disciples: " Go ye...go ye" (Mk. 16:15 cp. Mt. 28:19 and contexts). He was encouraging them to do the natural corollary of what they had experienced.

Indeed, following Christ, which is to carry His cross, is paralleled by Him with preaching His Kingdom (Lk. 9:59,60). To live out the essence of the cross, in daily self-control, unconditional kindness and forgiveness, patience with those who provoke us….this is the real witness (Lk. 9:23-26). If we don’t preach, we aren’t following Him. And if we do follow Him, it’s axiomatic that we therefore preach Him. “From henceforth thou shalt catch men. And...they forsook all, and followed him” (Lk. 5:10,11) definitely parallels preaching with  following the Lord. Following after Him is the way to be fishers of men (Mk. 1:17), and yet following Jesus is so often understood by Him as a call to carrying the cross. A focus on Him and the life of His cross leads to a catching of men for Him in a quite natural way. The aim of our preaching is to “make disciples”, learners / followers of Him whose life was characterized by cross carrying (1). This is why Rom. 15:16 speaks of the preacher as offering up his converts upon the altar [note how Acts 11:7 uses the same image of ‘offering up’ sacrifices to describe preaching]. And this connects with how Paul had earlier spoken in Rom. 12:1 of offering ourselves as living sacrifices in dedication. The aim of the preacher, therefore, is to provoke a sacrificial life in his or her converts, after the pattern of the Master whom they learn of.

Of course, our success in this depends to a large extent upon the nature of the lives we live. Several times in the Psalms, David’s poetry matches ‘myself’ with “all men”; he wants all men to share in his experience of Yahweh. Thus: “My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy name” (Ps. 145:21). As Yahweh provided a pillar of fire to give light in the night to His people in the wilderness (Ps. 105:39), so Israel were to arrange for a fire to be burning throughout the night in the tabernacle. They were to give light in response to God’s giving light to them. As with any form of parenting, it’s a sobering thought that our image, our view of the Lord Jesus, will be replicated to some extent in those whom we convert. This is why it’s so wrong to mix in any way our personal image with that of the Lord in our preaching. And yet let’s give full weight to how Paul’s convert Timothy was so in step with Paul that he could by visiting Corinth draw their attention to how Paul’s ways were “in Christ”. The Lord foretold that thanks to the preaching of His people, the world would come to believe that God had sent Him- yet He had just commented that the disciples had believed that God had sent Him (Jn. 17:8,23 RV). It is our beliefs about Jesus which we are to pass on to others.

- " I believed, and therefore  have I spoken" (Ps. 116:10) is quoted in 2 Cor. 4:13 concerning the attitude of the preacher; because we have believed, therefore we preach, after Paul’s pattern. He apprehended men for Christ, “seeing that I also was apprehended” (Phil. 3:21 RVmg.). It's a natural relationship. We naturally have a debt to preach to all men, as we have a debt to love all our brethren- because of what has been done for us (Rom. 1:14). God has put in each of us the preaching of the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19 AVmg.). Prov. 21:28 (Heb.) likewise implies that the man who has heard truth will constantly speak about it. Those who heard God's call to repentance were to naturally teach repentance to others (Jer. 9:20 cp. 19). We have shown elsewhere that if we have really received forgiveness, and have thereby grasped hold of salvation here and now, the wonder of our own experience will inevitably lead us to tell others, as it did David and Peter (2) .

- The enigmatic Jn. 7:38 must be read in this context: " He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly (" innermost being" , NIV) shall flow rivers of living (Gk. spring) water" . What " scripture" did the Lord have in mind? Surely Ez. 47:1,9, the prophecy of how in the Millennium, rivers of spring water will come out from Zion and bring life to the world; and perhaps too the references to spring water being used to cleanse men from leprosy and death (Lev. 14:5; 15:13; Num. 19:16). Out of the innermost being of the true believer, the spring(ing) water of the Gospel will  naturally spring up and go out to heal men, both now and more fully in the Kingdom, aided then by the Spirit gifts. The believer, every  believer, whoever  believes, will preach the word to others from his innermost being, both now and in the Kingdom - without the need for preaching committees or special efforts (not that in themselves I'm decrying them). The tendency is to delegate our responsibilities to these committees. There is no essential difference between faith and works. If we believe, we will do the works of witness, quite spontaneously. And note how the water that sprung out of the Lord’s smitten side is to be compared with the bride that came out of the smitten side of Adam. We, the bride, are the water; thanks to the inspiration of the cross, we go forth in witness, the water of life to this hard land in which we walk.

- Every one who is taught the Gospel will naturally bring forth out of his treasure (his innermost heart- Lk. 6:45) things new and old- his new knowledge, plus his old things of the old covenant (Mt. 13:52 cp. Song 7:13).

- That we can’t be secret believers is brought out by 2 Jn. 7 [Gk.]. Anyone who does not confess publicly that Jesus came in the flesh is described by John as a deceiver and even anti-Christ. The French [Segond version] is clearest: “ne declarent pas publiquement”. Whilst the passage is open to a number of interpretations, in our context the point perhaps is that to secretly believe in Christ isn’t possible- it must in some way be declared publicly or else we are “deceivers”.

- Hebrew poetry rhymes according to the ideas presented rather than the assonance of the words. However, this doesn’t mean that in a couplet, the first part is directly equal to the second part. Subtle differences are set up in order to make a point. Am. 3:8 is an example of this. The lion has roared: who shall not fear? God has spoken: who can but speak forth [AV ‘prophesy’, but not only in the sense of predicting future events]? If a lion roars, so a man naturally fears as a result of it. God speaks, and just as naturally we can do nothing but speak it forth. Hence Am. 3:9 goes on to exhort the hearers to publish God’s purpose to the Gentile nations around them. The lion roars, and man fears; and we are set up to expect: God speaks, and man should fear. But there is an intended dashing of this expectation. God has spoken, just as the lion may roar; but we are not to fear but rather to speak it forth to others. We come down, therefore, to something very basic, something in the foundation of our faith: that the Bible is the inspired word of God. But if we believe that, if we hear that voice of Yahweh, we will inevitably, axiomatically, speak it forth to others.

- The Lord deftly broke the bread and gave it to the disciples, in evident anticipation of the breaking of bread and His death for the life of the world. They then presumably broke the bread again (for they collected remnants of the broken food) and in their turn gave it to the crowd. Our receipt from the Lord, our experience of His cross, must be reflected quite naturally in our sharing it with the world. Our witness to the world is therefore not just putting bits of paper in letterboxes or handing them out on the streets; it is a very real and personal telling out of our own very personal share in the Lord’s death (Mt. 15:36,37). The Lord gave the broken bread to the disciples, eloquently speaking of the gift of His life. They in their turn “did set before the people” (Mk. 8:6). We must pass on that which was given to us by the Lord. Paul is our example in this (1 Cor. 11:23). We must, of course, have a valid relationship with the Lord in the first place, feeling we have definitely received something from Him, if we are to pass it on. The Greek term for “set before” recurs in 1 Tim. 1:18 and 2 Tim. 2:2 concerning how we simply  must pass on the word which has been given to us. Quite simply, if we’ve really heard it, really received it, we must pass it on.

- What we hear in the ear, that we must preach on the housetops (Mt. 10:27). This is built on the language of 1 Sam. 9:15,25, where God speaks in Samuel’s ear, and then he speaks that word to Saul on the housetop. The Lord is saying that in essence, we are all in Samuel’s position; we hear the word of this world’s salvation, the word about “the Kingdom” as it was for Saul, and that very fact is in itself the imperative to overcome our natural reservations and share it with those for whom it is intended- even if, as with Saul, we consider them unlikely and unspiritual hearers.

- Our way of life will make an inevitable witness to the world. Simply not moaning and groaning in the daily round will be a holding out of the word of life to those with whom we trudge through this life (Phil. 2:14 cp. 16).

- Paul seems to have assumed that all of us would preach and make converts (not leave it to just some of our community): he speaks of how " every man" in the ecclesia builds upon the foundation of Christ, but how he builds will be judged by fire. If what he has built is burnt up at the judgment, he himself will be saved, but not what he has built (1 Cor. 3:10-15). I would suggest that the 'building' refers to our converts and work with other believers. If they fail of the Kingdom, we ourselves will be saved, but our work will have been in vain. This parable also suggests that the salvation of others, their passing through the fire at the judgment, is dependent upon how we build. This may be hyperbole to make a point, but it is a powerful encouragement that we are all elders and preachers, and we all have a deep effect on others' spirituality. We have responsibilities to those who respond to our preaching. The preaching of the Kingdom of God is not only in words but by the power of example (1 Cor. 4:20). He makes the same assumption in 1 Tim. 6:1, in warning believing slaves to act faithfully before their unbelieving masters, lest the doctrines of God be blasphemed by them. Paul takes it as read that the slave would have taught the doctrines of the faith to his master, and therefore any misbehaviour by him would cause those teachings to be mocked. And again in Tit. 2:5, he writes that wives should behave orderly so that “the word of God be not blasphemed”. He assumes that all believing men and women would be preachers of the word, yet if the wives were disorderly in their behaviour they would bring mockery upon the message preached.

- Paul 'assuredly gathered' that " the Lord had called us for to preach the Gospel unto them" (Acts 16:10). The Lord calling is usually used concerning His calling of men to understand and obey the Gospel. Perhaps Paul is saying that the reason why we are called is to preach, and in this context he realised that the people he was to preach to, were the Macedonians. He later reminisced: " As we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak (i.e. preach)" (1 Thess. 2:4). Likewise Heb. 11:13 teaches that all the faithful went through the same process: persuaded - embraced - confessed to the world around them. Confessing was part of the natural response to belief of the promises. Hearing God's word in faith is associated with declaring it (Jer. 9:12). “Your participation in the [preaching of the] gospel” is paralleled with “your faith” (Phil. 1:5). If we really believe, we will be involved in the preaching of what we believe.

- “Ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (Jn. 15:27) was exemplified in Acts 4:13, where it was apparent from the nature of the disciples’ preaching that they “had been with Jesus”. To be with the Lord, to have experience of Him, meant that one would witness to Him; such is the true experience of Him that it is axiomatic that it issues in witness. All who have truly known the Lord will witness to Him. And if we don’t...do we know Him, have we “been with” Him...?

- Rom. 10;9,10 stresses that belief and confession are necessary for salvation. This may be one of the many links between Romans and John’s gospel, in that Jn. 12:42 speaks of those who believed but wouldn’t confess. Confession, a public showing forth of our belief, is vital if we are to be saved. It’s perhaps worth noting that baptisms tend often to be attended largely by believerss, and be performed indoors, e.g. in a bath at someone’s home, or a church hall. It’s quite possible to learn the Gospel, be baptized- and nobody out in this world ever know. It’s down to us to ensure this isn’t true in our case.

- The righteous man is like " a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth (in this work of preaching?) shall prosper" (Ps. 1:3). These words are quoted in Rev. 22:2 concerning our holding out of life to the mortal population at the Lord's return. The conclusion? If we witness now we are living the Kingdom life now, and therefore we will be perpetuated in that time. The fact we teach others to do righteousness will therefore be a factor in our acceptance (Mt. 5:19); although not the only one. There is a connection between us 'freely giving' the Gospel now (Mt. 10:8), and being given 'freely given' salvation at the last day (Rom. 8:32; Rev. 21:6). The freeness of God’s gift to us should be reflected in a free spirited giving out of the Gospel to others.

- Israel were constituted a Kingdom of priests; a whole nation who would preach forth God's ways to those about them. And this designation and commission is applied now to the new Israel (1 Pet. 2:5,9 cp. Ex. 20:5). Males who could not procreate were barred from the congregation (Dt. 23:1), possibly in prototype of how spiritual procreation was to be a vital characteristic of the future Israel. Israel were seen by the Lord as the tree by the roadside (Mt. 21:19), whose fruit should have been for all that passed by (Dt. 23:24). But because there was not even the glimmer of this kind of giving of fruit, they were condemned by the Lord.

- Consider the following passages in the Spirit's biography of Paul: " Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred within him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry" and therefore he preached to them (Acts 17:16). In Corinth, " Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ" (Acts 18:5). " Now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem" (Acts 20:22) is difficult to divorce from the previous passages. It may be that the Holy Spirit confirmed the desire of Paul's own spirit; but I am tempted to read this as yet one more example of where he felt overwhelmingly compelled to witness. " Paul purposed in the spirit...to go to Jerusalem, saying, after I have been there, I must also see Rome" (Acts 19:21). It was as if his own conscience, developed within him by the word and his experience of the Lord Jesus, compelled him to take the Gospel right to the ends of his world. His ambition for Spain, at a time when most men scarcely travelled 100km. from their birthplace, is just superb (Rom. 15:24,28). Indeed, " Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16). It may be that in these words Paul is alluding to how the High Priest had to have bells so that " his sound may be heard...that he die not" (Ex. 28:35; this idea of the sound being heard is picked up in Ps. 19 concerning the spread of the Gospel). Whatever the predestined and foreknown purpose of God with Paul as a preacher may have been, the fact still stands that the record emphasises the quite natural spirit of compulsion to preach which arose within him. Paul himself seems to have foreseen the tendency to leave the work of preaching to a few 'specialists' within the ecclesia. He tells every and any believer who is invited out to lunch with a non-believer to eat what is set before them; and yet in this piece of advice Paul is quoting the Lord's command to His seventy preachers (1 Cor. 10:27 cp. Lk. 10:8). Surely Paul's point was: 'You're all preachers, just like those seventy specially commissioned preachers, and in your everyday contact with the world, you too have a special commission to preach as they did'.

- We are the salt of the earth (Mt. 5:13). Salt inevitably affects, by reason of what it is, whatever is next to it. We are lights in a dark world. Lights give light. If the salt doesn't have the influence of salt, it is thrown away. Our poor recent record of preaching by personal contact is very worrying when seen in this light. We have hidden behind leaflets and press adverts and giving money. But if we aren't the salt, if we don't show our light in our little world; are we in fact the salt or the light of the earth? This unconscious spirituality, this natural witnessing, is the essential reflection of our experience of the Lord Jesus. He didn't say 'Do good works so that men may see the light'. He said " let your light shine" - and then men will see your good works and glorify the Father. “We preach…Christ Jesus as Lord…seeing it is God…who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:5,6 RV). Because the light was shone to us, we reflect it to others.

- Paul puts the same principle another way when he says that we're all mirrors (2 Cor. 3:18 RV). A mirror by its very nature, because of what it is, reflects the light which falls upon it to others. If we have really seen the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will inevitably reflect it to others. Many of the Lord’s parables portray the [preaching of] the Gospel of the Kingdom of God as a kind of secret force: treasure hidden in a field, the tiniest seed in the garden, wheat growing among weeds, a pinch of yeast worked into dough, salt on meat...these are all images of something which works from within, changing other people in an ongoing, regular manner.

- The word of God comes down like the rain and brings forth fruit in we who respond, so that there may be more seed produced for the next harvest, as a result of the fruit brought forth in us (Is. 55:10 RV). If we are properly responding to the word, we will be playing our part in bringing forth the next generation of harvest. Joseph - Jesus bought / redeemed the people so that they might go forth and sow the seed (cp. the Gospel; Gen. 47:23 cp. 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:19). Likewise Jesus ‘found’ Philip, and he in his witnessing ‘found’ Nathanael (Jn. 1:43,45). Our finding of men for the Lord reflects His finding of us.

- The Lord Jesus through the cross can “present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable”. Yet by our preaching we “may present every man perfect in Christ” (Col. 1:22,28). The connection is clear: because we are being presented perfect in Christ through belief and baptism, we preach the opportunity of this experience to others. Likewise the Law often stressed that on account of Israel’s experience of being redeemed from Egypt, they were to witness a similar grace to their neighbours and to their brethren.

- Whoever drinks of the water of life will have within them a spring that also gives eternal life (Jn. 4:15). The purpose of a spring is to give water to men. Experiencing the Lord's words and salvation inevitably leads to us doing likewise to others, springing from somewhere deep within. This was in fact one of the first things God promised Abraham when He first instituted the new covenant: " I will bless thee (i.e. with forgiveness and salvation in the Kingdom)...and thou shalt be a blessing" , in that we his seed in Christ would bring this same blessing to men of all nations by our witness (Gen. 12:2,3). When the Lord offered salvation to the woman at the well, He spoke of how it would be a spring of life going out from her. She wanted it, but apparently just for herself. Therefore when she asked to be given such a spring, the Lord replied by asking her to bring her husband to hear His words (Jn. 4:15,16). Surely He was saying: 'If you want this great salvation for yourself, you've got to be willing to share it with others, no matter how embarrassing this may be for you'. In a similar figure, the Bible begins with the tree of the lives [Heb.], and concludes with men eating of the tree and there appearing a forest of trees-of-life. Our experience of salvation will be the basis of our witness to men in the Millennium, just as it should be now. On the basis of our experience of reconciliation with God, we have been given “the ministry of reconciliation”, in that God “hath put in us [Gk. settled deep within us] the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18,19) . That which is deeply internal issues in an outward witness. For this reason all discussion of how that outward witness should be made is somewhat irrelevant- the witness naturally springs from deep within. If it doesn’t, we have to ask whether we have anything much deep within.

- Paul seems to have taught as part of the Gospel that the Lord expects those who come to Him to share that good news with others. Preaching the message isn’t an option- it’s part of the package of conversion which we accept. It has been argued that the very style and content of the four Gospels is in order to encourage the hearers / readers of the Gospel to be themselves evangelistic. Hence the records all conclude, in one way or another, with the great commission to go and spread the message. The Gospels are persuasively written, aiming for conversion, and concluding with an appeal for baptism- they are transcripts of the early preaching of the Gospel.

- The Lord realised that the necessity of personal witness would be unwelcome by His followers. But He saw it is part of the inevitable cross which we must each take up: " Whosoever (these words aren't just meant for those who specialise in preaching) will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross...whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's (i.e. the sake of preaching the Gospel), the same shall save it...whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words...of him shall the Son of man be ashamed" (Mk. 8:34-38). Witnessing is essential. But it involves a denial of self and a decided will; as that moment of actually taking up the cross required a conscious willing decision by the Lord. If only we could see the tragedy of all these people going, suicidally, to an eternal grave...when we have the way of escape to show them. Merely being embarrassed by their possible reaction to us is no real excuse for not having a heart that bleeds for their need. In encouraging His preachers to courageous witness, the Lord reminded them that there is nothing hid that will not be revealed at the judgment (Mt. 10:26). Then, it will be openly apparent to all. And so in who we are there must be the unhideable, inextinguishable flame of testimony. The Lord didn’t shout out in the streets who He was. He wished His followers to following Him in showing the message to the world just as He did- in who He was (Mt. 12:18).

The basic thesis outlined above is not only Biblical. It's demonstrated by a statistical analysis of the growth of Christianity in recent years. It is clear from this too that generally, the method of preaching God prefers to use is personal preaching  by the believer; not leaflets, press adverts, Bible exhibitions etc. The only times when it seems He does widely work through these methods are when His Gospel is being pioneered in a new country. In this case, of course, there are no believers to preach the Gospel by personal contact. In country after country throughout Africa, Eastern Europe and indeed the whole world, we have had the same experience: the Gospel was introduced by leaflets or press adverts. There was a good response, and believers were baptized. Once there were a reasonable number of converts, the response to the leaflets and press adverts strangely dropped off, often for no evident reason. We kept on  advertising etc., but with far less response. This has happened so consistently that it seems we are seeing God's principles in operation. Clearly He prefers to work through personal witnessing rather than the more indirect methods of leaflets etc.; not that I am in any way decrying these things in themselves. In many Western churches, over 90% of converts have been from personal contact or the children of believers- rather than from witness to those totally in darkness. It could be asked whether the power of this statistic has really registered with us. Surely God is telling us something: He doesn't expect us to hide behind the excuse that we are preaching because we left a leaflet on a bus. He wants us to not only do that sort of thing, but more importantly to deeply believe His Gospel, and thereby to naturally, effortlessly tell it forth to others.

Preaching has to be personal. For God is all about the salvation of persons; and He hungers for intimacy with her persons whom He has created. We each make an individual witness, and that witness is intended by God to be uniquely suitable for certain people within our sphere of contact. Jeremiah is an example of how our witness to others should be framed in the language of our own experiences, thus giving it credibility. He had just been in the dungeon, where he had sunk down in the mud (Jer. 38:6). But he soon afterwards appeals to Zedekiah to have the courage to do what God wants and not what his princes think is humanly smarter. Metaphorically, Jeremiah says, it was Zedekiah whose “feet are sunk in the mire” (Jer. 38:22). ‘Spiritually, you’re like I was physically’, was what Jeremiah was saying. And because he personalized his message in this way, it became all the more credible. Thus a blind brother can speak about our spiritual blindness with an obvious appropriacy and credibility which the sighted lack. This is why all witness simply has to be personal- impersonal handing out of tracts or hiding behind web sites on the internet isn’t the essentially personal witness which God intended.

Do We Really  Believe?

And so I come to my fundamental point. I'm not saying 'Let us strive the more earnestly, brethren, to preach, we really ought to do more of it, you know'. I'm not saying this, because it would be a waste of time. No human words can influence any of us to preach, really  preach as God intends us to. What I'm saying is that preaching to others is a natural, automatic, spontaneous response to belief of the Gospel, and therefore we can use an analysis of our attitude to preaching as a powerful tool for self-examination as to whether we really  believe. What I'm saying is that it's quite possible to 'believe' on a surface level, but not really  believe. It's easy enough to reflect such surface level 'belief' in some kind of tokenistic preaching- e.g. sheepishly saying " I've got a friend at church who..." , or even in giving out leaflets or going on a preaching campaign (not that in themselves there's anything wrong with doing these things). As I've said, such  kind of preaching isn't necessarily  a proof of our belief. It's easy to have the attitude that because we assist in certain physical things connected with (e.g.) the correspondence course, or we give a leaflet to the JW who calls, that we are thereby discharging our responsibility to preach (3). But if we really  believe the Gospel, we'll tell it forth naturally, the sense of discharging responsibility just won't be there. We won't have to psych ourselves up to preach; we'll artlessly show it forth in our lives, and talk about it, talk... .

And if we don't do this, do we believe?  Remember how the record parallels not confessing with not believing in Jn. 12:42. We were called and converted so that  we might give light to others. We were " put in trust with the Gospel" , literally 'en-faithed' with it, God gave it to us in faith that we would preach it (1 Thess. 2:4). Paul uses a strong and emphatic Greek construction in 1 Tim. 1:11 when speaking of how the Gospel was “committed to my trust”. The Greek means ‘to me, myself, I, personally’. Those raised ‘knowing the truth’ should pause and reflect whether the wonder of the fact they have been given the Gospel is registering with them as it might. God believes in us; this is why He has graciously called us to know His Truth. Thus when Paul writes in 1 Tim. 1:14 about his own conversion: “The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus”, he perhaps means that it was the love and faith of Christ in him, Paul, that was the basis of his being converted by the Lord Jesus.

Reflect a while on what is really being taught in Jn. 2:23-25: “Many believed on his name, beholding his signs which he did. But Jesus did not trust [s.w. ‘believed’] himself unto them, for that he knew all men, and because he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man; for he knew what was in man”. When a person trusts / believes in the Lord properly, unlike those who believed only a surface level, then the Lord trusts Himself unto them. He believes in them as they have believed in Him. Paul often speaks of how the Lord has trusted / committed [s.w.] the preaching of the Gospel unto him (1 Cor. 9:17; Gal. 2:7; 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Tim. 1:11; Tit. 1:3). We believe, and therefore we speak forth the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:13). Perceive the parallels within the Jn. 2:23-25 passage:

He knew all men = He knew what was in man

Jesus did not trust [s.w. ‘believed’] himself unto them = because he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man

If we truly believe in Jesus, He believes in us, and we therefore bear witness concerning Him. If we don’t truly believe in Him, He will not commit / trust / believe Himself unto us. But by grace we have truly believed. It is therefore axiomatic that we bear witness of Him.

God has therefore trusted us with the job of preaching His Gospel. That He trusts us, believes in us, is a surpassing thought. If you trust someone completely with a task, to the point it is clear that now if they don’t do it, it won’t be done, they often respond with a maturity and zest which wouldn’t be seen if they merely were given partial responsibility [children are a good example of this]. And so God has done with us. Of Abraham God said: “I have known him, to the end that he may command his household and his children after him” (Gen. 18:19 RV). The knowledge of God was not so that he could enjoy it alone; it was given to him as it is given to us to the end that we might share it with others. We are compared to a candle that is lit (cp. our baptism) so that it may give light to others (Lk. 8:16; 11:33); the woman (the Lord Jesus) lights a candle (He uses believers) to find his lost coin (through our efforts) (Lk. 15:8; this must be seen in the context of the other two references in Luke to lighting a candle). If we don't give light (God's word, Ps. 119:105) to others, we are a candle under a bucket, and therefore we will lose our faith, the flame will go out. So it's hard not to conclude that if we don't naturally give the light to others, we don't believe. The very nature of a lit candle is that it gives light; all candles do this, not just some.

The Lord wants to use us as His candle, and He will arrange situations in life to enable this. The family at Bethany may have been an example of this. The Jews had commanded “that if any man knew where he was, he should shew it” (Jn. 11:57). And “Jesus therefore…came to Bethany” (Jn. 12:1 RV). He purposefully attracted attention to His connection with the Bethany home. And so it was that “much people of the Jews learned that he was there”(Jn. 12:9), and the context makes it clear that this was a source of witness to them (Jn. 12:10,11). The Lord sought to expose their secret discipleship, to take the bucket off their candle. And He will do likewise with us. Jonah is of course the great example. He refused to “cry” the message of repentance to Nineveh; he wanted to be an incognito prophet. But an incognito prophet is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. So the Lord brought about a situation in which he desperately “cried” to God; and then told him to go and “cry” to Nineveh. The very same Hebrew words are used about his crying to God and his crying / proclamation to Nineveh (Jonah 1:2; 2:2; 3:2,4). Jonah was forced by circumstance to share his relationship with God with the world around him which he despised.

Naaman is another example. He wanted to be a secret believer, even bowing down to Rimmon to keep his boss happy. God seems to have allowed this, but He worked in Naaman’s life, I suggest, so that his faith was no longer secret. For soon after his conversion, his master got the hunch that one of his courtiers was “for the king of Israel” (2 Kings 6:11). And Naaman would have been the obvious suspect, as he had gone to Israel and been cured of his leprosy by an Israeli prophet. We then read that the army of Syria came against Elisha the prophet and sought to surround him in order to capture him. They were then judged by God. Could it really be so that Naaman would have led that army? Surely the situation arose so as to force Naaman to resign the job. Thus God worked to stop him being a secret believer, and to remove him from a position where he could not live with a free conscience before the Father. And so God will do in our lives- if we respond.

I know what I'm saying won't go down well. As a community, we have to admit that generally our members are hopelessly shy to breathe a word to the man next to them about the good news of Christ and His cross. But if we don't tell others the Gospel, do we believe it...? Could it be that for all our Biblical research and struggles for purity, our attitude to witnessing shows that many of us don't actually believe the basic Gospel very deeply at all? Confession (preaching of the Gospel) is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:9); there is a connection between our preaching and salvation, because salvation depends upon faith; and if we believe, if we have drunk the living water, it will spring up in us and bubble over to others. Because David did not conceal God’s mercy and truth [a phrase often referring to the Gospel covenant to Abraham] from others, therefore God would not conceal His mercy and truth from David (Ps. 40:10,11). The farmer who sows seed is likened to every preacher of the Gospel; and yet his own life and the lives of others depends upon the sowing of the seed. This is how vital preaching is; it isn’t the only virtue which the redeemed believer is expected to demonstrate, but it is one of them.

Natural Growth

Finally, these thoughts about the spontaneity of the Gospel lead us to a more general principle. It isn't only preaching that comes naturally to the serious believer. As brothers and sisters have a natural affinity to each other, so true Christian fellowship is something which naturally occurs. Thus a group of new converts can meet at a Bible School for the first time and naturally  gel with each other. There's no need to tell them to be close to each other. They are brothers and sisters, and they know it, and they act like it quite naturally. We are all members of the same body, and therefore there is a natural sympathy between us, e.g. a natural sense of hurt when one part of the body suffers (1 Cor. 12:26). The body grows together, it edifies itself in love (Eph. 4:16). Growth is a natural process, it doesn't really occur through being pulled and stretched by the words of another brother in an article or Bible talk. Yet on the other hand, we shouldn't feel that OK, we are in Christ now, we are growing, we can just sit back and watch the changes in our personality. It won't happen like this.

The power of growth comes from two related ways. Firstly, the word of God is the power by which we were conceived, and it is this which will give us that power of new birth inside us (1 Pet. 1:23; James 1:18). Regular, systematic, personal  Bible study is the absolute key; not just hearing the words of another brother at a Bible address and intellectually assenting, more or less, to the truth of what he's said; but searching  the scriptures for ourselves; " desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby  " (1 Pet. 2:2). It is the word of the Gospel that brings forth fruit in us (Col. 1:6). The seed is the word (Lk. 8:11), and it springs up in the new convert, the sower (the preacher) knows not how (Mk. 4:27). God gives the growth, not the brethren who preach or do pastoral work (1 Cor. 3:6). This is true comfort for those who worry that because a believer is in isolation, away from contact with other believers, they will find the way to the Kingdom hard. If the word is allowed to be in us, it will spring up and enable fruit to grow, we know not how. Thus there is a parallel drawn in Acts between the growth of the word and that of the church (6:7 Gk.; 12:24; 19:20).

Secondly, the dynamic for spiritual growth is related to having the spirit / mind / disposition of Christ (Col. 1:11 cp. Eph. 3:16). It is the influence of Christ that makes us grow and become more loving and spiritual (Col. 2:19; 1 Thess. 3:12). His spirit brings forth love, patience etc. (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9). Our connection with Him brings forth fruit (Jn. 15:5; Rom. 7:4). If we concentrate our thinking upon Him, on appreciating the moral glory of His character, we will be changed into that same image by the possession of His spirit / mind (2 Cor. 3:18 RV). Truly do we sing to Him: “Thy fellowship shall make me strong”. On the cross, He declared God's character so that  His love might be in us (Jn. 17:26). If we begin to see the height of His righteousness, to appreciate albeit from afar the beauty of His perfection, we will begin to attain His spirit, the radiating glory of His face will rub off on us, more and more. So growth will come naturally if the word, the logos  of Christ is in us. We won't need to be told how to live, we won't need to agonise so much over our spiritual inabilities. The changes will come, naturally and irresistibly- if we give the word of the risen Lord the place it should have in our hearts.


(1) The aim of our fulfilling the great commission is above all to "make disciples", to get more followers behind Jesus, more learners of Him, a greater bride for Him. Gramatically in Mt. 28:19-20, mathateusate ("make disciples") is the main verb, and poreuthentes ("while going"), baptizontes ("baptizing"), and didaskontes ("teaching") are subsidiary participles. In other words, the focus of our work must be upon making disciples for Christ, on thereby bringing about His glory. All the baptizing and teaching which we do is subsidiary to this aim, and they can therefore never be ends in themselves.

(2) See 4-1 Humility And Preaching.

(3) This attitude seems to have arisen from a wrong emphasis being placed on the passages in Ezekiel which state that the duty of the prophet was to warn Israel of impending judgment, and if they did that, they would be free of their responsibility. The impression is given that the prophets therefore said " Look out Israel, judgment day is coming!" and then walked away breathing a sigh of relief that they wouldn't be condemned themselves for failing in their duty. But the purpose of the prophets was to plead with Israel to repent, to describe the judgments for sin with the earnest hope that this would bring about repentance among those who heard. If they didn't do this  they would be condemned. The Lord says that we are all  the watchers of the door of the house of the ecclesia (Mk. 13:34,35; Lk. 12:39,40),  as the prophets were the watchmen over the city of Zion, God's Old Testament ecclesia. We all  therefore have a responsibility to guide and warn the ecclesia, not just to scrape out of condemnation for ourselves, but from a genuine, earnest desire to help others to the Kingdom road.