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. We're All Preachers: Motivations For Preaching
There is without doubt the sense that preaching the Gospel is fine for those who feel that way inclined, and that we should smile benevolently on their efforts- and yet, it seems to be supposed, not every brother or sister has a duty here. If we understand 'preaching' as involving travelling or writing, this is of course true. Yet we each ought to be witnessing the Gospel to those we daily rub shoulders with in life: and more than this, we have an absolute responsibility to do it.
Points To Consider
Our witness is a reflection of our experience of the Lord and His salvation, and as such is purely involuntary. Indeed, our attitude to personal witnessing is one indicator of our final acceptability with God. That's a bold statement, purposefully so. But consider the following points:
1.1 Joyful Urgency
The Greek word evangelion translated 'Gospel'
means, strictly, 'good news that is being passed on'; for example, the
good news of a victory was passed on by runners to the capital city
(cp. the Hebrew association of carrying tidings, and good news: 2 Sam.
18:20). Once it had been spread around and everyone knew it, it ceased
to be evangelion ; it was no longer news that needed to
be passed on. But in that time when there was a joyful urgency
to pass it on, it was evangelion. Notice, heralding is not
the same as lecturing. Our community for far too long equated preaching
, good newsing, with lecturing. Lecturing seeks no result; whereas the
herald of God has an urgency and breathlessness about his message.
There must be a passion and enthusiasm in us for the message of Christ
and His Kingdom. More to feared than over emotionalism is the dry,
detached utterance of facts as a droning lecture, which has neither
heart nor soul in it. Man’s peril, Christ’s
salvation…these things cannot mean so little to us that we feel
no warmth or passion rise within us as we speak about them. Remember
how the early preachers were so enthusiastic in their witness that they
were thought to be drunk. We are insistently pressing our good news
upon others- evangelising. And the Spirit has chosen this precise word
to describe that understanding and hope which has been committed to our
trust. If we have the Truth, the Gospel, it is of itself something
that by its very nature must be passed on, this is in
fact what it is (1). But let's remember that "good
news" isn't the best translation of euanggelion. The word
distinctly means a triumphal message or announcement of victory. It's
the equivalent of the Aramaic besora, "the word a herald
would use to announce victory" (2). The Gospel isn't merely a set of
theological truths which appeal to the logic and Bible knowledge of
those so inclined to be impressed by that kind of thing, to those
psychologically wired so as to have an interest in hobby level
theology. Rather is there a definite good news of victory and triumph
over all human sin, dysfunction and condemnation to ultimate failure
The LXX uses the word concerning how daily we should “show forth his salvation” (Ps. 96:2). Witness is therefore a daily feature in the life of those who have known salvation; it is not something done solely by attending an ecclesial gathering once per week. This explains why frequently Paul uses the word " Gospel" as meaning 'the preaching of the Gospel'; the Gospel is in itself something which must be preached if we really have it (Rom. 1:1,9; 16:25; Phil. 1:5 (NIV),12; 2:22; 4:15; 1 Thess. 1:5; 3:2; 2 Thess. 2:14; 2 Tim. 1:8; 2:8). The fact we have been given the Gospel is in itself an imperative to preach it. “When I came to Troas for the Gospel of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:12 RV) has the ellipsis supplied in the AV: “to preach Christ’s Gospel” [although there is no Greek word in the original matching ‘preach’] .
You will recall the record of how the desperate, starving lepers found great treasure and went and hid it (2 Kings 7:8). The Lord used this as the basis for His parable about the man who finds the Gospel, as the treasure in a field, and hides it. But surely He intended us to think of what those men did afterwards. “They said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace”. They even felt that woe would be unto them if they did not share the good news of what they had found. The same joyful urgency must be ours.
Our witness is an outcome of our desire to praise and worship the loving Father and Son who have been so gracious to us. The ideas of preaching and praise are very intertwined in the Psalms. Their close relation is reflected by the way in which the Hebrew word translated “to call on” means both to call out in witness (e.g. Gen. 12:7,8; Ex. 33:19) and also to call upon in the sense of praise. By calling upon the name of the Lord in praise, as David so often does, we call Him out in witness to the world. And it makes a fascinating study to reflect upon the use of praise and worship in the Millenium, as a means to educating the earth’s mortal population.
The urgency we have in our witness isn't only joyful; there's an element of dead seriousness to it because of the very urgency of our task. Joel 2:32 predicted that when Jerusalem was surrounded by her enemies at the time of Sennacherib's invasion, with all in Judah who could do so having fled into the city for safety, "It shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered [saved]: for in Mount Zion [the temple mount] and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance [RV "those that escape"]". These words are alluded to by Peter when he stood near the temple mount and urged people to be baptized into Christ, to call upon themselves the Lord's Name; and they are applied to all our witness by Paul (Rom. 10:13). Those refugees fleeing before the Assyrian war machine are the people of this world whom we urge to accept deliverance and salvation through baptism into Christ.
1.2 A Duty
“The gospel of the circumcision” being given to Peter and that of the Gentiles to Paul evidently means ‘the duty of preaching the gospel’ (Gal. 2:7). The Gospel is in itself the duty of preaching it. In Corinth, “Paul was constrained by the word, testifying to the Jews…” (Acts 18:5 RV). The AV has “pressed in the spirit”; knowing the word somehow compelled Paul to testify of it. “The word (logos) of God " , a phrase which the NT mainly uses with reference to the Gospel rather than the whole Bible, is sometimes used as parallel to the idea of preaching the Gospel (Rev. 1:9; 6:9; 20:4 and especially Col. 1:25). Paul speaks of having 'fulfilled' the Gospel by preaching it (Rom. 15:19 Gk.); the Gospel is in itself something which demands to be preached by those having it (3).
Acts 10:36,37 continues the idea, by suggesting that the word of God is the preaching of it- we cannot know the word and not preach it: “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace...that word, ye know, which was published throughout all Judea”. The word is the preaching / publishing of it. In Rom. 1:14,15, Paul speaks of his “debt” to preach to both “Greeks and Barbarians” as the reason for his planned trip to Rome- for in that city there was the widest collection of “Greeks and Barbarians”. And yet he later speaks of our ‘debt’ [Gk.] to love one another (Rom. 13:8). The debt of love that we feel on reflecting upon our unpayable debt to the Father and Son is partly an unending ‘debt’ to loving share the Gospel of grace with others, to forgive the ‘debts’ of others’ sins against us.
Dan. 12:3,10 draw a parallel between those having wisdom and those who turn many to righteousness. The RVmg. translates “those that be wise” as “the teachers”, reflecting the play within the Hebrew sense of ‘wisdom’- to have wisdom is axiomatically to teach it. To possess God’s Truth therefore means that we will teach it to others. Because the preacher had wisdom, he taught the people knowledge; indeed, the Hebrew implies that the more wise he was, the more he taught the people (Ecc. 12:9 AVmg.). And the wealth of Biblical wisdom our community has built up (if indeed it is that rather than pure head knowledge) ought to be reflected in the ever more pervasive extent of our witness. The Hebrew confusion of understanding and teaching is brought out by comparing the AV and RV of Ezra 8:16: “Men of understanding” (AV), “which were teachers” (RV). To have true understanding is axiomatically to teach it. We can’t hold it passively within ourselves. The Gospel is to be preached; Paul realized this in some of his very last words, as even then, he makes one of his plays on words: “…that through me the proclamation might be fully proclaimed” (2 Tim. 4:17 RVmg.). The Gospel, the proclamation of the Kingdom, is to be proclaimed. We cannot possess a proclamation, designed to be proclaimed, without proclaiming it.
Mt. 25:27 contains the Lord’s condemnation of the man who hid his talent- “Thou oughtest” to have given the talent to the exchangers. Either he should’ve given it to the Gentiles, or he should have at least done something, in lending it to his Jewish brethren even against the Law. “Oughtest” , dia, means you must have , you had to- very possession of the talent meant we have to, we must, share it with others in some way- we are all preachers. I have often pondered what we are to learn in our generation from the strict statement that males without the ability to procreate were barred from the Lord’s congregation during the Old Covenant (Dt. 23:1). Perhaps the point is that all those who are the Lord’s people must recognize their ability to procreate for Him, in the bringing forth of yet others in their Lord’s image.
1.3 We Are The Message
“What the Soviet cosmonaut wanted when he looked for God in the dark void outside his spacecraft window is...the hungering desire of our age. We want proof, evidence, a personal appearance, so that the God we have heard about becomes the God we see”(4). And the only evidence is in you and me. People are interested, they are hungering and searching for Him; and the evidence they seek is in our radically transformed lives. They won’t get a voice out of a whirlwind or sight of a Heavenly form; they just get a glimpse of you and me. In this sense the [human] medium is the [Divine] message. Indeed, the Hebrew word for "message" can mean either a message or a messenger- hence Gen. 50:16 AV "messenger", RV "message". In the Divine thinking which is so often reflected in the Hebrew language, the man is his message, the messenger is the message.
The figure of seed is used by the Lord in His parables to represent both the word, and also the children of the Kingdom. If we have God’s word of truth within us, we will of ourselves be the witness, for the possession of that word will naturally lead to witnessing it. Likewise the figure of pearls is used concerning the Gospel (Mt. 7:6) and yet also about the faithful (Rev. 21:21; Mt. 13:45). If we have the word of truth within us, we are identified with that word and will thereby witness it to men. I want to put two passages from Paul together in your minds. He tells the Ephesian elders to “take heed to yourselves” before adding “and to all the flock” (Acts 20:28). To Timothy likewise: “Take heed to yourself, and to your teaching [of others]” (1 Tim. 4:16). Clearly enough, Paul saw that who we are is related to the effectiveness of our preaching. The preacher is some sort of reproduction of the Truth in a personal form; the word made flesh. The Truth must exist in us as a living experience, a glorious enthusiasm, an intense reality. For it is primarily people who communicate, not words or ideas. Personal authenticity is undoubtedly the strongest credential in our work of communicating the message. Thus Paul could speak of his afflictions as being his credentials (2 Cor. 11:21-33; 1 Thess. 2:1-4; 2 Tim. 3:10-12). And God’s true servant commends himself by the endurance of opposition (2 Cor. 6:4,5).
Rev. 12:11 may imply that our testimony to others is proportionate to our victory against the devil. Preaching is therefore an expression of basic righteousness. God teaches sinners His ways because He is essentially good (Ps. 25:8); and if we are righteous, we will manifest Him in this. God wishes to manifest Himself through our witness; He wants to use each one of us as a witness to Himself. Consider two parallel descriptions of Paul’s early preaching:
Paul had the Son of God within he; he had the spirit / mind of Christ. And it was this which gave credibility and power to his preaching Jesus as the Son of God. And God eagerly manifested Himself and His Son through this. Luke's Gospel was an account of all that Jesus "began" to do and teach (Acts 1:1)- with the implication that the Acts record is the history of what He continued to do, through His people.
The preacher is his message; if the doctrines of the Gospel are truly in us, then we ourselves will naturally be a witness to it in our lives. The Gospel is the savour of Christ; and yet we personally are the savour (2 Cor. 2:14,15); we are the epistle and Gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 3:3). Thus the Gospel was to be preached for a witness to all nations (Mt. 24:14); and yet “ye are witnesses... you will be witnesses” (Lk. 24:27; Acts 1:8). The preacher of the Gospel is the Gospel; the man is the message, just as the very same word / message was made flesh in the Lord. Israel of old were taught this. They were to keep and do the commandments of God, and this would be the witness of their wisdom and understanding to the nations around them- who would thereby be brought to Israel’s God (Dt. 4:6-8). The imparting of wisdom and understanding therefore didn’t come so much through specific doctrinal exposition, as through living out those principles in daily life.
One part of our message is of the Kingdom of God; we should be living witnesses to the current rulership of God over our lives, and thereby we testify with credibility and integrity to the future establishment of that Kingdom on earth at the Lord's return. If we are living the eternal life, the Kingdom life, then we are in ourselves advertisements for the good news of the Kingdom. Daniel is an example of this. The Aramaic verb habal occurs several times in Daniel, and between them we build up a picture of how Daniel was a living witness to the Kingdom. The word means to hurt / destroy. We find that the Kingdom of Babylon was to be cut down and destroyed; whereas the Kingdom of God was to never be destroyed (Dan. 4:23; 2:44). The mouths of the lions were closed so that they did not " hurt" [s.w. 'destroy'] Daniel (Dan. 6:22); and because of this, Darius praises God, saying that His Kingdom would never be 'destroyed' (Dan. 6:26). Daniel was not destroyed; and thus Darius came to believe that God's Kingdom would not be destroyed. Because Daniel was set up as a living part and foretaste of that Kingdom. To a far greater extent, " the Kingdom of God" is a title given to the Lord Jesus- because He in His mortal life was the essence of that Kingdom, the embodiment of the Kingdom life.
After the Lord converted the Samaritan woman at the well, He commented to His disciples that such work was His food- "to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work" (Jn. 4:34). But soon afterwards He claimed that "the works which the Father has given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me" (Jn. 5:36). It's tempting to think that the "works" He spoke of were His miracles- but the linkage with Jn. 4:34 suggests that they were also references to the change He achieved within people. These transformed people were His witness- and the Samaritan woman is a classic example. For when He had done the Father's work in her, she rushed off to witness to the world. In Jn. 6:28,29 the Lord seems to consciously steer us away from understanding His "works" as merely the miracles of e.g. feeding and physical healing. In response to the question "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" He responds: "This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent".
1.4 A Natural Response
The spirit of all this is picked up in Rev. 22:17: " The Spirit (" The Lord the spirit" , Jesus) and the bride (the church) say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come" . The whole spirit of the Lord Jesus is to invite others to come and share His salvation. He that hears will say to others " Come" . Paul reflects on his preaching to the Corinthians: “I delivered unto you… that which I also received” (1 Cor. 15:3). Andrew likewise “found” Christ and then [s.w.] ‘finds’ his brother for Christ (Jn. 1:41). What we hear and learn we naturally desire to spread to others. There are many links between John's Gospel and Revelation. In John, Christ often invites men to " come" (Jn. 1:39; 4:16; 5:40; 7:37; 21:12); and members of " the bride" also, quite naturally and artlessly, invite others to " come" too (Jn. 1:41,45,46; 4:29). My point is that the natural response of the one who hears is to say to others " come" . It won't be something which has to be done as a great act of the will, we won't need to be fed with ideas by some preaching Committee; he that hears will say, " Come" . Our witness in this sense is therefore a very personal thing. Mt. 11:25-30 records how Jesus prayed to the Father, thanking Him for the relationship and knowledge revealed to Him; He then pauses to reflect that indeed He is the appointed way to the Father (:27); and then He launches out into a public appeal for people to come to the Father through Him. This is a pattern for us; personal prayer and private reflection are to merge naturally into a public witness.
How purely natural this process is can be seen by observing the way in which people learning the Truth very often share their new found knowledge with others. Time and time again this happens; a student on the correspondence course will introduce what he has learnt to others. And there is a big Biblical theme that in the Millennium, the mortals will preach to other mortals as they begin to understand the Gospel (Is. 2:3; Jer. 50:5; Mic. 4:2; Zech. 8:21).
We so often hide behind excuses: my Bible's not marked, I don't know all the verses, it's better if someone else does it, I might not say the right thing. All this is symptomatic of a very serious basic problem: perhaps we don't really believe; or perhaps like so many, we believe on one level, and yet on another level we simply don't believe (Mk. 9:24; Lk. 17:5) . For our knowledge of God will somehow flow out of us naturally. According to G.B.Caird, "The Hebrew word for 'teach' (limmad) is a causative stem of the verb 'learn' (lamad)" (1). The connection reflects how what we learn is what we quite naturally teach to others. Preaching in that sense is a natural, unforced process- if we have really learnt as God intends.
New converts are generally characterised by an uninhibited zeal and success in preaching to others, even though their familiarity with the Bible may not be that great. It has been a real joy recently to see new believers making so many converts. If we really believe, we will naturally, as an intrinsic aspect of believing, talk about it- and not just for the first year or so after our baptism. If you doubt the truth of this consider the enthusiasm of those you have encountered who are newly baptised. If you do not share their enthusiasm to speak the gospel, consider…why not? Speaking forth the word to others is part of spiritual fruit: it's something quite natural: " The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise" (Prov. 11:31). The Lord had to command those who knew Him not to speak out that knowledge (Mk. 1:34 cp. 44)- because people knew Him, they quite naturally wanted to preach it. One cannot truly know the Lord and not tell others of Him. This is the power of true knowledge, believed as it should be believed.
The Lord told the cured demoniac to go back to his friends (Mk. 5:19) and family (Lk. 8:39) and witness to them. Clearly enough, the man didn’t have any friends- for he had a history of violence and lived alone, many having tried unsuccessfully to bind him due to the grievous harm he must have inflicted upon many. Yet the man went out and preached to the whole area (Mk. 5:20). Was this just rank disobedience to what His Saviour Lord had just told him? Perhaps, due to unrestrained enthusiasm. But more likely is that the man now considered the whole world around him to be his family and friends, and therefore he witnessed to them. His care for others in desiring to witness to them flowed quite naturally from his experience of conversion at the Lord’s hands.
The Lord gave His parable about how He has invited us, through the call of the Gospel, to a great supper. He then went on to say: “When thou makest a dinner, or a supper…” we ought to invite those who can’t recompense us (Lk. 14:12). Quite simply, the very experience and wonder of having been invited to the Kingdom should lead us to likewise invite others. But further. If we have truly understood the implications of the Lord’s gracious calling, if we have truly perceived our desperation, we will take the lowest place, considering ourselves the lowest and least worthy. And we will therefore go out and invite others of the same class to which we perceive ourselves to belong- the poor, the maimed and blind.
(1) G.B. Caird, The Language And Imagery Of The Bible (London: Duckworth, 1988) p. 87.
1.5 Compelled To Witness
This is why the outcome of the judgment seat will be a reflection of our attitude to witnessing to others: " What ye (the twelve disciples) hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops... whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Mt. 10:27,32). The Lord seems to go beyond briefing His men before they set off on their preaching mission; He goes on to say that in a sense, whoever follows their example will be confessed before the Father.
Notice what He isn't saying: He isn't saying that if you're keen about preaching, this is the be-all-and-end-all of spiritual life, and this alone will guarantee your acceptance with God. He says that what we hear (i.e. believe) in the ear, our own very personal understanding and belief of the Gospel, must be spread abroad openly to others. Our salvation is through faith in God's absolute grace; but if it is real faith, we will preach it on the housetops, we simply can't keep the knowledge of such grace, such great salvation, to ourselves. " Having, then, such hope, we use much freedom of speech" in preaching (2 Cor. 3:12 YLT).
Peter sums it up in his defence: " We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). He told the Sanhedrin that to make true Christians agree not to preach was simply an inappropriate suggestion, because " we cannot but speak" out- it was something which went part and parcel with the experience of the risen Lord Jesus. Peter was not just an illiterate fisherman; so many of his words and phrasing indicate a thorough familiarity with the Greek Old Testament. Here, he seems to have Num. 24:13 at the back of his mind; Balaam says that although Balak is forbidding him to speak, he cannot but speak what God has inspired him with, even if it is intensely unpopular with those around him.
Of course, the Christian preacher is not inspired as Balaam was, but the principle is the same: it is impossible to keep quiet, because of the very nature of what we believe and who we are. John had the spirit of Peter when he wrote (in one of his many allusions to Peter’s words) that what they had heard and seen, that they declared / witnessed (1 Jn. 1:1,3), as if hearing and seeing / experiencing Christ inevitably lead to witness.
Who we are is the essential witness. This is a point I see time and again in Scripture. “Their line is gone out into all the earth” (Ps. 19:4) is quoted in the New Testament about our witness of the Gospel. And yet the similarity is between the preacher and the stars above. “There is no speech nor language; their voice cannot be heard” (Ps. 19:3 RV)- they are simply there, who they are. And this is the witness which will go to the ends of the earth. We can get all too caught up with ‘mission work’ in the sense of taking the message to all the earth through advertising and visits; but the essential witness, which will extend to the very core of this world, is the silent witness of who we are. We have assumed that there are men and women sitting in their homes trying to figure out whether, e.g., God is a trinity or not, just waiting for our preaching to reach them. Yet this just isn’t the case. When men and women saw the result of the Lord’s ministry, they asked: “What new doctrine is this?” (Mk. 1:27). Now this is how we need people to be with us- to ask us, with the implication they are ready and willing to listen, what exactly it is that we believe. But they only get to that point by seeing the effect of our lives and witness.
1.6 A Realisation
The account of the disciples' response to the realisation of the resurrection shows perfectly how men will rise above every barrier, both within them and without, to speak the good news of what they now realise to be absolute truth. Mary, bashful ex-hooker that she was, " went and told them that had been with him" , the broken-down women " with great joy... did run to bring his disciples word" , those on the Emmaus road " went and told it unto the residue" , " the other disciples therefore " told Thomas, John told Peter " It is the Lord" , and finally they all " went forth, and preached everywhere" the news of the resurrection (Mt. 28:8; Mk. 16:10,13,20; Jn. 20:25; 21:7). The speed and spirit of the narrative pounds away at a major theme: The natural desire to tell others the Gospel of the Lord's resurrection.
This same spirit of urgently passing on good news pervades the preaching recorded in Acts. It seems almost certain that as a community we have generally failed for all too long to appreciate the height of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus, and the glorious wonder of His resurrection. Peter and John had seen Jesus of Nazareth despised, hated, dropping from exhaustion in the boat, slumping dehydrated at a well, covered in blood and spittle, mocked in naked shame. And now they knew that He had risen, that He had been exalted to God's right hand, so as to make the salvation of men possible. They could do nothing but speak this out. The fact they spoke a-grammatos (4:13 Gk.), without proper grammar, the fact they weren't humanly speaking the right men for the job... all this meant nothing to them. The height of the Lord's exaltation and the salvation this enabled just had to be shared with others.
If only we can grasp the wonder of who the Lord Jesus has been exalted to be, if we could enter more deeply into the real meaning of that empty tomb, the Son of God stooping and walking out into that early morning, we too will have that same natural, uninhibited desire and ability. Yet sadly, very sadly, all too many of us seem to be able to say or think is: 'Jesus wasn't God, He wasn't part of a trinity, even now He isn't equal with God'. All of which is true, and needs to be said. But there is so much more to it than that; and it is an appreciation of who the exalted Lord really is which will give us that uncontrived, irrepressible desire to tell the world.
It simply can’t be that we rejoice in our own salvation, and don’t want to breathe a whimper of that good news to others. Esther made her request for “my life…my people” in parallel; and when her own safety was assured, she didn’t just relax and mop her brow with relief, she went on to petition for them- with all the risks this involved for her (Esther 7:3; 8:3). We can’t possibly just rejoice in our own salvation, that we have found the Lord and are secured in Him; if we have truly experienced this, we will wish to share it with others.
1.7 Real Appreciation
Our lack of evangelical zeal therefore reflects a lack of appreciation of the Lord's resurrection, a failure to grasp the height of His present exaltation. God reconciled us by the cross, and therefore to us was given the work of preaching the Gospel of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18,20)- a sharing with others of our own experience. This was clearly what fired the first century ecclesia. I'd paraphrase Acts 5:28-31 like this: 'Question: Why do you keep preaching when we told you not to? Answer: Christ rose from the dead, " and him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance" '. Peter says he must obey God and preach as he was commanded, and then Peter goes straight on to say that Jesus died and was resurrected by God. It’s as if he saw the Lord’s death and resurrection as the command to go and preach. We can never ever be passive to the Lord’s death.
The cross impels us to witness. John begins his preaching of the Gospel by saying that he had beheld the glory of the Lord Jesus (Jn. 1:14)- and I suggest he was referring to how he beheld the cross and the Lord’s manifestation of the Father’s glory there (Jn. 17:24). The cross, the glory of the Lord shown there, was what motivated John’s preaching, just as it should ours. The Lord’s parable of the wedding banquet which was rejected by those invited is instructive here. He spoke of how “my [i.e. God’s] oxen and my fatlings” had been killed (Mt. 22:4). Perhaps here we have an intensive plural- God’s one great ox and fatted calf had been slaughtered, i.e., Christ had been crucified, all things were now ready- and therefore, on the basis of how wonderful that is, we should bid all men and women to partake in Him.
The blessings now mediated by the exalted Lord mean that whatever the barriers, those who appreciate those blessings and the height, the pure, wondrous height of His exaltation and what this thereby enables for us, will naturally preach it. The Gospel is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4 RSV). 2 Cor. 2:14-17 invites us to see the Lord Jesus after His victory- which can only refer to His victorious death on the cross- leading a victory parade, in which we are the triumphant soldiers, carrying with us burning incense. This represents our preaching of the Gospel, as part of our participation in the joyful glory of the Lord’s victory on the cross. And yet that incense is used as a double symbol- both of us the preachers, who hold the aroma, and yet we are also the aroma itself. We are the witness. The light of the candlestick is both the believer (Mt. 5:15) and the Gospel itself (Mk. 4:21). But the motivation for it all is our part in the victory procession of the Lord, going on as it does down through the ages, as He as it were comes home from the cross. We are the witnesses in the same way as the Lord Jesus was the word made flesh- in His very person, He was the essential witness and message. When He said “I do always those things that please [God]”, it is recorded that “As he spake these words, many believed on him” (Jn. 8:29,30). There was something real and credible. He was His words made flesh. It is apparent to any reader of the Greek text of the Gospels that Jesus almost always left the verb “believe” without an object (e.g. Mk. 4:40; 5:34,36; 9:23). The question naturally arose: ‘Believe in what or whom?’. And seeing the speaker of the words, the answer was there before their eyes.
Lk. 24:46-49 records Luke's version of the great preaching commission given in Mk. 16 and Mt. 28. He doesn't record that the Lord actually told the disciples to go out and preach. Instead He says that the OT prophets foretold the world-wide preaching of the Gospel of His death and resurrection, " and ye are witnesses of these things" . It's as if He's saying, 'If you are a witness to all this, you must be a witness of it to all' (cp. Acts 1:8). If we are witnesses, we will bear witness; we will naturally. We have to; and note how Lev. 5:1 taught that it was a sin not to bear witness / testify when one had been a witness. This may well be consciously alluded to in the language of witness which we have in Lk. 24:48. We each have the witness of the Lord's resurrection in ourselves (1 Jn. 5:10). But in a witness in a courtroom isn’t expectedd to argue the case, prove the truth or press for a verdict; but rather to simply report what actually happened in their experience. This is where I personally see little point in ‘apologetics’- trying to prove there is a God or that the Bible is true. These are matters of faith in the end. We are called not to apologize for God but rather to be witnesses from ourselves of the work of the Father and Son.
David in the Psalms often makes the link between appreciation of God’s ways and the inevitable witness this will result in. Thus: “Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works” (Ps. 119:27). This contrasts with our community’s amassing of pure, intellectual truth- but without very much telling of it forth to others. “He that is wise [i.e., has true wisdom] winneth souls” (Prov. 11:30 RV).
(1) There is a fine section on this word in William Barclay, New Testament Words (London: SCM, 1992 ed.). P. T. O’Brien confirms this: “euangelion…signifies not only the content of what is preached, but also the act or process of the proclamation” (Gospel And Mission In The Writings Of Paul , Paternoster, 1995, p. 113).
(2) Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography (New York: Random House, 2005) p. 62.
(3) Thus in 2 Tim. 4:17 Paul can reflect “…that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear”. The Gospel is fulfilled by preaching it. And the Gospel is essentially the promises to Abraham, about all nations being blessed. This promise is fulfilled in our preaching of it- which is why the Acts references to the disciples being " multiplied" consciously refers to the fulfilment of the promises to Abraham about the multiplication of the seed. “The fullness of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:25) also refers to this idea of the final number of converted Gentiles being a fullness or fulfilment- of the promises to Abraham. But that fulfilment, as with that of many prophecies, is dependent upon and according to our preaching of the Gospel [see ‘Christians Unlimited’ for more on this].
(4) Philip Yancey, Disappointment With God (Zondervan, 1997) p. 46
(5) Into All The World.