When Did Evangelism Begin?
In last week’s sermon, I mentioned how Christ’s ascension was a “hinge” event. The ascension resulted in a change in God’s plan for God’s people. I mentioned that the ascension led to a change in how the Holy Spirit relates to the people of God and to a change in how Christ relates to His people. I’d like to add this to the change that the ascension brings: the ascension leads to the birth of evangelism.
Acts 1:8 says,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
We need to ask this question of this passage: Prior to Acts 1, had God commanded His people to evangelize the world? In other words, is evangelism an OT command or a NT command?
The OT does not contain the command to evangelize the lost. In the OT, the model of bringing people to God was an attraction model. The salvation of God was localized to Israel. Jews were to act as a light to the nations to attract them to YHWH, to Israel, to the temple. One exception might be Jonah. However, I don’t see Jonah as normal for the people of God in the OT. I see Jonah as a unique, non-repeatable mission that God gave exclusively to Jonah. Jonah’s mission was not the mission of Israel.
In the NT, after the ascension, we see God give a new mission to His people: evangelism. The ascension paves the wave for evangelism. It is only after Jesus’ death and resurrection that he tells His disciples to take the gospel to the world. In the Bible, the evangelism happens after the ascension.