As a seminary student I get the opportunity to listen to debates regarding evangelism. They include disagreements over methods, regions, and definitions, among other things. In looking at two particular words in scripture I’ve come to a certain conclusion.
There are only two choices in evangelism: obey or disobey.
Some may say the choice also includes: do, not do (milder versions of the real choice), how to do, or anything else. However, there are only two choices, and they involve obedience. If you evangelize, you are obedient. If you do not evangelize, you are disobedient. Those who never try to share the gospel are disobeying God.
You’re probably thinking, “how can you make such a strong statement?” Simple, I looked at scripture. Let me show you why I come to this conclusion.
There are two key passages: Matthew 28:18-20 and Luke 10:1-16. These passages deal with Jesus sending out people to preach the gospel. Within these two passages are two key words. They will be examined individually within their context.
Luke 10:1-16 – “Go”
This word, found in verse three, is the Greek word “hupagete.” It means “to be on the move, esp. in a certain direction, go” (BDAG).1 This word is an imperative form. In other words, it is a command. Jesus commands us to go.
The context surrounding this command makes it clear that we are to go and tell others that Jesus is about to come, share the gospel with them, and minister to their needs. The primary message is that Christ is coming soon.
Matthew 28:18-20 – “Make Disciples”
This phrase, found in verse nineteen, is the Greek word “matheteusate.” It means “to cause to be a pupil, teach” (BDAG).2 This is the verb form of the noun “mathetes,” which means “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice” and “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation of a particular set of views, disciple, adherent” (BDAG).3 The second definition of the noun more closely relates to followers of Christ. The word used in Matthew is an imperative, which is a command. We are commanded to make disciples.
The context surrounding this command makes it clear that we are to reach out to the lost and teach them to obey all that Christ taught.
In the final analysis, we are commanded, or ordered, to “go” and “make disciples.” When Jesus commands us to do something, we can either obey his command or disobey his command. There is no room to disagree with his command or view it as a strong request. It is a command. Therefore, those who do not evangelize, meaning do not go and make disciples, are disobeying Christ.
Does this mean that if you have not led someone to Christ recently or discipled someone that you are living in sin? No. It means that if you are not trying to tell others about Christ and you are not trying to teach others then you are living in sin. Jesus didn’t say to have a certain quota. Rather, he is looking for us to reach out and tell others about him. If you are sharing your testimony with others, then you are obeying his command.
The question we need to ask ourselves is simple: am I obeying Christ’s command?
If you look into your heart, you know if you are really trying to share the gospel. If not, then its time to ask forgiveness and begin obeying. If you are, then pray for more opportunities to share and teach. Also, pray for those who may not be obeying.
Christ has issued the command. Will we obey or disobey? There are only two choices.
1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, ed. and trans. Frederick W. Danker, William F Arndt, and F. Wilber Gingrich [BDAG]. 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). s. v. “hupago.”
2. BDAG, s. v. “matheteuo.”
3. BDAG, s. v. “mathetes.”