Preach the Word: As Ambassadors for Christ, We Are All Called to Preach the Word Boldly

*****THIS ARTICLE IS UPDATED AT THE TOP OF MY BLOG*******

          PREACH THE WORD AND DO NOT BE ASHAMED OF JESUS

42 Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:43 For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

John 12:42-43

14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

Romans 10:14

20 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.

2 Corinthians 5:20

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Romans 10:15b

5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

2 Corinthians 4:5

Saint Francis of Assisi said something to the effect of, preach the Gospel…but rarely use words. While this sounds wise, it directly contradicts what the Bible commands regarding teaching and preaching. The Bible tells us to, boldly and humbly, and without fear or shame, proclaim the Word of Truth. The unchanging Word of God always overrules anything any man has ever said which contradicts it – no matter how brilliant it may sound. As 1 Peter 1:24-25 says, all men are like grass and their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and flowers fade…but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Every book we read, every sermon we hear, and every piece of advice we both give and receive must line up clearly and perfectly with the everlasting Word of God.

Are we, perhaps, embarrassed to say the name of Jesus Christ to non-believers? Are we afraid of giving advice that is in accord with the scriptures because it may not be socially acceptable or culturally sensitive? Are we more concerned with the approval of men than the approval of the one and only God (John 5:44; 12:42-43)? As Jesus says in John 15:18-23, if we love Him and truly are His disciples, then the world will hate us. James, the brother of Jesus, tells us in very clear language that friendship with the world is hatred towards God, and that friendship with the world makes us enemies of God (James 4:4). Peter and Paul both state that if we are going to follow Christ, we are going to be persecuted severely. Paul was persecuted so intensely that at one point that he even despaired of life itself (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

There are those who say that men can disciple others in Christ without ever talking to them about Jesus. Instead, by discussing family, work, leadership principles, and relationships, the Spirit can move to communicate Christ. There is nothing in scripture that supports this position. Instead, it appears to be more in tune with the basic philosophies and principals of this fading world as mentioned by Paul in Colossians 2:8. As Matthew 5:19-20 says, to be great in the kingdom of heaven, we must both practice and teach His commands. As I will discuss in a subsequent portion of this document, Paul makes it clear that the world cannot know about Jesus unless we proclaim him.

When Jesus is about to ascend into heaven in Matthew 28:18-20, he specifically tells his followers to go and make new disciples throughout the world – and he goes on to tell them exactly how to do it. He commands them to “teach” these disciples “to obey everything” Jesus has commanded them to do. There was nothing in that charge that states or implies that they (or we) are to avoid or slow-play the words of Jesus and build strong and trusting relationships based on mutual temporal interests and leisure before we begin to share the things of Christ. There is nothing in the final words of Jesus that say that we are to teach others to build better relationships with friends and family or instruct them how to become leaders in the business or political world. On the contrary, as previously noted, Jesus instructed his followers to teach their new disciples to obey… everything that He has taught, knowing that if they do that, everything else will fall into place.

Our job as disciples of Christ is to lift up Jesus, and if we obey that command then Jesus will draw all men to Himself. While it may not make sense to our temporal minds to focus so intently on what Jesus told us to do in his final instructions to his disciples, and while it will cost us relationships, the Holy Spirit will use our obedience to draw hearts that are truly interested in Jesus to Jesus. By our obedience the spirit will reveal who really wants to know Jesus Christ and the power of His death and resurrection. That will allow us to avoid expending unnecessary time and effort on those who aren’t really interested in knowing Christ, but are more interested in relationships with the wealthy, the influential, and the powerful.

John 15:26-27 is another example of Jesus specifically instructing his disciples to proclaim him. He tells them that, once they receive the Spirit, they must testify about Him, just as the Holy Spirit will testify about Him. More specifically, Jesus says: “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who goes out from the Father, He will testify about Me. You also must testify for you have been with me from the beginning.”

I greatly admire how Paul took the commands of Jesus to heart and boldly and unashamedly proclaimed the Word of Truth across the known world – despite the most extreme resistance and severe suffering. In Romans 1:16-17, Paul stated that he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because he knew it was the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, for in the Gospel of Christ, the righteousness from God that comes through faith is revealed. Paul bravely lived his post-conversion life looking to a better country…a heavenly one… that God has prepared for his people, for we truly are strangers and pilgrims on this earth (Hebrews 11:13-17).

Based on Paul’s words and actions, simply talking about principles of leadership, while enjoying sports and leisure time together, with a measure of Christian principals and relational dialogue mixed in, does not reveal the righteousness of the everlasting God. Instead, Paul clearly emphasizes a desperate need to actually preach the Gospel – and to be careful about our way of life, our doctrine – and even about the things of which we approve (1 Timothy 4:16, Romans 14:22b). In Romans 10:14 and 17, Paul states exactly why unbelievers need to hear the gospel. He asks, how can they (unbelievers) call on the one they haven’t believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they haven’t heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? In verse 17, he reaffirms the above by proclaiming that faith comes from hearing the message and the message comes from the word of Christ. In Titus 1:3 Paul also states that knowledge of the word is manifested through preaching.

We are all, in no uncertain terms, called to preach the word to those around us. With boldness and great humility, we are to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified – in weakness, in fear, and in the confidence that comes from knowing what we are before the living God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). A powerful example of preaching Jesus, even under great stress is in Acts 8:1-4, when, even after the church was scattered due to Paul’s violent persecutions, those who were scattered went “everywhere preaching the word.” I have come to deeply appreciate the fact that Paul and the early church were never ashamed of the name of Jesus and His words. I pray that one day I may have the same boldness and Jesus-centered confidence.

While our culture has painted Jesus as a passive, social justice-seeking hippie, with long hair and sandals, Paul is not concerned at all about who men think Jesus is. He preaches what he knows for a fact – and he proclaims it without hesitation, in even the most dangerous and godless places. Paul was flogged and imprisoned multiple times, he was stoned, and was even dragged outside of a city and left for dead. But, after regaining consciousness, he got back up, and walked right back into that city where he continued preaching. He knew exactly who it was he was preaching – the Jesus who rescued him from the dominion of darkness, and the one who is before all things and in whom all things hold together.(Colossians 1:13-20). The Jesus who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing. The Jesus who did not retaliate when insults were hurled at him as he hung cold, naked and alone on a hard wooden cross…and the only God who has a kingdom that can never, ever be shaken.

In Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus says that whoever acknowledges Him before men will also be acknowledged before His Father in heaven. This message is also contained in Luke 12:8-9. Jesus knows who He is and he wants us to know it and bravely proclaim it as well. John 1:1-18, Colossians 1:13-20, Philippians 2:5-11, 1 Peter 2:23-24, Revelation 1:12-18 and Revelation 19:11-16, are all excellent scriptures which paint accurate and powerful portraits of Jesus as He was, is…and is to come. I strongly suggest learning those scriptures and teaching them to others. As Philippians 2:5-11 indicates, Jesus is God, and He stepped off his throne willingly in obedience to the Father – and for our eternal benefit. Because he did this, God the Father exalted His Name above every name, and one way or another, every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. I suggest that we encourage those whose lives we touch to do that acknowledging now, rather than later when it is too late.

Psalms 91:14 has always spoken deeply to my heart about the power of acknowledging the name of God. In Psalm 91:14 David writes, “…because He loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him. I will protect him for he acknowledges my name.” This verse speaks powerfully to me as to why the Lord has so often protected me from my own foolishness – and from the lies of the world. In His mercy, and by His grace, I do love to speak His name to people I encounter – and I constantly ask Jesus to create a context where I can bring up His name naturally and peacefully. And He always does. There is no need to be obnoxious about it or to bring it up in a way that doesn’t fit the moment. For the God of peace will, if we ask Him, give us opportunities to proclaim exactly who this King of Kings and Lord of Lords is and what He has done for us. I pray that I will always have a heart to share the name of Jesus Christ. It is infinitely easier to do so in America today than it was for Paul in the violent, idol worshipping near east, in ancient times.

In Mark 3:13-14 and Mark 6:7-12, Jesus makes it clear that he called the twelve (12) apostles so that He might send them out to preach. In Acts 10:42-43, when Peter is talking to Cornelius about the Gospel and the life of Christ, he says that Jesus commanded ALL of his disciples to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one whom God appointed to judge the living and the dead. In Acts 5:18-20, 29, 41-42, the text states that the apostles “never stopped teaching and preaching the good news.” In Acts 3:11-26 and in Acts 4, Peter preaches the Word boldly and he is not ashamed or afraid to preach Jesus even when the Jewish leaders specifically forbade him from doing so. In Acts 9:27-29, Paul preached fearlessly, even in the face of death. In Acts 14, Paul preached boldly despite great opposition, and even after being stoned (with rocks) and left for dead. Paul constantly preached the Gospel of Jesus, and he was never ashamed and never let fear control his message despite the intensity of the violence he suffered. For he truly considered everything that was of personal benefit to him a loss for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:7-14).

I believe that one of the greatest passages of scripture setting forth the differences between the ways of Jesus Christ and the ways of the world is 1 Corinthians 1:17 through 1 Corinthians 2:5. In this passage, Paul boldly proclaims that Jesus Christ sent him to preach the Gospel – but not with words of with human wisdom lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. He knew that this message was foolishness to those who were perishing, but to those who were being saved it was the very power of God. He pointed out how God uses the weak and foolish things of the world to shame the wise so that no one can boast before him. Paul also powerfully affirmed that the only thing he wanted to make certain that he communicated to the people under his charge was the core message of the gospel – that Jesus Christ was crucified for their sins (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Paul didn’t teach principles of leadership or brotherhood. As the 1 Corinthians passage referenced earlier indicates, he taught the cross of Christ – a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles – and he did it in weakness, and fear, and with much trembling so that his message would not rely on men’s wisdom but on God’s power. I believe that we are all called do the same. In Acts 20:24, Paul stated that he counted his life worth nothing, if only he might finish the race and complete the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s grace. In 1 Corinthians 9:16-18, Paul says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel,” and when he does preach, he states that he does it free of charge so that he is not tempted to abuse his authority.

There are many additional passages that encourage us to proclaim the gospel boldly. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul reminds the church of the gospel that he originally delivered to them, and that in that gospel they must  stand. In 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, we are told that we are Christ’s ambassadors to the world, and that God is making His appeal through us, imploring all men that He wants them reconciled to Him. In Ephesians 6:19-20, Paul asks for prayer so that whenever he opens his mouth, the gospel may be proclaimed fearlessly. In 2 Timothy 1:8-9, Paul says that we should not to be ashamed to testify about our Lord but should join with him in suffering for the Gospel. In 2 Timothy 1:12, Paul says that he is suffering, yet he is not ashamed because he knows whom it is he believes. In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul tells us to preach the Word and to be prepared in season and out of season to correct, encourage, and rebuke with great patience and careful instruction.

In 2 Timothy 4:10-16, Paul makes it clear that both his teaching and his way of life were consistent. His words and his actions worked together to make his message powerful. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:19-20, to be great in the kingdom of heaven we must practice AND teach his commands. In Romans 15:18, Paul says that he leads the Gentiles to obedience by both what he has said and by what he has done. Clearly, as disciples of Christ and spokesmen for the gospel, our words and our actions must be consistent and must not be based on our flesh our supposed gifts. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul made it clear that the message he was preaching had nothing to do with his natural affinities, and he wasn’t worried at all about coming across as eloquent, powerful, or wise. In fact, he knew that eloquence might actually quench the power of the message of Jesus. He simply wanted to preach Christ crucified, in weakness and in fear of the Lord, in order that the Holy Spirit might do the talking.

In Philippians 2:14-16, Paul states that we as believers are to shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the Word of life. In Colossians 1:28-29 and 2:1-3, Paul says that we proclaim Jesus, teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. This act of teaching the gospel is our labor, our vocation as followers of Jesus. Paul’s stated purpose was that, through his teaching, everyone might have the full riches of complete understanding in order that we all may truly know Jesus Christ. Paul makes it eminently clear that the commands of Jesus must be taught in order for men and women of this earth to understand the truth and to be freed from the bondage of sin.

In Colossians 4:3-5, Paul prays that God will open a door so that he may proclaim the mystery of Christ to all people, and he encourages the church in Colossae to make the most of every opportunity to share Jesus with others. In Philemon 1:6, we are instructed to be active in sharing our faith so that we will have the full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. In 1 Peter 2:9- 10, we are told that, as chosen people we are to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.

I believe that the more we understand exactly who Jesus is and what it is he has done for us free of charge, the bolder and less ashamed we become in proclaiming Him, as He is in scripture. That is why I believe that knowing, teaching, and even memorizing John 1:1-18, Colossians 1:13-20, Philippians 2:5-11, 1 Peter 1:23-24, Revelation 1:12-18, and Revelation 19:11-16, is of the utmost importance as a follower of Christ. What could be more important to a believer than having powerful and accurate portraits of our living God from his eternal word, burned into our hearts and minds? There are very few things that I would want someone whose life I am somehow touching, to know more than these passages.

EPILOGUE

Someday every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth, will bow down to Jesus Christ and every tongue will indeed confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Let us encourage those we know and love to do this confessing before death … instead of after. And let us do it boldly, and powerfully, and without fear, through the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that we truly are heirs of an eternal kingdom that can never, ever be shaken.

 

1 Corinthians 1:17- 24

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

The Written Word: What Did Jesus, The Apostles, and the Psalmists say about the Eternal Written word of God?

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