Should all Christians take the initiative in sharing the gospel with others?
Or, were Jesus, the apostles, and those who have the gift of evangelism the only ones responsible for sharing (proclaiming) the gospel with others by taking the initiative?
Luke 24:13, 18, 33, 36, 46-49
Jesus, in opening the minds of these (the 11 apostles, the 2 men from the road to Emmaus, and those who were with the 11) people, told them that they were witnesses (and to be witnesses) of these things (Jesus’ suffering, resurrection and proclaiming in His name repentance, trusting in Jesus Christ as the Savior, for the forgiveness of sins).1
We can see from this that proclaiming the gospel was the responsibility of more than just the apostles.2
1 New Testament Commentary – Luke by William Hendriksen.
2 Matthew Henry’s Commentary.
Acts 10:42-43; Lk. 24:47
Jesus ordered the apostles (at least) to preach to the people and testify that Christ has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. And that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.
Then in Matt. 28:19-20 these apostles are commanded to go and make disciples/converts to Christ of all the nations, teaching them (these new disciples) to observe all that Jesus commanded them. And one of the things that He commanded His apostles to do was to preach the gospel as we saw in Acts and Luke. Some other passages that we see Jesus sending His apostles out to preach and that that was to be their purpose in life are: Luke 9:2, 6; John 17:18; 20:21; Acts 1:8; John 4:38.
According to Phil. 2:2, Christians are told to be “intent on one purpose”. What is this purpose?
Phil. 1:27 tells us. It’s to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” by “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (i.e., aggressively evangelizing).
According to 1 Pet. 2:9, it is to proclaim (a spoken message) the excellencies of Him (the gracious dealings and glorious attributes of God). These Christians that Peter writes to are from all over the northern province of Asia Minor. And Peter tells them that they are a chosen people to proclaim this message – Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. 2.
Alan Stibbs in his First Epistle General of Peter – Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, says that “His excellencies” are both God’s character and also the actual deeds by which He revealed it (i.e., by what He has done in bringing outsiders into the enjoyment of such privilege). “Out of darkness into … light” is a typical New Testament description of the change which the Christian gospel brought into the lives of converts from heathenism.” These Christian’s conversion or obtaining of salvation is a gracious and merciful dealing of God’s, and in proclaiming this they would actually be sharing the gospel.
This makes sense as it was Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth – Luke 19:9-10; Mark 1:38; and 1 Tim. 1:15.
It was Paul’s purpose for life too – Acts 16-18; Eph. 3:8-12.
And so it should be every Christian’s – Phil. 2:2; 1 Pet. 2:9, along with Matt. 28:19-20 coupled to Acts 10 and Luke 24.
Acts 8:1, 4
As the church (Christians) was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, they went about preaching the word. (Notice that the apostles stayed in Jerusalem so that it was the average Christian who was preaching the word – the gospel).
Sometimes God needs to send persecution in order to get Christians to spread the word – the gospel message.
Again we see the average Christian speaking the word (gospel) as they traveled to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. Others from Cyprus and Cyrene (Libya) came to Antioch and spoke to the Gentiles, preaching the Lord Jesus, with the result that a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
The Lord commanded Paul and Barnabas to be lights to the Gentiles to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. The converted Gentiles, in turn, spread the word of the Lord through the whole region – New International Commentary of the New Testament – The Book of Acts by F.F. Bruce.
While Paul stayed in Ephesus, other believers carried on missionary activities in the neighboring cities as well. It was during these years that the churches at Colossae, Heirapolis, and Laodicea were founded, although Paul doesn’t appear to have visited these cities in person (Col. 2:1; 4:13) – New International Commentary of the New Testament – The Book of the Acts by F.F. Bruce.
From verses 59 and 60 it seems to indicate that anyone who was to be a follower of Jesus Christ was to go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God. “Go” expresses taking the initiative. “Proclaim” expresses verbally telling. The “kingdom of God” is synonymous with the gospel message as used here. Since this incident happened as they were going along the road (Lk. 9:57), and this person was neither an apostle nor one who possessed the gift of evangelism (as spiritual gifts weren’t given until the Church formed in Acts 2), we can conclude that this stranger whom Jesus asked to follow Him is representative of all who follow Jesus. As a Christian, are you a follower of Christ?
1 Cor. 10:33 – 11:1 (1 Cor. 9:22)
Paul tells these Christians at Corinth to “imitate” him just as he also was imitating Christ, in terms of accommodating, in all things allowable, to all people that all types of people might be saved. Since this command is addressed to all the Christians at this church, then this command is for all Christians, including you.
Since Paul “became all things to all men that he may by all means save some for the sake of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:22-23) and because Paul initiates sharing the gospel wherever he goes and because we are told to imitate Paul, then we should initiate sharing the gospel wherever we go and not be a hindrance but become all things to all people too, so that people might be saved.
Paul tells the Christians at Philippi to “practice the things that they have learned and received and heard and seen in Paul”. One of the things they heard was – that because of Paul’s imprisonment, most of the brethren trusting in the Lord had far more courage to speak the word of God (the gospel – Col. 1:5, 25-28) without fear. Paul says, “some are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some from good will.” He was not as concerned with their motives as he was that Christ was being proclaimed – Phil. 1:12-18.
Since the average Christian was told to practice the things that they learned and heard in Paul and Paul was a proclaimer of the gospel (Phil. 1:16), then all Christians were to proclaim the gospel. We also notice that most of the Christians were (Phil. 1:14).
Paul wants to hear that the Christians at Philippi are “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (spreading God’s glorious redemptive truth which centers in Jesus Christ and salvation in Him) – New Testament Commentary – Philippians by William Hendriksen.
If Paul wants to hear this, then obviously it must have been expected of them. Therefore, it’s expected of all Christians, as the church/Christians at Philippi represents the Church/Christians in general.
Euodia, Syntyche, Clement, and a host of other fellow-workers at Philippi had labored (strenuous and agonizing effort) in the spreading of the gospel as Paul had struggled in the cause of the gospel – New Testament Commentary – Philippians by Hendriksen.
We see that all kinds of average Christians are sharing the gospel.
James, Jesus’ half-brother, neither an apostle nor evangelist, is said to have as his responsibility that of going to the circumcised (Jews) with the gospel – New Testament Commentary – Galatians by William Hendriksen.
Epaphras, neither an apostle nor an evangelist, brought the gospel to the people in his own home town (Col. 4:12) – Everyone in the Bible by William Barker. Ordinary Christians are sharing the gospel.
2 Cor. 1:19; 1 Thes. 1:1, 5; 2:9
Silvanus and Timothy proclaimed the gospel, and neither of them were apostles nor evangelists.
Silvanus (Silas) was a prophet – Acts 15:22, 32, 40.
Timothy later became a pastor – 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:2, 14; 4:2.
They initiated speaking the gospel, even amid opposition – 1 Thes. 2:2; 3:2.
2 Tim. 4:5
Paul tells Timothy to do “the work of an evangelist”. Kenneth Wuest in his Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, vol. 2 says, “Let your work be evangelistic in character. Always be a bringer of good news. Paul does not exhort the local pastor to engage in an itinerant/traveling ministry, going from place to place holding evangelistic meetings. That work is for the evangelist. But the local pastor should be evangelistic in his message and methods. He must ever be reaching out for the lost both in his teaching, preaching, and personal contacts.”
So we see that even a pastor whose spiritual gift is not that of evangelism should be involved in evangelism.
Also, Paul, in writing to Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:10 states that Timothy followed his (Paul’s) purpose (among other things). And Paul’s purpose as has been already stated was to evangelize – Acts 26:16-18; 20:24; Rom. 1:1.
Eph. 4: 11-12
Evangelists were given to equip the saints (all Christians at large, all local assemblies too). But how would an evangelist equip other Christians?
Obviously, it would be in the manner he evangelized or by using the principles that the evangelist used. And what are some of these ways?
Well, Philip the evangelist took the initiative to proclaim the gospel to any and all he encountered – Acts 8:5-6, 40.
Paul trained others by taking them with him when he evangelized – Acts 15:40; 16:1-3, 10; 18:18; 20:4.
1 Thes. 1:8
“The word of the Lord” is used here as a synonym for the gospel – The Thessalonian Epistles by Dr. E. Hiebert.
The gospel had sounded forth from these Thessalonian Christians to every place in the world. Christian merchants of Thessalonica who traveled in various directions took the gospel with them – Commentary on the Whole Bible by Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown.
“Wherever Paul went, the response was, “We know exactly what you are talking about, for we met some of these Christians from Thessalonica.” Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians was such that their immediate response was to share the gospel with others.” – Disciples Are Made Not Born by Walter Henrichsen, p. 92.
Travelers and merchants coming to Thessalonica came into contact with these believers, saw their radiance amid suffering, heard the gospel, and then took what they (these travelers and merchants) learned with them wherever they then went – The Thessalonian Epistles by Dr. E. Hiebert.
I think that it becomes rather apparent from all of the passages above that evangelizing (sharing the gospel message) is for all Christians to do, and wasn’t something just for Jesus, the apostles, and those who have the gift of evangelism.
Also, it’s rather apparent that the manner in which they proclaimed the gospel was by taking the initiative rather than by waiting for either people to ask them about their changed life or by first building a good relationship with people before Christians witnessed to them.