More than verbal witness, more than spiritual rebirth

feeding hungry manPresenting the Gospel is more than a verbal witness. People who know nothing of Jesus will understand when, in the power of God’s Spirit,  we do three things: tell the message, live like God’s children, and allow God to work through us to do his miraculous work in their lives.

In Romans 15, Paul says: I have brought the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I lived before them. I have won them over by the miracles done through me as signs from God — all by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ all the way from Jerusalem clear over into Illyricum. My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.” (Romans 15:18b-21 NLT)

Many of us are accustomed to thinking of “witnessing” or “sharing the Gospel” or “evangelizing” as presenting a verbal witness, and seeing our other ministries as door openers that give us opportunities to present the verbal witness. Paul says something more full-bodied: He fully presented the Gospel to the Gentiles — people who had not had the benefit of being raised in what we used to call “the nurture and admonition of the Lord” — by his message, by the way he lived his life before them, and by the miracles God performed through him.

When we reduce sharing the Gospel to verbal witness alone, we also tend to reduce salvation to spiritual rebirth alone. But salvation is more than the regeneration of spirit. Salvation is being set free from slavery to the brokenness of this world, being healed of our own brokenness, and making a journey of restoration to the shalom well-being of God’s original creation. Salvation is learning to walk in God’s ways and experiencing the abundant life God created us to enjoy.

We have not “fully presented the Good News of Jesus Christ” if we are not living the Gospel before lost souls and cooperating with God’s desire to perform miraculous works of healing and restoration in their lives. You are called to live before others in a way that demonstrates both that you love God with “all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and that you love your neighbor the way you love yourself. (Mark 12:28-34) You are called to demonstrate how to live in a way that honors God, in every aspect of daily life — to teach God’s ways to sinners, so they can turn to him and be saved. (Psalm 51:13) You are called to bring the power of God to bear on their brokenness so they can be healed and be made whole.

The Bible does more than tell us how to be born again; it also is full of teaching about how God intends us to live our lives. From the law of Moses, to the books of wisdom, to the teaching of Jesus, to the letters of the apostles, God’s Word speaks to us about many practical issues of daily life: how we work, use our money, raise our children, help people in need, stay healthy, and so on. The Scripture tells us story after story about God’s love for people that is so strong it can heal the sick, give sight to the bind, make the lame walk, set free captives held by the devil himself, even bring the dead back to life.

Jesus’ last word to his followers was not to win converts, but to be disciples who make disciples. That requires us to fully present the Gospel: engaging the whole person with the whole truth about the salvation of the whole life.

About Mark Kelly

Jesus follower, Bible reader, husband/father/son/brother/uncle/grandfather, hiker, writer/editor, snapshooter
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