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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am service, 2001-10-14

Text: Ephesians 4:11

It is a joy and privilege once again to be able to bring the Word of God to all of you. Last Sunday we started on a series of messages on the Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts. In the introductory message Rev Colin Wong laid down the basic principles of Spiritual gifts. We learned that God has graciously bestowed at least 19 spiritual gifts 

The church is meant to function as an organism or body, and every Christian has a role to play in it. V.4 'There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling' Before we knew the Lord, each of us probably regarded himself or herself as separate, self-contained, self-sufficient, independent individuals. 

But things have changed when we became believers. Christians should not live anymore as independent entities. The Bible shows us clearly that we who are Christians must now see ourselves as being incorporated into the body of Christ. We are, in fact, incorporated into this body -- which consists of the total sum of all true believers: an organic unity. The Christian life is not meant to be a one-man show and cannot possibly succeed as one. We were saved to serve Christ together. We are made by God with a need for each other, and bestowed with various specific gifts which enable us to perform different roles in the body of Christ (v.7 'But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.'). None of these roles can ever function effectively when isolated from the others. But a combination of them together is very necessary for proper function. Let each of us realise that we have a unique role in which we must funtion. And for the health of the whole body of Christ, it is crucial and necessary that we keep on functioning actively in our special roles, in close affiliation with others in the body. Whether we are active in Christian service or not, we will affect the whole body of Christ. We cannot be indifferent. Our lack of Christian service will affect the body adversely whether we like it or not. 

But if we are actively serving in the body of Christ, we can be a tremendous blessing to the whole body. Let no Christian underestimate the value of his contribution to the life of the body of Christ. It is God's will for each of us to fulfill our roles or service with the gifts and abilities that He has given to us. Let us become assets rather than liabilities to the church. I trust that through this series of messages each of us may discover the spiritual gift or gifts that we have, and begin to use them. 

He question that we want to ask now is: How can you determine what your spiritual gift is? As Rev Wong mentioned in his message, you need to pray and ask the Lord to reveal what spiritual gift or gifts He has given you. You should also ask your close Christian friends who have been with you for years, what they think your spiritual gift is. When you have discovered your spiritual gift, the next step is to cultivate it. In 2 Timothy 1:6 Paul exhorted Timothy to stir up the gift of God, that was in him. To stir up is to kindle or to fan some burning coals into flame. Learn as much as you can about your spiritual gift through reading books, or attending training sessions. 

Once you have acquired the confidence to exercise your spiritual gift, then the next step is to look for opportunities to use it. The worst thing to do with your spiritual gift is to neglect it. That is why Paul warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:14 'Neglect not the gift that is in thee,' 

This morning we are going to look at the first spiritual gift which is the gift of an evangelist. This gift is found in the list of spiritual gifts of Ephesians 4:11 'And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers' Some may then jump to the conclusion from this verse, that evangelism is to be carried out only by those who have the gift of an evangelist. Let us understand that all Christians have the responsibility to witness for Christ. We cannot say, 'since I do not have the gift of an evangelist, I do not have to evangelise at all.' Verses like 1 Peter 2:9 and 3:15 make it clear that every Christian should be involved in evangelism. For instance, Timothy was not an evangelist, but a pastor at Ephesus, and yet Paul told him to 'do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.' (2 Timothy 4:5) 

Furthermore, the book of Acts shows us that evangelism was carried out not by a elite group of specialists only, but by all members of the church (11:19), who used whatever opportunities they found in their interaction with the unsaved in daily life to bring the gospel of Christ to them. 

Jesus Christ said that we are to be the light of the world and salt of the earth. As such, we must be ready to give people around us the life-giving message of salvation in Christ. I think that the main problem with many of us is that when it comes to the subject of sharing our faith, we become afraid, because we do not know how to proceed in giving an accurate, easily understood message that will lead men to Christ. What should we say first? How do we handle the questions that the person will ask, and so on. 

To overcome this fear we should try to acquire some training and even practice in sharing our faith with others. Join in the Seminar on Evangelism and Follow up that has been planned in our church for the March school holidays next year. And remember: You don't need to have the spiritual gift of an evangelist to lead someone to Christ. You only need the regular empowerment of the Holy Spirit to be His witness. That was what Jesus said in Acts 1:8 'ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.'

This brings us to the question 'What then is the spiritual gift of being an evangelist?' This spiritual gift refers to the special ability to reach out to people with the Gospel of Christ effectively. One excellent example of a Christian who had this spiritual gift in the Bible is Philip. We know that he had this gift, because he is called 'Philip the evangelist' in Acts 21:8. Philip's spiritual gift made him very useful to bring many souls to Christ.

Philip is first mentioned in Acts 6. he was one of the 7 new deacons elected by the congregation at Jerusalem. Besides Philip, there was another deacon elected named Stephen who had the gift of preaching. But he was martyred in Acts 7 and this was followed by a great persecution of Christians by the Jews. As we read the story of Philip the evangelist, we learn that he left Jerusalem to escape that great persecution, and then went to the city of Samaria. One reason why he went there rather than somewhere else, could have been that he knew for a fact, that the unbelieving Jews from Jerusalem would never come to hunt for him in Samaria, because they despised the Samaritans, and would not even touch a Samaritan. Philip's purpose may have been to find refuge there until the persecution was over, but the Lord had other plans for him. 

Being a gifted evangelist, Philip naturally saw the opportunities to tell the Samaritans about Christ. He used these opportunities, and the Lord gave him a very fruitful ministry while he was there, opening the hearts of the Samaritans, so that many of them were saved. We notice that this gospel campaign to the Samaritans was totally unplanned, but the results of it were so great that news of it reached the church in Jerusalem who then sent Peter and John as representatives to confirm the new believers and also to help out with the harvest. 

From this account we can learn some things about what the gift of an evangelist is all about. This spiritual gift enables the person who has it to be like Philip, a frontline soldier of Christ, sometimes breaking new ground and bringing the gospel cross-culturally to places where the name of Christ has not been heard before. He does not stay in one place for long, to build up a church. That is the role of a pastor. But he preaches the Gospel from place to place like an itinerant preacher. 

This interpretation of this spiritual gift is confirmed for us in what happened next to Philip - He made another important advance of the Gospel into the unevangelised parts of the world - this time to nation of Ethiopia. But he did not have to go all the way to Ethiopia to do this. God directed him to evangelise just one key person: an Ethiopian minister of finance who happened to be traveling back to Ethiopia from Jerusalem. 

In v.26 we read that 'the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship' Although Philip only won one soul to Christ here, that soul in turn became an evangelist who brought the Gospel back to his people in Ethiopia, and till today, the Ethiopian claims that this eunuch was their own country's first evangelist.

It is interesting to observe how Philip brought that Ethiopian eunuch to Christ. In v.29, Philip is directed by the Holy Spirit telling him to go near and join himself to the Ethiopian's chariot. Here he was, out in the desert, alone with an Ethiopian official who happened to be reading the Old Testament. Now, as a gifted evangelist, Philip was ready to witness not only to great crowds of people as he had done at Samaria, but even to just one person. The challenge that he faced was how would he begin to talk about Christ to this stranger? This is where the evangelist's spiritual gift becomes useful - it helps him to overcome this barrier. 

Sometimes in our conversations with our non-Christian friends and loved ones, we find it difficult to begin talking about Christ. The things we usually talk about are our work, the weather, the problems of day-to-day life, or about people we know. How do we switch from talking about these things to talking about spiritual things. It is not easy, and takes some effort. We need to find a transition point, which will help to steer the course of the conversation in the direction of salvation. This transition point can take the form of a question. 

This was what Philip used when he approached the Ethiopian official. As Philip approached the chariot, his spiritual gift enabled him to know that he could not just go up to the Ethiopian and say, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.' As he came nearer to the carriage he heard the Ethiopian reading aloud from a copy of the Old Testament. And he immediately knew how he should begin his conversation. Not by saying, 'Isn't it hot out here in the desert?' or 'Where might you be going, Sir?' His question was designed to lead to the gospel. He asked: 'Do you understand what you are reading?' And the expected response came immediately: 'How can I understand this unless someone guides me?' This call for help became Philip's golden opportunity to use the scriptures to share Christ with him. And within the short time that Philip guided him in understanding the scriptures, the Ethiopian was saved and baptised! Acts 8:36 'And as they went their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what dot hinder me to be baptized?'

From this event, we can learn two more things about the gift of an evangelist. Firstly, it gives him the useful ability to turn almost any kind of situation into an opportunity to share the gospel of Christ. This is a skill that Jesus Himself had, as can be seen in John 4, when he met the woman at the well. Although Christ was already tired and thirsty from two days of travel, He turned a plain request for a drink of water into an opportunity to save a soul from sin. 

And secondly, we learn that the gift of an evangelist gives him the ability to use the Word of God in such a manner that sinners are persuaded to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! An evangelist must be well-equipped with a working knowledge of the Scriptures. He must be very familiar with these because they are the 'tools of his trade', so to speak. Some people who call themselves evangelists today do not use much of the Scriptures. They only read a verse or two from the Bible, then they depart from it, tell ten stories and give an invitation. 

A true evangelist will spend more time in explaining the message of salvation with the use of scriptures. He will use some illustrations, but not too many, because he knows that it is the gospel of Christ that is the power of God unto salvation and not his story-telling ability. He is confident that the seed that he sows will be used by God to bring forth responses that are voluntary and spontaneous. He does not need to resort to using pressure tactics to force people to turn to Christ. We notice that Philip the evangelist did not make any attractive offers or promises of blessings of health and wealth as some so-called evangelists today would do, but he simply preached salvation from sin through Christ, and left all the results to God. 

After bringing the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, we see Philip the evangelist continuing to exercise his spiritual gift as he journeyed from Azotus to Caesarea. V.40 tells us 'But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.' This was a distance of about 80 km along the coastal road of Israel. Along this road he would have passed through some important coastal cities like Joppa and Jamnia before reaching Caesarea. The many places where he preached the Gospel, beginning with Samaria and ending with Caesarea, shows that Philip's ministry was not fixed to one location but was an itinerant ministry. 

Thus, by surveying the ministry of Philip the evangelist, we now have a better understanding of how this spiritual gift works. The evangelist is gifted by God to go from place to place and do work of the frontline evangelism, by preaching the gospel to crowds of people or to individuals. He has the unique ability to turn ordinary situations into opportunities to share the Gospel of Christ, and has to be well-equipped with the Scriptures for this work.

In the history of the church the Lord has raised up many notable evangelists. Some have been cross-cultural missionaries, like Hudson Taylor and William Carey, who evangelised China and India respectively. Some have been great revivalists like Dwight L. Moody and Dr John Sung. Hundreds and even thousands of sinners were brought under conviction through their preaching. Some evangelists have founded and planted churches which they later committed to pastors who are permanently based there to build up the spiritual life of the church members. 

We can consider an evangelist's work to be pioneer missionary work when it is done in places where there is no established church yet. He will have to live with the native people, learn their language and culture and then communicate the gospel to them in a manner that they can understand. Hence we can call our missionaries in countries like Thailand and Cambodia evangelists because their primary ministry is to win the lost to Christ. 

But in places where there is already a strong established church, the evangelist's work may be different from this. It may take the form of working with that church for a period of time, by training and mobilising its members to go forth with the Gospel, while at the same time conducting a series of Gospel meetings to bring in the harvest of souls. The John Sung Revival meetings in Singapore in the 1930s were like that. During his campaign, many Christians were trained for evangelism, organised into evangelistic bands and then mobilised to win souls for the Lord. The souls that are won would then be followed up. From that point onward, the evangelist's work was done, and he would move on to another place, and then the Pastor's work began. The evangelist's work is therefore a short-term ministry while the pastor's work is the long term one. 

We thank God for raising up evangelists like our missionaries, to win many to the Lord overseas. But of late we have not seen many of the other type of evangelists - the 'Revival' type of evangelists - that we can work together with. Although we do have two gospel rallies a year, plus other smaller gospel rallies organised by the various fellowships and groups in our church, these efforts are not of the same scale as the John Sung campaign that swept through Singapore and Southeast Asia. Now, if we believe that God has given spiritual gifts to all Christians, then there should be some even within our congregation who may have this particular spiritual gift. Perhaps there may be within our own midst now, some who will be evangelists in time to come. Let us pray that the Lord will raise up another Philip or another John Sung or Hudson Taylor or William Burns from our midst. 

Perhaps there may be someone here this morning who is convincted at this moment that may be is his spiritual gift from the Lord. But how can he know for sure if it is? William McRae, in his book 'The Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts' proposes that there are four distinct characteristics that would be present in those who have this spiritual gift. 

Firstly, he would have a consuming passion for souls. His burden to reach out the unsaved is so strong that he would rather witness than have a meal. 

Second, he has a clear understanding of the gospel message - an understanding that correctly represents the truths of God's justice as well as His love sinners. 

Third, he has the ability to present the gospel message clearly. He can communicate the message in terms that are simple enough for the hearer to comprehend. And so when he shares the gospel, he holds the attention of his audience effectively, and they are able to see the light without much difficulty. 

And Fourth, his greatest joy in life is to see men and women come to a personal and saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! He finds deep joy and fulfillment in witnessing. To him there is no greater honour than to be the instrument in God's hands of leading one person out of the kingdom of Satan, into the glorious light of heaven. 

Dearly beloved, if you have all four of these characteristics, then this may well be your spiritual gift from the Lord, and the thing for you to do then is to cultivate the gift and use it well. Ask the Lord to show you how you can become an effective evangelist, who will be used by Him to bring many souls into His Kingdom.

But if you find that you do not have these four characteristics, and so conclude that this is not your spiritual gift, please remember what was mentioned earlier in our message - that whether we have the gift of an evangelist or not, we all have the responsibility to witness for the Lord wherever we have an opportunity to witness. Let us be faithful in bringing souls to Christ.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11