To some the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) is simply a subordinate suggestion. To others the call of Jesus to preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) is a virtual impossibility. Christians are tempted to act as if the ringing of the message of the cross throughout the whole world (Luke 24:47) is a logistical nightmare. After all, how can we, being so few in number, possibly reach a world of seven-billion people?
Perhaps those same mindsets were shared by many of our brethren in the First Century. It is possible that many new Christians thought the task of global evangelization was impossible. It is also possible that many balked when the Great Commission was given unto them by the authority of the apostles (Matthew 28:20). Yet there was one man who was committed to the Commission. His name was Paul.
Paul described his commitment to the cause of Christ by employing three words: debtor, ready and ashamed (in the negative). He wrote to the Romans:
"I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:14-16)
When it came down to the proclamation of the Message, the apostle was motivated and prepared for the task. Because of Paul's debt to God he felt as if woe was upon him if he did not teach the lost (1 Corinthians 9:16); therefore, he prepared himself and preformed the task.
Why don't we, as Christians, evangelize like Paul? We are told to be followers of him as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). What disarms our desires and undermines our efforts to reach a world that is lost with the only Message that will save?
1. Perhaps we aren't convicted. The apostle Paul realized that he was a "debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise" (Romans 1:14). He did not incur this debt because of a kindness extended to him by any mortal man. Rather Paul was indebted to all men because of the freedom he had been granted in Christ. He had been under the debt and weight of sin, yet Christ had redeemed him (Romans 6:23). As a man freed from the slavery of sin and subject unto the Lordship of Christ he was required to propagate the Message that had brought him so great a salvation. We are in the same spiritual boat of safety. We've been redeemed by Christ (Ephesians 1:7). Perhaps we are guilty of not evangelizing because we are convicted of our own debt.
2. Perhaps we aren't concerned. Paul's words ring with enthusiasm: "as much as in me is" (Romans 1:15). He knew that the vast majority of those in Rome were lost and remained dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). His concern for the salvation of lost souls moved him to spread the Gospel. I often wonder how tormented our lives would be if we saw people as God saw them. We know that God looks not upon the outward appearance but upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). When God looks at our friends, neighbors, family members and co-workers He sees souls who are dying in sin. Perhaps we would be more concerned about the spiritual welfare of our fellow men if we saw them as the spiritual "walking dead".
3. Perhaps we aren't conditioned. The apostles of Christ were always "ready to preach the Gospel" (Romans 1:15). During His earthly ministry Christ had conditioned these men for the task of global evangelization. Furthermore, He had sent the Holy Spirit to reveal the entire Message unto them (John 16:13). Paul was no different than the others even though he was "one born out of due season" (1 Corinthians 15:8). We may not have the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit or three years with our Lord in Galilee; however, we do have something superior: the completed Gospel of Christ, the New Testament (2 Peter 1:19-21). We are given the charge to equip ourselves for the task of teaching others (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 3:15). Maybe we are like lazy soldiers and aren't spiritually conditioned as we should be in order to evangelize.
4. Perhaps we are too cowardly. Paul was not ashamed to preach the Gospel whether it was to the Jew or the Greek (Romans 1:16). He recognized that the Cross provided the only means whereby man could be saved. He was willing to live for the Cross or die for the Cross. He recognized that the Gospel could not be spread throughout the world if Christians cowered in fear. If we are convicted of our debt to God, profess concern for our fellow man, and are adequately studied so as to be conditioned to preach yet we still do not evangelize, then the only other reason for our lack of obedience to the Great Commission is cowardice. The Message for which Christ died and for which the apostles suffered martyrdom is often hidden away in the recesses of our lives and neglected in our manifold relationships. We may espouse undying loyalty to the cause of Christ one moment (Matthew 26:35), yet we repeatedly deny Him by spreading His Message. If we are too cowardly to evangelize, then one day the final cock with crow (Matthew 26:69-75).
Who have you taught the Gospel in the past seven days? Have you tried to reach a lost soul with the Message of salvation recently? Why not?