Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 5, 1954
NUMBER 13, PAGE 6,9b

Evangelism On New Testament Principles

Homer Hailey. Tampa. Florida

(Editor's Note: Brother Homer Hailey has written a series of articles on the above subject which were published in the May and June numbers of "The Preceptor." We take the articles from that journal, and commend them to your careful study. Particularly interesting is Brother Hailey's analysis of what makes the Missionary Society wrong, and his comparison of certain modern "cooperative efforts" with the Society. This comes in the last article, but can be best appreciated if the whole series is read first.")

The New Testament is the Christian's standard and guide in all matters of doctrine, worship and life. Peter said, "If any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God; if any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth; that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 4:11); while Paul admonishes us "not to go beyond the things which are written." (1 Cor. 4:6.) Because this is right, the conscientious Christian appeals to the Bible for everything he does, seeking in all things to stay within the confines of its teaching.

Further, the Christian welcomes any challenge that sends him back to the Bible for a restudy of every practice to which he subscribes, or doctrine he may teach. The recent wave of evangelism sweeping the churches of Christ, in which congregations have seen fit to cooperate in order to combine certain forces and powers bequeathed to them by the Father, calls for a new. study of methods prescribed for doing such work. In this paper there is proposed a reconsideration of New Testament emphasis in evangelism as that emphasis concerns the individual Christian.

Evangelism As Emphasized In Acts

From its beginning on Pentecost till the scattering of the church by persecution, the work of evangelizing is built around the apostles (chapters 1-7). They are the preachers and teachers. It is they who are charged with having filled Jerusalem with the teaching. Of them it is said, "And every day, in the temple and at home, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus as the Christ." (Acts 5:42.) The work was spontaneous; there was little apparent organization as to method. In the temple or at home, whether to groups or individuals, they preached and taught Jesus as the Christ.

When persecution arose, it is said, "They were all scattered abroad throughout the region of Judaea and Samaria," and "they that were scattered abroad went about preaching the word." (Acts 8:1, 4.) This referred to the church, for the apostles remained in Jerusalem. The work now involved more individuals; it included all the members. Philip went to Samaria where he preached to large groups; and from thence he was sent to preach to a lone individual, the eunuch (chapter 8). Again, the work was spontaneous, this time by the individual Christians, as they were filled with the spirit and message of Jesus Christ, and fired by apostolic examples.

Following this, our attention is directed to Peter's work in nearby communities and at the house of Cornelius (Acts 9:32 - 11:18). Next, attention is directed to the extent of the work by those scattered abroad, as "they traveled as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch." All of this work is either spontaneous on the part of the individuals or directed personally by the Spirit. The first one to be sent by a congregation was Barnabas. "And the report concerning them came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas as far as Antioch." (11:22.) Needing help in the work at Antioch, Barnabas went to Tarsus for Saul; there followed a year of work together in Antioch.

The whole account has an air of spontaneity, as men and women, impelled by a sense of obligation to a lost world and motivated by a sense of love and devotion to their Master, preached and taught always, and everywhere they went. There is not a word as to organized efforts. Barnabas, sent forth by the church in Jerusalem, was sent to teach the new disciples in Antioch, and not as an evangelist to the lost. In all the record there is no mention of "support," nor of any one's being under the oversight of others anywhere. All were responsible to God and looked upon the work as God's work. It was God working through them.

From chapter 13, through the remainder of the book, attention is focused upon Paul and his labors. Selected by the Holy Spirit, he and Barnabas went out from the church at Antioch. There is no indication that the church conceived the idea of sending them, or that they were selected or sent by the church. The account simply states, "And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them . . . . So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia . . . ." (12:2, 4.) From there they set sail for Cyprus, and from Cyprus to the mainland where they preached and established congregations. According to McGarvey they spent something like four years on this trip. Afterward they returned to Antioch, "from whence they had been committed to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all things that God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith unto the Gentiles." (14:26, 27.) Notice carefully the place ascribed to God in their work. It was not "we;' abut "God" — what God had done with them. This is the real power of all evangelism — God.

Much has been claimed from this passage (chapter 13) for congregations sending forth a preacher and for his reporting back to the church at the end of his mission. However, much that is claimed from the passage is not in the passage. It could be that the church sent the two men, that it had fellowship with them while away, and that they wrote occasional letters to the elders — but there is 'absolutely riot one word in the text to indicate these things. The Holy Spirit selected them; the Holy Spirit sent them; and there is no record of any relation between the two men and the church other than their going out from there and their returning there when they had completed the journey.

When ready to return to the field, it was not the church that suggested a return of the two men, but "Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us return now and visit the brethren in every city wherein we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they fare." (15:36.) After the sharp contention between the two over Mark's going with them, it is said, "Paul chose Silas, and went forth, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord." (Verse 40.) To commend is simply to entrust or give in charge; to deliver with confidence. Hence, they entrusted or delivered the two men to the grace of the Lord, as Paul later commended the elders from Ephesus to the word of God's grace. (Acts 20:32.) Again, nothing is said about any agreement or contract between the two men and the church, or of the church's sending them. On this point the scripture continues silent.

Years later when Paul asks, "How shall they preach, except they be sent?" he has no reference to one's being sent by a congregation. He is speaking of one sent by the Lord. True, the Lord may send through the church, but Paul's statement to the Romans does not refer to such sending.

When carefully read the text of Acts 13 indicates that other than to return there occasionally, there was no connection between Paul and his labors and the church at Antioch. Any conclusion drawn as to such a connection must be drawn from the imagination and not from what is said. So far as Acts is concerned, the task of evangelism is presented as personal, individual, and not a task for the "church universal," demanding organization and machinery. Other than the sending of Barnabas to Antioch by the church in Jerusalem there is not even an indication of the work's having been done through men sent out by congregations.