«_ A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the School of Theology Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth, Texas _ In Partial ...»
The role of the Spirit, the ethic of a commendable community, and the personal witness join to provide an effective evangelistic presentation to postmodern people.
J. I. Packer summarizes the role of personal evangelism.
Evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the evangel.
It is a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces for God’s message of mercy to sinners. Anyone who faithfully delivers that message, under whatever circumstances... is evangelizing.
Since the divine message finds its climax in a plea from the Creator to a rebel world to turn and put faith in Christ, the delivering of it involves the summoning of one’s hearers to conversion. If you are not, in this sense, seeking to bring about conversions, you are not evangelizing; this we have seen already. But the way to tell whether in fact you are evangelizing... is to ask whether you are faithfully making known the gospel message.30
Personal evangelism in an apostolic approach presents the
story of the gospel through the lens of personal experience.
Millard J. Erickson, Postmodernizing the Faith:
Evangelical Responses to the Challenge of Postmodernism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 155.
James I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1961), 41.
postmodern world necessitate the empowerment of the witness.
Without the power of the Spirit in an apostolic approach, personal evangelism may be just another story among stories.
The apostle Paul provides insight into the power in an apostolic approach to personal evangelism (Rom 15:17-21).31 In this passage, the apostle demonstrates the role of the Spirit which empowers him peplhrwkevnai to; eujaggevlion tou` Cristou`
teravtwn. Mark Saucy suggests that “the church is empowered to preach by the Spirit (Acts 1:8), and it works miracles through the Spirit.”33 Unger indicates that such miraculous signs of God’s presence in the apostolic community have ceased.34 Yet, the presence of the miraculous demonstration of God’s presence in the apostolic community regularly accompanies the evangelistic ministry of the church in Acts.
Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New
International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids:
William B. Eerdmans, 1996), 891-98.
“To have made full the gospel of Christ.” Mark Saucy, “Miracles and Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God,” Bibliotheca Sacra 153 (July 1996): 286.
Merrill Unger, The Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 138-40.
This writer proposes that the manifestation of the Spirit’s work in the church continues to play an important role.
This is not to embrace wholeheartedly the “power evangelism” of John Wimber,35 but it is to acknowledge in a postmodern setting the necessity of the Spirit’s therapeutic work of power through an apostolic approach for evangelism.
of prayer highlights a significant avenue for empowerment in personal evangelism (Col 4:2-6).36 Prayer plays a major role in Paul’s evangelistic ministry. In the contemporary church, prayer should accompany the evangelistic enterprise with postmodern people, “so that the mystery of the indwelling Christ may be proclaimed (4:2-4).”37
pray ejn pneuvmati. Through prayer, individual witnesses experience the overflow of God’s power for evangelism.38
See John Wimber, Power Evangelism (San Francisco:
Allison A. Trites, “The Prayer Motif in Luke-Acts,” in Perspectives in Luke-Acts, ed. C. H. Talbert (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1977), 168–86.
H. Wayne House, “The Christian Life According to Colossians,” Bibliotheca Sacra 151 (October 1994): 454.
Kendall Easley, “The Pauline Usage of Pneumati as a Reference to the Spirit of God,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27 (September 1984): 307Furthermore, Paul’s exhortation for the life controlled by the Spirit presents a prerequisite for empowerment in personal evangelism (Eph 5:18).39 Mussies concludes that the present tense of the imperative, plhrou`sqe, calls for a consistent, continual manner of life.40 Dana and Mantey suggest that ejn pneuvmati is instrumental, so that the meaning is “by means of the Spirit.”41 Fee notes that this reference points to the community experience, as well as the individualistic experience.42 As such, the phrase points to the apostolic ethic within the community. Köstenberger notes that the Spirit permeates the life of the witness, manifested in wisdom (Eph 5:17-18), “grateful worship” (5:19-20), and relationships following the principle of love (5:21-6:9).43 F. F. Bruce, “The Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles” Interpretation 27 (1973): 166-83; C. Anderson, “Rethinking ‘Be Filled with the Spirit.’ Ephesians 5:18 and
the Purpose of Ephesians” Evangelical Journal 7 (1989):
G. Mussies, The Morphology of Koine Greek (Leiden:
E. J. Brill, 1971), 272-73.
H. E. Dana and J. R. Mantey. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: MacMillan, 1950), 105.
Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 721-24.
Andreas Köstenberger, “What Does It Mean to be Filled with the Spirit? A Biblical Investigation,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (June 1997): 233.
The postmodern world presents obstacles of paganism and persecution for personal evangelism. A “stubbornly entrenched paganism” is one obstacle to apostolic witness.44 Simon in Samaria (Acts 8:9), Elymas in Paphos (Acts 13:6-8), and the Hellenistic paganism (Acts 14:8-18; 16:16-19; 17:5depict the paganism that pervaded the cultural landscape of the first-century. This paganism presented an obstacle to the evangelistic efforts of the apostolic church.45 The contemporary church faces this same obstacle.
Postmodern people have a “healthy spiritual appetite” that drives them “to seek our mystical experiences, developing their own unique religious faith.”46 The dismissal of foundations, the relativism of truth, and the pluralism that define postmodernism create fertile ground for the development of unique religious, syncretistic beliefs.
Autrey, Evangelism in the Acts, 71.
See Ramsay MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 62-73. Paul
Veyne, “The Roman Empire,” in A History of Private Life:
From Pagan Rome to Byzantium, ed. Paul Veyne, trans. A.
Goldhammer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), 207-33.
“The paganism of the Greeks and Romans... was, if I may put it this way, more an à la carte religion than a religion with a fixed menu” (208).
Todd Hahn and David Verhaagen, GenXers After God:
Helping a Generation Pursue Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 14.
Based upon various mystical experiences and philosophies from a multitude of religious circles, postmodern people embrace a contemporary form of paganism.47 Luke reports that many Samaritans ejpivsteusan tw`/ Filivppw/ eujaggelizomevnw/ peri; th`~ basileiva~ tou` qeou` kai; tou` ojnovmato~ jIhsou` Cristou` (Acts 8:12).48 The healing and exorcisms (Acts 8:7) serve as “visible ‘signs’ confirming the message that he proclaimed.”49 Luke presents Simon of Samaria as a pagan counterpart to Philip and the apostolic ministry (Acts 8:9Simon receives baptism along with other converts, but then he considers the acquisition of miraculous power “a matter of greed rather than grace (8:14-23),” offering money to Peter for the power of the Spirit.51 These religious circles may even be contradictory.
“[They] believed Philip as he preached the good news concerning the kingdom of God and of the name of Jesus Christ.” In Acts 13:6-8, Elymas the sorcerer was struck blind by God which led to the conversion of Sergius Paulus.
F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, rev. ed., New
International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1988), 165.
See Edwin Yamauchi, Pre-Christian Gnosticism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 57-63. Although it is beyond the reach of this dissertation, later tradition assigns to Simon Magus the origination of the Gnostic heresy denounced by Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and Hippolytus.
Robert Wall, “Israel and the Gentile Mission in Acts and Paul: A Canonical Approach,” in Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts, eds. I. H. Marshall and David Peterson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 444.
This encounter of Phillip and Peter with Simon reveals the nature of personal evangelization before the obstacle of paganism in a postmodern milieu. First, the personal witness must proclaim the gospel. Unlike Simone Weil, the apostolic approach seeks to evangelize individuals who adhere to any spiritual pursuit other than Christ Jesus.
Weil considers that such evangelization discounts the spiritual pursuits of individuals and the possibility that the cross affects the same benefit of salvation to these pursuits which are “not too unsuitable for pronouncing the name of the Lord.”52 For an apostolic approach, however, the proclamation of the gospel confronts the postmodern “carnivalesque world of multiple constructions of reality” and demonstrates the “ongoing drama of God’s redemption of the world” through Jesus Christ.53 The presentation of the gospel in the power of the Spirit produces the foundations for faith in Jesus in the face of postmodern paganism.54 Simone Weil, Waiting for God, trans. Emma Craufurd (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1951), 185. Weil offers this conclusion based upon spiritual pursuits of individuals since she includes those who have embraced a native religion as well as those who have not embraced any formal religion.
J. Richard Middleton and Brian J. Walsh, Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995), 191.
M. Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, 132.
“The dunamis shown by the Christians appealed to a magician like Simon Magus or Elymas.” Secondly, an apostolic approach corrects any syncretistic tendency in the evangelization of postmodern people. Peter corrects Simon’s misconception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:20-24). In Lystra Paul and Barnabas eujaggelizovmenoi h\san (Acts 14:7). After healing a lame man, the people seek to worship the missionaries as oiJ qeoi;
oJmoiwqevnte~ ajnqrwvpoi~ (Acts 14:11). As Neil suggests, “This fascinating glimpse of the superstitious pagan background of the Empire suggests the magnitude of the problem facing early Christian missionaries.”55 The apostolic approach confers no affiliation with the paganism of the people, but calls for them ajpo; touvtwn tw`n mataivwn ejpistrevfein ejpi; qeo;n zw`nta (Acts 14:15).56 An apostolic approach diligently presents the good news of Jesus Christ as the unique and supreme avenue for salvation. In an apostolic approach, personal evangelism refuses to accommodate the gospel to the spiritual “postmodern theater pieces,” which mesh to form a complex of spiritual claims embraced by individuals.
Rather, the apostolic approach presents the gospel as the only true story of God’s salvation to humanity.
William Neil, The Acts of the Apostles, New Century Bible Commentary (London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, 1973; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 163.
“To turn from these vain things toward the living God.” Persecution also presents an obstacle to personal evangelism in an apostolic approach. An examination of the persecutions in Acts reveals that the gospel encounters specific opposition from the Jewish community. The apostolic approach in the face of persecution may be summarized by Peter’s words in Acts 5:30: peiqarcei`n dei` qew`/ ma`llon h[ ajnqrwvpoi~.57 In the face of persecution, the apostolic church continues to evangelize. Yet, the “Christian witness does not prevail... because of human tenacity but by divine empowerment.”58 Jewish persecution in Jerusalem occurs in response to the growth of the Christian witness in Jerusalem. The animosity of the Jewish leaders focuses upon the apostolic witness that they were responsible for Christ’s passion.59 Opposition to Stephen, which leads to his death, begins with a debate with the sunagwgh`~ th`~ legomevnh~ Libertivnwn (Acts 6:9).
“We have the divine necessity to obey God rather than men.” See, C. H. Cosgrove, “The Divine DEI in LukeActs: Investigations into the Lukan Understanding of God’s Providence,” Novum Testamentum 26 (1984): 186-90.
Brian Rapske, “Opposition to the Plan of God and Persecution,” in Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of
Acts, eds. I. H. Marshall and David Peterson (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1998), 236.
Ernst Bammel, “Jewish Activity Against Christians in Palestine According to Acts,” in The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, ed. Richard Bauckham, vol. 4, The Book
of Acts in Its First Century Setting (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1995), 358-59.
Stephen’s defense speech considers the history of God’s people apart from any temple.60 The evangelistic importance of Stephen’s speech culminates in his martyrdom (Acts 7:54-60). Upon Stephen’s death, the persecution scatters the apostolic community (Acts 8:1-3). Encouraged by the boldness and faith of Stephen in martyrdom, the apostolic community dih`lqon eujaggelizovmenoi to;n lovgon (Acts 8:4).61 Later, when Paul and Barnabas proclaim the gospel
Rapske notes: “Relying upon the Lord, they speak fearlessly (Acts 14:3) concerning God’s grace and their message is confirmed by miraculous signs and wonders.”62 This boldness exemplifies an apostolic approach throughout Luke’s account.
This boldness depends upon the empowerment of the Spirit to “fulfil [sic] the divine plan” and to “to carry on through the negative effects of opposition and persecution.”63 F. F. Bruce, Men and Movements in the Primitive
Church: Studies in Early Non-Pauline Christianity (London: