DO THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 4:5
1-18-59 7:30 p.m.
Could we turn to 2 Timothy? Second Timothy and let’s read together the first eight verses. Second Timothy, the last chapter – 2 Timothy 4, reading the first eight verses. Second Timothy 4:1-8. Second Timothy 4:1-8. Now together:
I charge thee therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
Preach the word! Be instant in season, out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts, shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give me at that Day, and not to me only but unto all them also that love His appearing.
[2 Timothy 4:1-8]
And my text is Second Timothy 4:5:" . . . Do the work of an evangelist . . . "
These Sunday evening services from now through March shall be dedicated to the flame, the fire of evangelism. "Watch thou in all things . . .do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" [2 Timothy 4:5].
A literal translation of that would be: "Carry through thy service what God has laid upon you." What God has called you to do, carry it through. Don’t turn aside. Don’t be enticed by extraneous, peripheral subjects – passing interests. Stay it with it. Carry through. "Do the work of an evangelist" [2 Timothy 4:5].
That was Paul’s final appeal. This is the last word that he wrote and coming from a man of God who had given the years of his life as an apostle to the Gentiles and now placing in the hands of a successor. The years of experience had taught him things that were important, things that were trivial, things to be emphasized, things that were optional. And in these last words, he made this appeal to the young son in the ministry: "I charge thee before God" – he made it as important as he could – "I charge thee before God and before the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing . . . preach the word!" [2 Timothy 4:1-2]
"Preach the Word! Do the work of an evangelist" [2 Timothy 4:2, 5].
There is a great sorrow, a pall of darkness, that has overwhelmed the great and larger part of our Baptist communion and our Baptist churches. When I asked one of the pastors in Denmark, "Why is it that you build your church like you do and conduct your services as you do – an aisle down the middle, and candles lighted, and a crucifix, and a cross, and the pulpit up high and on the side?"
I said, "To me, a Baptist church is a meeting place. It’s for the preaching of the gospel. It’s for an appeal to the lost." And with the preacher stuck way up here on one side and lighting candles and crosses, I said, "You don’t win people to Christ like that. Why do you build your service – why do you build your church like this? And why do you conduct your services formally?"
And the answer was, "If we did it otherwise, nobody would come." And the funny thing to me: Dr. Peterson, a physician in the church – when I asked him about it, he said, "We haven’t grown in years! Nobody goes. Nobody is saved. Nobody is converted. Nobody is added to the Lord. Nobody’s added to the church." Yet the services are formal, and the church is built after the pattern of the ritualistic service because they think people do not come unless we light candles and put the pulpit aside and the preaching of the Word over one end.
When God says the central thing in the services of the Lord are the preaching of the Word and the work of an evangelist, you don’t come to church to light candles, burn incense, genuflect, recite litanies. We come to church to hear the Word of the living God! "Do the work of an evangelist" [2 Timothy 4:5].
Dr. Rushbrooke [JamesHenryRushbrooke], came here when he was president of the [Baptist] Word Alliance. He came here to Dallas. I’d been here two years – two and-a-half years. And when he came into the city, I asked him, "Why have you come over here to see us?" He said, "For no reason at all except just to see how you fair."
He and Dr. Truett [George W. Truett, 1867-1944] were friends for a generation. And he had no purpose; he crossed half the continent just to visit this church. And while he was here, I asked him a question. I said, "I went to your church, the one you belong to in London, and there were twenty people there. And I went to Bedford [Bedford, England] where John Bunyan [1628-1688] preached and wrote his immortal allegory [Pilgrim’s Progress, 1678], and at a quarter until eleven, there were two people there. And we went to another church, and they had a handful there. A city of 35,000 people, one Baptist church in it, and at a few minutes until eleven there were two old people seated in it and that’s all."
I said, "I went to the Tabernacle – the Metropolitan Tabernacle of Spurgeon [Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892] – and they had their biggest crowd and it numbered 120." I said to Dr. Rushbrooke, "Every year there are fewer Baptists in England than there were the year before, and give them just a little while and there’ll be no Baptists at all. "I said, "What’s the matter in England?"
And he replied, "They have lost the spirit of evangelism. They are content just to go to church, and the meeting house is a place of respectability for older people."
I listened to a man at one of our civic clubs here in the city of Dallas. He was a businessman. He was not a religious man at all, much less a preacher, and I listened to him as he described the spiritual life and turn of New England. And he said, "Since the turn of the century, more than a thousand churches have closed their doors in New England." He said, "There are many, many scores of villages in New England where not a single person goes to church." He said, "There are more than a million children in New England without any religious education whatsoever or instruction in the Word of the Lord."
He had many statistics like that. And after it was over, I went up to him, and I said, "What has become of the Great Awakening, and the Great Revival, and the spirit of conquest in our churches in New England?" And he said to me, "They have lost the spirit of evangelism."
I was talking to a pastor, a prominent one in our Southern Baptist Convention. One of our great churches was seeking a pastor, and to my surprise they called one of a certain stripe and of a certain kind. And I was speaking to this friend, and I said, "Why did they do that?" And his reply to me was this: "The great qualification of a pastor for the pulpit committee was this – they did not want an evangelistic preacher." That’s in the South in one of our great churches.
I listened to another man talk to one of my laymen here in the church, and he was talking about a church – about a pastor they were seeking in his church. And he said, "One of the things that we do not want in our church, we do not want an invitation preacher." First time I ever heard it – "an invitation preacher." He meant by that, they do not want a preacher when he gets through preaching to give an invitation to come to Christ. They have lost the spirit of evangelism.
Oh, what a dearth, what a drought, what a lack, what a dying, what a deadness, what a pall, what a shroud over the life of our people and of our churches. How we need – how we need to hear the call of Isaiah when he hearkens back to the forefathers and says: " . . . Look unto the rock from which ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah who bear you . . ." [Isaiah 51:1-2] How we need to look back to the days of our forefathers to see from whence we were dug, and the pit out of which we were digged.
Vedder [Henry Clay Vedder, 1853-1935], one of our great Baptist historians, has one of the most eloquent passages on the pioneer preacher that I ever read in my life [A Short History of the Baptists, by Henry C. Vedder, 1892, rev. 1907]. As civilization pressed westward and westward and westward beyond the Alleghenies [Allegheny Mountains], beyond the wilderness, beyond the prairies, and into the Pacific – wherever men went – there you found the pioneer preacher. He described him as an uneducated man. The only library he had was a Bible and a hymn book. He described him as being a man who violated the King’s English in every rule of grammar. But that man, with the strong doctrines of grace and imminently evangelistic, went to every community and to every settlement under the trees, under arbors, in log cabins – wherever men were – and there they preached the gospel of the Son of God. And they laid the foundations for all of the religious work that is called Baptist in America today.
We came out of revival. We came out of evangelism. We were born in the invitation and in the appeal. Our institutions, our colleges, our seminaries, our churches all were given life and birth by those pioneer preachers who proclaimed the strong doctrines of grace and called men to repentance and to faith in the Son of God. That we should ever come to a day and a time when we repudiate our glory and deny our birth and the reason for our existence is almost appallingly unbelievable.
I can hear Jeremiah as he cries again:
"Pass over the isles of Chittim and see, send unto [Kedar] –
the ends of the earth –
and inquire diligently . . . if there be such a thing . . .
My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.
Be astonished, O ye heavens . . . and be horribly afraid . . ."saith the Lord.
"For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and they have hewn them out cisterns–broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Evangelism is our life. It is ours as a Baptist people; it is ours as a Baptist church. Evangelism is our life. I do not say it is the life of other communions and other denominations simply because they receive their members when they are infants. They have christening services in which they baptize little babies into their churches. The baptism they know is sprinkling – effusion – and it is administered when the children are infants.
They are not dependent upon evangelism. They are not dependent upon a personal appeal. They are not dependent upon conversion. They join the church as they are enrolled as a citizen in the nation. They are joining when they are infants, and they are enrolled when they are unconscious children.
Our Baptist people are diametrically the opposite of that simply because we are true to the gospel message of the Son of God:
"See, here is water. What doth hinder me to be baptized?"
"If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." –
And on that profession of faith –
They went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
That is the gospel of the New Testament. That is the preaching of the grace of the Son of God. Upon a confession of our faith, we are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19], and as long as our Baptist people are true to that doctrine, true to that revelation, true to that teaching, true to this Book, we have no other choice but to call men to repentance and to faith and on that confession and committal of life to be baptized in the name of the triune God [Acts 2:38].
We have no other recourse. We have no other alternative – not as long as we follow the record and the revelation of the Book.For us to turn aside from this evangelistic appeal is to turn into death and decay. What breath is to our bodies, what the bloodstream is to our hearts, what light is to the sun, what rain is to the earth, what power is to the engine, evangelism is to us. It is our very life.
If we have a life beyond this generation, it lies in this appeal we make to the hearts and souls of men: the invitation, "Come. Come."
"The Spirit and the bride" – the church and the Holy Spirit – "say come!" [Revelation 22:17] Let him that passeth by, that heareth, repeat the refrain: "Come."
"Let him that is athirst come. Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" [Revelation 22:17]. The invitation, the evangelistic appeal: evangelism is our raison d’etre. It’s our reason for being.
I can tell you what’s the matter in the impotency of a modern church. It lies in its classification, and to a great extent, the church classifies itself. If you were to list all the social agencies of a community, if you were giving an altruistic, philanthropic talk about how people ought to take their lives and broaden them in sharing them with others, why, you’d have a fine list. Here is the Parent Teachers Association, and you ought to work in the Parent Teachers Association. And here are the civic clubs, and you ought to be a civic-minded man and work in the civic club. And here are agencies for social betterment and amelioration, and you ought to work in those social agencies. And here are organizations for infantile paralysis, and the March of Dimes, and crippled children, tuberculosis, and all of you ought to share in them. And then in the long list – and then there’s the church. And there’s the church.
And then in many of the social functions of a town, why, there’s the country club. And if you are fortunate and have leisure, why, you can go out there and follow little ol’ white ball around while the children look out the window and see you at play. And you can join other societies in the city; and then among them, of course, you have the church, have the church.
And the whole implication of all of it and the whole sociological idea back of every bit of it is this: that the church is just one other among the cultural and social agencies of the community. You need a country club. You need a church. You need a civic organization. You need a church. You need a social welfare bureau. You need a church. And they’re all in the same category. It’s a good thing for a man to belong one, but if he doesn’t, it’s all right. It’soptional. That’s the classification of the modern church, but it was never heard of or dreamed of or thought for in the revelation of the Book of God!
In the Book of God, the church is a lighthouse in a stormy sea. It’s a soul-saving station in the wrath and judgment of Almighty God [Acts 1:8]. It’s not optional. It is mandatory [Matthew 28:18-20]. It is not something that a fellow, as he speaks, may be used for cultural advancement and enlightenment, but it’s what saves our souls from hell and our lives from death and delivers us in the great and final judgment day of Almighty God [2 Thessalonians 1:6-12].
And I tell you, when the church is in the category of being just another social agency, you’llfind all manner of difficulty trying to build it, and trying to support it, and trying to sustain it. But if you will lift the church out of those social categories and make of it what God intended for it to be – a lighthouse and a soul-saving station – and people are convinced that that’s your business and that’s your call and purpose, it will surprise you how they will rise to sustain it and to support it.
I have heard for years and years and years all kinds of editorial and radio commentators and people speaking endlessly, and writing endlessly, and talking endlessly about government expenditures. All these alphabetical agencies and the vast federal deficit and the spending of money by the politicians:I hear it still day and night. But in all of my listening and all of my reading, I’ve never heard a man stand up and say yet, "I oppose the appropriations of our American government to the building of the lighthouses that guidesour ships safely out of the storm of the sea into the harbor and the port of home." And I don’t ever expect to hear one. Any money that our government would appropriate to guide ships on a storm-driven ocean into a homeport of safety would be well dedicated and well spent.
Same way with a church: once you convince people that the great driving force and dynamic that lies back of the organizations in the church is found in the saving of the lost and the pointing of the people to God, you’ll find more than adequate support. Evangelism is our reason to be whether it’s in the Sunday school, or the Training Union, or the other organizations, and life, and meetings of the church. That is its ultimate and final and conclusive end.
May I make a last avowal? Evangelism is the spirit of our Master and the gospel that we preach. What is the gospel? In 1 Corinthians 15:1 and following, Paul describes it. He delineates it. He outlines it. He says the gospel is the preaching of the life of Christ. The good news is the story of Jesus. He came into the world; He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He was buried [1 Corinthians 15:4]. He was raised for our justification, and in the twinkling of an eye, someday, He will come again [1 Corinthians 15:52]. That’s the gospel. It’s Jesus.
When a man preaches the gospel, he preaches Jesus. I can tell you a word that will explain every act and every deed, every part of the life and ministry of the Son of God, and that word is my subject tonight: "soul-winning, evangelism, appeal, invitation." It will explain His incarnation: "Thou shalt call His name Savior – Joshua, Jesus, Iēsous – because He shall save His people from their sins" [Matthew 1:21]. That’s why He was born in Bethlehem [Matthew 2:6]: that He might be our Savior, delivering us from the penalty and power of our sins [Romans 6:11-14, 23]. That will explain His ministry.
In the eleventh chapter of Matthew in the fifth verse, Jesus answers the emissaries of John the Baptist. John’s sending two of his disciples over there to ask Him if He’s the Christ they are expecting [Matthew 11:2-3], and Jesus sends back the word:"You tell John – you tell John whatyou’ve seen and heard: the deaf hear, the blind see, the dead are raised" [Matthew 11:4-5]. And then listen – and then He added, "and the poor have the gospel preached unto them" [Matthew 11:5]. That was the climactic delineation of Jesus, of His ministry. "You tell John the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them" [Matthew 11:5].
"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" [Luke 19:10]. That explains the whole ministry of our Lord. That explains His sacrifice, His death, His atonement.
"For the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life – and to give His life a ransom for many": Matthew 20:28.
Matthew 26:28: "This is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for the remission of sins."
That’s why. That’s the reason. That’s the cause. That’s the purpose: for the remission of our sins. That great word of appeal, of invitation, of evangelism, of soul-winning would explain His resurrection.
In Romans 4:25, the apostle Paul says: "He was delivered for our offenses" – He died for our sins – "and He was raised for our justification." It concerned us and our deliverance.
In the next chapter, the fifth chapter and the tenth verse, the apostle Paul writes again: "For if . . . we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life" [Romans 5:10]. That He lives in heaven for us poor sinners [Romans 8:34]. Or as the author of Hebrews would say it: "He’s able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us" [Hebrews 7:25]. The reason for His ministry in heaven is to save poor sinners who are in the pilgrimage in this earth below.
I conclude with the big thing in glory, the big thing in heaven, the big thing as over the battlements of the above where Jesus lives – they watch us and our services. And what do the angels look for and what do the angels ask about? I wonder if they say, "You watch the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas? Did you?" And the angels said, "Yes, we watched the services in the First Church in Dallas." And then the angels ask – I wonder what they ask. Did they ask about the eloquence of the preacher? Did they ask about the size of the congregation? Did they ask about anything except was somebody saved? Did somebody find the Lord? Did somebody walk down that aisle and give his life and his heart to Jesus?
I think that because our Master described heaven in the fifteenth chapter of the third Gospel – the Gospel of Luke – when He said, "Verily, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of heaven over one sinner that repenteth" [Luke 15:10], and again He said, "I tell you verily there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance" [Luke 15:7], heaven is interested in us, in the services, in the appeal, in the invitation, and in these who come down that aisle accepting Christ as their Savior.
I tried to find the song in this book. Apparently, it’s not there, but it sure has a marvelous ring to it:
Ring the bells of heaven! There is joy today,
Angels, swell the glad triumphant strain!
Tell the joyful tidings, bear it far away!
For a precious soul is born again.
Glory! Glory! How the angels sing:
Glory! Glory! Let the loud harps ring!
‘Tis the ransomed army, like a mighty sea,
Pealing forth the anthem of the free.
["Ring the Bells of Heaven," by W. O. Cushing, 1866]
That’s our church. These are the ultimate ends of our work and our ministry, our teaching, and our service – that somebody find the Lord. "I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:Preach the Word. . . Do the work of an evangelist, carry through" [2 Timothy 4:1-2, 5]. Carry through the great purpose of thy ministry.
May it please God to bless the message tonight to the pastor’s heart and life, to your heart and life, and to the quickening, and the revival, and the outreach of the combined energies, and love, and intercession, and prayers, and efforts, and devotions of all of us who are in this blessed fellowship and this precious communion. We may not have any tomorrow. God hath never promised it. We have tonight. We have this hour. We have this moment.
While our people sing this song of appeal andwhile the Lord is near, if you have never given your heart in love, in service, in devotion, in trust, in obedience to Christ, the Son of God, would you do it tonight? Into that aisle and down to the front: "Tonight, this night, I give my heart in trust to Jesus. And here I am, and here I come to pray to Him, to look up to Him, to live unto Him, to die in His trust, in His grace, in His mercy, in His able keeping. I commit to Him my life and my soul."
Would you do it tonight? "I take Jesus tonight as my Savior." If you should put your life in the church, however God bids you come – by letter, by baptism, by statement – however God would bid you here, would you make it now? Would you come tonight? If God bids you here for any other reason or any other purpose – to consecrate your life, to come back to Him, to answer a special call – as the Spirit shall give utterance to the will of God in your life, will you listen to the voice of the Spirit of God? Oh, today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart [Hebrews 3:7-8, 15]. "Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I give my life to Jesus. I take Him as Savior," or, "I’m putting my life in the church, and here I stand," or, "I’m coming for a special reason." As God shall open the way, shall bid you here, would you make it now while we stand and while we sing?