I once heard a pastor share a mind-blowing observation from the book of Acts, concerning the work of the evangelist: The word love does not appear in this account of God’s gospel being shared with the world.
So apparently the apostles could preach the gospel in the book of Acts without saying “God loves you.” Or if they did, the book of Acts doesn’t paint that picture for us.
Becoming Better Evangelists
Let’s be clear: God does love people. But when an evangelist leads with “God loves you,” we may leave people with the impression that there is nothing wrong. No relationship to be mended, no sin to be forgiven, and no wrath to be satisfied.
The gospel is certainly about God’s love. The cross is certainly about God’s love. But as Paul reminds us in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (emphasis added) God’s love is displayed when we recognize that Jesus’s sacrificial death is for us, undeserving sinners. If we first understand that we are God’s sworn enemies, traitors who deserve a traitor’s death, we can hear God’s love as the good news it truly is.
Since many today don’t view themselves as undeserving sinners, “Jesus loves you” probably isn’t the best place to start when sharing the gospel. So what should we say? Evangelist, Peter’s sermon in Acts 10 gives us four key truths about Jesus to share when evangelizing. For each truth, I will give an evangelism example.
1. Jesus Is Lord of All and He Brings Peace
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed… (Acts 10:34-37)
Peter starts his impromptu sermon to the Roman centurion Cornelius by saying that he knows God doesn’t show ethnic favoritism. Rather, in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him. This is wonderfully good news to Cornelius, who was in fact “an upright and God-fearing man” (v. 22).
Peter continues to say that God’s message is about peace brought by Jesus. Since Jesus is Lord of all, He is uniquely qualified to bring peace to people from “every nation.” Sadly, Jesus’s universal Lordship is not widely accepted by many today in our highly subjective culture. Rather, ultimate authority and power are ascribed to the self.
When we hear things like “don’t tell me how to live my life,” this really means, “I believe I am Lord of my life.” This mindset can make the work of an evangelist especially tough, but we must champion this truth: that Jesus alone is Lord of all.
“Most people live for themselves, for their own goals, dreams, and passions. But what if someone’s quest for happiness conflicts with another’s quest for happiness? In that scenario, individual freedom creates hostility and conflict. The Bible tells us that we do not rule our own world, but that it is ruled by one Lord: Jesus. When people live for him, rather than for themselves, they find unity and peace.”
2. Jesus Physically Lived, Died, and Rose Again
…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead… (Acts 10:38-41)
Next, Peter speaks about Jesus’s ministry, his death, and his resurrection from the dead, all of which others’ eye-witness accounts attest to. This is an especially important place to begin when sharing the gospel today. The gospel isn’t a game of make-believe or a fairy-tale. It is real.
“Jesus was a real human, and He brought real healing. He accomplished real good in real places for real people. He really died. And even after He died, He was really raised to life. He physically appeared to His disciples, and they ate and drank with Him. It wasn’t a delusion or shared psychosis. It was real. He was real.”
3. Jesus Is Appointed to Judge
…And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead… (Acts 10:42)
Again, Peter presents Jesus in a way that feels uncomfortable. Jesus is the one appointed by God to be judge.
Many people today cringe at that word. “Don’t judge me” really means: “I am my own judge.” Again, this position is not up for grabs. Jesus alone is appointed as judge. Though it is hard to be an evangelist, we need not be ashamed to say this; Jesus commanded His disciples to testify to this truth.
“We live in a world where everyone wants to judge and no one wants to be judged, but the Bible tells us there is only one judgment that ultimately matters. What do you think about Jesus, and what does Jesus think of you?”
4. Jesus Offers Forgiveness of Sins for Everyone Who Trusts Him
…To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)
When Peter shares the gospel, this is where he begins: Jesus has universal power and authority. He brings us the peace that you need. Jesus really and physically lived, ministered, died, and rose again; Jesus is appointed to judge sin. And finally, Jesus offers forgiveness of sins to everyone who trusts in Him.
“Christ purchased your forgiveness on the cross by His blood. That is the source of your forgiveness. But your faith in Jesus is the way you receive that blood-bought forgiveness. And this is offered to everyone who would believe in Him. It is for you and it is for me. Would you like to receive forgiveness for your sins? Put your trust in Jesus.”
A Final Encouragement: You Are Not Alone When You Share the Gospel
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. (Acts 10:44)
This is both the encouragement and prayer of the evangelist: that God is working and will continue to work through the ministry of his word by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Reader, be encouraged by this reality: when you share the gospel, you are not alone.