The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: P-Q

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Preaching the gospel

In various places, and with varying degrees of success, Christadelphians undertake elaborate, advertised, public gospel proclamation. Often it seems that the degree of success -- humanly speaking -- leaves us disappointed. But, oddly enough, the one method of gospel proclamation which outdoes all others in efficiency, which costs exactly nothing, and which can be done by absolutely everyone, suffers serious neglect. Personal witness for the faith, which built up the struggling Christadelphian body at a remarkable rate in the last quarter of the last century, is now often passed over for the "flashier" methods.

Yet this is how the gospel was first proclaimed:

"One of the two which... followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah" (Joh 1:39-41).
And then a few verses further on: "Philip findeth Nathaniel, and saith unto him, We have found..." (v 45).

He hadn't really. Jesus had found him instead. But the two processes are not to be separated. The disciple's job is to go and "find" his fellow. But in his "looking" it is really God who does the "finding"!

Paul, the master preacher, had none of the modern devices of publicity that we lean on so heavily. His familiar simple recipe was: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom 10:17).

To be sure, we say, a man cannot receive the gospel without a Bible. Right enough! But that is not what Paul is saying there. His phrase means: "Hearing comes by the spoken word about God", as the next verse plainly confirms. "How shall they hear without a preacher?" (v 14) They can hear without an advertisement or other clever modern eye-catcher. But not without a preacher. Sooner or later, someone has to do the talking, and the sooner the better.

Nor is there any picking and choosing as to who shall hear our good news. Who are we to discriminate and decide before for God who is and who is not fit for His blessing?

"In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good" (Ecc 11:6).
And because "thou knowest not", thou shalt not make contemptuous pre-judgment as to which mode of preaching is the best. Agreed, some methods seem relatively less efficient than others, to the extent of appearing more wasteful of time or energy or resources. But none is to be despised, for at one time or another the grace of God has made use of them all.

So why don't we bring our personal witness for the faith into daily life more than we do? Reason number one is: "Behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child" (Jer 1:6). There is a paralyzing feeling of incompetence. "I am not quick-witted enough to cope with the arguments people may fire at me, not sufficiently well-acquainted with the Bible to be able to go to the very passage that is needed, etc, etc."

Such a poor attitude should be set right once and for all. With the more conscientious, it springs out of a pathetic line of reasoning of this kind: "The Truth must never be let down. I am not competent to start talking on the subject. Therefore I'd better not say anything."

With many this way of thinking is quite probably an excuse, more than a reason.

There is a very simple way of coping with one's inadequacy in discussion, and that is to admit it: "I can't answer your argument right now, but I'm sure it can be answered. Next time I see you, I shall have an answer for you." None except Christadelphians think it shameful not to be able to come up with a full explanation of every problem passage. Others are highly unlikely to think the worse of us for admitting ignorance on one point or another. Besides, that "next time I see you" leaves the door wide open for a point-blank return to the topic some time later! So that is a positive gain.

On the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, Philip did not wait for his new acquaintance to ask him: "Do you happen to know what Isaiah 53 is all about?" Instead, he was ready with his own question: "Can you make sense of what you are reading?" This is a fairly obvious example of what we are talking about. But every day a number of opportunities may come along, to speak the right word at the right time. We must learn to be alert to such openings. "Be instant, in season, out of season," exhorts Paul. Be ready, on the alert, even in the most unlikely circumstances, for you never know!

Jesus sat by the well at Sychar, weary, hungry and thirsty. But when his disciples returned with the food they had bought, they found him alert and vigorous and not interested in food at all. While they were away he had a better meal than they could provide -- the spiritual strengthening of an open, inquiring mind with which to hold communion.

He sent out his disciples in pairs, and they set off, one may be sure, nervous and ill at ease at the unaccustomed responsibility he had laid on them. But the men who returned were hardly to be recognized as the same persons. They bubbled over with excitement and pleasure. What was it that had made the difference?

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