For our text this morning, we are using Mat. 28:19 which says: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
This is a statement that the Son of God uttered personally to his disciples. It is the statement giving the disciples the power to become witnesses for Him. It is a statement that challenged the disciples to consecrate their lives more to witness for him. In fact, after Jesus had uttered these words to them, the disciples became more aggressive in the proclamation of the gospel of salvation. And later on, these disciples were viewed as turning the world up-side down. God's plan and objective for salvation is not confined only to a selected few. He is not thinking of the Jewish people alone. God is thinking the whole world in as far as salvation is concerned. Thus, He commissioned his people, his disciples, to become his witnesses. And he said: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Brethren, God's revelation of Himself, and His redemptive work in Christ, requires witnesses. When God makes Himself known, when revelation is received, it is a commission and commands obedience.
Someone has said: "The gospel in the gospel is John 3:16." Then someone has also said: "If the gospel in the gospel is John 3:16, then the gospel in the Epistle is 2Cor. 5:19 which says, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." In this connection, may I say with emphasis; "at the same time that God reconciles us to Himself, He gives us the ministry and message of reconciliation." Therefore, it is safe to believe that our salvation makes us witnesses for Christ.
It is not of our membership into the church that makes us witnesses for Christ. It is not even of our office in the church that makes us witnesses for Christ. It is only of our salvation that makes us witnesses for Christ.
In other words, one cannot become a real witness for Christ, if he or she has not yet tasted and experienced the truth of God's saving power.
For instance, think of Peter, one of Jesus' closest disciples. He had been with his Master for a long time. But when the time came for him to testify and witness for his Master he denied Him three times. Now, is this not evidence that, at this time, Peter had not yet tasted and experienced the truth of God's saving power? But later on, after his great experience in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in the book of Acts, Peter, the fisherman, became a giant fisher of men, leading many souls unto the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was his salvation that made him witness for Christ.
Secondly, think of the great Apostle Paul. After his experience on the Damascus road, he became a great witness of Christ. He strongly witness to the world that his Lord and Savior was no other than Jesus Christ.
That is why I said earlier: At the same time that God reconciles us to Himself, He gives us the ministry and message of reconciliation. Therefore it is safe to believe that our salvation makes us witnesses for Christ."
And this is also the reason why in our message last Sunday, I pointed out emphatically that, it was only when Jonah became a renewed man, a regenerated man that he was able to rise and went to Nineveh. And in the repentance and salvation of that great pagan city, Jonah's eyes and heart were opened in the wonder of God's love and forgiveness. It was only after he felt and experienced the saving power of God that his life was totally given as a witness for God's love and forgiveness.
Now, let me ask a question. As individual members of the Church, have we really felt and experienced the saving power of God? In other words, do we really feel that, by the grace of God, we are saved? Brethren, it does not matter how long we have been a member of the church. It does not matter what office we have in the church. What really matters is that, "are we saved?" the Bible says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life." It does not say, "but shall have eternal life when he dies," It says, "but have eternal life," which means now, right now at present.
Evangelism is the emphasis of our Church for this month. And we know that "evangelism is proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ." We proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ because:
1. First,, through it, we continue ad fulfill the commission Christ made to his first disciples. He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Someone has said: "No church has ever been established without an original evangelistic thrust. No congregation has continued for long without somebody's evangelistic concern for the unsaved and the unchurched." So through evangelism, we continue and fulfill the commission Christ made to his first disciples.
2. Second, we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ because in doing so we are proclaiming God's love and concern to all mankind. In other words, when we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, we are saying, "God is love>"
This phrase "God is love" has been said two times in the first Epistle of John, particularly in John 4: 8, 16. And I read a Bible Commentator who made a comment on this phrase and he said: "To say that God is love implies that all his activity is a loving activity. If He creates, He creates in love; if He judges He judges in love; In short, what this writer is saying is that all that God is is love. So that whatever He does, He does it in love.
3. Third, in evangelism we are not only continuing and fulfilling the commission Christ made to His first disciples and his church and we are not only proclaiming God's love and concern to all mankind, but in evangelism, we are also proclaiming the fact that God wants men and women, young and old, to reform and change their sinful ways and lives.
At this juncture, I come to remember the story of Zacchaeus. Zaccheaus was a government employee for he was a tax- collector, and not only a tax-collector, he was a chief tax-collector. And I would like to point out the fact that Zaccheaus was a sinner. For according to some records, many if not all the tax-collector in those days were sinners. They collected more than what they were allowed to collect. And the Bible says when Jesus was already in the house of Zacchaeus, the people who saw him grumbled and said: "This man (meaning Jesus) has gone as a guest to the home of a sinner."
But Jesus did not go to the house of Zacchaeus to condemn a sinner. He went there purposely to proclaim the fact that God wants men and women, young and old, to reform and change their sinful ways and lives. And God does not only demand a change from the outside; He demands a change from within. And so, was Zacchaeus. The turning point of Zacchaeus' life was when he allowed Jesus to be his guest. He opened his sinful life to Jesus. He accepted Jesus in his heart, not only as guest but as a Savior and Lord. And after their evangelistic conversation, Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord: "Listen sir, I will give half of my belongings to the poor; and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much." Jesus said to him, "salvation has come to this house today; this man, also, is a descendant of Abraham! "For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost."
Zacchaeus became a changed man. And it was a change from within. I say, it was a changed from within because Jesus Himself said to him," salvation has come to this house today."
Brethren, the Philippine atmosphere at present is full of the general clamor for reform and change. This is good, and we must say Halleluiah! The students, the workers, the peasants and the laborers are joining together in the demand for change. Time, effort, money, and even lives are being sacrificed in the demand for change.
But let me say this, that in these days of change and reform in our country, as I look at it, I believe the primary thing that we need is not a change in the set up of society; it is not a change of government personnel and officials. I strongly believe that the primary need today is change from within. It is an inward change of every individual man and woman. The bourgeoisie, the proletariat, the students, and all classes of people need a change from within.
Because, what is a good organization if those who manage it are not changed persons? What is the use of having a good set-up of organization if those who manage such organization have not tasted and experienced the truth of God's saving power? So, while we clamor for change and reform in our society, we should not forget the fact that what is radically needed most is the "individual change from within". And this is where the Church should come in. This is where evangelism should come in.
And let me remind each one again that while the church is involved in this work of evangelism, the individual members, whatever their occupation be, are expected to evangelize wherever they maybe.
But it is only when we have changed from within that we shall hear and heed the Lord who is saying to each one of us and who said to the disciples of old: "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Delivered: March 15, 1970, the First United Methodist Church, Baguio City, Philippines