Monday, 10 July 2017

Hearing, Knowing and Saying the Gospel

On Sunday I had the privileged and responsibly to speak at my church at all three services. I was given around two and a half weeks with a pretty open brief of what to speak on. I find that I'd rather be told a passage or topic than to pick something on my own. So, in light of our church doing our yearly mission trip to Holbrook and with me picking up the local evangelism portfolio I (eventually) thought I would talk about Evangelism. I found this personally challenging to talk on, I think this was a message I needed to hear.

Besides the Bible and some commentaries, the three main resources I used for the practical application of speaking the Gospel have been taken from Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice (Honest Evangelism is a nice short and simple book that I read in two and half lunch breaks), four talks on Jonah by Richard Coekin and I had to throw in a bit from my favorite David Platt talk on Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions. All three of these resources are worth your time.

I mostly picked the Colossians passage in light of one of my earlier blog posts on Evangelism and the Gospel, but instead of looking at just Colossians 1:13-14 the whole book was filled with messages of the Gospel. The main reading for this talk was from Colossians 1:1-23 and then 4:2-6.

Below is a long post of pretty much what I said at all three services, minus the stumbling over words and long pauses where I tried to re-find my place on the page after looking up...

Hello I’m Andrew, I'm a warden here at St Matts and I have the local evangelism portfolio. Can I extend a welcome to you, especially if you are here for the school holidays. I’m not the regular preacher at St Matts, but due to holidays and our mission trip to Holbrook you get me.

Now I had an introduction in my head for this talk, but I cut it. I cut it. I cut it because I have less than 30 minutes to tell you the most important thing in this world and I felt like I didn’t have time to muck around with some catchy introduction. We are going to be looking at what the Gospel is and the affect it has in our lives. I’m going to pray that God will speak to us now.

Heavenly Father,
We thank you that you have spoken. We thank you that we are not in the dark as to knowing who you are and what you have done for us. May you do and undo things in our hearts and lives, so that we can live more and more for you. Amen

So grab your Bibles and turn to Colossians chapter 1.

Hearing the Gospel

Paul writes to a church in Colossae while he was in prison. He didn’t plant this church, some other guy, Paul’s friend Epaphras did (1:7). Paul had heard what was going on in their church and so thought he could send them a letter to encourage them. He hears that these guys are growing in their faith and showing love for each other. Paul is giving thanks that the Colossians had heard “the true message of the gospel” (1:5) and that they “truly understood God’s grace” (1:6).

Epaphras was a local from that area (4:12), so it is likely that once he became a Christian he started telling the people he already knew about Jesus. Unlike Paul who may have wondered into a city and just preached to anyone who would listen, it is likely that Epaphras told his friends and colleges about Jesus when he first believed. This then grew into a small church.

We don’t know much about what went down, but it is certain that Epaphras told the Gospel to some people in Colossae and they believed. We know this because for anyone to become a follower of Jesus, they had to have heard something about Jesus. If you are a Christian today, it is because you have heard the news that Jesus died for your sins and rose again. Without hearing this message there is no way you could have worked that out on your own. The Colossians were saved the same way we were all saved today – by hearing and responding to the good news about Jesus.

Twice in our passage Paul says the Gospel is something that you hear. You can see this in verse 5 and then later in verse 23. Faith comes from hearing (Rom 10:17).

When God made man at the beginning of creation he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Now when God brings new life to save people, He breaths into their ears[1]. Everyone who is saved and who is to be saved from their sins has to hear the Gospel. No exception.

Knowing the Gospel

So what then is the Gospel? It would be good to define that, for I am arguing, that you cannot be a Christian unless you hear the Gospel. There maybe a difference between knowing the dictionary definition a word and knowing what the word represents. You may not neatly pack what you believe under the term “Gospel”, and that is fine, it is the content of the Gospel which brings salvation. In its basic format, the Gospel is an announcement, it is good news about Jesus. If you are going to talk about the Gospel you have to talk about Jesus[2].

There maybe nuances to what the Gospel may or may not be, but today I just want to get a clear meaning of what the Gospel is from Colossians 1. There may be other passages that stress the Gospel in other ways but Paul concludes in verse 23 of chapter 1 “this is the gospel that you heard”. So let’s find out what the Gospel is, which the Colossians had heard.

In broad strokes I want to look at three main areas. We have been Rescued from darkness (1:13), we have been Redeemed by God (1:14) and we have been Reconciled to God (1:20). Rescued. Redeemed. Reconciled.

Rescued from darkness

Verse 13 says
“he [that is God the Father (1:12)] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…”
So what does that mean? God has saved us from one kingdom to another. God has saved us from darkness and brought us into light (1:11). Salvation belongs to the Lord.

But if we are saved, if we are rescued by God, what are we rescued from?

We are told they were in a kingdom of darkness. This kingdom is not a physical kingdom, but one that is under spiritual darkness. It is a kingdom where people are enslaved to sin, where there are systemic power structures characterized by the forces of evil and judgement[3].

The Colossians were not the exception in this case, they hadn’t done some stand out evil to be in darkness. Their normal, natural behavior was evil because their natural thinking and their hearts were evil. You might not like that, but that is the condition of everyone. No exception.

The state of anyone before God, apart from Christ, is utterly hopeless[4]. I remember once while I was a youth group leader, I got the classic question: “What about the innocent guy in Africa who hasn’t heard about Jesus, what happens to him?” at the time I didn’t really know what to say. Later, I heard David Platt deal with this. He said the answer is simple, the innocent guy in Africa who hasn’t heard of Jesus goes straight to heaven, no question. The only problem is that there is no innocent guy in Africa, he does not exist[5]. If there was he would not need to hear the Gospel he would go to heaven because he would have no sin.

Apart from Jesus everyone stands guilty before God. That is why we all need Jesus. This includes you, me, your neighbors, your family, your co-workers. Everyone. No exceptions.

Ecclesiastes tells us
“there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecc 7:20)
Later in Colossians Paul says it is because of our earthly nature and behavior that the wrath of God is coming (3:5-6).

But the good news is, what the Gospel is, is that we have been rescued from darkness. We have been saved from our sinful hearts and minds and actions. We were dead in our sins (Col 2:13). We have been rescued. We didn’t do anything to save ourselves, we were in the dark and we couldn’t have found our way out ourselves. God did the rescuing. He took us from a kingdom of darkness to a new kingdom, a kingdom of light, the kingdom of Jesus. All who trust Jesus as their king are now living in His kingdom.

The Gospel is: Jesus rescued us from darkness from which we couldn’t save ourselves. This is good news for those who believe.

Redeemed by God

Moving on to verse 14, it looks as one aspect of how Jesus rescued us. It says in Jesus we have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins”. Being redeemed by God means that He has paid a price to rescue us.

“Redeemed” language is the language of the marketplace. A transaction takes place, a price is paid for something. The cost of us being rescued, the price that was paid for our redemption was nothing less than Jesus’ death on the cross. He paid our debt with His blood.

Jesus redeems us from darkness by paying the price of what we deserved. We have been released from the bondage of sin and have been set free from the dark powers of this world. It is staggering to think that it would have been just for us not to receive salvation. God didn’t have to save anyone. But because of his great love for us, he sent his son, Jesus to be rejected, flogged, whipped, crucified and pierced. To be alone, tempted, tortured and to die, in our place, condemned. Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18).

The Gospel is: Jesus has redeemed us by paying our price for us and that our sins have been forgiven. This is good news for those who believe.

Reconciled to God

Not only have we been rescued from darkness, not only have our sins forgiven because Jesus paid our debt for us, we have also been reconciled to God. Verse 21 and 22 says:
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation
Because of Jesus, we are no longer alienated from God we are brought near to Him. We now have peace with God, and God sees us as spotless, free form any guilt or shame.

It is one thing to be saved from your house burning down and then left on the street, it is another thing for a firefighter to then invite you into their home to live with them. It is the same with God. Not only did He rescue us, but He also invites us into a relationship with Him. The one who saves you, wants to know you. Once we were enemies but now we are adopted into God’s family. We are considered pure and right - clean from all sin.

The Gospel is: Jesus has reconciled us to God, there is now no hostility between us and God. This is good news for all who believe.

Saying the Gospel

So let’s put our two things together so far.

The only way someone can be saved is if they have heard what Jesus has done for them, if they have heard the Gospel and respond.
The Gospel is that through Jesus we have been rescued from darkness. Jesus has redeemed us from our just punishment. In Jesus, we are reconciled to God.

We have the message of the Gospel in one hand, and in the other faith comes by hearing. So what are we to do with this…

We have to say the Gospel.

People are lost without hearing about Jesus and we know about Jesus. Why wouldn’t we tell them about Jesus?

As follows of Jesus, we are to talk about Jesus. As followers of Jesus we are to make followers of Jesus.

Telling the Gospel to people is hard. Don’t get me wrong. While we might not be facing physical persecution here in Canberra, we still may feel rejection or we may worry what people might think of us. There is a pain barrier in talking about Jesus in public and we fear crossing that line or taking that hit. Maybe we have taken the hit too many times and have given up. We might not talk about Jesus and His saving work for all people because either we think it doesn’t work because we took a hit or it’s not worth it because we did take a hit[6].

Let me be straight with you, you will take a hit if you talk about Jesus to others. But you have to ask yourself if you think it is worth it? Perhaps we need to remember the God we are talking about and the destiny of everyone.

Sovereignty of Jesus

In Colossians we have skipped over a bit of our passage. Have a look at verse 15 to 20. Here we see that everything, all things have been made by Jesus and for Jesus. All the stars that come out at night are by God’s control. There is not a speck of dust that doesn’t exist, if not for the sovereignty of Jesus.

We see that Jesus is sovereign over all nature and is sovereign over nations. He is above all powers, all rulers and all authorities. Our God charts the course of countries in His hand. This is good news because it means that Kim Jong Un in North Korea is not sovereign over all and neither is Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Theresa May, Donald Trump or Malcolm Turnbul. Jesus is sovereign over every single one of them. And he is sovereign over you and sovereign over me[7].

Our God creates all things, sustains all things, rules over all thing and owns all things. The author of creation has authority over all creation. God is in control of salvation and God is in control of His mission[8].

So think about this. The people you know, your neighbors that live near you have been sovereignly placed by God where they are. Why did God put you, a Christian in your workplace? Its so that you can work hard and honestly, but also it is so that you can tell others the Gospel[9]. It is not an accident that you know who you know, or that you are where you are. This means there are opportunities everywhere.

Opportunities everywhere

A few years back a big shoe company sent a sales rep to start a store in Nigeria. After six months, the report came back: It is hopeless here. No one wares shoes. Please bring me home immediately. So they sent another sales rep, six months later the report was: Its fantastic here! No one wares shoes! Send as many shoes as you can. Same situation, it depends on how you see it[10].

No matter what we think of the direction of our culture, it is essentially the same in every generation. People are lost in darkness without the Gospel. The night sky is just as dark as it was in one generation as it is to another. You can go into any office in Canberra and be surrounded by people lost in darkness. How great is that? There are opportunities everywhere. You may encounter hostility, but you may also encounter hunger[11]. Some people may be hungry to know about salvation. Jesus said the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Mat 9:37). Do you believe Him?

Be yourself

It is important to be yourself in evangelism. You don’t have to copy Billy Graham or John Piper or George Whitfield. God has made people differently. And we see this in the Bible[12].

You could be a Peter? Peter at Pentecost got up and said straight to the people “you killed Christ”. He didn’t muck around. This fisherman said what he thought and didn’t worry about confrontation. Are you a straight talker who tells it like it is? Do you not worry about what people think of you? Maybe you can shake people out of their complicity and tell them, kindly and respectfully, but honestly that they are far from God and without Jesus they are in darkness and will be lost forever.

Or you could be a Paul? Paul would reason with people. He would quote local thinkers, or Jewish texts and give a logical or reasoned argument for believing in Jesus. Do you read apologetic books? Do you like the clash of ideas? Can you defend the resurrection and object to common anti-Christian ideas today? Maybe you can listen well to the objections you hear about Christianity and then graciously reply to those objections, telling people the truth about Jesus.

Or you could be like the ex-blind man in John 9. He was healed by Jesus. He didn’t confront or reason with people, he just said that he was once blind, but Jesus changed him. Can you talk about how Jesus has changed you? Your change may not seem as dramatic as the ex-blind man, your change may seem a little ordinary. But your story may connect better with other so called “ordinary” people around you. Can you give your testimony showing what Jesus did and is still doing in your life?

Or are you a good inviter? In John 4, the women at the well after meeting Jesus, runs into town and tells everyone to “come and see”. Can you get people enthusiastic about something? Can you tell someone what you believe about Jesus and then invite them to Simply Christianity, or Church or a weekly small group or even a BBQ at your place with other Christians?

We are all different, but we are all to be witnesses.

Do you think you could use one Saturday coming up and invite your neighbors to a BBQ at your place and tell them about Jesus?[13] You don’t have to tell them everything in one session. Today, it takes time to tell people about Jesus, there is lots of things to deconstruct and construct. But with your BBQ, you could at least mention something about Jesus to them. Jesus after all is the only name that is above all names. It is in only in Jesus that we have salvation. Surly, Jesus is worth talking about. Sometimes I think we don’t tell the Gospel because we are more concerned for our own wellbeing and our own comfort than for the person who we are talking to[14].

Be a witness

Now you may think that you are not very good at evangelism. That you might not be smart enough to answer people’s questions or be persuasive enough to convert someone. You know what, your right. You aren’t smart enough or persuasive enough. You won’t convert someone, but that is not your job. Our job as Christians is to be a witness for Jesus. God can take our imperfect and lacking words and bring that person in to His kingdom.

Conversion isn’t the mark of a successful witness – witnessing is. Think about a court room. Witness are there to tell the truth. That is a successfully witness. It doesn’t matter if the jury believes them or not. It’s not the witness’s failure if they told the truth. We do not fail in evangelism if we tell the Gospel and are rejected. We fail if we do not faithfully tell the Gospel at all[15].

Evangelism is hard. You will take a hit. It will cost you lots of time and effort to walk alongside someone you know, pointing them to Jesus. It could take years. It will take bravery. It will take sacrifice. And some of you know this.

Some of you have been praying and trying to tell people you know about Jesus. May I encourage you to keep it up. You are being a great witness. Can I also encourage you to tell others in this church who you are walking along side, who you are trying to find opportunities and your struggles and successes? Let us encourage each other to be good witnesses for Jesus.

You are not on your own. You will fail, but like when facing a hard task, when facing failure, it will also make you more dependent on Jesus.

Conclusion and Prayer

I want to conclude by looking at the end of Colossians, in chapter 4. Much has been left out in this talk. Our message needs to be accompanied with good deeds and holy living. Holy living absolutely complements the message of the Gospel. But people aren’t converted by watching Christian actions, they are converted by hearing and believing the good news that Jesus has rescued them from sin and darkness. You may have heard that false quote by Francis of Assisi that goes something like “Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words”. Beside Francis never saying that[16], it is also false. The Gospel is news, it needs to be said. For the quote to be true it should be “Preach the Gospel, it is necessary to use words”.

Near the end of this letter in Colossians 4 Paul ask for prayer that he would be able to say the Gospel clearly to those around him. Paul needs prayer for this. So do we. Paul also encourages the Colossians to make the most of every opportunity and for their conversations to both be gracious and salty. That is, our talk is to not be a waste of time[17]. We are to be neither flippant or trite with our speech. We are to find time and to look for ways where we can speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Our conversations should be suited to the person who we are talking to and we should answer questions or objections in a positive and gracious spirit[18].

So I am going to pray for us now. I’m going to pray that we are clear on what the Gospel is. That we are to be gracious and thought provoking in witnessing about our sovereign God who has rescued us from darkness. May we be on God’s loving missions to bring all people to Himself, for He is worthy of all praise.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for rescuing us. You paid the price of our salvation on the cross for us, even though we didn’t deserve it. We are no longer your enemies and in the dark, now we are in your kingdom of light. May we be bold witnesses for you. Help us to be clear to the people around us that they are in darkness but that you are a loving God. That you are a God worthy to follow because you have ultimate power over all things and yet still have mercy and grace and love on your creatures who don’t love you. We thank you for your Son Jesus who died in our place, so that we can be saved. May we tell others this message.

May we be ourselves in witnessing to people around us. Help us to make the most of every opportunity, so that others can hear what you have done for them. We trust that you will send your Holy Spirit to us, to help us in equipping and empowering us to be bold and to give us the right words to say. May the strength of our belief in you and our love for others be reflected in our conduct and speech towards them. Amen.

[1] This was from a footnote in J. C. Ryle’s Are you regenerate? ( cited as Hopkins (1670)

[2] This was from one of Richard Coekin’s (2016) talks on Jonah from Katoomba Easter Convention, I forget which one

[3] Moo, Douglas J (2008), The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Pillar New Testament Commentary)

[4] Platt, David (2012) Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions. (Together for the Gospel) (

[5] Platt, David in both Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions.( and Why People Don't Make Disciples (

[6] Tice, Rico (2015), Honest Evangelism

[7] This whole paragraph is from Platt, David (2012) Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions. (

[8] ibid

[9] Tice, Rico (2015), Honest Evangelism, p49

[10] Coekin, Richard (2016), The God who is Concerned (Katoomba Easter Convention)

[11] Tice, Rico (2015), Honest Evangelism

[12] All four types of people I took from Tice, Rico (2015), Honest Evangelism

[13] This application point was from one of Richard Coekin’s (2016) talks on Jonah from Katoomba Easter Convention, I forget which one

[14] At the end of this clip this line is thrown in: Durbin, Jeff (2016) Overcoming Fear of Evangelism (

[15] Combination of Dever, Mark (2007), The Gospel and Personal Evangelism and Tice, Rico (2015), Honest Evangelism.

[16] Stanton, Glenn T. (2012), FactChecker: Misquoting Francis of Assisi (

[17] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 6: New Testament commentary : Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (New Testament Commentary)

[18] Melick, R. R. (2001). Vol. 32: Philippians, Colissians, Philemon (The New American Commentary)


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