Evangelism Sunday September 25, 2022
1 Corinthians 15:12-19
496, 494, 200:1-4, 200:5-8
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Almighty and gracious God, You want all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Magnify the power of the Gospel in the hearts of Your faithful people that Your Church may spread the good news of salvation. Protect, encourage, and bless all missionaries who proclaim the saving cross that Christ, being lifted up, may draw all people to Himself, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (NKJV)
In the name of our crucified and risen Savior, dear fellow redeemed;
When Jesus died on the cross and rose victorious from the grave, He completed the mission His Father gave Him, namely the eternal redemption of the world. Now, Jesus turns to us and all other Christians to get the word out of His salvation. This is certainly a tall order! But lest we become overwhelmed by this, it is important to remember that along with Christ’s command comes His power to carry it out.
During the early church, it was the apostles who led believers in this mission outreach. However, taking the lead didn’t mean they were doing all the work. Sometimes folks have a tendency of thinking it is the professional church workers who are the only ones equipped to do mission work. Well, in the case of the apostles, they led an army of ordinary Christians who testified of the crucified and risen Savior.
From time to time in our worship services we meditate on the Acts of the Apostles in a series of readings and sermons. We do this, because the book of Acts is filled with wonderful examples of mission work which we can learn from and apply in our calling of spreading the message of salvation.
When we look in on the apostles the day Jesus rose from the dead, it is clear to see they were far from being ready to lead the church in mission work. Gathered together behind locked doors for fear of the Jews, they were afraid to go anywhere. Oh, there were a few who ventured out, but the rest remained behind, huddled together.
As we witness this scene in the pages of Holy Scripture, it should cause us to stop and take a look at ourselves in regard to bearing witness of Christ. Are we afraid to go outside the walls of our homes and our churches to speak of Jesus and share our Christian beliefs? If so, are we hesitant because we are concerned about how people might react to us or because we are not quite sure what to say? Well, the apostles were fearful, and in the early hours of that first Easter Sunday they didn’t know what to say about the gospel of Christ either.
One major truth of the Christian faith the apostles needed to gain understanding of is that we have a living Savior. Although Jesus had previously told them a number of times He would have to suffer, die, and then rise back to life on the third day, for whatever reason they didn’t expect to see Jesus alive again in this world. Even when reports came in from the women and the two Emmaus disciples of having seen the risen Lord, they didn’t believe them. That same evening when Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst, they couldn’t believe what their eyes were seeing. The disciples thought they were seeing a spirit.
And so, Jesus had to appeal to their senses of sight and touch in order to convince them He was standing there before them in the flesh. He invited them to examine His body that bore the marks of His crucifixion and then to handle Him with their hands. And when these things didn’t fully persuade the disciples He was physically alive, Jesus demonstrated to them He was not a spirit being by eating food in their presence.
How critical it was for the apostles and the other disciples of Christ to be completely convinced Jesus was truly alive again! This was necessary so that they could serve as eyewitnesses of the fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. They needed to be eyewitnesses for their own personal faith, as well as for our faith.
The apostle Paul testifies of the importance of Christ’s resurrection, as he emphatically states the Christian faith hinges upon it. He declares that if Christ is not risen, we don’t have a Savior and we are therefore hopelessly doomed to hell.
But since Christ did rise from the dead, this serves as a bedrock foundation for saving truths upon which we rest our faith securely. These are truths we bear witness of to those who do not know their living Savior. Quite briefly, Jesus’ resurrection proves that He is God, for no mere mortal can raise himself from the dead. Because Jesus is God, He was able to bear all the sins of the world and suffer the full punishment for them on the cross. His resurrection is also the heavenly Father’s way of declaring to the whole world He accepted Jesus’ payment for all their sins—past, present, and future, and therefore marks their account with Him paid in full, forgiven of all our sins through Jesus Christ. And finally, Jesus’ resurrection means that because He rose victorious from the dead in a glorified physical form, as believers in Christ we too shall be raised from the dead on the last day with perfect bodies and souls with which we will be living in the new world of heaven.
Easter means different things to different people. For many, Easter is merely the celebration of the Easter bunny, colored eggs, and candy, and the springing forth of new life in nature. If we are talking with others about Easter and they don’t know what Easter is about, we can share with them the blessed truths just mentioned concerning what Jesus’ resurrection means for us and should mean for everybody else.
There are undoubtedly many in the world who know of Jesus and that He died on the cross. However, what most of them don’t know is why Jesus had to suffer and die in this manner. As we learn from our Scripture text, the disciples of Christ didn’t as yet fully understand what Jesus’ crucifixion was all about. Therefore Jesus had to help them learn of this through the words found in verses 44-46. Jesus reminded His disciples of what He had told them previously about His redemptive work and about the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him and His work. Through the use of God’s powerful Word, Jesus opened their understanding to know and believe that what was foretold about Him in the Old Testament was fulfilled by Him in bringing about the salvation of all mankind.
When folks hear reference being made to the Bible, there are those who are inclined to dismiss this book as being just a rule book of do’s and don’ts. And it would appear there are many in our day who don’t like to hear they are doing anything wrong in their lives. We might hear them say, “Don’t tell me I am doing something wrong” and “I wouldn’t tell you that you are doing something wrong.”
Well, we know the central message of the Bible is that Jesus is our promised Lord who came into this world to bless us with eternal life in heaven. The Old Testament foretold it, and the New Testament reveals its fulfilment. Toward the end of the gospel of John the evangelist declares, “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) What John writes here is not only the case with his gospel record, but also the whole of Scripture, both the Old and New Testament.
There certainly are “do’s and don’ts” in the Bible. We know them as God’s unchangeable moral Law that applies to all mankind in every generation. Whether or not people like to hear the Law of God and how it applies to them, we are to make use of it in carrying out one aspect of our mission, that of calling sinners to repentance. Every sinner is in need of hearing the Law of God which exposes our sinfulness, convicts us for it and shows us our lost condition. Without this, none of us would recognize the need of a living Savior who takes away our sins and delivers us from our deserved punishment. So then, everyone is in need of hearing the “do’s and don’ts” of God’s holy Law whether it be in preparation of Christian conversion or keeping us in the Christian faith.
Will unconverted sinners like to hear their sinfulness exposed? Most likely not! Because of our sinful flesh who among us like to have our sins exposed?
Will we be able to convince sinners of their lost condition? This is not our concern, because we are not the ones who opens human understanding, convicts him of his sin, crushes his spirit with sorrow, and makes him ready to learn of his living Savior. God does that through His powerful Word.
When through that powerful Word the Lord brings low the sinner so that he despairs of himself and wants to learn of how he can be saved, that is when we have the opening to share the saving Gospel of Christ. We can testify of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus who took away all our sins by His sacrificial death on the cross and that because of Jesus’s redemptive work God the Father declares us forgiven of all our sins.
God simply calls us through His Word to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior for the remission of our sins. And even our response of repentance and faith is not something we manufacture. God through His powerful, Spirit-filled Word works repentance and faith in our hearts. As Christian witnesses, we are simply to share the Word of God and the Lord will do the rest.
What a wonderful blessing it is to know and believe in our living Savior, for He is life and salvation to us! What a privilege we have to serve as ambassadors of Christ to bear witness of Him to a spiritually dying world. May the Lord ever keep us in the Christian faith and bless our efforts of spreading the message of salvation both near and far. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.