Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist. Sanford, Florida: Reformation Trust, 2007. 208 pp.
As Christians we are all called to evangelize, that is, we’re all commanded to share with the world the good news of Jesus Christ and the hope and grace He offers lost and broken sinners. Pastor Richard D. Phillips goes to the Bible and examines the ultimate model for our evangelism, namely, Jesus Christ Himself. With clarity and conviction, Phillips looks at what it means to be an evangelist biblically. He covers issues such as what exactly is one to say in presenting the gospel and many others; but all in all, he leads the reader to discover the truths in the Word of God itself.
This book is organized into three parts, corresponding to John chapters one, three, and four. In the first part, Phillips looks at the biblical principles for evangelism by gleaning from John 1 at how John the Baptist came “to bear witness about the light” (Jn. 1:7). This section also looks at the calling of the disciples through the disciple Andrew and Jesus Himself and the principles of what is and what is not a good Christian witness.
Part two looks at John 3 and Jesus’ encounter with the pharisee Nicodemus. The theology of the gospel is examined in this portion with a special emphasis on the content of our gospel presentation. The topics covered are the necessity of the new birth; the supernatural work of God in the new birth; the evidence of the new birth in the life of an individual; the love of God in Christ; faith as the means of receiving salvation; and, of course, the atoning work of Christ’s death on the cross.
Part three focuses on Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman in John 4. It is here where Phillips observes the practice of evangelism in Jesus’ witness to her and looks at how He presented His salvation offer in a way that met her where she was. Consequently, Phillips looks at how this encounter with Christ changed this woman and how it fueled her passion for sharing the hope she had found with others.
A helpful appendix is included at the end which examines an issue which often is of controversy: the sovereignty of God in our evangelism.
I was deeply encouraged by this book as the author examined Jesus Himself and His evangelistic approach. Though the chapters were easy to read, they had no absence of doctrinal “meat” and quality. Many times we hear of new methods of presenting the gospel and we feel obliged to learn them to be more effective witnesses for Christ, but instead of focusing on a new “fad” or survey for evangelistic fervor, Pastor Phillips goes directly to the final authority—Scripture—to fuel our passion for making God known.
“All Christians are called to evangelism. Jesus the Evangelist is our model. If we want to experience the power of God in our gospel witness, we must follow biblical principles of evangelism; we must present the true gospel in clear, scriptural terms; and we must follow Jesus’ example in the practice of evangelizing actual people” (p.4).
I highly commend this book for Christians who are already passionate in their evangelism and for those who are not quite where they would want to be. Let us all be bold in our proclamation of the gospel,both in life and lips, to the glory of God.
- “In our witness, we are to shine not our own light but Christ’s light. Just as a lamp requires oil, we depend on our fellowship with Christ and the Holy Spirit’s enlivening ministry through God’s Word in order that Christ’s light may shine through us. To use a different metaphor, we are like the moon reflecting the light of the sun. On our own, we are in darkness, but a great light has shined and is shining on us, and we are to reflect it into the world” (pp.14,15).
- “Jesus set us free and brought us into His royal family so that, with Him, we now are the victors in the battle that He won on the cross. Here is our triumph—what Christ has done as the Lamb of God for us. We simply believe on Him, committing ourselves to Him, and are saved. A healthy, spiritually thriving Christian never forgets that. He never tires of glorifying Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ But he also says, ‘It was my sin that He took away, as well'” (p.37).
- “If we are not excited about God’s Word, if we are not warmed by close fellowship with God, and if we are not humbled by Christ’s suffering in the cross for our sins, we will not be very effective witnesses. . . . [O]ur witness must always have this aim: not to win arguments, not to present an interesting philosophy pr a helpful lifestyle, but to bring people to Jesus. He is the only One who truly can save the sinner’s soul, and if we simply bring people to Him, He will do the rest. ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,’ Jesus said (Luke 19:10). He is seeking and saving the lost today just as in prior times, and He does so through our witness that brings people to Him” (pp.50,54).
- “The Holy Spirit’s work does not end with the new birth—having made us alive, He goes on to bring us more and more to life, working in us the life of God and molding our character into Christlikeness. The new birth is the beginning of a lifelong process of spiritual animation and growth, and is the pledge of glorious things yet to come. How wonderful that Christians are no longer what we once were, but how wonderful it also is that we someday will become what we are not yet” (p. 67).
- “[W]e should love God for His love in giving Jesus Christ to die for us. And we should express that devotion by loving others with the same kind of love God has shown to us. We are to show a love the world does not know—a love not based on getting, but a love that says, ‘God has given to me, so I want to love Him by giving to others.’ This giving love should beautify our marriages, enliven our friendships, glorify God in the church, and inspire in us a loving fervor in evangelism. . . . Living out God’s amazing, giving love will be our strongest testimony to a loveless world. If we will only do so, others will learn of God’s great love from us and will come to understand that by believing in Him, they, too, will have eternal life” (pp.92,93).
- “Our spiritual maturation will . . . progress as we see more clearly the true depth of our sin, the true holiness of God, and the great gulf between us—and thus also see the true greatness of His love for us that moved Him to give His Son to save sinners so infinitely below Him. This is why the humblest Christians are the happiest Christians, and why the humble and happy Christians tend to be holy Christians, as well. All of these benefits stem from an awareness of our sin” (p.136).