“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:35)
One of the most effective evangelistic Christians in the early church was a man named Philip. He was one of the seven original deacons in the church at Jerusalem (cf. Acts 6). When persecution came from the Jewish leaders against the early Christians, many believers left Jerusalem. As they traveled away from Jerusalem, they went to other areas in Judea and also in Samaria. As they went, they shared Jesus. The Bible says in Acts 8:4, “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”
Philip went to Samaria and shared Jesus with them (Acts 8:5f). God also performed many miracles through him which caused the crowds to gather and listen intently to his Gospel message. As Philip ministered, people were saved, healed, and set free from demonic strongholds. Great joy came to that area. Many in Samaria were saved by repenting of their sin and believing in Jesus. Philip baptized them. When the leaders in the church at Jerusalem heard what God was doing through Philip in Samaria, they sent the Apostles Peter and John to assist.
The revival taking place in Samaria was a fulfillment of Jesus’ parting words in Acts 1:8. Our Lord had commissioned His disciples to begin their witnessing in Jerusalem, and then to branch out into the regions of Judea and Samaria. God allowed the persecution of His people to move them out of Jerusalem and into the broader spiritual harvest fields around them, including Samaria where Philip was ministering.
In the midst of that great movement of God in Samaria, the Lord directed Philip to leave and go to an isolated area to share Jesus with one man. An angel commanded Philip to go south to a road that led out of Jerusalem toward the desert area of Gaza (Acts 8:26). The man with whom Philip was to share was a prominent man from Ethiopia. He was “an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 8:27).
As the eunuch rode in his chariot on that desert road, He was reading a messianic text from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. The Holy Spirit commanded Philip to join him. Philip heard the eunuch reading Scripture and asked him if he understood what he was reading. The man indicated that he could use some help in understanding the meaning of Isaiah’s text. That’s when Philip went up into the man’s chariot and shared Jesus with Him.
Acts 8:35 is one of the greatest verses in the New Testament when it comes to describing the essence of evangelism (sharing Jesus). Philip did three things: (1) he opened his mouth and spoke, (2) he based all he said on the authority of Scripture, and (3) he focused the conversation on Jesus Christ. That is evangelism—verbally sharing what the Bible says about Jesus. That is what we are emphasizing with the title “Share Jesus Like It Matters.”
Philip went on to lead the man to faith in Christ and baptize him. The eunuch’s baptism is also a beautiful picture of what biblical baptism is: (1) for believers only, (2) by immersion only, and (3) a symbol of one’s salvation.
In this chapter we will look first at what it does not mean to share Jesus. We will then look at what it does mean to share Jesus. We will analyze the meaning of the New Testament word euangelion and then conclude by looking at a classic definition of evangelism.
Some Christians believe that basically all activities of the church are evangelism. They justify this idea by stressing that at least in some abstract way, evangelism is at the heart of everything the church does. That would be wonderful if true, but unfortunately it isn’t. The fact is, many churches are involved in multiple activities that are not equivalent with sharing the Gospel intentionally with a lost person. A better umbrella term for “everything the church does” might be ministry, but it certainly shouldn’t be evangelism.
For instance, working in the nursery is ministry, but it is not sharing Jesus. Likewise, parking cars for senior adults is ministry, but it is not sharing Jesus. Greeting people at the church door and welcoming them is a valuable ministry, but technically it is not sharing Jesus. Even though caring for children, assisting senior adults, and welcoming people to the church campus all assist the preacher as he shares the Gospel of Jesus in the worship service, these are not intrinsically forms of “sharing Jesus.” All ministry is not sharing Jesus.
Churches of a more liberal theological persuasion often view social ministry—meeting a hurting person’s physical needs—as a form of sharing Jesus. I have talked with theologically liberal pastors who contend that when they reach out in compassion and love to meet the physical needs of others, they are in their own way “leading” those people to the Savior.
Christians are indeed commanded to meet the needs of our fellow human beings who are suffering and hurting, but if all we do is meet their physical needs without seeking to meet their more important, spiritual need for salvation, then we only make their situation in life a better place from which to go to Hell. Social ministry and meeting the physical needs of others can provide an excellent platform for sharing Jesus, but by itself, it is not New Testament evangelism.
I have also known of liberal churches and Christians that teach that all people will eventually go to Heaven. Theologically, such people are called Universalists. They believe God’s salvation is universal in that God will “universally” grant salvation to all people. They assert that God is love (1 John 4:7-8), and being a loving God, He would never send anyone to Hell. But the same Bible that says God is love also says He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15). He is righteous (2 Tim. 4:8), and He must punish sin (Nah. 1:3; Rom. 6:23). God is even referred to in Scripture as a God of wrath (Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6).
Jesus Himself spoke frequently about the reality of both Heaven and Hell. He spoke not only of a Heaven to gain but also of a Hell to shun (Matt. 25:46). According to Scripture, all people are not going to Heaven. Jesus actually taught that most people will go to Hell (Matt. 7:13-14). In fact, Jesus said that many who think they are saved and on their way to Heaven will actually be informed by God at the final judgment that they are lost and on their way to Hell (Matt. 7:21f).
Jesus taught that people go to either Heaven or Hell based on what they do with Him during this short life on earth. Thus, sharing Jesus is not telling everyone that they are already saved, regardless of his or her relationship with Jesus. Telling them that would be a lie. And a lie is not “good news.”
So what does it mean to share Jesus? First, we will look at the Greek word euangelion that means, “good news.” Second, we will consider an excellent definition of evangelism (i.e., sharing Jesus) by Dr. Roy Fish.
“Evangelism” is an English transliteration of the Greek word euangelion. Throughout the New Testament it refers to the “good news” of the saving message concerning Jesus Christ.
In one of His first sermons, Jesus spoke these words in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel [euangelion].” That good news changed lives and enabled people to turn from their sin and turn in faith to God.
Jesus also taught that the Gospel is worthy of one’s complete devotion. He said in Mark 8:35, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s [euangelion] will save it.”
Likewise, the Apostle Paul spoke frequently about sharing the Gospel. Indeed, Paul would share Jesus with anyone at any time, refusing to be ashamed of the Gospel. He said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel [euangelion], for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Paul also stressed that everything he did was for the purpose of verbally sharing Jesus with lost people. He said in 1 Corinthians 9:23, “I do all things for the sake of the gospel [euangelion], so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
Thus, the word “Gospel” (euangelion) refers to the “Good News” about Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and victorious resurrection that brings salvation to a lost sinner when he repents and believes in Jesus.
In the 1980s, I attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. One of the most popular professors at Southwestern was Dr. Roy Fish, professor of evangelism. Here is his insightful definition of “evangelism” (i.e., sharing Jesus):
Evangelism is the compassionate sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to lost people with the intent of winning them to Christ as Lord and Savior that they in turn might share Him with others.
In his definition, Dr. Fish speaks of:
The Spirit of Evangelism—compassionate. Like Jesus, Christians must love lost people. When Jesus looked at lost multitudes, He felt compassion for them (Matt. 9:35-38). He also felt a genuine love for individuals with whom he shared the Gospel (Mark 10:17-22).
The Communication of Evangelism—sharing. If you want to share Jesus, you must set a good example for lost people, but you must also verbally share the Gospel of Jesus as Philip did with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:35).
The Content of Evangelism—the good news of Jesus Christ. The Gospel focuses on Jesus’ atoning death for sinners, His burial to verify His death, and His bodily resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Any message short of this is not sharing Jesus!
The Power of Evangelism—the Holy Spirit. Christians rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to embolden them to share Jesus (Acts 1:8). We also rely on the Spirit to convict lost people of their sinfulness, their lack of righteousness, and the judgment of God to come (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit also converts the repentant, believing sinner by transacting regeneration, the new birth (John 3:5-9; Titus 3:5).
The Recipients of Evangelism—lost people. People who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior are spiritually lost. Jesus compared a lost sinner to a lost sheep, lost silver, and a lost son (Luke 15). Also, after Jesus saved Zacchaeus, our Lord confirmed that His mission on earth was to seek and to save people who were “lost” (Luke 19:10).
The Purpose of Evangelism—winning them to Christ as Lord and Savior. The Christian’s goal in verbally sharing Jesus is to win lost people to Christ. The Apostle Paul sought to defer to people and serve them in various ways so he could win them to faith in Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Paul also commanded all Christians to “run in such a way that [they] might win” lost people to Jesus (1 Cor. 9:24).
The Perpetuation of Evangelism—that they in turn might share Him with others. Mature Christian believers should urgently train all new Christians to share Jesus as soon as possible. One reason is because immediately after their conversion to Christ new disciples often have more connections with non-Christians than at any other time later on. Consider Matthew (Levi). Immediately after he became Christ’s disciple, he contacted many of his lost friends and invited them, as well as Jesus and His disciples, to his home for dinner (Luke 5:27f). That illustrates why one important aspect of the Great Commission is to teach new believers to observe all that Christ commands us (Matt. 28:19-20), which unquestionably includes sharing Jesus.
When is the last time you verbally shared what the Bible says about Jesus with a lost person with the intention of leading that person to salvation in Him?
Read, reread, and perhaps memorize Dr. Fish’s outstanding definition of evangelism. It will be a constant reminder to show you what it really means to share Jesus with the lost.
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35).