In order to consider Old Testament Evangelism properly, we’ll have to define “evangelism.” Evangelism is not soul-winning. Evangelism is simply announcing, declaring, or preaching the good news, glad tidings, or the person of Christ Himself. The Gospel is sometimes expressed as a person, Christ, bet never expressed apart from him. The God Message and the God-Man are always connected. The Gospel is always the person of Christ, and His message. To proclaim Christ and His message is evangelism.
When discussing Old Testament Evangelism however, some may suggest that they (Old Testament Saints) and us (New Testament Believers) are at a disadvantage because the Whole Gospel didn’t exist yet. In other words the story of Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death are critical components of “The Gospel,” and they didn’t have those components. Further, some may suggest that without the Full-Gospel, it’s impossible to evangelize because evangelism requires the full gospel. To them, Evangelism or Gospelizing, is the announcing of the completed message of the good news.
It is important to recognize that the people of Israel were set apart by the Lord to be a holy people and at the same time to be a light and a blessing to the nations around them. In Genesis 12:1-3, which tells us about the calling of Abraham. The Lord called him to leave his country, his people and his father’s household and to go to the land the Lord would show him. The Lord promised Abraham that He would make him into a great nation, that He would bless him and that Abraham would be a blessing. The promise ends with these words: “… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:3) I think it’s impossible to assume that simple existence (being light) was sufficient enough to be considered evangelism, but that “being a blessing” begins to approach it. Simple perseverance as a people of God without persistence in the proclamation of Him to others was never God’s way.
- They were to be a Kingdom of Priests AND a Holy Nation with a message. Exodus 19:6
Much the same for us today in the New Testament era, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
- The introduction of Psalm 67, in a sense, is an evangelism prayer. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” Psalm 67:1,2
- Israel was called to faith and repentance: Deut. 30:8; Josh. 24:15; Lev. 5:5; 16:29-31; Deut 10:16, Ezek. 18:30-31
- Israel was called witness to their children: Deut. 6:7, 20-25
- Israel was called to witness to their neighbors: Jer. 31:34;
- David’s call was to witness to the nations: Ps. 18:49;
- David’s prayer was that salvation would be known among all the nations: Ps. 67;
- David’s confidence was that all nations would be converted: Ps. 22:27;
- The prophets had “missionary” work: Isa. 2:2-4; 19:25; 40:5, 9; 42:6; 45:22; 49:6; 56:7; 66:19; Zech. 8:23; cf. Ps. 68:31; 85:92
Reflection: I was noticing the similarities between the evangelistic episodes in the Old Testament, particularly that of Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram in 2 Kings 5:15 and unbelievers in the New Testament. How so? Here’s what Naaman confessed after coming to faith… “there is no God in all the world except in Israel”
God Himself is the Archetypal Evangelist. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians said;
For because God knew beforehand that the nations are made right by faith, he preached The Good News to Abraham beforehand, as The Holy Scriptures say: “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8) Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. (Galatians 3:15-18)
It is clear that ‘the gospel’ preached to Abraham was that his ‘seed’ (Christ), all would be blessed. Back up in Galatians 3:7 it says, “Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”
In the New Testament, it says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:9,10 One thing of note in this passage:
Simply speaking or ‘confessing’ some incantation, repeating a prayer, and the like is not what this verse is talking about. Belief results in righteousness. A life time of confession results in salvation.
It is not my intention to make a hard division here between the Old Testament and the New in the way how God conveys his message of hope. In fact, when it comes to evangelism, I’m hoping to find a consensus that the its starting point is NOT in the New Testament and certainly NOT only in the New Testament. A New Testament gospel is only a half-gospel which yields half-way disciples.
A few questions:
1. Was Old Testament “Evangelism” really evangelism, or was it something else?
2. Can you do biblical evangelism with only half the story?
3. What benchmarks did Old Testament saints use to gauge their evangelism effectiveness?