Reaching Out with the Gospel of God

Part 2

Calvary Baptist Church Evangelism Conference | Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Let me give you a little review so that if you weren’t here last night, or even if you were, perhaps it will become clear again. Since we have the theme, Reaching Our Culture with the Gospel, I began by asking, “What is the gospel?” and I took you with me to 2 Corinthians 4: 4-6 and asked the question, “What’s the highest, best, and final good of the good news that makes the good news ultimately good?” I said that it isn’t justification by faith and it isn’t propitiation of the wrath of God. It isn’t an escape from hell. It isn’t the forgiveness of sins. It isn’t the removal of guilt. It isn’t the resurrection of the body. It isn’t restoration with my mother, who has gone to heaven. It is not any of those gloriously good things that Christ died to purchase for us.

All of those things are going somewhere. They’re moving us. They’re getting obstacles out of the way and fitting us for something — namely, to quote the verse, “the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6). And I just commend you to ask yourself, “What does it mean gospel of the glory of Christ?” Because that’s Paul’s way of stating it in that place. It’s not the only way. It’s just this way. And so, when I try to order that way with all the other ways, I see this way as the goal. I’m justified for this. I’m forgiven for this. I’m reconciled for this. I’m saved for this. I escape hell for this. I’m going to heaven for this. Therefore, if we don’t ever get this clear with our people, I wonder if we preach the whole gospel.

The Glory of Christ

Somebody asked me at the back, “Would you say just another word about the meaning of glory of Christ who is the image of God?” I will, but I won’t satisfy anybody, because the words doxa or kavod (glory), are not definable any more than the word beauty is definable. I’m going to use the word beauty to define glory. What you do to define beauty is to point at something — a sunset, the Grand Canyon, the Alps — and say, “Look!” And if people have eyes to see, they see. You know it when you see it. But try to put the word beauty into words, or say beauty with other words. If you say something like, “Measures of symmetry and order,” it just all falls out of your mouth like rocks because they’re totally inadequate to put into words what we know.

We all know there is such a thing as beauty, so my definition of the glory of Christ or God is to say it is the radiance or the beauty of his manifold perfections. Wow, isn’t that just great? I think those are helpful words, but this is so spiritually explosive that definitions just grope toward reality here.

Maybe it would help to say one more thing about this, and then I’m getting on with where I’m going tonight. It’s helpful to think about the difference between the holiness of God and the glory of God. Now, what’s that? Here’s my effort to get at the difference between these two massive biblical realities. I mean, there are just no bigger biblical realities than the holiness of God and the glory of God.

My understanding of holiness, which in its essential root is separateness from the common, is that holiness is God’s absolute uniqueness — his sui generis. He is in a class by himself. There is nobody like him. When you find a diamond like that, a diamond like no other diamond, you separate it. You put it behind a big, glass case and you put guards in front of it. And that’s the way we picture the holiness of God. He’s separate. He’s other. He’s high. He’s lifted up. He’s different. He’s out there — holy, holy, holy — and you cover your face and you cover your feet and you just worship. He’s absolutely other.

Restless Until We Rest in Him

Now, glory is when that goes public in a thousand radiant ways. The heavens are telling the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). His glory is his holiness gone public, or his holiness gone radiant. It is his holiness displayed in the beauty of nature. My point last night was that it is the gospel that displays this, which means what we know from 1 Corinthians 15:3 that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. This is the gospel in terms of events and purposes at one level.

Now, what’s all that about? Why did he die? Why did he die for my sins? Answer: So that my eyes would go open and that I would forever be able to enjoy seeing and savoring the glory of God in Christ or the glory of Christ as the image of God. It is the sight of beauty, infinite beauty, for which our hearts were made. Augustine talked about that — the hole in our hearts. We try to fill it with every other kind of beauty. Unregenerate people fill it with pornographic beauty and stuff that turns them on. It’s all a hole. It’s all a void. It’s not going to work. People fill this with endless things. Squeaky-clean, middle-class evangelicals, we fill it with other stuff — money, a nice house in the suburbs, toys, cars, boats, cabins, long vacations, and fat retirements. And the void remains. We’re made to behold the beauty of God and be satisfied by it. It has gone public for us in the gospel.

Here’s my last word on this. When Christ died on the cross as the infinitely worthy Son of God, bore the sins of the world, prayed for his enemies, and did not jerk his hands off and slay them all but stayed there and spoke to a thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” he did so to show his glory. If you don’t see beauty in that, you’re not saved. I mean that. That is no joke. That is no overstatement. If you do not recognize that beauty and glory — and I’m talking about the moral exquisiteness and unbelievable glory shining forth from that moment — you’re not saved yet. You don’t have to know the words. Don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to know the word glory. You may have never heard of the word glory or beauty. But if there’s not a witness in your soul, saying, “There’s my king. There’s my Lord. There’s the one I’ll follow. There’s one I stand in awe of,” or whatever words you want to use, then you aren’t saved. I don’t care about words here. I’m talking about the spiritual experience of seeing the radiance of wonder and beauty and glory. Find the words streaming forth from that event.

Paul made it very clear. Jews stumble, Gentiles call it foolishness, but those who are called — like Lazarus out of the grave — see it as the wisdom of God and the power of God, which are two of the attributes of glory. When I say the radiance of his manifold perfections, one of those is wisdom and one of those is power. There’s lots more streaming out of the cross than those two. If Paul had written a longer book, he would’ve written a longer list. That was for you, friend, who asked me at the back to say more about the glory of God.

Teaching for the Sake of Salvation

So, now, we have work to do tonight and very little time to do it. I’m going to skip over the rest of my summary and go to the last point. I asked, “What’s the role of teaching in reaching our culture?” So, let’s go back to my text. Go with me to 2 Timothy 2:24–26. This text is so massive for my ministry, my pastoral life, my evangelistic life, my theological understanding, and what happens in a counseling session or on the street witnessing to somebody in Phillips neighborhood, where I live. This text is just huge. And I would like it to be huge for you as well. I want to read it again and point out, as I go, the four things we saw last night. It says:

The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone …

Now, stop there. Clearly, he’s trying to get Timothy to be a kind of person. Not just say a true statement, but to be a kind of person — a non-quarreling person and a kind person. And then he says, “able to teach.” So, now, he’s saying, “Be a teacher.” And then he follows it with some more kinds of personal traits. He says, “patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” So, before and after, you have teaching sandwiched with character qualities — love, meekness, tenderness, and patience.

So, the job of a pastor or a layperson in some kind of role of witnessing or nurturing a small group is to be a certain kind of person surrounding a kind of teaching. And when that happens, 2 Timothy 2:25 says that “God may perhaps grant them repentance.” So, now, we’ve seen three things. First, there is a demeanor that God is pleased to use in bringing about repentance. You could sum it up with the words love, gentleness, kindness, and patience.

Secondly, there are words — signified by the phrase able to teach — which is another thing God is pleased to use to bring about repentance.

Thirdly, God brings about repentance, maybe. You can’t make this happen. That word perhaps there slays me. I have no control over this church. I am to be a loving, faithful teacher of the word, and God may, on any given Sunday, grant repentance. He may, or he may not. You may get a million baptisms and you may not. I think you should pray like crazy towards that. And all the glorious foundations underneath it. But that’s God’s work. I hope that gets sounded loud and clear at the convention.

The Need for Knowledge

And then, the fourth thing. Look at this. This is so amazing. It says in 2 Timothy 2:25–26:

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth …

Now, the devil knows the truth. Something more is going on here than what the devil knows. The devil is the most orthodox theologian on planet earth. There’s nothing in theology he doesn’t know better than you do. And he’s lost because he hates it. Knowing doesn’t save; it’s a means to saving because teaching is here, but look what happens. When God grants repentance, some kind of light goes on, leading to a knowledge of the truth. I’m tracing that back to 2 Corinthians 4:4.

The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing…the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

And so, the knowledge that you get here is that spiritual apprehension of the glory of God. The devil has none of that. When he looks at God, he hates what he sees. When a born-again person looks at God, he loves what he sees. They’re seeing the same and not the same. Jesus said, seeing they do not see (Matthew 13:13). The Pharisees were looking at Jesus and the publican was looking at Jesus. They were seeing the same thing and they were not seeing the same thing. The Pharisees were plotting to kill him, and the publican was going down to his house justified because he discovered the grace of God, the glory of God, and the beauty of God. People like that will live for this man. They’ll walk with him anywhere. They have seen through to glory. So, that’s what we know when we are granted repentance by God.

Escaping the Snare of the Devil

And, then, there’s one more step. It’s so good for all of you who have kids or friends who are demonized by Satan in all kinds of crazy ways. Look at 2 Timothy 2:26. If God does this, “they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” Why is it that the deliverance from the devil follows the awakening to this kind of truth? It’s for this reason: The devil enslaves with lies. For example, he ensnares with the lie that pornography will make you happier, or climbing the corporate ladder at the expense of other people will make you happier, or that accumulating more boats, more houses, and more toys will make you happier. That’s the way that Satan puts people in bondage. He lies to people so that they think eating and eating and eating will make them happier, and on and on with things like that. All kinds of addictions flow from this. All kinds of bondage flow from this. All kinds of pride flow from this.

How do you break the power of the devil? The answer is that God grants repentance unto truth, and the truth sets you free. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). And the truth here is not just head knowledge, remember. There are many people, like the son I told you about last night, who are better theologians than many Christians, and they’re lost. They can answer more theological questions correctly than some Christians can and they’re lost because the knowledge they don’t have is the spiritual apprehension of the eyes, of the heart, of the beauty of God shining through the doctrines that we preach. When they see that beauty, they are ravished by it, and thereby the root of sin is severed because Satan can’t trick them anymore.

If he lies to them and says, “You know, if you just don’t tell the whole truth about your honorariums when you fill out your tax forms, it won’t be as much stress on your wife when you send your kid to private school.” Christ has now awakened repentance and a new heart, and you see the glory of God and the beauty of his wisdom as a financial counselor, and you see the beauty of Christ standing behind, “Thou shalt not lie.” You hear him saying, “I’ll provide everything you need (Philippians 4:19). I died to fulfill this promise for you — ‘My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.’ I died that you might love this promise. Live on this promise. Will you believe me?” The heart that’s been born of God steams out with admiration for that financial counselor and the power of Satan is broken.

The Place of Teaching in Evangelism

Now, that’s what I see in last night’s text and it leads me to ask this question: How important is teaching in evangelism? If all that we just saw flows from teaching — be patient, be an apt teacher, and in your loving teaching, God may grant repentance, new birth unto seeing all that truth, and deliverance from the devil — then how important is teaching? My answer is, massively important.

I’m closing with my little part here tonight by pleading for as much teaching evangelism as relational evangelism. Relational evangelism has had good times in America for the last 30 or 40 years. It’s just about spent itself, in my judgment, in this kind of world — this absolutely, amazingly pluralistic world. The reason is because of the people we’re talking to. If we think just being nice to them is going to awaken faith, we’re crazy! They don’t have the categories. They don’t know the categories.

So, where I want to go next is to ask just two questions. One, “What should we teach?” And, two, “Why is this so important.” Let me do that as fast as I can.

The Content of Our Teaching

What should we teach? Wow. What in the world am I going to do to answer that question? I’m going to take you to Acts 20 if you want to go there with me. I want to pick up on two phrases in these verses, focusing on Acts 20:24–27. This is Paul to the elders of Ephesus, down in Miletus on the beach. He may never see them again. It’s a very emotional moment for Paul. In Acts 20:24, he says:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Just let that land on you. Paul is saying, “I care about one thing. I don’t want to stay alive. I just want to finish the course appointed for me.” And then he sums up the reason why: “To testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

So, that has to be taught. What is that? People don’t know what the gospel of grace is. If you say that to a person on the street, “I exist to share with you the gospel of the grace of God.” It means nothing to them, or it means something wrong, like a gospel of self-esteem or a gospel of prosperity. It has to be taught. You have to answer the questions, “What is grace? What is the gospel? What is God?” Then keep reading Acts 20:25–27:

And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you …

And then instead of saying, “the gospel of the grace of God,” he says, “the whole counsel of God.” The whole counsel of God. He is saying, “Your blood is not on my hands. I’ve spent time with you. I’ve poured my life into you for these months. And, now, if you perish, your blood is not on my hands because I taught you well the whole counsel of God.” What is that? That’s an important question. If you want people’s blood not on your hands after a couple of years of ministry, you have to get this. You have to know what you should teach them. You can’t do the evangelistic little routine every Sunday that I grew up with at White Oak Baptist Church. You can’t do that if you want to be faithful to this text and wipe the blood off your hands. That takes a couple of years, at least that’s how long Paul did it in Ephesus.

The Whole Counsel of God

So, I want to ask the question, “Paul, is there such thing as the whole counsel of God? I mean, can you do that?” Let me give you a couple of phrases so that you can get your hands around this term, whole counsel of God. Romans 6:17 says:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed …

What’s that? Paul is saying, “I’m thanking you God that these who were once slaves of sin are now obedient to the standard of teaching.” I think that’s another phrase for whole counsel of God. There was a body of doctrine. There was a body called the standard of teaching or the whole counsel of God and every apostle knew that they must transmit it to the next generation. They knew that they must teach this standard of teaching.

Here’s another phrase for it. Second Timothy 1:13 says:

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

He says, “Follow, Timothy. Follow the pattern of sound words.” What is that? The passage continues and gives a fourth phrase in 2 Timothy 1:14:

By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

So, now, you have four statements. There are more, but I’ll just stop with these four:

  • Whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)
  • Standard of teaching (Romans 6:17)
  • Pattern of sound words (2 Timothy 1:13).
  • The good deposit entrusted to you (2 Timothy 1:14).

When I read those as a pastor, I feel so charged. I think, “I’ve got a work to do here. I’ve got work to do for Minneapolis. I’ve got work to do for Bethlehem Baptist Church. I’ve got work to do; that is, I must impart to my people, and through my people to this city, the whole counsel of God. The standard of teaching.” There is something like that.

The Teaching We Need

Now, I’m going to do the impossible and try to outline what that is. I thought, “What in the world? I’m going to tell you in five minutes what I think that is?” Now, this is going to be fallible. The Bible is infallible, but I am fallible, okay? But if we never try, how are you going to do it? So, here’s my effort. It’s going to be quick right through the whole counsel.

Now, let me stop here and say that I’m getting my parameters for what I say by putting together Acts 20:27 and Acts 20:24. I’m taking the phrase “testify to the gospel of the grace of God,” and I’m taking the phrase, “Your blood is not on my hands because I have not shrunk back from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” which implies there are some difficult things here. So, I think whole counsel doesn’t mean everything in the Bible. That’s impossible. You can’t teach everything in the Bible. I think whole counsel means that body of truth that surrounds the gospel and makes the gospel intelligible in the way that people all over the world can get it and live it. That’s where I’m getting my parameters.

1. Teaching about God

Here we go. First, you have to teach about God — that he exists, that he created everything, that he has rights over his creatures, that he owes us nothing, and that he deserves our trust, our admiration, our thanks, and our honor.

2. Teaching about Man

Second, you have to teach people about man. Our culture doesn’t know who God is, and our culture doesn’t know who man is. You have to teach people about man, and first and foremost that he’s created in the image of God, he has a moral will, he has reason, he has affections, and he is obliged to trust, admire, thank, and glorify God.

3. Teaching about Sin

Third, you have to teach people about sin. They don’t know what sin is. Do you know what the world thinks sin is? They think it’s hurting people. That’s not what sin is. Sin is offending the glory of God. Sin is all about God. Nobody in America knows that. You have to teach that. They think that if you hurt somebody, you’re sinning, and if you don’t hurt anybody, you’re not sinning. It’s all man-centered. So, sin is both a choice, as well as indwelling contamination and depravity. It’s blindness. It’s helplessness. It’s deadness. It’s rebellion. It’s insubordination to God. It is first God-ward and secondly man-ward. We have to teach that.

4. Teaching about Christ

We have to teach about Christ. He was a real, historical person. He was a God-man. He was fulfilling all the promises as the Messiah. He was perfect and righteous and never sinned.

5. Teaching about the Cross

Fifth, we must preach about the cross and the death of Christ. It was designed by God. It was willing and obedient. It was substitutionary. He took our place when he died. It was sin-bearing and wrath-bearing. It was a purchase of the new covenant promises. Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). That’s one of the most massive statements in the New Testament. It means that every new covenant promise like, “I’ll take out the heart of stone and I’ll put in the heart of flesh,” or, “I’ll write my law on your heart,” or, “I’ll put a new spirit within you, and I’ll cause you to walk in my statutes” (Ezekiel 36:26–27), Jesus bought at the cross for everyone who believes in him. It’s crucial that we get clear what happened at the cross.

6. Teaching about the Resurrection

Sixth, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead has to be taught. He really rose. It was bodily. It was triumphant over death in hell. He reigns with God. He has all authority in heaven. He’s coming again.

7. Teaching about the Holy Spirit

Seventh, we have to teach the work of the Holy Spirit. Who is he and what did he do? He opens the eyes of the blind. He reveals and illumines Jesus Christ. He convicts of sin. He calls out of death and darkness into light. He regenerates. A year’s worth of sermons, or at least several months, should be spent on the work of the Holy Spirit. People don’t know anything about the Holy Spirit in the world. How are they going to get saved by the Holy Spirit when they know so little?

8. Teaching about Repentance and Faith

The last one I have here is repentance and faith. You have to teach about repentance and faith. Faith is the sole instrument by which we are justified. You have to teach about faith alone, apart from works, and how that works. Most people think you get justified by being good enough. I’ve been preaching about justification by faith at my church for years, trying to help people get this glorious center of the gospel, and so many people don’t have it yet. We are so wired by nature to work our way to heaven. We think, “It just can’t be true. It can’t be true that I’m accepted in the Beloved with righteousness imputed to me that’s alien to me and all my sins are forgiven by trusting another. It just can’t be true.” Everything in us fights against it. We’re so prone to thinking, “I’m going to do this thing myself. I’m going to make it myself.” That’s a challenge.

It’s a gift of God. Faith is a gift of God. I could give you half a dozen texts on that. It’s the duty of man. Put those two together and you have a paradox. We have to live with that. I’m living with that. You must believe God gives faith. I’m going to live with that biblical mystery. And then I’m so thankful it’s a gift because I can’t make it happen, and I want it to happen to so many people in my life. It comes from seeing the truth of Christ and savoring Christ and so on.

Laying a Foundation

That’s my effort to describe the whole counsel of God — to explain what the body of truth surrounding the center of the gospel is that is necessary to make it understood. You have to know about God, you have to know about man, you have to know about sin, you have to know about Christ, you have to know about the cross, you have to know about the resurrection, you have to know about the work of the Holy Spirit, and you have to know about the nature of faith. You have to know these things in some rudimentary way at least and the more, the better.

So that’s my answer to the question. It is fallible and inadequate, and you can improve on it. In fact, I prepared this weeks ago but as I was working through it this afternoon I saw this gaping hole — I didn’t have resurrection on the list. So, I’m wondering tonight, what I am going to go home and realize is missing from this list tonight. You’re going to say, “Piper doesn’t believe it’s essential that …” You’re going to finish the list and I’m going to get crucified for saying something is missing from the whole counsel of God, but I just want to communicate the necessity of teaching in evangelism. So, let’s close with that.

The Necessity of Teaching in Evangelism

Why is teaching so crucial? You may see the parameters a little differently. I’m okay with that. But why is it so crucial that we have teaching evangelism as well as relational evangelism? You see in the text here that they’re not separate in 2 Timothy 2:24–26. Being patient and being loving and correcting with gentleness — that’s all relational, right? That’s a certain kind of relational person. So, I don’t mean to separate these two at all. I just plead that we become a people who have both theology and affection, that we have both truth and emotion, both doctrine and entrepreneurial, evangelistic strategies. It’s not either/or.

It’s not pragmatists and intellectuals and theoreticians and theologians. We have to get this together. Somebody asked me downstairs today, “What’s the genius of the American pulpit over the old Puritan pulpit?” The genius of the American pulpit is not God-centeredness, but it has its strengths and one of them is that it is practical and entrepreneurial. It cares about people. That’s a beautiful thing. I want that to be true in my church and in your churches, but, oh, the crucial dimension of teaching these great truths to the world.

Gospel Propositions

In closing, I have three quick reasons why teaching is so crucial in evangelism. First, people come to know Christ, the living person, through gospel propositions about Christ. Duh? I wish it were duh. We live in a church where the emergent church has a philosophical orientation on propositions that like to call itself post-propositional. We’re postmodern, so we’re going to be post-propositional. It’s hard for me not to swear at this point.

My wife, bless her heart, keeps a lid on me and the language I use in the pulpit. I’ll just say it this way. I love Athanasius, who died for propositions. He was banished five times. He didn’t have to die but almost did. There are propositions — that is, subject, verb, object, predicate, and nominative — which, if you embrace them, will damn you to hell. For example, using Athanasius, he refuted propositions like, “There was a time when the Son was not.” That’s damnable. If you say that sentence and believe it, you will go to hell. Anybody who minimizes propositions are slitting their throat and everybody they preach to. We come to know the living Christ personally, warmly, relationally, and eternally, through propositions about him that are true, and anybody that comes along minimizing the importance of accurate, true propositions about Jesus Christ is cutting the church in half. Don’t let that happen in your church.

You see, all this emergent stuff, do you know what it is? It’s a reaction to their parent’s fundamentalism which seems so wooden, so heartless, so lifeless, and so doctrinaire, as though the way to solve that problem is to chuck the doctrine. That’s not the way you solve the problem! The problem is that you need to see through it to God. See through it. Embrace the old truth.

I will own the label fundamentalist. I would take it if I could just leave aside all that attitudinal stuff that is being kicked against. I would just long for this convention and you folks in particular to be able to say, “We’re not giving up on any biblical propositions. And we believe that, in saying these, we can write poems about them. We can write hymns about them. We can lay down our lives for them. We can preserve marriages with them. We can help kids get off drugs with them. We believe in true propositions encased in a relational love that’ll lay down its life. We’re not giving up propositions to become whole people. We’re using the propositions to become whole people.” So, that’s my first reason to believe in teaching; it’s because you come to know Jesus relationally with true propositions.

Creating Categories

Second, People today don’t have the categories for understanding our witness unless we teach them the categories. Now, I know that’s a generalization. I grew up in the South. I said last night that in high school in 1962, we had devotions from the Bible in a secular school with a Jew sitting beside me. That’s unheard of. You can’t do that in a secular society. So I know that in those days, and maybe in some pockets of North Carolina today, when you use all these words — God, sin, man, cross — people know what you mean. They have a deep, biblical, right understanding.

Where I live, that is not true. Minneapolis is a liberal city. I mean, it is as left-wing as you can get in our city. For me to go out on the street and use all that language and not teach is useless. Everybody believes in my neighborhood. Prostitutes believe, drunks believe, and homeless people believe. Everybody believes. I’ve tried walking around witnessing to Jesus, and everybody already believes but they don’t know what I’m talking about.

So I learned how to do evangelism from Acts 19:8-10. Listen to this. All you church planters, heads up. We’ll close with this. Acts 19:8–10 says:

He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God …

Now, look at that strategy. That’s just three months in a synagogue, reasoning and persuading. He’s got Jews. He’s starting with a pretty good foundation here and he’s taking three months to reason and persuade, but then it says:

But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years …

That’s a church planting strategy unlike many we see today. Now, whether it’s appropriate for your setting, you have to decide, but I think it’s not a bad idea in my setting. Rent a hall and put up a sign that says, “We teach about Christianity here.” And take two years. The Textus Receptus says it was from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. — five hours a day for two years. You do the math. That’s a lot of time to get God, sin, cross, man, resurrection, Spirit, and faith clearly in these pagan’s heads. They’re all polytheists. They don’t know what you’re talking about. America today is gloriously like the first century. What an opportunity it is for us to teach America. That’s the second point — people don’t have the categories and we need to take the time to teach them.

Knowing Means Savoring

Third, as I close, is that the more you know about your treasure — whether at the front end of Christianity as you’re coming to him, or the back end as you’re growing in him — the more passion you’re going to have for him. You will have more passion to go for him, risk for him, and die for him.

And I just close by looking at two verses. The next verse in the text of Acts 19:8–10, which I didn’t read, says:

This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Does that boggle your mind? He stayed in one place, doing teaching and evangelism, and the whole province heard the word of the Lord. A church that fires people with the fullness of the whole counsel of God so that people know him can handle anything — any cancer, any stray child, any crisis like Katrina. They can handle it. Their roots are down deep and they can talk to people with confidence because they know him. Don’t leave your people without knowing him.

I close with this last passage from Acts 5:28. Oh, I want this to be said of me and my church and your church. They’re really mad at the apostles and they said to them:

We strictly charged you not to teach in this name (they were doing public, evangelistic teaching) yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching …

Oh, Lord! Fill Winston-Salem. Fill Greensboro. Fill Charlotte. Fill Asheville. Fill Virginia Beach. Fill every city and town in this state with teaching. That’s what it says: “We strictly charge you not to do this kind of public teaching and here you have filled all of Jerusalem with your teaching.”