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Jesus the Evangelist: Learning to Share the Gospel from the Book of John Hardcover – July 1, 2007
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Jesus the Evangelist is exactly what a paranoid and paralyzed church needs to hear in order to do the essential work of witnessing for Jesus Christ! In a day when so-called practical books are synonymous with fluffy books, here s a solid, readable work for the average Christian. Phillips study of John 1, 3, and 4 takes us beyond clever techniques to biblical faithfulness, and beyond entertaining communication to sound theology in evangelism. He does a masterful job of helping us learn from God s Word principles for evangelism, the theology of the gospel, and Jesus own practice in evangelism. Consequently, the reader is moved beyond apathy to action, to proclaiming the good news that Jesus the Son of God has come into the world to take away the sins of all those who repent and believe on Him. Readers of this volume will learn how to evangelize the real people around them from the only real Savior, Jesus Christ. Every pastor should buy two boxes of Jesus the Evangelist and give them away to members. --Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman
Richard Phillips has written a very helpful book that every serious Christian should read. Evangelism is not an afterthought in the Christian life. It is how God has ordained to glorify Himself in the salvation of sinners. Rev. Phillips explains this by showing how Jesus is both the evangel and the Great Evangelist. In the process, he challenges both apathy and superficiality in the great work of making disciples. I highly recommend this book! --Dr. Thomas K. Ascol, Senior Pastor, Grace Baptist Church
About the Author
Richard D. Phillips is senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C. He serves on the council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and as chairman of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Michigan, a master of business administration degree at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, and a master of divinity degree at Westminster Theological Seminary. Prior to entering the military, he commanded tank units as an officer in the U.S. Army and later served as an assistant professor of leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Rev. Phillips is the author of numerous books, including his most recent,Hebrews (part of the Reformed Expository Commentary series) and Holding Hands, Holding Hearts: Recovering a Biblical View of Christian Dating,co-written with his wife, Sharon. The Phillipses live in Greenville, S.C., with their five children.
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Jesus the Evangelist is aimed at two audiences, both of whom represent ironic extremes. First is the Christian who understands the gospel and isn’t terribly interested in sharing it. Then is the zealot with a poor grasp of the gospel, but a great desire to share it. Phillips purposes to motivate theologically minded individuals to evangelize and instruct those zealous for evangelism who need to better understanding the gospel.
Jesus the Evangelist is divided into three parts. The first, on biblical principles of evangelism, covers much of John 1, delving into “The Witness of John the Baptist and the Calling of the First Disciples.” Phillips makes this application for Christians from the witness of John the Baptist: “This is our pattern of witness: We are to live as lights in the world to create opportunities for witness; we are to refuse to focus attention on ourselves; and then we are to be the voices that present the Word, Jesus Christ” (p. 24).
The book also provides a helpful foundation for Christian to understand themselves in relation to Christ. After referencing John the Baptist’s declaration that he was unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandal (John 1:26b-27), Phillips writes,
"Rabbinic writings indicate that disciples were required to perform all kinds of menial services for their rabbis, but not this! Not untying the strap of a sandal! But John said that not only was it not beneath him to perform such a menial task for Jesus, it was above him! So great is the glory of Christ!
"Do you feel this way? Do you count it an awesome privilege to serve Jesus in any way possible? Instead of begrudging your Christian duties and especially any actual sacrifice you are called to make, are you overwhelmed at the privilege of simply serving a glorious Lord like Him? If you are not, your witness will lack power. But if you convey to people what a thrill it is to know and serve the Lord Jesus, your witness will be that much more effective." (p. 26)
Part two deals with the theology of the gospel, highlighting “Jesus’ Witness to Nicodemus.” He looks to John 3 for principles of sharing the gospel “with the ‘better kind’ of people, that is, with people who enjoy wide admiration and thus may never have considered their need for a Savior” (p. 60). Phillips highlights the new birth as a necessity, as a supernatural work of God, and as a change that is revealed by its effects. He focuses on the importance and centrality of the cross. He also speaks of the teaching of John 3:16-18 in regard to salvation and condemnation by quoting Leon Morris:
It is not the purpose of the shining of the sun to cast shadows. But … shadows are inevitable. The shadows are, so to speak, the other side of the sunshine. So it is with condemnation and the coming of the Son of God. He did not come in order that people be condemned. But there are great moral issues involved, and those who refuse salvation thus condemn themselves. (pp. 101-102)
In other words, Christ did not come to condemn but to save. Yet by refusing His salvation, those who reject Him can only blame themselves for their condemnation.
Part three examines Jesus’ practice of evangelism, demonstrated in His witness to the Samaritan woman in John 4. The author sets Nicodemus side by side with the woman to show some key differences and similarities. "Nicodemus was a man at the top of life," whereas the woman was at the bottom. "There can be little doubt that John placed these two figures side by side to show that the gospel is for everyone … the glory of the gospel is that anyone—regardless of gender, race, education, wealth, or social position—maybe saved through faith in Jesus Christ" (pp. 108-109).
John 4 demonstrates Jesus’ care for the lost, His disregard of ungodly social and religious barriers, and His connecting with people. Jesus purposely went through Samaria to meet with this woman, and Jesus the Evangelist urges Christians to step out of their comfortable subculture to go to others who need the gospel.
In addition to loving and genuinely connecting with others, Phillips urges Christians to deal with sin seriously in evangelism. He writes the following to highlight the seriousness of sin:
"If you commit just three sins per day—if you are irreverent, dishonest, malicious, lustful, or covetous just three times in a day—and the great majority of us break God’s law in thought or deed at least that many times in a [sic] hour!— you will commit more than a thousand sins per year. If you live for seventy-five years, as many of us will, when you die you will arrive in God’s court with seventy-five thousand sins to be dealt with. How would a human judge respond to a criminal with seventy-five thousand violations of the civil law? Surely he would impose the maximum penalty! God hates sin more than any human judge, and He has decreed that the 'wages of sin is death' (Rom. 6:23). How important it is, then, that we find a way to deal with our sin before appearing before God’s judgment." (p. 138)
Jesus the Evangelist urges us to seek to turn questions, evasions, and objections back to Jesus—to the Savior of sinners.
Each of the book’s thirteen chapters concludes with discussion questions. It concludes with an appendix on “The Sovereignty of God in Evangelism,” which argues that both divine sovereignty and human responsibility are biblical teachings and therefore not incompatible. He counters the common objection that belief in God’s sovereignty undermines evangelism, listing several ways this doctrine should impact evangelism. Our evangelism should be biblical and prayerful. God’s Word and God’s Spirit using that Word are both necessary for conversions. Our evangelism should be personal, zealous, and creative. Finally, we should never lose heart in evangelism.
Jesus the Evangelist gives an excellent exposition and application of key passages in the Gospel of John. The book strikes gold, but it leaves many veins untapped as well. Other works could follow up on this book by exploring Jesus’ discourses to the multitudes, particularly His “I am” sayings. John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus (revised and expanded in 2009) is an example of a wider approach and would complement Phillips’s work beautifully.
While focusing on the verbal witness of John the Baptist and Jesus, the author does not demean methods such as addressing strangers, passing out tracts, or preaching in the open air. He says, “Instead of picking and choosing … we can best profit by considering all of these approaches and making use of them as God gives us opportunity” (p. 46). However, Phillips disapproves of the “altar call,” characterizing it as “unbiblical” and “deceitful manipulation” (p. 180) that violates the dishonesty condemned in 2 Corinthians 4:2. He especially targets evangelists who strategically manipulate by planting people to raise hands or respond by walking forward, in order to incite others to do so. Phillips argues persuasively. Furthermore, the altar call is fraught with danger and a dubious pedigree. But I think he may be unfair to those who use a post-sermon public invitation, but carefully clarify that walking the aisle is not salvific or commanded by God.
The book does not sugarcoat responses to those who neglect evangelism. Phillips blames laziness and self-centeredness for ineffective evangelism:
"We are not willing to cross the street to meet people. We do not care enough for the eternal destiny of friends, family members, and co-workers to risk the social hazard of talking about the Lord." (p. 111)
He also reminds us that evangelism is hard work:
"If we care for others’ salvation, we will expend ourselves in ministry to them … if we do not find ourselves sometimes needing a rest from our labors—then we are not likely to accomplish much in Christian ministry." (p. 111)
The discussion questions make this an ideal book for intense personal or group study. It could easily be adapted for use in Sunday school or other teaching scenarios, and would also be a useful complement to commentaries on the book of John.
To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. Furthermore, Phillips points out, “To be a Christian is to be called as an evangelist.” Jesus the Evangelist is an excellent resource to help Christians become more like their Master by being faithful to spread His good news.
I was provided a review copy of this book from Reformation Trust in exchange for an honest review.
He even gets into a discussion of predestination and determines that even if God has predestined someone to be saved, someone still needs to share the Gospel with them.
When it comes down to understanding God, the Bible, and how to be saved or have eternal life, or be in heaven forever – the issue is the MESSIAH! The Bible warns us that there will be many who say they are the Messiah, and they will deceive many people. There are many beliefs among the religions of the world as to the true identity of the Messiah. It can be very confusing. We have chosen to focus on what the Bible teaches on this matter.
The Gospel of John (in the Bible) records several miracles that Jesus did. In John 20:30-31, we read these important words about the Messiah:
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.”
Peter (one of the disciples of Jesus) said in Acts 4:12:
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Salvation is not the result of attending a church, synagogue, or mosque - or trying to be a good person. According to the Bible, salvation is found by believing that Jesus is the Messiah and the only One Who can save us from sin, death, and hell. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah quotes the Messiah in Isaiah 45:22-23:
“Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by Myself, the word is gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongues shall swear.”
These verses are quoted in the New Testament in Philippians 2:9-11:
“Wherefore God (the heavenly Father) also hath highly exalted Him (Jesus), and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
As you can clearly see, it is God’s purpose and plan to exalt His Son, our Savior, and that all should acknowledge that Jesus the Messiah is Lord!
The Bible presents in great detail the genealogy of the Messiah. After the global flood, Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, begin to repopulate the earth. His son, Shem (which means “name”), becomes the one through whom the Messiah will come. This line of Shem leads us to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob’s name was changed to “ISRAEL” and his fourth son by his wife, Leah, is named “JUDAH” and is the Jewish tribe through whom the Messiah will come (Genesis 49:10). The line of Judah brings us to a man named “Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1) and to his son “DAVID.” To this young shepherd, God promised a descendant who would bless the entire world. It was his son, Solomon, who built the Jewish Temple (destroyed by Babylon in 586 BC). His line was the royal line of Jewish kings that would bring us the Messiah. One of his future descendants was Joseph, the one who would marry a young Jewish virgin named “Miryam” (Mary) who became pregnant before he could marry her. The Bible teaches that the Messiah would be born from a virgin’s womb (Psalm 132:11; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23), and it even names the place where the Messiah would be born – Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-6).
There is a fascinating prophecy in Malachi 3:1:
“Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me; and the Lord, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, Whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.”
Malachi writes AFTER the destruction of the Temple of Solomon by Babylon in 586 BC, so this prophecy cannot refer to that temple. Also, there has been no temple since 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the Second Temple (built and restored by Herod the Great). The only time that the above passage could have been fulfilled was the time the Second Temple was still standing! The first “messenger” of Malachi 3:1 who will prepare the way of the Lord was John the Baptist. The second “Messenger of the covenant” is the Messiah Himself!
The Messiah would come into this world (the first time) to suffer and die for the sins of all humanity (Isaiah 53). The Bible teaches very clearly that Jesus not only died on that Roman cross for our sins, but that He arose from the dead on the third day after He died. Talk about incredible news! The Messiah is NOT dead – HE IS ALIVE!
After ascending back to heaven (Acts 1:9-11), He promised that He would come again (John 14:1-6). He is the hope of the entire world!
Here’s the problem: It is not enough to know these Biblical facts; according to the Bible, we must put our faith and trust in the Messiah Himself as our only hope of salvation and eternal life. Romans 10:13 says:
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Romans 10:17 adds:
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”
Our faith is in the words of the Bible about the true identity of the Messiah. We encourage you to take out a moment of your time right now, and call upon the only One Who can save you! As we confess and repent of our sins, and believe that Jesus died and paid for our sins, and rose again from the dead, putting our trust and faith in Him alone, the Bible assures us that we will be saved!
(Editor’s Note: If you would like a more complete discussion of the true identity of the Messiah, simply call us at 1-800-75-BIBLE and ask for a free booklet entitled “WHO IS THE MESSIAH?”