The Seed is the Word of God (1): The Power of the Gospel in Foreign Evangelism
In the parable of the sower Jesus pictured the seed being sown on all soils (Matthew 13:3-9). In explaining his parable he showed the seed to be the word of God and the soils to be the hearts of men (Luke 8:11-12,15; Matthew 13:19). His words teach us that the word of God must be sown in order for a soul to react to it. Later, in giving the great commission, Jesus told his disciples, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). As the power was in the seed in the parable of the sower so the power is in the gospel to change the hearts of man (Romans 1:16, cp. Psalm 19:7). All of God's work in making the salvation of man possible depends on his word being spread to mankind, the objects of his love (John 3:16). It is the offensive weapon (as opposed to defensive) in the Christian's armor, "living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). It will bring forth fruit to the glory of God wherever men hear and obey it (Colossians 1:6). In this article we would like to look at the going forth of the word in the first century giving particular attention to the various manifestations of its power.
1. The gospel has the power to bring people out of false religion. With the passing away of the Law of Moses, the superiority of the law of Christ was proclaimed (Acts 13:38:39; Galatians 1:6-9). Further, existing pagan religions were condemned and their adherents called upon to forsake them and become Christians (Acts 14:15; 17:22-31; 19:26). As a result of such preaching fruit was born to the glory of God. Multitudes of both Jews and Greeks left the religion of their fathers and turned to Christ (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 11:19-26; 13:48-49; 14:1; 17:10-12; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Peter 1:18-19). We live in a day when many religions exist that represent departures from the word of God (Matthew 7:15-21; 15:9,13; Acts 20:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 1 John 2:19). Hence, we find ourselves in a situation similar to that of the prophets of the Old Testament. We must call people back to God's original plan (Jeremiah 6:16). By the authority of Christ we can expose the false teachings of men and lead people into the relationship with God that Jesus came to establish (Matthew 28:18; 16:18; John 1:12).
2. The gospel has the power to bring people out of immorality. When Paul came to Corinth he came to a city known in the ancient world for its wickedness. Immorality was popular there and even occurred as part of idolatrous worship. Nonetheless, the preaching of the cross changed the hearts of some such people and caused them to turn away from their ungodliness (1 Corinthians 1:18; 6:9-11). The problem of immorality today is universal. God's word can change the heart and teach people to hate sin (Psalm 119:104).
3. The gospel has the power to make people aware of their spiritual nature and turn them from purely secular concerns. It seems that most people of all nations today are obsessed with the things of this world. Communism, socialism, humanism, hedonism, materialism and similar forces have had the effect of turning the attention of the masses to the here and now. Most seem to live life as Paul wrote of it in the following verses:
Through the teachings of the word of God such people can come to understand the vanity of life without God (Ecclesiastes 2:1-23; 12:13; Luke 12:13-21). The Bible's teaching on origins, death, the judgment, future reward and punishment is designed to raise a person's view so that he sees beyond the things of this world (Genesis 1:1; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-21:8). It will lead one to base his decisions on God's word rather than on purely worldly concerns (2 Corinthians 5:1-10, cp. Daniel 3:16-18).
4. The gospel has the power to lead people in the way they should go. The inspired history of the early efforts at evangelism tells of the Christians and churches that resulted from the spreading of the gospel (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35; 6:1-6; 11:19-26; Philippians 1:3-6; 2:12; 4:10-18; 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 2:13-14). The simple truth of Christ's grace, rule and authority has called many people today (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 1:22-23). Lives and churches have been "set in order" by the light of his teaching (Titus 1:5).
5. The gospel gives hope that acts as an "anchor for the soul" (Hebrews 6:18-20). Many held on to the rope of this anchor through the storms of life and entered into rest (Luke 16:19-26 with Revelation 7:11-17). The hope of the gospel will help a person to keep from being ashamed in spite ill treatment (Romans 5:5). It will help him or her to be patient at such times (1 Thessalonians 1:3). It will assist him in speaking to others about the gospel (1 Peter 3:15). The writer of Hebrews used the hope of the gospel in his effort to restore erring Christians (Hebrews 6:11,18-20, cp. 12:12-13). This hope is held out for people "out of every nation" by the gospel (Revelation 7:9).
Thus, the gospel has in itself innate power much like a seed. Let it be sown in the hearts of men and God will give the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). Let it be followed and changes will result in the lives of men. Let it be kept in a good and honest heart and much fruit will be born to the glory of God. Let it be followed through the uneven journeys of life and eternal glory will be the result. May all who preach, whether at home or in foreign lands, preach the gospel to those who hear them!