39 Missional Life (1)

Below is the true story of how Norman Geisler Began Witnessing:

Some years ago, theologian Norman Geisler wrote a candid article in which he said: “I have a confession to make. I was a director for a Christian youth organisation for three years, a pastor for nine years, a Bible college teacher for six years, and in all that time I did not witness for Jesus Christ. I scarcely ever shared my faith one-to-one with other people.”

Geisler offered several reasons for this: He didn’t think he had the gift of evangelism. He felt instead his gift was that of teaching the Word to those already Christians. He had read a book about evangelism and God’s sovereignty that had turned away his zeal for personal evangelism. He had known someone who had practiced impersonal, cold-turkey evangelism (share the gospel upfront with a stranger), and Geisler had determined that “lifestyle” evangelism was more desirable. But as a result, he lived a Christian life but seldom vocalised his witness to an unsaved person. Eventually, Geisler became convicted by the words of a little song that said: “Lead me to some soul today, / O teach me, Lord, just what to say.” Those words became a sincere prayer for him, and his life began to change.

One day, having prayed that prayer, he was approached by a girl from the college where he taught. She had spiritual needs in her life, and he was able to lead her to Christ. (She later went to South America as a missionary). Shortly afterward, Geisler volunteered to participate in a Monday night visitation programme at his church. On his first outing, he found himself knocking on the door of a man who turned out to be an atheist. “Do you mind if we ask you a very serious spiritual question?” asked Geisler, when the man came to the door. After a long conversation and a couple of visits, the man prayed to receive Christ into his heart. (He is now a deacon in a church with his family committed to Christ as well.)

Now Geisler says: The most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my Christian life have not come from teaching, pastoring, or ministering around the world. They have come from meeting with non-Christians and seeing one after another come to know Christ.

Your Initial Response

There are many ways of witnessing for Christ, you could be very outspoken and grasp every opportunity to preach the gospel, or you prefer lifestyle evangelism. No matter what, if we don’t put our belief into practice, our faith is dead (James 2:17); and if we don’t verbally tell our friends/relatives about Christ, they will never get to connect with Him despite how good our lifestyle is (Romans 10:14).

So, what’s your choice today?

2 Corinthians 5:11–21

11Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 

12We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 

13If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 

14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 

15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 

19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 

20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 

21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:11–21 NIV) 

1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.

2 Circle all the words that are related with the attributes of God and Christ and number them in ascending order.

3 Highlight all the words that are related with the works of God and Christ and number them in ascending order.

4 Underline all the principles of Paul of dealing things and number them in ascending order.

5 Put all of the words pertaining to the new life of Christians in boxes and number them in ascending order.

6 Refer to other translations and come up with some new insights.

2) “Expound” (E)

iEXP Bible Study Method

Before the Apostle Paul came to know Christ as the Messiah, he was a person who severely persecuted the Christians. However, he changed drastically when he believed in Christ, receiving new purposes and motivations from the Lord to live for the rest of his days.

1 Do Christians really have to be out of our mind for God (5:13)?

2 “One died for all, therefore all died;” who is this person (5:14)?

3 How come “all died” (5:14)?

4 What is “new creation” (5:17)?

5 What is meant by “the message of reconciliation” (5:19)?

6 How come the perfect sinless Christ would become “sin” (5:21)?

The Apostle Paul determined to please the Lord in all circumstances (2 Cor. 5:9). Furthermore, he was convinced that Christians should stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and would receive rewards or rebukes from the Lord, according to their earthly works (2 Cor. 5:10).

2 Cor. 5:11

Paul stated clearly that he was made plain to God. The original meaning of “plain” (NIV) is make known, reveal, show. “What we are is plain to God,” New King James Version renders it as “but we are well known to God.” To describe the way that the Apostle Paul spoke in today’s colloquial language, it means his transparency before God was of very high degree. Furthermore, according to the translation of New American Standard Bible, on one hand, Paul was made manifest to God, and on the other hand, he expected the believers to know him in the testimony of their consciences. In other words, the apostle knew he was familiar to God, and he also wanted the Corinthians to know him in the same manner. The apostle did not persuade the Corinthian believers to receive salvation, but expected that they would accept him as a person of integrity. Speaking in such a manner, the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that they would lose their rewards if they departed from his teaching, but received the false teaching of the false teachers (cf. 2 Cor. 5;10).

2 Cor. 5:12

Paul commended himself to the Church at Corinth again, indicating that he was God’s ordained apostle, thus the believers would have sufficient information to respond to those who attacked the apostleship of Paul. Perhaps, the false teachers emphasized their historical relation to Jesus Christ (5:16), or emphasised their belief was of Palestinian orthodoxy (11:22), or emphasised their greater number of visions and revelations (cf. 12: 1-7). However, Paul did not provide more of his personal information to the believers, but only emphasised his former association with the believers. The Corinthian believers knew the testimony of Paul well, and the testimony of their conscience could vindicate the authenticity of his apostleship (5:11).

2 Cor. 5:13-15, 19-21

1 The Motivation to Fear God

Paul understood that God is almighty and awesome; no one can hide anything from Him (5:11). Also, believers ought to be responsible for what they did (5:10). The attitude of fearing God made him prudent in everything, as he did not want to provoke the Lord. Serving God with such an attitude blessed Paul’s entire life.

2 The Motivation to Be Crazy for God (5:13)

“Out of mind”, means insane or out of one’s senses. Paul was fervent and was willing to do anything to preach the gospel. To others, he was out of his mind. Paul was certainly not insane; this was just a way of expressing himself in order to contrast with his sound mind (5:13). Since Paul did not explain in the letter why he spoke like that; it was hard to interpret the real meaning of v.13b. The Bible scholars provided at least 5 different explanations for it:

Paul’s critics criticised him of being “out of his mind”, perhaps because of his allegedly mysterious teaching (cf. Acts 26:24) or his ecstatic experiences or his unrelenting zeal and tireless work.

Owing to his numerous experiences of speaking in tongues and seeing visions, people regarded Paul as crazy. Therefore, people regarded him as crazy.

The Corinthians viewed Paul’s excessive emotion as abnormal 

People criticised Paul’s self-commendation; to these people, it was lunacy.

In Jewish eyes, the conversion of Paul was the indication of his madness.

3 The Motivation to Be Sane (5:13)

Sound mind, means sane or in a right state of mind. Paul poured out his life and heart for the Lord, people might treat him as a lunatic; since what he did differed greatly from the norm, as if he were out of his mind. Sometimes, in order to have people attained the benefit of the gospel, Paul would rather do what everybody did, lest others treated him as a religious fanatic, and used this excuse to reject the gospel.

4 The Motivation to Be Compelled by Love (5:14)

Earlier Paul mentioned that Jesus Christ as the judge (5:10), and no one could escape His judgment. The apostle talked about Jesus Christ as the Saviour now. He sacrificed for the sinners, manifesting His love. Paul was deeply touched by God’s love, which resulted in a radical change in his life, urging him to live for Christ, and to die for Christ. The whole life of Paul was tied with God’s love, which make him forsake his life in serving God. This was an act of loving God.

5 The Motivation to Die for Christ (5:14, 15)

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus; that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (NKJV) The One was Jesus Christ. “All died” was related to the death and love of Jesus Christ. What Paul meant was the abundant love of Christ which touched him so much that he was willing to die for Him; and he had already made such a decision, that was to say, Paul treated himself as a dead person. Paul was not afraid of death because it was no longer he who lived, but Christ lived in him (Gal 2:20).

6 The Motivation to Live for Christ (5:15)

Paul reminded the Corinthians that the Lord not only died for them, but also hoped that they would respond positively and live for the Lord. The aspiration of living for the Lord greatly assisted Paul’s ministry.

7 The Motivation to Fulfill Commitment (5:19)

Ministry of Reconciliation (5:18)

Through the redemption of Jesus Christ, humankind can reconcile with God. Paul was granted this ministry of reconciliation as well.

Message of Reconciliation (5:19)

Message, means word. Apart from the ministry of reconciliation, Paul also got the message of reconciliation from God, so that he could preach the right word. Paul never preached about himself, but the message of reconciliation through Christ.

Ambassadors of Reconciliation (5:20-21)

Paul spoke of his apostolic work as an ambassador for Christ, so that human beings could reconcile with God. Once again Paul declared the real meaning of the gospel that the sinless Christ became a sinner and died on the cross for the sinful world, thus people could become righteous in Christ. This was the introduction to the justification by faith.

The Motive of Being Trusted

Paul understood that he was a trustee; God wanted him to preach the gospel so that humankind could reconcile with God. This creed strongly motivated Paul to become a vessel for many who received the gospel.

2 Cor. 5:16

“According to the flesh” (5:16) was translated as “from a worldly point of view” in NIV. One of the problems of the Corinthian Church was that believers were judged according to the flesh. They compared Paul with other teachers and employed carnal judgment instead of spiritual judgment. They forgot that Christians were new creations with new values and motives. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they should never exalt the physical terms of a matter, but should make judgment according to the spiritual discernment of Christians.

2 Cor. 5:17

The born-again experience is the work of Holy Spirit, granting new life to the believers; therefore, Christians are seen as new creations. “Old” are the old days of the believers, specifically, days of slavery to sin. Christians are blessed by God, thus receiving new attitudes and actions consequently (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-15).

2 Cor. 5:18-21

1 The Ministry of Reconciliation with God

The false teachers opposed Paul and accused that he was not apostle. Owing to this reason, Paul once again declared his apostleship to the Corinthians that he had the ministry of the apostle. This was assigned to him by God to preach the reconciliation message everywhere. In addition, he wanted them to know that this ministry and message were not from humankind, but from God (5:18). This was the feedback to the false accusation, showing that Paul was really the apostle.

2 The Message of Reconciliation with God

The false teachers were preaching false messages that people should act according to the Law, and must be saved through works. This was a heretical teaching. Paul once again explained the message of reconciliation with God concisely and precisely to the believers, that people were not saved by works, but by trusting in Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, thus they could become righteous in God’s eyes (5:21). Paul said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for, us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Why did the sinless Christ would become ‘sin’? The Bible scholars have the following explanations:

Treated as if Christ were a sinner, He became the object of God’s wrath and bore the penalty and guilt of sin. Therefore, Christ took the place of sinners as their substitute, acting as the Redeemer of humankind.

When Christ in His incarnation assumed human nature “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3, RSV), God made Him to be “sin”. This concept was related to participation; that was to say, Christ’s life on earth intervened the sinful world.

Christ became a sacrifice for sin, turning Him into a sinner, which was the Old Testament concept of sacrifice. Of the above three, no matter which one you accept; the most important thing is that ‘Christ is sinless’, and this is what Paul stressed on here (5:21); also, many sections in the New Testament mentioned about the flawless and perfection of Christ (1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5; Heb 4:15; 7:26). In short, the sinless Christ died for sinners, so that anyone who believes would become righteous in Christ.

3) “Exercise” (X)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 God had already granted the duty and the message of reconciliation to Christians, thus we must try our best to live out our identity (2 Cor. 5:20).

2 Memorise 2 Cor. 5:17-18.

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (2 Cor. 5:17-18)

3 Since Christians are new creations, thus with our new attitudes and motivations, we are able to face large and small problems each day (5:17).

4 Equip yourself spiritually and the skills of evangelism; learn to be the ambassadors of peace for the Lord.

4) “Proclaim” (P)

By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.

iEXP Bible Study Method

After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.

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