Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Name above all names: The gospels, the epistles, and what it means to evangelize

One underlying message of the gospels and epistles of the New Testament is: Jesus is the name above all names. "Name above all names" is a familiar quote from one of Paul's letters:
So God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above all names: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
That sums up one of the main points of the New Testament.

The four biographies of Jesus have nearly every event showing us a way in which Jesus is more excellent than anyone else who has ever walked this earth. The disciples recall their amazement and wondering, "Who is this?" The disciples recall the crowds listening to Jesus and being amazed at him, never having heard anything like it. His miracles are along the same lines. Of all the prophets of old, and all the teachers of religion, no one else healed such steady stream of people suffering from every kind of illness or disability. Never had anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. Each event shows a new facet of Jesus' uniqueness -- even the teachings. The Beatitudes, the sheep and the goats, the prodigal son, the Good Samaritan -- these are all one demonstration after another that there is no one like Christ, no one who has ever taught like this. Even the accounts of his death show the prophets' words fulfilled and his breathtaking kindness to his executioners. He did not merely teach forgiveness, but lived it. We probably could have understood if he had said forgiveness had met its limit when facing death by torture after being convicted on unjust charges. But he didn't abandon forgiveness even then; he was still the merciful one. The more we look at Jesus, the more we understand how unique he is. Jesus' resurrection is a seal to what we already knew: there hasn't been anybody like him.

The epistles focus on Jesus' excellence: Writing to Corinth, Paul explains how he is determined to know nothing else but Christ crucified as he preaches. The letter to the Hebrews spends chapter after chapter explaining how Jesus is greater than Moses, the new covenant greater than the old covenant, the new sacrifice greater than the old sacrifices, the new high priest greater than the old high priest. The letter started by explaining how Jesus is even above the angels. John's first letter puts things in very simple terms: He who has the Son of God has life, and he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

The good news, then, is Christ.

There are many Christians who feel an obligation to evangelize -- or feel an obligation to justify why they do not evangelize. But what does an evangelist say? To take our thoughts from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: An evangelist explains how Jesus is the name above all names. An evangelist explains Jesus' excellence, his unsurpassed goodness, his unique authority to speak of the things of God -- and that he can save us from the futile, hopeless, dead-end lives that we have without him. We explain that Jesus can transform us into someone more like him. We explain the blessings that Jesus brings.

Evangelism is simply explaining how Jesus is the name above all names, and how every spiritual blessing is found in Christ. We Christians are faced with people who are tired of the cliches they have heard as evangelism, and tired of evangelism that is more about our scripted talking points than about Jesus. As Christians, here is the question to us as evangelists: Can we explain how Jesus is the name above all names?


Martin LaBar said...

That's a great definition of evangelism. Thanks.

Weekend Fisher said...

Welcome back, Barnabas. Thank you for the encouragement!

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF