Lessons from the Greatest Evangelist!
By Joseph Ametepe
Who would you say is the greatest evangelist in the New Testament? Would you say, it is “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8) or Peter, the apostle to the circumcised (see Galatians 2:8b) or Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (see Galatians 2:8c)? Is it James or John, the two brothers our Lord nicknamed “the sons of thunder?” (Mark 3:17), or Jude, “the bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (Jude 1:1)? Is it Stephen, the first martyr of the church (see Acts 7:54-8:1) or Silas, Paul’s companion on his second missionary journey (see Acts 15:40-18:22) or Sosthenes, a former leader of the Corinthian synagogue who had become a believer and a brother in Christ, mentioned in the salutation of 1 Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 1:1)? Would your choice be Andrew, Peter’s brother (see Luke 6:14) or Apollos, to whom Priscilla and Aquila explained the way of God more accurately - with the result that he greatly helped those who had believed through grace in Achaia (see Acts 18:26-28), or Archippus, who was to take heed to the ministry which he had received in the Lord, to fulfill it (see Colossians 4:17)? Or is it Timothy, who was charged to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5) or Tychicus, fondly and faithfully described as “our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord” (Colossians 4:7), or Titus, who was left in Crete, that he might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as directed by Paul (see Titus 1:5)?
Certainly, the candidates for the greatest evangelist in the New Testament are many! Indeed, there is no shortage of candidates to be named as the greatest evangelist in the New Testament. I asked this question recently while teaching the Word of God in an evening service. One person answered and said it was Paul. Another said; it was Peter. So, I jovially said; we have “I am of Paul” and “I am of Peter.”
I am sure that Paul and Peter, and the rest of the other candidates I have mentioned would not rank themselves so highly. They would have chosen someone else as the greatest evangelist in the New Testament. And that person would not be Philip, the only person the Bible referred to as “the evangelist” (Acts 21:8). It would not be James or John or Jude. No, it would not be Timothy, or Tychicus or Titus. Stephen, Silas, and Sosthenes would opt out from being considered as the greatest evangelist in the New Testament. In fact, their resounding answer to the question would be none other than the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It was Jesus who told Peter and his friends who were searching for Him: “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:38).
Jesus, it was who declared: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). It would be Jesus who announced in the house of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He, it was, who declares: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Jesus, it was who would selflessly sacrifice His life for the salvation of sinners: “Just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:15).
Without a doubt, Jesus is the greatest evangelist in the New Testament. In fact, one can confidently say that Jesus of Nazareth is the greatest of all time. Indeed, Jesus is the true GOAT. When Peter was directed to the house of Cornelius by divine revelation, he delivered a simple and stirring message in which he summarized our Lord’s evangelistic ministry in Acts 10:38. This summary statement set the Lord Jesus far apart and above all others as the greatest evangelist in the Bible. No one’s evangelistic ministry has been so powerfully and poignantly summed up like that of the Lord Jesus.
There is something interesting and insightful about Acts 10:38. First, the Bible briefly points to the greatest supernatural beings and actors on the stage of human history, that is, the Triune God or the Trinity – the One True God in Three Distinct Persons. All three Persons of the Trinity are distinguishable in this verse. Peter would speak of God the Father simply as “God.” He would refer to God the Son as “Jesus of Nazareth.” For God the Spirit, he would use the popular designation: “the Holy Spirit.” Human history here on earth and hereafter is being shaped and directed by the Trinity. In fact, humankind owes its history and hope for a brighter future to the Three Distinct Persons in the Godhead. You can say that this is one of the Trinitarian verses in the Bible.
Second, this verse also brings us face to face with the greatest supernatural opposer and archenemy of all the good purposes of God for humankind – “the devil” – [Greek: ho diabolos]. Several, are the Trinitarian verses or passages in the Bible (see Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:22; Acts 1:2-8; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:2). But only in Acts 10:38, do we have “the devil” mentioned alongside the Three Distinct Persons of the Godhead. (However, if you consider Mark 1:10-13, Satan and angels who ministered to Christ in His wilderness trials, are mentioned alongside the Trinity).
Now the question before us is: What lessons can we learn from the summary statement made by Peter on the life of the greatest evangelist in the Bible? To answer this important question, first of all, we will explain that effective evangelism is all about pointing people to the person of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:38a). Second, the Bible will emphasize to us that the personal anointing and the power of God are necessary for effective evangelism (Acts 10:38b). Third, the Bible will establish the purpose for the personal anointing and the power of God in our Lord’s life and ministry (Acts 10:38c). Fourth, the Bible will solemnly enunciate the predicament of those our Lord reached out to in His evangelistic service on earth (Acts 10:38d). Fifth and finally, the Bible will endear our hearts with its teaching on the presence of God with Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 10:38e).
Let’s now begin with our first lesson, that is, explaining that effective evangelism is all about pointing people to the:
I. Person of Jesus Christ! (Acts 10:38a).
God had marvelously opened the door for Peter to bring the good news to the Gentiles. Peter could have used this opportunity to promote himself. You see, up to this point, he had had great and glorious experiences in his walk with God. He preached a powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost resulting in the salvation of about three thousand souls (see Acts 2:17-41). This was so unique. Because nowhere else has it ever been recorded in the Bible that another person’s preaching led to winning three thousand souls to Christ in a single day.
After this remarkable soul-winning event, Peter miraculously healed a crippled beggar through faith in the name of Jesus of Nazareth (see Acts 3:1-6). Peter would preach a second powerful sermon, after this miracle – resulting in the salvation of about two more thousand souls (see Acts 3:11-4:4). He and John would be imprisoned on that fateful day for preaching Jesus. The next day, they were brought before the religious leaders of Israel for questioning. The same religious leaders had condemned Jesus, their Lord. But Peter and John expressed great confidence and conviction of heart in speaking about what they had seen and heard. Finding no basis to punish them, they released the two apostles, after threatening them (see Acts 4:2-22).
Immediately after their release, Peter and John joined with the other apostles and believers. They would lift up their voices to God in earnest and fervent prayer. God’s response to their prayer was spectacular. The place where they had assembled shook and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 4:23-31). Later, Peter would be used to expose the pride and pretense of Ananias and Sapphira – who died at Peter’s feet after lying to the Holy Spirit. This would result in great fear coming over the whole church (see Acts 5:1-11).
Furthermore, Peter and the other apostles were granted the privilege of performing many signs and wonders. Filled with jealousy, the religious leaders would move in to stop this new movement. So they laid hands on the apostles and put them in the public prison. But God miraculously intervened on their behalf, sending an angel to open the prison doors. The angelic messenger then ordered them to stand in the temple and speak to the people the message of the gospel. The apostles obeyed. But meanwhile, the high priest and his associates gathered together and sent for the prisoners to be brought in to be interrogated. They were greatly perplexed to find that the apostles were not in the public prison. Great was their relief when someone came and informed them that the apostles were teaching in the temple. Without force, the officers went to the temple and brought the apostles before the Jewish council (see Acts 5:12-27).
The Jewish council wasted no time at all in reminding the apostles that they had earlier charged them not to teach in the name of Jesus. To this, Peter and company boldly and briefly responded: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). After listening to the counsel of Gamaliel, the council beat the apostles and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, the apostles went home rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus (see Acts 5:33-42).
Peter would later perform another miracle of healing on Aeneas, who was bedridden and paralyzed for eight years. This would result in the salvation of many residents of Lydda and Sharon (see Acts 9:32-35). Perhaps, Peter’s greatest experience of walking obediently with God was the raising of Dorcas from the dead (see Acts 9:36-43). As if these experiences with God were not enough, Peter would be given a vision from heaven while praying at the noon hour on a rooftop in the city of Joppa (see Acts 10:9-16).
What’s the point of relating all of these great experiences Peter had before visiting the house of Cornelius? Well, I’m so glad you’ve asked. The point here is that, Peter could have spent a great deal of time pointing to himself and his great experiences of walking with God. But that was not what Peter would do. He was committed to pointing his audience, gathered in the house of Cornelius in Caesarea, to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s exactly what he did. He presented Jesus to them. You see, Peter had traveled all the way from Joppa to Caesarea with the passionate desire of speaking about Jesus of Nazareth, the God-Man, God’s perfect sacrifice for sin, the Seeker and Savior of lost sinners like myself. In fact, throughout his message in Cornelius’s house (see Acts 10:34-43), Peter used the personal pronoun “I” only once. This was at the beginning of his message (see Acts 10:34). But after that, it was all about Jesus. Jesus was the One he pointed his audience to. In other words, Jesus was his message.
At this juncture, one may ask: Why was it important for Peter to point his audience to Jesus and not to himself? Well, it’s because Jesus is the Savior of sinners. The name “Jesus,” means “Yahweh saves.” In Matthew 1:21, the angelic messenger who appeared to Joseph predicted: “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Only Jesus can save. This was Peter’s bold testimony years earlier when he and John were brought before the religious leaders of Israel. Filled with the Spirit, Peter boldly confessed: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Because Jesus is the Only One who saves sinners from sin, Peter committed himself to pointing people to Him.
Also, Peter directed his audience’s attention to Jesus because He alone is the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Tradition had it that Peter died on the cross, hanged upside down. But such a death on the cross was no perfect sacrifice for Peter’s own sins, let alone ours. Only Jesus’ death on the Roman cruel cross was a perfect sacrifice for sin. The Scripture says: Christ “offered one sacrifice for sins for all time…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12, 14). Jesus’ one perfect sacrifice for our sins was fully accepted by the Heavenly and Holy Father. No other sacrifice would do. His perfect sacrifice paid our sin debt in full. Nothing was left for any one of us to pay. This is why Peter would point his audience in Cornelius’s house at Caesarea, in the direction of Jesus.
Furthermore, Peter directed the attention of his audience to Jesus because it is only through the blood of Christ that lost sinners receive forgiveness of all their sins. The Bible makes it clear that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b). But it’s not just any blood. No. The blood of bulls and goats would not do. The blood of patriarchs, prophets, preachers and pastors would not do. It is only through the blood of Christ that sinners can receive forgiveness of their sins. Knowing that forgiveness of sins for sinners is available through the shedding of His precious blood, on the night He was betrayed, Christ solemnly spoke of pouring out His blood for the forgiveness of sins. “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28). This is another reason why Peter didn’t draw attention to himself but to Jesus of Nazareth.
But that’s not all. Peter knew very well that Jesus is the way to the Heavenly Father and heaven. Indeed, Jesus provided the one and only secure and sure passage into the blessed and blissful presence of God. The Lord Jesus Himself made this clear to His disciples in His Upper Room discourse on the night He was betrayed. On that memorable night, Thomas felt very uncomfortable. But he didn’t hold back. He questioned the Lord: “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” (John 14:5). Our Lord, calmly and confidently, with divine authority, responded to Thomas with these memorable words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
As far as our Lord is concerned, there is no negotiation on this matter. For Him, the way to the Heavenly Father is not left to debate, deliberation, or discussion among religious scholars. It’s a settled matter that He indeed and He alone, is the way to the Father. Popular belief says: “All roads lead to heaven.” Well, according to our Lord, all roads do not lead to heaven. Jesus, and Him alone is the way to heaven. Our Lord minces no words in emphatically asserting that He is the only approach to the Father. In other words, only one way, not many ways, exist to God, that is, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. As such, Peter never wavered from directing people’s attention to Jesus Christ. Similarly, the believer today should also never hesitate in pointing lost sinners to Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of lost sinners.
Now would you please notice how our verse of study begins! It starts by showing us how Peter directed the attention of the family and friends of Cornelius to Jesus: “You know of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 10:38a). This is also rendered by other translations as “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth.” Actually, “Jesus of Nazareth” is one of Peter’s favorite ways of referring to the Lord Jesus in evangelistic contexts. On the day of Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter preached the gospel to the bewildered multitude. After quoting the prophet Joel to explain what was happening (see Acts 2:17-21), Peter wasted no time at all in pointing his audience to “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the Nazarene” (Acts 2:22).
Also, in healing the lame beggar “at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful” (Acts 3:2b), Peter declared: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-walk” (Acts 3:6b). Then again, when Peter and John were arrested and brought before the religious leaders of Israel (see Acts 4:1-7), Peter, freshly filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 4:8), boldly told them that the means by which the man was healed was by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (see Acts 4:9-10).
Actually, the name, “Jesus of Nazareth,” was the humble and holy name that often identified the Lord during His ministry on earth. It was a name that almost everyone knew or heard about. In fact, the name “Jesus of Nazareth” was so popular with Jesus that all the four gospel writers used it in pointing people to Jesus (see Matthew 21:11; Mark 10:47; Luke 24:19; John 18:5). Peter began pointing those who had gathered in the house of Cornelius, the god-fearing centurion, to Jesus, by using the name by which He was popularly known among people at the time.
In fact, the Lord Jesus Himself seemed to love the name Jesus of Nazareth. It would be the only earthly name our Lord would use to refer to Himself from heaven. When the Risen and Glorified Lord confronted Saul (later Paul), the persecutor of the Church (later the preacher of Christ), the persecutor turned preacher asked: "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 22:8a; ESV). The divine response was: "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 22:8b).
Do you know you can begin sharing the good news by asking a simple question: “Do you know of “Jesus of Nazareth”?” Perhaps, someone’s response to your question will be: “I know about Him.” Well, you can politely ask the person to tell you what he or she knows about “Jesus of Nazareth.” The person may then begin scratching his or her head, searching for words to say. You can then gently take over from there and share the good news. The point is that God can and will use such a simple question to open the door for you to share the good news of Jesus Christ. So please try it this week and see what God does!
Having explained that effective evangelism is all about pointing people to the Person of Jesus Christ, we now come to the second lesson, that is, emphasizing that the:
II. Personal anointing and the power of God are necessary for effective evangelism (Acts 10:38b).
For every evangelistic work to be successful in the sight of God, and win souls for Christ – God’s personal anointing and power are desperately needed. Please notice what the Bible says of Jesus: “how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38b).
It is important to notice who the Bible specifically and succinctly states that God was the One who anointed Jesus of Nazareth. It was not a priest, nor a prophet who anointed Jesus. God the Father Himself it was, who personally anointed Jesus, the Nazarene. In other words, the anointer of Jesus of Nazareth is God, which in this context, must be understood as God the Father. None but God the Father can anoint with the Holy Spirit and with power. He was deeply interested and involved in the life of Jesus – the God-Man - while He willingly sacrificed Himself to come to earth to seek and save the lost. Indeed, the Father was so invested in the Son, that He personally anointed Him.
Please also notice that God the Father’s personal anointing of Jesus was twofold. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. “Echrisen,” is the Greek word for “anointed.” It comes from the verb “chrio.” It is different from “aleipho,” which indicates a literal rubbing with oil. This is the word used in James 5:14 for anointing the sick. “Chrio,” on the other hand, indicates special divine appointment or divine authorization to serve God’s purpose. Here it refers to God’s consecration of Jesus to the Messianic office, and providing Him with powers necessary for its administration. God the Father anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power for a special divine appointment. It is only the Lord Jesus’ anointing which has been specifically described as being with the Holy Spirit and with power. No other person in the Bible has been said to be “anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power.” The Lord Jesus is therefore in a distinguished class all by Himself. However, it is interesting to note that just before the Risen Lord ascended into heaven, He promised His disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit had come upon them (see Acts 1:8). In this promise, we note the combination of “power and the Holy Spirit.” Could it be that our Lord’s promise was given to the disciples in remembrance of the Father’s anointing of Him with the Holy Spirit and power? Your guess is as good as mine.
Prior to His ascension into heaven, our Lord Jesus spoke these words to His disciples concerning their empowerment for service: “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Based on this declaration of our Lord, some Bible commentators have suggested that power is simply another name for the Holy Spirit. This seems to be the case in Micah 3:8. In contrast to false prophets who were full of themselves and were misleading the people of Israel, the prophet Micah testifies: “On the other hand I am filled with power – with the Spirit of the LORD – and with justice and courage to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin.”
Actually, the expression “Holy Spirit and power” often go together in the New Testament as seen earlier in Acts 1:8. The combination is also found in Luke 1:35 and 4:14. It seemed the angel Gabriel was the first person to use this combination when he was sent with news to the Virgin Mary. The Bible says: “And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God”” (Luke 1:35; ESV). In this verse, it appears “the Holy Spirit” is synonymous to “the power of the Most High.” Also, in Luke 4:14 (ESV), we read: “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.”
The Greek word that is used here for “power” is “dunamei,” from “dunamis.” It also means “strength or ability.” Our English words, “dynamite,” “dynamic,” and “dynamo” are derived from it. It refers to miraculous power, might, and strength. In other words, the ‘power’ referred to here by the term ‘dunamis,’ often speaks of miraculous or supernatural power, strength, might or ability, given through the working of the divine person of the Holy Spirit. He empowers believers with divine and supernatural strength or ability to do what God has called them to do. In the case of Jesus of Nazareth, the Bible is saying here that He was endued with miraculous or supernatural power through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
Now, the question is: when did God anoint Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power? The answer is at the very beginning of His earthly ministry, specifically after His baptism in the Jordan River. In fact, the Father’s anointing of the Son with the Holy Spirit and power was so special and significant that all four gospel writers recorded it in their accounts with a slightly different flavor. Matthew reported that an interesting incident took place before God the Father’s anointing of Jesus of Nazareth. When He came from Galilee to the Jordan River where John the Baptist was baptizing, to be baptized by him, John tried to prevent Him. His reasoning was that, he, John, was the one who was in need of baptism. But Jesus convinced John to baptize Him for the sake of fulfilling all righteousness. John complied and Jesus was baptized (see Matthew 3:13-15).
Matthew then reported: “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”” (Matthew 3:16-17; cf. Mark 1:9-11).
Luke’s account gives us an important insight. That is, after His baptism, Jesus was praying when the Father’s anointing with the Holy Spirit took place. “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased”” (Luke 3:21-22). The descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus like a dove to empower Him and the declaration of the Father that Jesus is His beloved Son officially launched our Lord’s earthly ministry.
Apostle John’s record of the Father’s anointing of the Son is given to us through John the Baptist’s personal testimony. “John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God”” (John 1:32-34).
God’s anointing of Jesus of Nazareth was so distinctively unique because it brought together the Three Distinct Persons of the Godhead at the same place in such a dramatic manner that had never been repeated for any other person in the Bible. It was the only one of its kind recorded in the Bible. It’s unlike anything else.
The most important truth to emphasize here is that evangelism, and for that matter any Christian service, is not at all about human effort or human exertion. It’s about the empowering work of the Holy Spirit in and through the believer in Jesus. That is why it is so crucially important to seek God’s anointing and power daily in prayer. If Jesus Himself was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with the power of God, how much more do we need that? We need that so desperately to be effective sharers of the good news. We need the empowering presence of the person of the Holy Spirit to advance the gospel in such a time as this!
At this juncture, it is important to emphasize that the work believers have been called to do cannot be done in our strength or by our own power. Similarly, the life we have been called to live cannot be lived in our own strength or power. We need the “dunamis” of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s work and to live a God-honoring life. Therefore, our heart’s cry must be: “Heavenly Father, I desperately need Your anointing and the empowering presence of the person of the Holy Spirit in my life. I cannot live without them, let alone share the good news. Lord, without Your anointing, the yoke of the enemy’s stranglehold on those who have not yet believed in Your Son cannot be broken. Anoint me too. Empower me too. Equip me with Your supernatural power for service. I desperately need them to fulfill Your Great Commission. Thank You Father. I pray all these in Jesus’ name! Amen!”
Peter and the early followers of Christ faithfully embraced this lesson in their lives and sought to express it in their lives and ministry. They yearned for the supernatural empowering of God for doing the work He had given them to do. After Peter healed the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate and preached his second sermon in Solomon’s Portico (see Acts 3:1-26), he was arrested along with John and put in prison. After spending the night in prison, they were brought before the religious leaders of Israel. They warned them to speak no more in Jesus’ name (see Acts 4:1-22). When Peter and John were released, they didn’t protest. They prayed for God’s empowering to do the very thing which had brought them trouble. In other words, they earnestly yearned for God’s special and supernatural anointing to spread the gospel.
Here is that part of their prayer: “’And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29-31; ESV).
You see, the early Christians knew that the work they had been called to, always required God’s supernatural empowerment. As such, they desperately yearned for it. Longed for it. And prayed earnestly for it – leaving an example for us to follow.
Commenting on the “dunamis” the Risen Lord promised His disciples in Acts 1:8, one writer shares this excellent insight. “And when they received that “dunamis,” fishermen, farmers, waiters and others suddenly preached the Gospel with power and with signs following. Their doubts gave way to an abiding conviction. An indwelling inner strength enabled them to face every challenge, every circumstance, every situation. The dynamo of the Spirit within them made them tough, uncompromising, determined. Everywhere they went people were amazed by what they heard and saw. People knew that they witnessing something extraordinary, that the hand of God was upon these believers” ~AriseAmbassadors.Com [Online]
The “dunamis” of the Holy Spirit is still available to believers today. But are we relying on this indwelling inner strength to face every challenge and every circumstance in our day? Does the divine power of God within us making us tough, unflinching, resolute in spreading the good news in such a time as this? Are people touched and transformed by the message they hear us proclaim? Is it evident that God’s hand is upon us in our witness of Christ? Do they know that they are beholding something special and supernatural through our sharing and spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ?
Before moving on to our next lesson, I would like to ask a question. Was Jesus fully aware of being anointed by the Father for service here on earth? If He was, did He testify of it? Well, the Scripture reveals that Jesus was very aware of being anointed by God and confidently and convincingly bore witness of it. On one occasion, while visiting Nazareth, where He had been raised up, He entered the synagogue as was His custom to do on the Sabbath. While there, the Lord Jesus was given the opportunity by the synagogue officials to read from the Hebrew Scriptures. Our Lord made the most of this golden opportunity to testify of being fully aware of being anointed by the Lord for service (see Luke 4:16). The Scripture says: “And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD”” (Luke 4:17-19).
The passage our Lord read on that memorable day in the synagogue in Nazareth was Isaiah 61:1-2. Masterfully, He stopped in the middle of verse 2. Since the rest of the verse prophesies judgment in the day of God’s vengeance, He did not read it. This is because the second part of verse 2, which He did not read, pertains to His second coming. Clearly, what the quotation is emphasizing is that our Lord Jesus was fully cognizant of being anointed by God the Father, spoken of here as “the Lord,” that is, the self-existing, the self-sufficient, the sustainer, the sovereign and the supreme Deity of the universe. Just as Jesus was acutely aware of being anointed for service, so also believers today must be, if they are to make a difference for the cause of spreading and sharing the good news.
Having emphasized to us that the personal anointing and the power of God are necessary for effective evangelism, the Bible will now establish the purpose for the personal anointing and the power of God in our Lord’s life and ministry. God has a purpose for everything He does in the lives of His people. Specifically, in this verse, we learn that evangelism has the divine:
III. Purpose of bringing wellness to both body and soul of lost people (Acts 10:38c).
What did Jesus do with all the anointing and the power bestowed upon Him by God the Father? In other words, what was the purpose of them all? The Bible reveals the answer to these questions in these brief and blessed words: “He went about doing good and healing” (Acts 10:38c).
The Greek word for “went about” is “dielthen.” Its root comes from the combination of two Greek words “dia” and “erchomai.” This verb means “to go through,” “go about,” or “to spread.” As such, it is used frequently in Acts for missionary efforts (see Acts 8:4, 40; 9:32; 13:6; 14:24; 15:3, 41; 16:6; 18:23; 19:1, 21; 20:2). The use of “went about” therefore means that the Lord Jesus was on a mission while on earth. You see, He had a divine purpose to fulfill before returning to the Father. He came not only to sacrifice Himself for our sins, but also to spread the good news and set captives free. As such, He went from village to village, from town to town, from city to city, and from country to country. He was a Divine Messenger on a Divine Mission. That’s why Jesus went about the land of Judea, Samaria, all Galilee, the region of the Decapolis, and even “into the district of Tyre and Sidon” (Matthew 15:21). This shows the diligence, devotion, discipline, determination, and of course, the delight of our Lord in carrying out the Father’s will on earth.
Please notice that the Bible reveals a twofold divine purpose for the Father’s anointing of Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Namely, “doing good,” and “healing.”
The Greek expression for “doing good” is “euergeteo.” It originates from the verb “euergetes.” It means “to do good deeds,” “to perform kind service,” “to be philanthropic,” or “to bestow benefits.” It is important to note here that our Lord Jesus was Himself good, essentially and naturally good. In fact, He is the embodiment of goodness. Jesus did nothing but good, that which was always consistent with the will of God. It is therefore not surprising that the Bible stated clearly and convincingly that He went about doing good to lost sinners. Jesus of Nazareth, who knew no sin, did no sin, nor could any sin be found in Him, and who always did what was well-pleasing to the Father; bestowed benefits upon men and performed kind services to them. In other words, our Lord was abundantly philanthropic to lost mankind.
In fact, one can say that the Lord Jesus Christ was the most philanthropic person the world has ever seen. The kind services He performed, the benefits He bestowed and the good deeds He did, while on earth, far surpasses all those of Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Melinda French Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and other philanthropists. You see, Jesus of Nazareth did good deeds not just to satisfy the physical needs of the downtrodden and the downcast, but most importantly to satisfy their deepest spiritual longing. In other words, the Lord Jesus was endowed with divine and supernatural power to minister to the whole person, body and soul. He did so much good both to the bodies and souls of lost mankind. There is no way one can recount them all.
Think of the physical and spiritual benefits our Lord bestowed on a leper who came to Him, humbly and honestly imploring Him: “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2b). Our Lord’s willing response to the leper are recorded in these endearing and expressive words. “And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing, be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:3). This kind service was not only physical, but also spiritual. In addition to the physical cleansing, there was also a spiritual cleansing. After his physical cleansing, our Lord set the cleansed leper on the path of living in obedience to God’s word (see Matthew 8:4). In other words, Jesus not only met the leper’s physical need, but also his deepest spiritual longing of knowing God and walking in loving obedience to Him.
What about the kind service He performed for two men who were demon-possessed – that set them free not only physically but also spiritually? They were extremely violent that no one dared pass their way. In fact, they owned a particular road near a cemetery. But upon encountering Jesus of Nazareth on that memorable day, they experienced not only physical freedom but also spiritual freedom (see Matthew 8:28-34). It would take a great deal of time to tell of all the good deeds our Lord performed. In other words, time and space will not suffice to enumerate the kind services Jesus of Nazareth rendered to the needy. He did a lot of them while serving the Father’s purpose here on earth. Moreover, what sets our Lord apart from all other philanthropists is that, His doing of good deeds or bestowing benefits, not only met people’s physical needs but also their spiritual needs. In other words, He ministered to the whole person, spirit, soul, and body. His was a holistic ministry to the person.
The second of the twofold purpose for which our Lord was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power was for “healing.” The Greek word used for “healing” is “iomenos.” It comes from the primitive root verb “iaomai.” It means “to heal,” “cure,” “restore to bodily health,” or “make whole.” This is the meaning of this verb in passages such as Luke 5:17; 6:19; 22:51. But “iaomai” also means “to heal spiritually.” This is the meaning of the verb in passages such as Matthew 8:8, 13; 13:15; 15:28; Luke 4:18; 17:15 and John 12:40. It is also used in 1 Peter 2:24 to mean “to be spiritually healed.” In other words, it signifies “healing, particularly as supernatural and bringing attention to the Lord Himself as the Great Physician. It draws the attention to the Lord, the supernatural Healer, that is, beyond the physical healing itself and its benefits” – Helps Ministries, Inc. [Online]
So, it’s distinctively clear that the healing the Lord Jesus performed during His service on earth went beyond the physical. His healing ministry touched both body and soul, that is, the whole person. He valued the whole person and performed kind services to benefit the whole, not just part of it. God’s anointing of believers today is for them to minister to the whole person, just as it was of His anointing of Christ. Today, some ministries focus on the physical healing of sick people. They travel from place to place holding “miracle healing crusades.” The gospel is rarely preached during such crusades. Everything in their miracle healing crusade is geared towards meeting the physical needs of sick people. Such a focus doesn’t reflect that of Christ. He ministered to the whole person, soul and body. In fact, His healings and miracles were performed in the context of teaching or preaching the good news. Believers must never forget that they are anointed not only to seek to be used by God to meet people’s physically needs, but also their spiritual needs. Their service should be geared toward the wellness of both soul and body of lost mankind. This was the lesson Peter and the early disciples took to heart and diligently lived out in their lives and ministry of sharing and spreading the good news. We must also follow in their footsteps – ministering to the whole person.
Having concisely established the divine purpose for God the Father’s anointing of Jesus of Nazareth, that is, bringing wellness to both body and soul of lost people, the Bible now brings us to the point of succinctly enunciating the:
IV. Predicament of those our Lord served in His mission on earth (Acts 10:38d).
The Bible now reveals to us in just a few words, the predicament or the plight or the sorry condition of the those the Lord Jesus served while on His evangelistic mission here on earth. He had declared that “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Now, the question is: What was the condition of those Jesus willingly and wholeheartedly came to serve?
Please notice what the Bible discloses about the predicament of the people Jesus of Nazareth ministered to while on earth to fulfill the task the Father had given Him. It solemnly and sadly says: “all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). It is important to observe here that the oppressor is revealed as “the devil” –“ho diabolos.” “The devil” is the name for Satan – meaning “the adversary.” He is the chief oppressor of those Jesus came to serve, save, and set free. He is the powerful angelic being who rebelled against Almighty God. He is the archenemy of God and His people. He strongly and stalwartly opposes all the good purposes of God for the people He created in His own image. One can therefore say of the devil, that, he is not only the chief oppressor of man but also the chief opposer of all God’s good purposes for man. His oppression of mankind and opposition to God are unspeakable. In fact, the devil is the exact opposite of Jesus of Nazareth –who went about performing good deeds to lost humanity. But the devil goes about doing all the oppression he can, doing all the mischief he can to deny and deprive lost humanity from experiencing and enjoying God’s best for their lives, both in this life and in the life soon to come.
Actually, the Greek word used for “oppression” comes from the compound verb “katadynasteuo.” It also means, “to exercise dominion against,” “to tyrannize over,” “to exploit.” It means, “overpowering someone,” “treat harshly,” “to be under the power of,” or “to rule over oppressively, and by force.” It speaks of powerfully bringing someone down, thus denying them the higher position or blessing they should enjoy. It is used here in the present passive participle accusative plural masculine form “pantas tous katadynasteuomenous hypo tou diabolou.” The literal rendering of this expression is “all those being oppressed by the devil.”
The point here is that being under the power of the devil, or being oppressed by him is an ongoing “booming business” for the chief oppressor of man. Once a person comes under the domination of the devil, he doesn’t let go. He does everything in his power to deny that person the higher position or blessing that God wants him to enjoy. Such is the oppression of the devil. He holds on to a lost soul tenaciously with no intention of releasing him or her. The only person who is able to deliver from such domination is Jesus of Nazareth. Thanks be to God that Jesus is indeed more than able to rescue us from the stranglehold of the archenemy! This same word is used in James 2:6 of the oppression of the poor by the rich. So in this case, the rich exhibited the spirit of the devil in their harsh treatment and exploitation of the poor.
Actually, the Bible gives us several graphic and gruesome depictions of the oppression of the devil. One such depiction is the Gerasene demoniac who was so possessed and dominated by demonic spirits that he could not be bound (Luke 5:1-9). In Mark 9:14-27, we find a harrowing and horrifying scene which depicts the cruelty and tyranny of the oppressor. From childhood, an unclean spirit viciously and violently tyrannized a boy. His father could no longer endure watching his son be inhumanely oppressed by the unclean spirit. So he brought him to the disciples to cast it out. But the disciples, although have been given authority to cast out demons, could not, leaving the father more helpless and hopeless. But Jesus of Nazareth, having come down from the Mount of Transfiguration, completely turned things around for the father. Jesus would turn a hopeless situation to one of hope and victory by casting out the unclean spirit with a word.
To vividly and visually portray the hope and victory our Lord brought into a hopeless and helpless situation, Mark used a series of graphic and gruesome verbs to describe the tyranny the boy experienced at the hands of the demonic spirit. The father recounted to Jesus the spirit often seizes the boy and slams him to the ground with the result being that he stiffens out (see Mark 9:18). Not only that, according to the father, the spirit had often thrown the boy both into the fire and into the water to destroy him (see Mark 9:22). All this is to say that the unclean spirit viciously and violently tyrannized the boy. But Christ, with His word, set him free. He brought him out of a place of bondage to a place of blessing.
Also, Matthew 4:24 gives a summary of the sad and sorry state of those our Lord Jesus touched with His healing power. He healed those “who were ill, those suffering various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics” (Matthew 4:24). Luke 13:10-16 speaks of an Israelite woman who endured the oppressive bondage of Satan for eighteen long years before encountering Jesus of Nazareth and being set free from the oppressor’s tyranny.
In his letter to the first century believers at Ephesus, Apostle Paul, solemnly shows us what our spiritual condition was before becoming believers in Christ. It was one of being under the control and domination of Satan. He writes under the leading of the Holy Spirit: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2). The expression, “the prince of the power of the air” refers to the devil or Satan. Our Lord Jesus specifically referred to him in John 12:31; 14:30 and 16:11 as “the ruler of this world.” In 2 Corinthians 4:4, he is described as “the god of this world.” The world is under his control. He rules the world, oppressing and holding in bondage those who do not believe in Christ.
Friends and fellow believers, unless God opens your spiritual eyes, you cannot see Satan’s tyranny of those who are not believers. On one occasion in our Lord’s ministry on earth, the Bible reports that Jesus saw the sad spiritual condition of the crowds as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). The disciples didn’t see what Jesus saw. That is why we need to ask God to open our spiritual eyes to see the sorry state of those who are not believers.
Often times when we see the rich and famous, the celebrities and sports superstars – whom we know are not believers, but we envy them. We think how good their lives are. Our thoughts are that they are living “the good life” and we are living the “not so good life.” We become jealous of them. We want to be in their place in life – rich, famous, popular, prominent, and powerful. But if God were to open our spiritual eyes to see Satan’s domination and control of their lives in their unbelief, we will humbly repent of our envy of them.
Indeed, not only would we be deeply moved to pity them but also to pray urgently for their release from the stranglehold of the chief oppressor, the devil. In fact, we will have a sense of urgency in sharing the good news with them. A prayerful reading through the Book of Acts, reveals that the sorry condition of unbelievers weighed heavily on the hearts of Peter and the early disciples. As such, it passionately drove them to carry the message of the good news to them with a great sense of urgency. It should do the same in the lives of believers today.
Our fifth and final lesson from summary statement on the life of the greatest evangelist in the New Testament is about the endearing truth of the:
V. Presence of God with Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 10:38e)
The Bible’s concluding words on our Lord’s evangelistic life is: “for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38e). This is very special. The last promise given by our Lord Jesus at the end of the gospel was about His presence with His disciples. “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). What we learn here is that, what God did for the Son, the Son now does for His followers. Peter testified before Cornelius and his friends and family that God was with Jesus of Nazareth. I believe this truth and testimony reminded Peter of the final words in Matthew’s gospel, the promised presence of the Risen Lord with him and all true followers of Christ.
At this juncture, it is important to note that the Lord Jesus was constantly fully aware of the Father’s presence with Him while on His mission on earth. Twice in the gospel of John, our Lord convincingly testified of the Father’s presence with Him. Responding to the religious leaders of Israel-to whom He had been speaking about the Father, our Lord confidently and convincingly declared: “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29; ESV). Later, in His Upper Room discourse, on the night our Lord was betrayed, He again made it clear to His eleven disciples (Judas Iscariot had gone out to betray Him) that He was fully aware of the Father’s presence with Him. “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (John 16:32; ESV). Jesus never doubted the Father’s presence with Him, even in this darkest hour.
Just as our Lord was fully convinced that His Father was with Him on His divine mission on earth, so also believers today; must cultivate the habit of living in the awareness of God’s presence with them, as they serve Him and share the good news in such a time as this!
Not only was our Lord fully convinced of the Father’s presence with Him, others took note and testified that God was indeed with Him. Nicodemus, who came to our Lord by night, was one of the people who realized that God’s presence was with Him. In his night visit to Jesus, Nicodemus affirmed that God was with Jesus. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2b; ESV). The signs being referred to here are attesting miracles; that is, one which points to the supernatural power of God in redemptive grace. Because of these signs, Nicodemus could not help but confidently attest that God’s presence was with Jesus - setting Him apart from all others.
Moses, the man of God and the prophet of God, knew how vital the presence of God was to a successful ministry. As such, he came to a point in his life and ministry when he earnestly pleaded for God’s presence to go with him. After Israel’s golden calf sin, God told Moses: “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Exodus 33:3; ESV). Israel mourned when they heard this disastrous word. Moses, their God-appointed leader, later interceded for them (see Exodus 33:4-5, 12-3). God’s response to Moses’s intercession on behalf of repentant Israel was so uplifting. “And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest”” (Exodus 33:14; ESV).
Despite this unchanging and unconditional promise, Moses would earnestly seek the Lord for His abiding presence with them on their journey to the Promised Land. “And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16; ESV). You see, Moses clearly understood that, without God’s presence they would not be a people set apart from other nations, so why trek on any further?
Similarly, believers today must clearly recognize that without God’s presence, they will not be a distinct people from all others. As such, they must also earnestly seek God’s presence with them in their journey and service on earth. Yes, God has promised His presence with them, even to the end of the age (see Matthew 28:20). But, they must also intently entreat Him for it in their lives and ministries.
The presence of Christ with His believing servants is a great and glorious gift. Peter would have been strengthened in faith – knowing that Jesus, his Lord and Leader, was with him in the service of sharing and spreading the good news of Jesus.
One writer says: “God was with him as His Son, essentially through union to Him; and as man, from his cradle to his cross, supporting and assisting him, and with his gracious presence comforting him; and by various instances, showing that he came from heaven, and had a divine mission and commission; which had he not, he would never have been encouraged and assisted as he was, as man, and could never have done the things he did.” ~Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible Online
Just as God was with Jesus in His mission on earth, encouraging, supporting, comforting, and assisting Him so Christ is with all true followers and messengers of His who are sharing and spreading the good news. Please, believer in Jesus, take it to heart! You are not alone. Our God is with us from start to finish. His abiding presence is with us through thick and thin. His presence with us, guarantees our protection, preservation, provision, and peace in fulfilling His Great Commission of ministering the Word and making disciples of all the nations. It also assures us of our success on the divine mission of sharing and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
Peter and the early disciples learned from the Greatest Evangelist of all time. Not only that, they also lived out the lessons they learned from the Greatest Evangelist of all time. That is that, effective evangelism is all about pointing people to the person of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:38a). They took to heart that the personal anointing and the power of God are necessary for effective evangelism and earnestly yearned for that in their lives (Acts 10:38b). They understood that the divine purpose for the personal anointing and the power of God in our Lord’s life and ministry (Acts 10:38c), was to minister to the whole person. As such, they diligently and devotedly sought to minister to the whole person, spirit, soul and body.
The predicament or the sorry condition of those our Lord reached out to in His evangelistic service on earth (Acts 10:38d) weighed heavily on their hearts and passionately drove them to share the good news with them with a sense of urgency. The presence of God with Jesus of Nazareth assured them also of God’s presence with them. It further guarantees His power, protection, provision, and peace in fulfilling the Great Commission mandate in their generation. And oh, what impact they made for the cause of Christ in their generation!
Well, friends and fellow believers in the fold and flock, family and fellowship of God; it is now our turn to learn from the Greatest Evangelist of all time and live out the lessons Peter and the early disciples learned. By the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit’s anointing in us, we will also make a great difference for the cause of Christ in our generation to the praise of His great and glorious name.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the spiritual lessons You have taught us from the life of the Greatest Evangelist of all time, Jesus of Nazareth. Please, enable us to embrace them in our hearts and express them in our lives in such a time as this! Make us faithful and fruitful servants in fulfilling the Great Commission of ministering the Word and making disciples of all the nations in our generation, for the praise of Your glory. We pray all this in the precious and powerful name of Jesus of Nazareth! Amen!