by Jefferson David Tant
What comes to mind when you read the phrase “glorifying the Word of God?” That a Christian should live so that his life testifies that the Word is living in him? That's certainly a valid point. That reminds us of our Lord's admonition in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
But there is another way we can glorify the Word of God, and Paul points this out in II Thessalonians 3:1: “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you." Just what did Paul pray for? ”That the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you.”
We get some background concerning this church from I Thessalonians 1:6-8: “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.”
Paul commends the brethren for the fact that “the word of the Lord” had gone out from them in a wide area, and this in spite of some difficult times they had experienced. The beginning of the church there is recorded in Acts 17. Note what happened following the conversion of many.
“But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the marketplace, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, 'These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.' They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things” (Acts 17:5-8). Things got so dangerous that the disciples had to sneak Paul and Silas out of the city at night.
Paul goes on in I Thessalonians 2:13 to mention a “work” that these brethren were performing. “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” So, what “work” was being performed? Would we today call it “personal evangelism?” Notice that these Christians not only turned from their former manner of life, but they realized that they were called to “serve.” “For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (I Thessalonians 1:9).
A problem seen among many today is that in one area they do not “serve.” Oh, they faithfully assemble, abstain from sin, set good examples, etc. But with many, there is a missing ingredient. And what's missing? The failure to be involved in teaching the gospel to others. Some will reply, “Oh, our preacher does that.” Good! Obviously, that's one of his responsibilities, but a preacher or elder cannot fulfill my responsibility any more than he can partake of the Lord's supper for me. There are many ways one can serve — caring for the sick, encouraging the weak, feeding the hungry, etc. (Matthew 25:35-36), but let us not neglect to serve in another important way.
Notice the Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Christ told the apostles to “make disciples of all nations,” then “baptize them,” and then “teach them to observe all that I commanded you.” So ... Peter was to go teach Jacob, and then Jacob to go teach Priscilla, and Priscilla goes to teach Miriam, etc., etc., etc. Do you see the point? Every Christian is to be a disciple-maker! The Great Commission was not just for the apostles. And even if you don't think you have the ability to teach, you can at least invite your neighbor to meet with someone who does have that ability. You can invite others to attend church with you.
A well-known company in the US is Amway, which sells various products. It has been highly successful, and it follows the charge given to the disciples. So I want to become involved in Amway. I invite a few friends and neighbors to come to my house for a sales presentation. Three of them decide they would like to become involved in selling the products, and each of them invites friends. Well, you get the point. I have wondered if Richard DeVos and Jay Van Andel founded Amway following the plan they may have learned from the Great Commission.
And there is another consideration. Consider Paul's statement to the church in Colossians 1:23: “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.” This is some 30 years since Pentecost, and the gospel had been spread to the whole known world in one generation. How in the world did this happen? No internet, no telephones, no fast travel (a camel could go about 20 miles a day). A clue is given in Acts 8:1, 4: “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles … Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”
You will remember that 16 nations were present at Pentecost, and thousands were baptized that day, and more in the following days. It is probable that many stayed in Jerusalem, as they wanted to learn more. But by Acts 8, it's time to go home. And what did they do? They “went about preaching the word.” Joe went home and talked to his horseshoe maker. Anna talked to her hairdresser. Anthony talked to the drug store clerk. Mary talked to her next-door neighbor. It is obvious that the apostles could not have covered the whole known world by themselves in one generation. But personal evangelism obviously had its part according to Acts 8:4.
Today, many churches are not growing, some are losing members, and some are closing down. And while we strongly disagree with Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, we must admire their commitment to personal evangelism, as they send out young and old all over the world. Brothers and sisters, we can do better. And we must do better if we want the Lord's church to thrive. Prospects are everywhere. My wife and I have had studies with bank tellers, waitresses, drug store clerks, next-door neighbors, our postman, hitchhikers, our children's friends, etc. We sometimes sing a song titled “You Never Mentioned Him To Me.” If your next-door neighbor hears the words “Depart from me…” on Judgment Day, and turns to you and asks “Why didn't you tell me?” what will your answer be? Think about it!