HALLMARKS OF AN EVANGELISTIC HEART
As we come to Acts 26:29, we happen upon the final exchange of an interrogation of the Apostle Paul by King Herod Agrippa II, an interrogation that had been a long time in the making. By this point in history Paul had already completed his three missionary journeys and authored what we now know as the Books of Romans, First and Second Corinthians, First and Second Thessalonians and Galatians. And more directly related to this particular event, he had been imprisoned in Caesarea for about two years, having been seized in Jerusalem as recorded in Acts chapter 21. Subsequently, he was passed along the “chain of command” so to speak, from the Jews to the Roman Cohort, then to the governor Felix and his successor Festus, to whom Paul makes his appeal to Caesar, exercising his right as a Roman citizen. While waiting to be sent to Caesar Pal is brought before King Agrippa and given the opportunity to present his own defense as is recorded for us in Acts 26:1;
“AGRIPPA SAID TO PAUL, “YOU ARE PERMITTED TO SPEAK FOR YOURSELF.” THEN PAUL STRETCHED OUT HIS HAND AND PROCEEDED TO MAKE HIS DEFENSE”
As he had done throughout this period of imprisonment, Paul proceeds to give his personal testimony of Salvation, as he explains and proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Which brings us to our text today Acts 26:29;
“I WOULD WISH TO GOD, THAT WHETHER IN A SHORT OR A LONG TIME, NOT ONLY YOU, BUT ALSO ALL WHO HEAR ME THIS DAY, MIGHT BECOME SUCH AS I AM, EXCEPT FOR THESE CHAINS.”
In this simple one sentence response to Agrippa’s comment,
“IN A SHORT TIME YOU WILL PERSUADE ME TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN.”
the Apostle Paul demonstrates for us “Four Hallmarks of Having an Evangelistic Heart”, the first of which is:
Praying for the lost.
We find this first hallmark in the first portion of Paul’s response;
“I would wish to God,…”
The Greek word translated “would wish” is EUCHOMAI (yoo-khom-ahee) is also rendered as pray or pray to God.
So here we have Paul telling Agrippa, I pray or I ask God that you would be saved. As bold as this statement may seem, it is the normal heart of Paul, as we also see this same desire expressed in Romans 9:3:
“FOR I COULD WISH (EUCHOMAI) THAT I MYSELF WERE ACCURSED, SEPARATED FROM CHRIST FOR THE SAKE OF MY BRETHREN, MY KINSMEN ACCORDING TO THE FLESH,…”
And also in entreating others to pray for the spreading of the Gospel through evangelism in Second 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,…”
As we obediently pray for the lost we must also keep in mind the second Hallmark of an Evangelistic Heart:
Understanding Salvation comes in God’s sovereign timing.
As stated earlier, by this time in Paul’s life, he had already authored Romans, which clearly details God’s sovereign role in salvation in chapter eight verses twenty-eight thru thirty:
“AND WE KNOW THAT GOD CAUSES ALL THINGS TO WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THOSE WHO LOVE GOD, TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE. FOR THOSE WHOM HE FOREKNEW, HE ALSO PREDESTINED TO BECOME CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON, SO THAT HE WOULD BE FIRSTBORN AMONG MANY BRETHREN; AND THESE WHOM HE PREDESTINED, HE ALSO CALLED; AND THESE WHOM HE CALLED, HE ALSO JUSTIFIED; AND THESE WHOM HE JUSTIFIED, HE ALSO GLORIFIED.”
So it should be no surprise to us that Paul acknowledges that God saves the elect according to His timeline, when he says:
“… whether in a short or long time,…”
focusing Agrippa (and us) back on God’s sovereignty over the timing of each person’s salvation.
God has mercifully revealed this truth to us throughout His Word, but He has also chosen to allow us to see this truth worked out before our eyes, as we are able to see the lost all around us come to a Saving Knowledge of Christ. How many of us have wept tears of joy over seeing or hearing of a loved one being saved after years of praying over them. Or perhaps, we ourselves were saved in God’s perfect plan after being prayed for by loved ones.
Even though he prayed fervently for the lost and had an exceptional understanding of God’s sovereignty in the timing and granting of salvation, Paul still couldn’t look at a person and know whether or not they were of the elect; which leads us to the third Hallmark of an Evangelistic Heart:
Recognizing who is in need of evangelism.
Right now you may be saying to yourself, “Wait just a second there, Andy! You just said that Paul didn’t/couldn’t know who the elect were/are, but now you’re telling me that recognition of who is in need of evangelizing is one of the Hallmarks of having an evangelistic heart?”
Yes, because not only does Paul tell us who he is praying for, but his desire for them:
“not only you, but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am,…”
Paul indeed did not know who the unsaved elect were in his day even as they do not wear signs to identify themselves in our time; however, Paul did know how to obey our Lord’s command given to all Believers in Matthew 28:18 – 20, in what we know as “The Great Commission”:
“ALL AUTHORITY HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH. 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 TO THE END OF THE AGE.”
God has not chosen to reveal to us who He will save and who He will not; but, He has told who we are to evangelize. . . . . .
. . .EVERYONE. . .
It is our responsibility to obey God in this matter through praying for the lost, understanding it is God who will save according to His timing and preaching the Gospel to the nations and also by demonstrating the fourth Hallmark of an Evangelistic Heart:
Loving the evangelized and saved.
Paul goes on to model this love for us in the last bit of his response to Agrippa;
“…,except for these chains.”
Paul had a desire for Agrippa, and all that had heard the Gospel, to receive salvation, but he also had a love for them that wanted them to be found in superior or better circumstances than his current situation. G. Campbell Morgan said it much more eloquently than I am able in his commentary on the Book of Acts, where he writes;
“He would die to save Agrippa, but he would not put his chains upon Agrippa. That is not Christianity. Magnify it, multiply it, apply it. The sincerity that persecutes is not Christianity. The sincerity that dies to deliver, but will not impose a chain, is Christianity.”
Because of our love for Christ we should not only be able to love those we are evangelizing, it should be impossible for us to do otherwise. How much we must despise the Gift of Salvation if we do not love the Giver enough to proclaim the Gospel for all to hear.
Brothers and Sisters, how much God has chosen to teach us about having a heart of evangelism in Paul’s one sentence response to Agrippa so long ago. May it be our heart’s desire to serve our Lord by praying for the lost, proclaiming the Gospel to all who will listen (and even those that won’t), loving those we are sent to evangelize, all while recognizing that Salvation is His gift to bestow or withhold according to His plans, His purposes and His Holy Glory.