Who can Preach the Gospel?

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Should Christians, in general, strive to preach the gospel or is it God's will that only a few special people do the job? Is the Great Commission Jesus gave just before he ascended to heaven (Matthew 28:18 - 20, Mark 16:15 - 18 and Luke 24:47) meant to be carried out ONLY by those who are 'ordained' or officially recognized by a denomination? How did the first century church spread the good news of God's kingdom?

Nearly all of the efforts in a modern church to preach the gospel to the world (evangelism) centers around a person (usually a male) who is usually "ordained" - be it a minister, pastor, elder or priest. They are usually the ones who preach, teach, evangelize, study the Bible, pray for others, counsel with others, visit potential members, baptize and so on. This is NOT, however, how the New Testament church of God operated! Those who we today would call "lay members" played a vital role in taking the gospel message to the far ends of the earth!

Active from DAY ONE

The Bible states average Christians began to play a dynamic part in promulgating the gospel message on the day the New Testament church began in power in 30 A.D.!

After God poured out his spirit on 120 believers gathered in Jerusalem to keep Pentecost (Acts 1:15, 2:1), he also caused 3,000 people to repent and be baptized ON THE SAME DAY (Acts 2:41)! How did all these folks receive baptism? Simple arithmetic and human needs tells us it would have been virtually IMPOSSIBLE for only twelve apostles to baptize that many people in the eight hours they had before sunset. To perform such a feat, they would collectively have to average more than six baptisms a MINUTE and work nonstop without any breaks.

Remember, the Bible says God initially poured out his spirit to 120 on Pentecost. The 108 people who received the Holy Spirit and were NOT apostles included Jesus' mother Mary, Jesus' physical family (Mary had 4 boys and at least 2 girls OTHER than Christ), Mary Magdalene and others (Acts 2:14). It was from among these NEWLY CONVERTED people that the apostles received help handling those responding to the gospel and wanting baptism. Those who earlier in the day became true Christians were themselves baptizing new believers on the same day!

Motivated by Persecution

Did persecution of the early church cause church members to abandon their efforts to spread the word of God? Did they opt to let only the apostles do the work of God?

What role should WOMEN play as Christians?
Does the Catholic Church have the KEYS to the Kingdom?
When did Christ preach to spirits in prison?
What are the signs of a SICK church?

"And that day a great persecution arose against the church that was in Jerusalem; and all the believers were scattered . . . those who were scattered passed through everywhere, PREACHING THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL" (Acts 8:1, 4, HBFV throught)

"Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose concerning Stephen went through Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word . . . But certain men among them who were Cypriots and Cyrenians came to Antioch and spoke to the Greeks, PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD JESUS. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed . . ." (Acts 11:19 - 21)

Note the following carefully. When persecution against the church started, the apostles STAYED in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1) while the brethren were the FIRST ONES to preach God's truth in distant lands. What was God's response to the efforts of average church members to spread his message? Did he decide to not honor their efforts since they clearly (both men AND women) were not 'ordained' as ministers by the apostles? Did he reject their attempts to teach others about his ways because it was a job meant for only the clergy class to perform? Not only did God abundantly BLESS the efforts of his people to tell others about him, the response was so great that the church in Jerusalem had to send Barnabas (a leader in the church) to find out what was going on (Acts 11:22)! When he finally saw what was happening, instead of chastising the brethren for doing something they were not 'suppose' to do (as many churches today would do), he REJOICED in their efforts (verse 23).

What did Paul teach?

Did the apostle Paul teach it was REBELLION against God for anyone who was not 'ordained' into the ministry or who did not first seek approval by church leaders (see Galatians 2:1- 6) to preach the gospel? Writing from a prison cell, Paul told the church in Philippi the following.

14. And most of the BRETHREN, trusting in the Lord, have been emboldened by my bonds to speak the Word more abundantly without fear. 15. Indeed, some are proclaiming Christ out of envy and strife, but some with good intentions . . . 18. What then shall I say? Nevertheless, in every way, whether in pretext or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed; and I rejoice in this, yes, and will also continue to rejoice. (Philippians 1:14 - 15, 18)

Rather than Paul condemning brethren for proclaiming the gospel to the masses he PRAISES their efforts!

In conclusion

God never intended his church to be divided into two distinct classes - those who had permission to serve, lead and preach the gospel (the clergy class) and all others whose primarily purpose is to 'pay, pray, stay and obey.' Christians, by virtue of their calling, have been given permission to use whatever talents and spiritual gifts they possess (see 1Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4), to further spread God's precious truth throughout the world.

Additional Study Materials
What is the forgotten spiritual gift?
Timeline of the New Testament
Why did Jesus send his disciples two by two?
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