Go into all the world and make disciples of every nation.
1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
Evangelism is the promotion or act of publicly preaching the Gospel with the intention of spreading the message and teachings of Jesus Christ. Christians who specialize in evangelism are often known as evangelists, whether they are in their home communities or living as missionaries in the field.
The Great Commission
Matthew 28:19–20 contains what has come to be called the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus gave this command to the apostles shortly before He ascended into heaven, and it essentially outlines what Jesus expected the apostles and those who followed them to do in His absence.
It is interesting that, in the original Greek, the only direct command in Matthew 28:19–20 is “make disciples.” The Great Commission instructs us to make disciples while we are going throughout the world. The instructions to “go,” “baptize,” and “teach” are indirect commands—participles in the original. How are we to make disciples? By baptizing them and teaching them all that Jesus commanded. “Make disciples” is the primary command of the Great Commission. “Going,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” are the means by which we fulfill the command to “make disciples.”
A disciple is someone who receives instruction from another person; a Christian disciple is a baptized follower of Christ, one who believes the teaching of Christ. A disciple of Christ imitates Jesus’ example, clings to His sacrifice, believes in His resurrection, possesses the Holy Spirit, and lives to do His work. The command in the Great Commission to “make disciples” means to teach or train people to follow and obey Christ.
Many understand Acts 1:8 as part of the Great Commission as well: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Great Commission is enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are to be Christ’s witnesses, fulfilling the Great Commission in our cities (Jerusalem), in our states and countries (Judea and Samaria), and anywhere else God sends us (to the ends of the earth).
Throughout the book of Acts, we see how the apostles began to fulfill the Great Commission, as outlined in Acts 1:8. First, Jerusalem is evangelized (Acts 1 — 7); then the Spirit expands the church through Judea and Samaria (Acts 8 — 12); finally, the gospel reaches into “the ends of the earth” (Acts 13 — 28). Today, we continue to act as ambassadors for Christ, and “we plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God’” (2 Corinthians 5:20, CSB).
We have received a precious gift: “the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 1:3). Jesus’ words in the Great Commission reveal the heart of God, who desires “all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Great Commission compels us to share the good news until everyone has heard. Like the servants in Jesus’ parable, we are to be about the business of the kingdom, making disciples of all nations: “He called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13, KJV).
Crowns In Heaven
There are five heavenly crowns mentioned in the New Testament that will be awarded to believers. They are the imperishable crown, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of righteousness, the crown of glory, and the crown of life. The Greek word translated “crown” is stephanos (the source for the name Stephen the martyr) and means “a badge of royalty, a prize in the public games or a symbol of honor generally.” Used during the ancient Greek games, it referred to a wreath or garland of leaves placed on a victor’s head as a reward for winning an athletic contest. As such, this word is used figuratively in the New Testament of the rewards of heaven God promises those who are faithful. Paul’s passage in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 best defines for us how these crowns are awarded.
1) The Imperishable Crown – (1 Corinthians 9:24-25) “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate [disciplined] in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (NKJV). All things on this earth are subject to decay and will perish. Jesus urges us to not store our treasures on earth “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). This is analogous to what Paul was saying about that wreath of leaves that was soon to turn brittle and fall apart. But not so the heavenly crown; faithful endurance wins a heavenly reward which is “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).
2) The Crown of Rejoicing – (1 Thessalonians 2:19) “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4 to “rejoice always in the Lord” for all the bountiful blessings our gracious God has showered upon us. As Christians we have more in this life to rejoice about than anyone else. Luke tells us there is rejoicing even now in heaven (Luke 15:7). The crown of rejoicing will be our reward where “God will wipe away every tear . . . there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
3) The Crown of Righteousness – (2 Timothy 4:8) “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” We inherit this crown through the righteousness of Christ which is what gives us a right to it, and without which it cannot be obtained. Because it is obtained and possessed in a righteous way, and not by force and deceit as earthly crowns sometimes are, it is an everlasting crown, promised to all who love the Lord and eagerly wait for His return. Through our enduring discouragements, persecutions, sufferings, or even death, we know assuredly our reward is with Christ in eternity (Philippians 3:20). This crown is not for those who depend upon their own sense of righteousness or of their own works. Such an attitude breeds only arrogance and pride, not a longing, a fervent desire to be with the Lord.
4) The Crown of Glory – (1 Peter 5:4) “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” Though Peter is addressing the elders, we must also remember that the crown will be awarded to all those who long for or love His appearing. This word “glory” is an interesting word referring to the very nature of God and His actions. It entails His great splendor and brightness. Recall Stephen who, while being stoned to death, was able to look into the heavens and see the glory of God (Acts 7:55-56). This word also means that the praise and honor we bestow to God alone is due Him because of who He is (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11; Galatians 1:5). It also recognizes that believers are incredibly blessed to enter into the kingdom, into the very likeness of Christ Himself. For as Paul so eloquently put it, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NKJV).
5) The Crown of Life – (Revelation 2:10) “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” This crown is for all believers, but is especially dear to those who endure sufferings, who bravely confront persecution for Jesus, even to the point of death. In Scripture the word “life” is often used to show a relationship that is right with God. It was Jesus who said, “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Just as things such as air, food, and water are vital for our physical lives, Jesus provides us what is required for our spiritual lives. He is the One who provides “living water.” He is the “bread of life” (John 4:10, 6:35). We know that our earthly lives will end. But we have the amazing promise that comes only to those who come to God through Jesus: “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25).
James tells us that this crown of life is for all those who love God (James 1:12). The question then is how do we demonstrate our love for God? The apostle John answers this for us: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). As His children we must keep His commandments, obeying Him, always remaining faithful. So, as we endure the inevitable trials, pains, heartaches, and tribulations—as long as we live—may we ever move forward, always “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and receive the crown of life that awaits us.