Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (April-June 1998) 189-200.

          Copyright © 1998 by Dallas Theological Seminary.  Cited with permission.

 

                     PAUL'S CORPORATE

                           EVANGELISM

                   IN THE BOOK OF ACTS

 

                                         George W. Murray

 

In 1971 my wife and I went to the largely unevangelized

country of Italy as church planters with a mission agency that at

that time had six church-planting couples in the country. Each

couple was located in a separate city. Because so many Italian

cities and towns were (and are) totally unevangelized, our mis-

sion leadership reasoned that its personnel should be spread out to

cover more unreached territory. We, however, resisted this strat-

egy, because we felt inadequate to do the work of evangelism and

church planting by ourselves. After much discussion we per-

suaded our mission leadership to let us recruit a team of eight

other missionaries to work with us in the unreached province of

Pordenone, with a population of 300,000. We had a wonderful ex-

perience with that team, evangelizing together in a way that none

of us was capable of doing alone, and planting a church in the

capital city of the province.

            During that time articles about teamwork in pioneer evange-

lism began appearing in missionary publications. Some articles

questioned its validity,l while others strongly supported the con-

cept.2 Reading other missionary literature, I discovered that

Jonathan Goforth, at the turn of the century, was convinced of the

importance of doing evangelism corporately. "Now we have

 

George W. Murray is General Director, The Evangelical Alliance Mission,

Wheaton, Illinois.

 

1 Dan Bacon, "Should Mission Boards Send Teams as Well as Individuals?"

Evangelical Missions Quarterly 14 (April 1978): 95-99.

2 Edward F. Murphy, "The Missionary Society as an Apostolic Team," Missiology:

An International Review 4 (January 1976): 103-18; and Paul Thompson, "Synergism:

A New Word and a New Way for Missions," Harvest Today 31 (July-September

1976): 11.

                                              189



190     BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / April–June 1998

 

proved it so often that we have the conviction that we could go into

any unevangelized center in North China with an earnest band

of male and female workers and within a month have the begin-

ning of a church for Jesus Christ."3

            But most of all, my own experience in Italy convinced me of

the importance of engaging in evangelism and church planting

corporately. During that time, however, I kept asking myself if

we had a strong biblical basis for how we were working. I was

sure teamwork was good, because it worked! But does the Bible

say anything about corporate evangelism? I decided to take a

closer look.

            Besides looking at data concerning corporate spiritual activ-

ity in the Old Testament and at Jesus' practice of having disciples

and sending them out two by two, I examined the practice and

teaching of Paul, the prominent New Testament missionary

apostle. I concentrated my biblical research on Paul's practice of

corporate evangelism in the Book of Acts and on his teaching

about corporate witness in his Epistle to the Philippians. This ar-

ticle discusses the relevant data about Paul's practice in the Book

of Acts.

            An examination of Acts reveals that Paul was certainly not a

"loner," but had extensive association with others during his life

and ministry.  There are a number of reasons why Paul lived,

traveled, and worked together with other believers, one of which

was to engage in the ministry of evangelism (Acts 9:28-30; 13:1-

5, 13–16, 44–46; 14:1, 7, 20–21, 25; 17:1–15; 18:5–8). A close look at

Acts reveals that other believers were often present when Paul en-

gaged in evangelism, and in quite a few cases he and other be-

lievers actually evangelized corporately.

 

        PAUL'S ASSOCIATION WITH OTHERS IN ACTS

           

Although the Bible never states that Paul had disciples, clearly he

had many close friends and associates with whom he lived and

worked. Ellis points out that in the Book of Acts and Paul's epis-

tles approximately one hundred individuals were associated with

the apostle.4 "In summary, the picture that emerges is that of a

 

3 Jonathan Goforth, Foreign Missions Conference Report (Washington, DC:

China Inland Mission, 1925), 77, quoted by Alexander Rattray Hay, The New Testa-

ment Order for Church and Missionary (Buenos Aires: SEMCA, 1947), 90. Also B.

Broomhall wrote about a famous missionary team called "The Cambridge Seven"

(The Evangelization of the World: A Missionary Band [London: Morgan and Scott,

1887]).

4 E. Earle Ellis, "Paul and His Co-Workers," New Testament Studies 17

(October–July 1970–71): 437. Also see D. Edmond Hiebert, Personalities around

 



      Paul's Corporate Evangelism in the Book of Acts            191

 

missionary with a large number of associates. Indeed, Paul is

scarcely ever found without companions."5 In the concluding re-

flections of his overall treatment of Paul's life, Bruce says,

            Paul has no place for the solitary life as an ideal; for all his apos-

            tolic energy he would have scouted the suggestion that "he trav-

            els the fastest who travels alone." He emphasizes the fellowship,

            the togetherness, of Christians in worship and action; they are

            members one of another, and all together members of Christ.6

 

A chronological survey of the Book of Acts makes Paul's empha-

sis on togetherness clear.

            After conversion Paul spent several days with believers in

Damascus (Acts 9:19).7 Later, when he went to Jerusalem, he tried

to join the disciples (v. 26). There he stayed with some apostles (v.

28)—namely, Barnabas, Peter, and James (v. 27; Gal. 1:18-19)—

until they were constrained to send him off to Tarsus for his own

protection (Acts 9:29-30).8 He ministered together with Barnabas

for a year among the believers in Antioch (11:25-26), went with

Barnabas to Jerusalem with the famine relief (v. 30), and then

went out on his first missionary journey with Barnabas and John

Mark (13:2-5). Then he traveled with Barnabas and other believ-

ers to the Jerusalem Council (15:2).

            On his second missionary journey Paul set out with Silas

(15:40) and recruited Timothy in Lystra to join their team (16:3).

In Troas, Paul and his companions were joined by Luke—at-

tested by the abrupt change in the Lucan narrative from "they" (v.

8) to "we" (v. 10)—and all four of them went to Philippi together

(16:12-18).9 From Philippi, Paul, Silas, and Timothy went to-

gether to Thessalonica, leaving Luke in Philippi, as attested by

the return to the use of "they" in the narrative (17:1-15). The three

 

Paul (Chicago: Moody, 1973), 5-6, for a list of Paul's most prominent friends and

coworkers. Also see Roy B. Zuck, Teaching as Paul Taught (Grand Rapids: Baker,

1998), 133-42.

5 Ellis, "Paul and His Co-Workers," 439.

6 F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1977), 458.

7  Of interest is the observation that even before his conversion and call, Saul of

Tarsus worked with others (see Acts 9:7).

8 It is not known exactly how long Paul was in Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 2:1), nor what

he did during that time, nor whether he was alone or with others. This period may

have included trials mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, the experience recorded

in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, and most certainly a ministry to Gentiles in that region (cf.

Acts 22:17-21). See Richard N. Longenecker, "Paul the Apostle," in Zondervan Pic-

torial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1975), 4:632.

9 For a discussion on the authenticity of the "we" sections of the Book of Acts, see

Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity,

1970), 367-68.



192      BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  /  April—June 1998

 

men ministered together in Thessalonica and Berea until the be-

lievers were compelled to send Paul to Athens in order to escape

danger (vv. 13-15). Arriving in Athens, Paul instructed those

who accompanied him, asking "for Silas and Timothy to come to

him as soon as possible" (v. 15). Though Paul ministered alone

in Athens, he did so while waiting for Silas and Timothy to join

him (v. 16). Paul went on to Corinth, where he stayed with. Aquila

and Priscilla, perhaps for reasons of ministry as well as mate-

rial reasons (18:1-3).10 Silas and Timothy eventually joined

Paul in Corinth (v. 5).11 From 1 Thessalonians 3:6 it seems that

when Silas and Timothy arrived in Corinth, they brought Paul a

good report of the situation in Thessalonica, occasioning Paul's

first letter to the church there. Paul's second letter to Thessalonica

was probably also written from Corinth, not too long after the first

letter.12 Both of these letters were sent by Paul, Silas, and Timo-

thy, as seen from the opening verse of each letter, and from the

fact that both letters were completely written in the plural (with the

exception of 1 Thessalonians 2:18 and 2 Thessalonians 2:5; 3:17).

In fact in all but two of his letters to churches (Romans and Eph-

esians), Paul included others with him in the opening saluta-

tions. Even in his letter to Philemon, Paul included Timothy in

the salutation (Phile. 1). Aquila and Priscilla accompanied Paul

to Ephesus, where he left them and went on to Antioch via Cae-

sarea (Acts 18:18-22).

            On Paul's third missionary journey he went through Asia

Minor to Ephesus (18:23; 19:1).13 Because of opposition in Ephesus

he moved from the synagogue to the lecture hall of Tyrannus, tak-

ing the disciples with him (19:9). Timothy and Erastus were with

 

10 See Ronald F. Hock, "The Workshop as a Social Setting for Paul's Missionary

Preaching," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 41 (July-September 1979): 438-50, on how

Paul's tentmaking activity may have been not only for meeting his material needs

but also a natural setting in which to share the gospel.

11 First Thessalonians 3:1-8 seems to indicate that Silas and Timothy joined Paul

in Athens and then were sent by him on missions elsewhere before they met him

again in Corinth (F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, New International

Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 19541, 347--43).

12 See F. F. Bruce, "II Thessalonians," in The New Bible Commentary Revised, ed.

Donald Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, A. M. Stibbs, and D. J. Wiseman (Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1970), 1161; and Longenecker, "Paul the Apostle," 4:644.

13 Longenecker conjectures that "the missionary party came to Ephesus" ("Paul

the Apostle," 4:645), probably basing his assumption on the fact of Paul's previous

practice of traveling with others. W. J. Coneybeare and J. S. Howson make a plausi-

ble case for the inclusion of Timothy on this trip, and perhaps even Titus (The Life

and Epistles of St. Paul [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950], 362-63). Frequent men-

tion is made of Timothy in Acts and Paul's letters in connection with Paul's stay at

Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:22; 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10; 2 Cor. 1:1; Rom. 16:21; Acts 20:4). And Paul

often mentioned Titus in 2 Corinthians (2:13; 7:6, 13-14; 8:6, 16, 23; 12:18 [twice]).

 



      Paul's Corporate Evangelism in the Book of Acts         193

 

Paul in Ephesus where they "ministered to him" (v. 22). Gaius

and Aristarchus were also with Paul in Ephesus and were called

his "traveling companions" (v. 29). When Paul went from

Greece to Macedonia, he was accompanied by seven men

(Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus, and

Trophimus; 20:4). Joining Paul again at Philippi (20:5-6), Luke

stayed with Paul on his trip back to Jerusalem (21:15) and on to

Rome (27:1; 28:16). In his farewell discourse to the Ephesian el-

ders Paul referred to "my companions" (20:34, NIV), for whom he

provided by working with his own hands.

            Arriving in Jerusalem, Paul was received by the brethren,

James, and the elders (21:17-18). Later in Caesarea, Felix told a

guard to "permit [Paul's] friends to take care of his needs" as a

prisoner (24:23, NIV).14 Besides Luke, Aristarchus accompanied

Paul on his trip to Rome (27:1-2).15  In Sidon the centurion guard

allowed Paul to go ashore so that "his friends . . . might provide

for his needs" (27:3, NIV). In Italy Paul was met and cared for by

the brethren in Puteoli (28:14), and on his trip to Rome he was met

by brethren who came down from the capital city to accompany

him (v. 15). At the sight of these companions Paul thanked God

and was encouraged (v. 15). Although the Acts narrative ends

with Paul in Rome, Paul's epistles reveal three other people who

were closely associated with Paul in his first Roman imprison-

ment. They were Epaphras (Col. 1:7; Phile. 24), Onesimus

(Phile. 10, 16), and Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30; 4:18).16

            From this brief survey of Paul's ministry the picture emerges

of a man who spent much of his Christian life and work in the

company of other Christians. Paul's love and need for the com-

pany of others are evident in his own words in 2 Timothy 4:9-11,

written during his second Roman imprisonment: "Do your best to

come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has

deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to

Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark

and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my min-

istry."

 

14 There was a church in Caesarea (18:22; 21:16) and Philip the evangelist lived

there and had previously entertained Paul in his house (21:8).

15 Longenecker suggests that Timothy was also present, probably because of the

inclusion of Timothy's name at the opening of Paul's epistles to the Philippians,

the Colossians, and Philemon ("Paul the Apostle," 4:651).

16 Nine people continued in rather close association with Paul, though not with-

out interruptions, to the end of his life. They were Mark, Titus, Timothy, Priscilla,

Aquila, Luke, Erastus, Trophimus, and Tychicus (Ellis, "Paul and His Co-Work-

ers," 439). With the exception of Erastus, Trophimus, and Tychicus, all of these

were called "co-workers."

 



194     BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  /  April-June 1998

 

             REASONS PAUL JOINED WITH OTHERS

 

From the Acts narrative a number of reasons for Paul's corporate

relationships can be observed. He lived and worked with others

for these reasons: (a) to have fellowship (Acts 9:19, 26-28); (b) to

have companionship (18:18; 19:29; 20:34; 27:1-2; 28:15; (3) to have

protection (9:30; 17:15; 20:2-4);17 (d) to have encouragement

(28:15); (e) to form an official delegation to attend the Jerusalem

Council (15:2) and to deliver famine relief (11:30; 20:4);18 (f) to

provide for material needs (18:1-3;19 24:23; 27:3; 28:14); (g) to en-

gage in the ministry of edification (11:25-26; 14:21-23; 15:35;

15:40-41; 16:4-5; 19:9; 20:6-38); and (h) to engage in the ministry

of evangelism (9:28-30; 13:1-5, 13-16, 44-46; 14:1, 7, 20-21, 25;

17:1-15; 18:5-8).20

 

        PAUL AND CORPORATE WITNESS IN ACTS21

 

Paul's practice of corporate witness as seen in Acts22 includes

instances in which he evangelized when others were present, and

instances in which he and others evangelized together (though it

is sometimes difficult to distinguish these two).

 

17 James Stalker mentioned "castles of robbers, who watched for passing travelers

to pounce upon" in Asia Minor (Life of St. Paul [New York: Revell, 1912], 68).

18 Bruce believes the seven men who accompanied Paul (20:4) were representa-

tives of the churches in Macedonia, Galatia, and Asia, delegated to take relief to the

Jerusalem Christians (Commentary on the Book of Acts, 405-6).

19 Adolf Deissmann discusses Paul's tentmaking activities (Paul: A Study in So-

cial and Religious History [New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1926], 48-51).

20 Some of the same references have been included under both the ministry of edi-

fication and the ministry of evangelism. As Gene A. Getz says, "In some instances

evangelistic activity and edification activity are so interrelated in Luke's records

they are indistinguishable" (Sharpening the Focus of the Church [Chicago: Moody,

1974], 23 [italics his]).

21 This study is not seeking to show that Paul never worked or evangelized alone,

but rather that he often evangelized together with others. Passages that report

Paul's working alone are these: 9:19-25: Paul apparently preached alone in the

Damascus synagogue (yet he was "with the disciples," v. 19, and "his followers," v. 25

[NIV], helped him escape); 17:16-34: Paul was preaching alone in Athens, yet while

he was "waiting for" Silas and Timothy (17:15-16); 18:19: he preached in the syna-

gogue in Ephesus alone; 18:23: he traveled in Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening

the disciples; and 20:2-3: he traveled in Macedonia and Greece, encouraging the be-

lievers.

22 Not only did Paul evangelize corporately, but he also engaged in a team min-

istry of edification: with Barnabas in Antioch (11:25-26); with Barnabas in Lystra,

Iconium, and Antioch (14:21-23); with Barnabas again in Antioch (15:35); with Silas

in Syria and Cilicia (15:41); with Silas and Timothy in Lystra and Iconium (16:4-5),

and with Luke and seven others in Troas and Miletus (20:6-38).



         Paul's Corporate Evangelism in the Book of Acts               195

 

PAUL EVANGELIZING WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS PRESENT

 

Acts 9:27-28. When Paul went from Damascus (where he had

been proclaiming in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God,

v. 20) to Jerusalem, he was with the apostles (v. 27) and was "mov-

ing about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of

the Lord" (v. 28). The words "moving about freely" are literally

"going in and going out." This may suggest that he ministered in

the presence of the apostles.

            Acts 13:16-41. In Pisidian Antioch (v. 14) Paul stood up in the

synagogue (v. 16) and preached an evangelistic message. He told

the Jews that "through [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to

you" (v. 38). Though Paul was the only one who spoke, it is clear

that Barnabas was with him (v. 42).

            Acts 14:8-20. In Lystra Paul was the one who spoke (v. 12).

That Paul was preaching the gospel can be seen by the immediate

context ("they continued to preach the gospel," v. 7) and from the

apostles' words to the crowd: "We are bringing you good news,

telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God"

(v. 15, NIV). Although Barnabas was present (vv. 1, 12, 14, 20),

Paul did the speaking. In fact the people called him "Hermes" be-

cause "he was the chief speaker" (v. 12).

            Acts 17:1-5. In Thessalonica Paul went into the synagogue,

as was his custom, and reasoned from the Scriptures regarding

Christ's death and resurrection (vv. 2-3). That his intent was

evangelistic can be seen from his statement, "This Jesus whom I

am proclaiming [katagge<llw] to you is the Christ" (v. 3). That

Silas was present is clear from 16:40 and from the fact that those

who were persuaded by Paul's preaching joined Paul and Silas

(17:4).23 Although the text does not say that Silas verbally evange-

lized, it is significant that the people identified the gospel mes-

sage with both Paul and Silas.

            Acts 17:10-12. In Berea Paul again spoke in the synagogue

(vv. 10-11). That his intent was evangelistic can be seen by the

result that many believed (v. 12). Both Silas and Timothy were

present (vv. 10, 14).24

            Acts 18:1-18. In Corinth Paul again engaged in evangelistic

activity. Every Sabbath he was in the synagogue "trying to per-

suade Jews and Greeks" (v. 4). He devoted himself to preaching,

"testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ" (v. 5). Many of

the Corinthians believed and were baptized (v. 8). Only Paul is

 

23 Timothy was probably present as well (17:10, 14).

24 From Berea Paul went to Athens without Silas and Timothy (17:15). He valued

their presence, for he urged them "to come to him as soon as possible."

 



196      BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / April-June 1998

 

mentioned as being involved in direct evangelistic activity.

However, he was not alone. Aquila and Priscilla were there,

working with Paul in his trade of tentmaking (vv. 2-3).

            Acts 19:8-10. In Ephesus Paul again engaged in evangelism

in the synagogue, "arguing persuasively about the kingdom of

God" (v. 8, NIV). When opposition arose, he took the disciples with

him to Tyrannus's lecture hall where he ministered for two years

(vv. 9-10). Although "disciples" were with him, nothing is said

about whether they too did evangelistic work. At any rate, they

were present with Paul.

            All these passages reveal that the apostle Paul often evange-

lized in the presence of other believers and in most cases in the

presence of other Christian workers.

 

PAUL EVANGELIZING TOGETHER WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS

 

Acts 13:1-5. The calling of Barnabas and Saul and their first

missionary activity in Cyprus reveal the importance of corporate

witness. Their call came from God, for the Holy Spirit said, "I

have called them" (v. 2).25 The fact that God called them to joint

participation in a common activity is clear, for He called them

(au]toi<j, plural) to the work (to> e@rgon, singular). The work to

which they were called was evangelism. This can be seen not

only from their actual involvement in evangelism during the

trip, but also from their report when they returned. Arriving in

Antioch they reported all "that God had done with them and how

He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" (14:27). And later

in Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the Gentiles had been

converted (15:3).

            Recognizing this call of God to evangelistic work, the spiri-

tual leaders in Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul on their first

missionary journey (13:3). At Salamis they proclaimed

(kath<ggellon) the Word of God together (13:5). John Mark was

with them as their helper (u[phre<thn).26 Paul expected John Mark to

be involved with them in evangelism, as seen from his later ac-

 

25 The verb proske<klhmai is in the perfect tense, indicating that this call from God

had already come to them before this word came from the Holy Spirit.

26 Bruce suggests that Mark's role as "helper" may had been in imparting to Paul

and Barnabas his special knowledge of certain important phases of the story of Je-

sus, in particular the passion narrative (Commentary on the Book of Acts, 263).

This word for "helper" (u[phre<thn) is the same word used in Luke 1:2 ("servants of

the word"). Luke may have had Mark in mind as one of his sources. B. T. Holmes

confirms this by explaining that u[phre<thn signified, in the language of the time, a

person whose function involved looking after documents ("Luke's Description of

John Mark," Journal of Biblical Literature 54 [1935]: 63-72). Later Paul said of

John Mark, "He is helpful to me in my ministry" (2 Tim. 4:11, NIV).



        Paul's Corporate Evangelism in the Book of Acts              197

 

cusation in 15:38 that John Mark had not continued with them in

"the work" (to> e@rgon, cf. 13:2).27

            Acts 13:13-52. Corporate witness is evident in this account of

Paul and his companions in Pisidian Antioch.28 That their in-

tent was evangelistic can be seen from Paul's message, particu-

larly the statement, "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren,

that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you" (v.

38). This is also revealed by the Lord's instruction, which they re-

lated to the people: "I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles,

that you should bring salvation to the end of the earth" (v. 47).

            That they were corporately involved in witness can be seen

from the fact that they entered the synagogue, and the fact that the

synagogue rulers addressed them in the plural ("brethren"), ask-

ing them to speak a message of exhortation (vv. 14-15). Though

Paul was the one who preached at the end of the synagogue ser-

vice, the people invited them to speak further about these things (v.

42). When the crown was dismissed, many of the people followed

Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to con-

tinue in the grace of God (v. 43).29 On the next Sabbath Paul and

Barnabas boldly told the Jews that since they rejected the gospel,

Paul and Barnabas were "turning to the Gentiles" (v. 46), for that

was what "the Lord has commanded us [plural]" (v. 47). Persecu-

tion was stirred up against both of them, and they were expelled

from the region (v. 50).

            Acts 14:1-7. In Iconium Paul and Barnabas went together

into the synagogue (v. 1) and spent considerable time there speak-

ing boldly for the Lord, who enabled them to do miraculous signs

and wonders (v. 3). Discovering a plot to stone them, they went to

Lystra and Derbe (vv. 6-7), where "they continued to preach the

gospel [ka]kei? eu]aggelizo<menoi h#san]," v. 7).

            Acts 14:20-28. In Derbe Paul and Barnabas preached the good

 

27 Albert Barnes comments that "the work" means "preaching the gospel" (Barnes'

Notes on the New Testament [reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel], 315). Ernst

Haenchen says "the work" is "the work of mission" as in 13:2 and 14:26 (The Acts of

the Apostles, trans. Bernard Noble and Gerald Shinn [Philadelphia: Westminster,

1971], 474).

28 The phrase "Paul and his companions" is literally, "those with Paul" (oi[ peri>

pau?lon, 13:13). This denotes "persons who are standing, sitting, working, or staying

close to someone" (Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Litera-

ture, 2d ed., rev. F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker [Chicago: University

of Chicago Press, 1979], 651).

29 John Calvin suggested that the talking and urging were done by the people, not

by Paul and Barnabas (Acts of the Apostles, trans. W. J. G. McDonald, Calvin's

Commentaries, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance [Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1965], 1:387-88).

 



198       BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  /  April—June 1998

 

news (eu]aggelisa<menoi) and won a large number of disciples (v.

21). Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch for a

ministry of edification. In Perga, they preached the word

(lalh<santej . . . to>n lo<gon) again (v. 25). These Greek verbs that

describe their activity in Derbe and Perga denote evangelism

and both verbs are in the plural. Back in Antioch, Paul and

Barnabas reported to the church what God had done through them

(v. 27).

            Acts 15:35. This verse gives a clear picture of Paul and Barn-

abas evangelizing together in Antioch. They were teaching

(dida<skontej) and preaching (eu]aggelizo<menoi) the word of the

Lord.30 "Many others" also engaged in this work.31 The fact that

this verse is a summary statement indicates that evangelism and

edification were being carried out regularly.

            Acts 15:40-16:12. On his second missionary journey Paul

took Silas with him (15:40) and later he took Timothy along

(16:1-3). When this missionary team was in Troas, Paul was led

by God through a vision to go to Macedonia (v. 9). Of interest here

is the fact that Luke was also part of this group, for he used "we"

and "us" in 16:10-11, 13, and 15-17. In verse 10, Luke wrote, "And

when [Paul] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into

Macedonia, concluding that God had called32 us to preach the

gospel to them."

            Acts 16:13-33. Three incidents in Philippi demonstrate the

apostle's corporate evangelistic work. On the Sabbath Paul and

his companions went to the riverside, where they assumed some

Jews would be gathered for prayer.33 Luke recounted, "We sat

down and began speaking to the women who had assembled" (v.

13). All of them—Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke—were involved

in witnessing. After she responded to Paul's message (v. 14), Ly-

dia invited the entire group to stay in her home (v. 15). That their

message was evangelistic is seen from the results: Lydia be-

lieved, and she and her household were baptized.

            A slave girl with a spirit of divination shouted, "These men

are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming

 

30 Alford observes that "dida<skontej [was] to those who had received [the Word,

and] eu]aggelizo<menoi [was] to those who had not" (The Greek Testament, 2:172).

31 The Greek word order is of interest: dida<skontej kai> eu]aggelizo<menoi meta> kai>

e[te<rwn pollw?n to>n lo<gon tou? kuri<ou ("teaching and preaching with many others

the word of the Lord").

32 The verb "called" (proskale<w) is also used in 13:2 in reference to God's call to

Barnabas and Saul. In both instances the verb is in the perfect tense.

33 Bruce suggests the women met there because there were not enough male Jews

in Philippi to establish a synagogue (Commentary on the Book of Acts, 331).

 



           Paul's Corporate Evangelism in the Book of Acts           199

 

[katagge<llousin] to you the way of salvation" (v. 17). She (or the

demonic spirit in her) acknowledged the witness of the men as a

group. It was Paul, however, who commanded the demon to come

out of her (v. 18). Then Paul and Silas were arrested, having been

accused of advocating unlawful customs (v. 21).34 At midnight

Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God, as the other pris-

oners listened (v. 25).

            After an earthquake the jailer rushed in and addressed Paul

and Silas. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (v. 30). Luke

recorded that they replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you

shall be saved, you and your household" (v. 31). Then they spoke

"the word of the Lord" to the jailer and his family, and immedi-

ately they were baptized (vv. 32-33).

            From this brief survey of Paul's activities recorded in the

Book of Acts, several things stand out. First, Paul lived and

worked closely with others. He seldom ministered alone. On

numerous occasions he engaged in team evangelism. He was

burdened to share the good news of salvation through Christ with

as many people as he could possibly reach. Third, divine initia-

tive was behind the apostle's corporate witness activities. Twice

Luke wrote that God called Paul and his companions to evange-

lize together (13:2; 16:10). On their first missionary journey Paul

and Barnabas told the people God was the one who commanded

them to "bring salvation to the end of the earth" (13:47). Twice

Paul and his fellow workers reported back to the church every-

thing God had done through them (14:27; 15:4).

 

                  REASONS FOR TEAM EVANGELISM

 

Why did Paul engage in corporate evangelism? What scriptural

and practical reasons suggest this kind of evangelistic activity

should be carried out in missions today? One answer some give is

that corporate witness models the end product being sought,

namely, the corporate community and fellowship of believers in

local churches.35 The increased credibility that stems from mul-

 

34 Their reference to Paul and Silas's proclaiming unlawful customs probably re-

ferred to their gospel preaching, since there were laws prohibiting foreign reli-

gious propaganda among Roman citizens (ibid., 335-36). Pliny the Younger, writing

about Christians in Pontus, referred to the banning of foreign cults (Epistolae

10.96.2; cited in A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New

Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], 79-80).

35 Dominic Grassi notes that Paul believed in corporate evangelism because "he

felt it necessary to present a visible picture of the Church in action" (A World to

Win, 74). Hay states that "a single believer cannot function as the Church" (The

New Testament Order for Church and Missionary, 132).

 



200       BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  / April—June 1998

 

tiple witnesses is another reason for corporate evangelism.36

Other reasons for carrying out evangelism by teams include the

sharing of spiritual gifts,37 mutual support among the evangeliz-

ers,38 accountability to each other,39 and increased results be-

cause of additional workers.40

 

            IS THE EVIDENCE IN ACTS ENOUGH?

 

It is clear from the Book of Acts that Paul engaged in corporate

evangelism as part of his missionary strategy. But is that reason

enough for missionaries now to do it? Some would question the

wisdom of using the historical account of the early church in Acts

as a guide for normative experience in the church today. While a

case can be made for recognizing that Luke wrote the Book of Acts

with didactic intent as well as to give an accurate account of his-

tory,41 it is always helpful if the rationale for ministry practice

can be buttressed by teaching given in the New Testament epis-

tles.

            A subsequent article will examine Paul's clear teaching

about the importance of corporate ministry in the Book of Philip-

pians, as well as sharing some reasons for such a practice and

how it is being implemented in missionary work today.

 

 

36 Darrell Fledderjohann, "North American Missions in Italy Today" (M.A. thesis,

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1979), 143.

37 Arnold Dittberner, "Who Is Apollos and Who Is Paul?" Bible Today 71 (1974):

1549-52.

38 "Missionary Loneliness . . . It's Only Human," Team Horizons 54 (July-August

1980): 11.

39 Paul Thompson, The Challenge of the City (Coral Gables, FL: Worldteam, 1978),

23.

40 Waldron Scott, "Teams and Teamwork," Evangelical Missions Quarterly 7

(Winter 1971): 112—13.

41 See I. Howard Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian (Grand Rapids: Zon-

dervan, 1970).

 

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:           x

Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204          

www.dts.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu