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Justin Martyr and Evangelism

It is always rewarding to mine the work of the earliest Church Fathers. Justin Martyr is no exception. He was a brilliant teacher. In his story, A Dialogue with Trypho, he uses a fictional dialogue between him and Trypho to argue for the supremacy of Christianity over Judaism. In this story, he makes a statement that provides a great blueprint for Christian evangelism.

“I know that, as the word of God says, this great wisdom of God, the Maker of all things, and the Almighty, is hid from you. Wherefore in sympathy with you, I am striving to the utmost that you may understand these matters which to you are paradoxical; but if not, that I myself may be innocent in the day of judgment.” Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 38

Evangelism can be tough. Even bringing up the word conjures up negative emotions of guilt and fear in many Christians. In this short quote, I believe that we can hear Justin giving us a way out of the rut.

We can learn three things about Christian evangelism from this short quote.


Evangelism is driven out of love for the lost

Justin says that he is driven by sympathy for Trypho. We are fighting an uphill battle. The wisdom of God is foolishness to people far from him. The God of the universe suspended from a tree seems a bit outlandish.

In order to overcome this, we need to be driven by an overwhelming love for the lost. We don’t share the truth of the Gospel in order to prove that we are right or to sound smart. We share it because we love people. We share it because we know that they, like us, are broken. We share it because we know that through trusting in Christ and his death, resurrection, and ascension, we can have new life birthed in us, be forgiven of our sins, and have the promise of eternal life.

We share this stuff because we love people.


We take personal responsibility for people’s souls

Look what Justin says here. He is telling Trypho these things so that he can be cleared from guilt on the day of judgment. He takes personal responsibility for sharing the message in order that he may be innocent.

In order for Justin to feel like he has cleared himself of guilt, he has to announce the things of God to those that do not know Him.

When was the last time you took personal responsibility for the people you come in contact with? When was the last time you viewed it as an obligation to present the good news of Christ to them, in order to clear yourself from guilt for the loss of their soul?

This goes far beyond what I hear people say often. They say things like, “These people know I am a Christian, and they can ask me if they want.” As we read up to this point in Justin’s Dialogue we know that he has actively presented the truth of the Gospel every way he knows how. He has not passively waited for a question from a lost person.

You and I will be held responsible for the souls of the people that God has placed in our paths. Are you going to be found faithful? Will you be faithful to present the Gospel to them? According to Justin, this is the only way to be found innocent on the day of judgment.


The Result is God’s Work

Look closely what Justin takes responsibility for in this quote. He is striving to make the Gospel clear, so that Trypho has an opportunity to understand and repent. However, he is not responsible for the result. If Trypho does not repent, Justin is still cleared from guilt.

This provides a great freedom in evangelism. If you present the Gospel and someone says they won’t believe it, you don’t have to scratch your head thinking you’ve screwed it up. If you invite someone to church and the worship leader that likes the 1980’s praise songs is leading worship that week, you don’t have to sweat it, wondering if a soul has been lost because it was the wrong worship leader.

Yes, you have an obligation for the souls of the people God grants you interaction with. However, your obligation is to present the Gospel, not to turn their hearts. You can’t do it. That is the work of God.

God has given us a great gift. He has given us new life, the hope of resurrection from the dead, and the promise of an eternal kingdom. He has also given us the glorious obligation of sharing that great news with others.

Will you be faithful to share? Will you present the Gospel to those that don’t know the Lord? Will you recognize your obligation to them, knowing that you will be judged for the way you handle these opportunities? And will you trust God with the results, knowing that it is He who changes hearts?

Justin had it right. Let’s join Him in proclaiming the Good News.



2 Responses

  1. Definitely some good reminders. Thank you. The 2nd one is especially convicting. If and when the topic of religion, or God, or Jesus happens to “come up”, I don’t find myself ashamed or otherwise hesitant to share the Gospel with people, but it’s much too rarely that I “go out of my way” to do it of my own accord.

  2. I’m right with you, Nathan. One thing I have been doing is going before the Lord and asking for the opportunities to come, and resolving that when they do, I will be alert and will not shrink from the moment. Sometimes, these opportunities hit you in the face, sometimes, the Spirit prompts you to bring the topic up. I have found, though, that the more I stay in prayer and seek out these opportunities, the more often I see both kinds, and the more courageous and faithful I tend to be.

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