Only one person holds the title of "evangelist" in the New Testament—"Philip the evangelist" (Acts 21:8)—and he was an outlaw.
In Acts 5, Peter and the other apostles were told in no uncertain terms to cease and desist their work. But their desire did not wane, and the men continued to minister. After a stint in the city slammer—and a miraculous jailbreak—the apostles were brought before the highest court.
"We gave you strict orders not to teach," the judge told them. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching." The response was not what his honor expected to hear.
"We must obey God rather than men!" cried Peter. "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him to His own right hand as Savior that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."
One can only imagine the fury that erupted in the courtroom. How dare Peter and his fellow apostles blatantly defy the law? Cries rang out for the death penalty.
One man saved the apostles from death. Gamaliel, a Pharisee, spoke in their defense. "Leave these men alone! Let them go!" he urged the court. "For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men—you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
The apostles were flogged, warned once again to refrain from speaking in the name of Jesus, and then released. But nothing could keep these good men down. In fact, so much work was still to be done that the apostles decided to bring seven more employees on board. And so Philip became a fellow outlaw.
From Samaria to Caesarea, Philip never stopped preaching the gospel, performing miracles in front of large crowds, and teaching the Bible to searching souls. Although the Bible does not specifically detail all that Philip accomplished, Acts 8 covers the highlights. Philip's life can instruct us in the purpose of evangelism and the role of the evangelist.
What Is Evangelism?
Evangelism is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through word and deed, through preaching and living, and through telling and showing. Followers of Jesus are witnesses of their faith in Christ as Savior and Lord (see John 15-16). A "witness" is one who tells what he or she has seen and heard.
As believers, we should be daily witnesses of our faith and the good news upon which our faith is founded. What exactly is the good news? The biblical content centers unquestionably around the person and work of Jesus Christ—He is the good news. His salvation work makes it possible for the Holy Trinity to commune with those who, by faith, receive the gift of eternal life. There are consequences—immediate and eternal—for those who turn away from this good news.
The good news of Jesus Christ deals with the ultimate issue—physical death. What a powerful message is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and all who believe in Him! Resurrection power conquers sin and death, and by faith one is justified (see Rom. 3:21-24; Heb. 11:6).
The gospel is a message of hope about a relationship that connects people with a saving God who has done for them what they cannot do for themselves. The good news is all about a relationship once destroyed but now restored. The Bible calls this "eternal life" (see John 17:3-4) and a relationship that comes as a gift from God (see Eph. 2:8-9), and it transforms our human experience by the presence of God within us (see Col. 3:1-4).