Introduction: Adam Smith was born about 200 years ago. He began his
life as a minister, but ended up writing one of the most important
books on modern economics: the Wealth of Nations. His thesis,
bluntly put, is that your selfish desire to make more money improves
the economic standards of those around you. Isn’t envy, greed and
covetousness sin? While I have no doubt that Adam Smith is correct,
I’ve often wondered how his theory can be reconciled with faith.
What complicates the issue is that God, who told us not to covet,
continually puts rewards in front of us. He does it with our
money( Malachi 3:10)and He does it with our actions ( Matthew 25:34-36). Should envy, greed and covetousness be part of successful
corporate evangelism? What place does pride of opinion about our own
religious convictions play in evangelism? Let’s dive into our Bibles
and learn more!

  1. Motivation

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 4:4-6. What does Solomon say about Adam
      Smith’s view of economics? (He agrees with Smith! “All
      labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his

    2. Read Philippians 1:15-18. How does Paul view those who
      are spreading the gospel out of envy and rivalry? (He
      says it does not matter!)

    3. Read Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5 and Matthew 6:16. What is
      the reward for those who promote the gospel out of envy
      and rivalry? (They get what they seek – self promotion –
      and that is all.)

    4. Read Revelation 22:12-14. What reward do we seek?
      (Eternal life. To enter in through the gates of the holy

    5. If we are all seeking a reward of some sort, does the
      difference in our motives matter?

    6. Let’s revisit Philippians 1:15-16. What motivation should
      we have? (Love and goodwill.)

      1. What if our motives are mixed? (We are still
        promoting the gospel (a good thing), but we need to
        be alert to our motivation because of the vast
        difference in the reward.)

  2. Rules of Engagement: The Theology of Two and Three

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. I use this in weddings, and I
      think that is its primary application. However, how does
      this apply to evangelism? (Read Luke 10:1-3. Clearly,
      Jesus suggests working in pairs.)

    2. Read Matthew 18:19-20. Is there a “theology of two,” and
      thus a problem with “one?” (There is certainly an
      advantage with two. Both in witnessing and in prayer.)

    3. Why is God “three” if such advantage lies with two? (Re-read Matthew 18:20. How many do you see here? You see at
      least two and God. That makes three. Two together need
      the Holy Spirit to make their effort complete.)

    4. Read Romans 12:4-5. What number comes to mind when you
      think of the design of the body? (Two. Two eyes, ears,
      arms, hands, legs, feet. Even our one nose has two

      1. Why do you think God designed us that way?

      2. Why do you think the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to
        describe the church as being like a body? (In the
        body there is a primacy of “two.”)

      3. Have you seen “lone wolf” Christians? (In my
        religious liberty litigation, those who are not
        connected with a church (a body) are generally those
        who are off on some odd path, or are not really
        sincere in their religious beliefs.)

    5. Let’s contemplate the “two by two” rule of engagement and
      the problem of being motivated by envy and rivalry. What
      impact does the two by two rule have on the motivation
      problem? (It helps to cure the problem. If two are
      working together, then it is hard to take personal glory.
      Your partner may be able to recognize and correct the
      selfish motivation that you might not see.)

  3. Evangelism and the Church

    1. Read Acts 15:1. Is this evangelism? Or, is this pride of
      opinion? (Certainly it is evangelism in the eyes of many
      Christians. My church has a teaching that you have not
      yet accepted, so I will witness to you and evangelize you
      on this point of greater knowledge.)

      1. How many protestant churches are named after a
        doctrine they think other Christians need to know or
        a religious leader that they think is superior to

    2. Read Acts 15:2. What did Paul and Barnabas think about
      the “brothers” witnessing? (They disagreed that this was
      the correct witness. It was a “sharp dispute.”)

      1. How did the believers decide that this should be
        resolved? (They would consult with the “apostles and
        elders about this question.”)

        1. What does this teach us about evangelism beyond
          the rule of two and three? (It shows that we
          should consult with the greater body of

    3. Read Acts 15:4-5. Was there agreement between Paul and
      some of the leaders at headquarters? (They were welcomed,
      but there was a debate at headquarters.)

    4. Read Acts 15:6-11. How would you describe the process of
      resolving this controversy over witnessing? (People get
      to say what they think. Peter invokes the actions of God
      to make his point.)

      1. Read Acts 1:8-9. Jesus’ last instruction to His
        disciples was to evangelize the world. How could
        there be any doubt about going to the Gentiles?

      2. Is Peter missing the issue? Isn’t the issue
        circumcision instead of evangelizing the Gentiles?
        (Peter is saying more than it is right to go to the
        Gentiles. He is saying that God accepted the
        Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit and
        justifying them by faith – even though they were not

        1. Is there a lesson in this for us: that fellow
          Christians might not accept our unique views on
          what the Bible requires, but the acid test is
          whether God gives them the Holy Spirit and
          justifies them by grace?

    5. Read Acts 15:12. How did people of various viewpoints
      treat each other in this debate? (With respect.)

    6. Read Acts 15:13-21. What are the grounds for James’s
      “judgment?” (The leading of God on this issue, both from
      the Bible and in the lives of people.)

      1. What reason does James give for the rules (see verse
        20)that remain? (God, speaking through Moses,
        requires at least these things?)

        1. Moses and God actually required more of
          Gentiles. Read Exodus 12:48 and Ezekiel 44:9.
          What is James saying? (James’ words will offend
          the Christians with Jewish backgrounds. My best
          guess is that he is trying to limit the

      2. What does this suggest about church authority? Do
        you understand James to be making the decision for
        the church on the evangelism message?

    7. Read 1 Corinthians 8:7-13. Two questions. If James is
      handing down a ruling for the Church, has Paul just
      overruled him in part? Or, are Paul and James in
      complete agreement, and the only reason why James
      prohibited the things listed in Acts 15:20 is to avoid
      offending the faith of “weak” Jewish converts? (The most
      logical answer seems to be that James and Paul agree,
      giving offense is actually the problem. However, that
      logic evaporates when you notice that Acts 15:20 includes
      “sexual immorality.” I cannot imagine that adultery is
      fine for “strong” Christians.)

    8. Read Acts 15:22-29. What does this letter say about the
      authority of James? (The authority in the letter is “the
      apostles and elders.” This shows that it was the group
      which was the authority behind the decision. The letter
      itself shows that it was intended to be a ruling.)

    9. We have (or at least I have) not completely understood
      all of Acts 15. What can we understand from our study?
      (That God suggests that our corporate evangelistic work
      be a group effort. The group may be as small as two, but
      we are strengthened by working together. Working together
      is an antidote to pride.)

    10. Friend, will you determine today to find a partner and a
      group for your evangelistic efforts? You should still
      nudge those around you towards the gospel in your day-to-day living. But, when you engage in formal outreach, you
      need at least a partner.

  4. Next week: Equipping for Evangelism and Witnessing.