If you had the opportunity to give the gospel to only twenty people, who would be on your list? Who would be “first place” on your list of hopefuls for salvation?
Please don’t misunderstand—I am not advocating giving the gospel to only those who you like or those who are like you. Such a narrow field of evangelism reeks something of favoring the rich over the poor in James 2:1–12. Instead, we realize that God desires the salvation of all men (1 Tim 2:4), that Christ has commissioned the church to take the gospel to all the world (Matt 28:18–20), and that we therefore go to all men everywhere, telling them to repent in light of Christ’s soon return (Acts 17:30–31).
But no individual can reach billions of people. So then, practically speaking, who would be some of those billions that you could reach with the gospel?
While we could easily look around us and fill out our list right away, a look at the example of Cornelius in Acts 10 helps to cement the obvious for us from Scripture—start by giving the gospel to the people you already know.
Acts 10:1–8 records Cornelius’s encounter with an angel. Cornelius was commanded to send for Peter and did so by sending three men. When they reached Peter, we then find out that the angel told Cornelius to send for Peter, as the three told him, “to hear what you have to say” (Acts 10:22 ESV). When Peter met Cornelius, Cornelius let Peter know that he and others were gathered “to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” (Acts 10:33 ESV). When Peter related these matters to the church in Jerusalem, he recounted what Cornelius had told him of why the angel commanded him to send for Peter—because “he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved” (Acts 11:14 ESV).
“A message by which you will be saved”—does that strike you in the heart when you think of the lost that you love? It should because you as a Christian have that saving message!
It certainly struck Cornelius this way. The angel told him that the message was not just for him. It was for “you and all your household” (Acts 11:14 ESV). So, as anyone who desired the salvation of his household would do, he gathered them together in preparation for them to hear the gospel at Peter’s arrival. In fact, he gathered more than that—“Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends” (Acts 10:24 ESV). When Peter’s time to speak had come (cf. Acts 10:34–43), he “found many persons gathered” (Acts 10:27 ESV).
His “household,” “relatives,” and “friends,” altogether being “many persons”—do you know a few folks like this? Unsaved members in your immediate family? Unsaved relatives? Unsaved friends?
If you do (and everybody does), as a Christian, you don’t need angels, visions, or a Peter to walk in your door for their conversion. The gospel has been going to the uttermost ends of the earth for 2,000 years, and you yourself have the saving message by which these dear, lost loved ones can come to Christ. In carrying out the Great Commission, be like Cornelius and give the gospel to those you know. Share his zeal, and you just might be able to fill a room with people that you have given the gospel over time.
May we all be like Cornelius and invite many to hear the message by which they will be saved!