A Sermon Preached Before Old Bethel Association by Pastor Benjamin Connaway,
First Baptist Church, Providence, Kentucky, 1931.
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. . . . And they went forth, and preached, the Lord working with them" — Mark 16:15, 20.
The effectiveness and usefulness of a machine is not to be judged by its dimensions, nor by the number or complication of its parts, but by the efficiency of its motive power. If our churches are to carry out the gospel's order of world-wide evangelization, we must be sure that our mission work is scripturally motivated.
There are many reasons why our churches should put the doctrine and duty of missions first. We shall call your attention this morning some of the reasons why evangelization should always occupy the position of primacy in New Testament churches. And we believe every one who has the mind of Christ will desire the Berean spirit in examining the grounds of this supreme Baptist obligation. The Bible has no message for the worldly, unbelieving mind; but great learning is not the primary qualification for understanding the Word of God. They who desire to know and do God's will may have light. "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know the teaching" (John 7:17).
Usually there is a fascination and interest in the last words of great men. The last words of Jesus before his ascension were concerning missions. The spread of the gospel in the first century speaks eloquently of how seriously the early disciples received Jesus' words. Whether or not they stopped "to reason WHY," there was in them the urge of sound spiritual motives. Dr. Broadus reminds us that the missionary task of the first
firstChristians was an arduous labor of such magnitude that they could never have undertaken it without the most imperative motives and great assurance from their Lord. The early Christians had not a single misisonry [sic] motive that we do not have. We are to enter into all their labors, and, although they have passed on, we are in all respects fellow-workers with them. And we have an added motive. Missions should have for us a definite, concrete meaning; we have a missionary in Brazil to whom we have definitely: pledged our support. We have promised to hold the rope while he goes down into the well.
I. Missions and the Lord's Commandment.
You will observe that the first part of the text is in the form of a commandment. This fact reminds us that certain secondary motives are by no means reliable and effective under all conditions. Feeling, emotion, and impulse do enter into all Christian duties, but they cannot be relied upon as unfailing motives. Our feelings and emotions vary with our health, circumstances, weather, crop conditions, business conditions, and many other things. Bunyan's Mr. Byends said: "We are always most zealous when Religion goes in his golden slippers . . . . when the sun shines and the people applaud." A rich man walking in his golden slippers, and basking in the sunshine of popular applause might cast a great gift into the treasurer out of the exuberance of selfish elation and the Pharisee's pride. But there is not promise that the true follower of the Lord Jesus will always have golden slippers, a cloudless sky, and applause. We may be "pressed on every side." Discouragement and weariness are sometimes our lot. There are circumstances that chill our 'emotions, quench the fires of enthusiasm. and even becloud our faith. Then we are shop up to one motive: Lord, "AT THY WORD, I will let down the net."
Impulses that are normal to the Christian heart, and which serve as powerful and legitimate spiritual motives, are sometimes choked and weakened by the growth of thorns that infest our lives. How easily weeds and thorns choke our spiritual impulses so that they dry up and "bring no fruit to perfection." For Baptist churches, at least, there is one final principle that leaves us no choice of whether we will go or not. It is the principle of obedience. "Ye are my friends, if ye do the things I command you." A remark attributed, I believe, to Wellington illustrates the case. When some one objected to the attempt to evangelize India on account of its vastness, its deeply rooted religions and philosophies, and racial prejudicies, the great soldier replied: "What are your marching orders? Are you not commanded to go?" Our marching orders are: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." People do not like commandments, but what appeal is there more reasonable or final than the command of Him who has all power in heaven and in earth. And does love of God and an obedient heart require more than this: "The Master saith unto thee!"
II. Missions and the First Christian Impulses.
We believe the early Christians were led by impulses that were spontaneous and normal in the new Christian experience. We read of no modern mission boards, commissions or ecclesiastical groups making programs, scattering mission literature and bringing all kinds of pressure to bear upon the Churches. There was Jesus' command, as we have seen, but at this time the disciples did not need to depend upon that as the main basis of the missionary enterprise. The command coincided easily and naturally with the inclination and impulses of these first Christians. Their reason was. "we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." Without the necessity of command they said: "We speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen." McLaren has well said if there were no commandment, there should still be the inevitable urge of an inner impulse to propagate the gospel.
The church at Ephesus was solemnly warned to return to its "first love." That departure must have included a chilled missionary zeal which no longer delighted in witnessing to Christ and his salvation. Who among us does not sometimes with shame and humiliation contrast our first days with the Lord as personal Savior with the latter days that were too cumbered for Christian testimony or gospel propagation? Then we were eager to tell our friends and neighbors how great things the Lord had done for us. 'We needed no law of commandment.
Dyson Hague once wrote something like this: It is morally impossible for one to really know God in the forgiveness of sin, and not desire to see other people saved. And that desire should be irrepressible. "One of the two that heard John speak . . . was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah! No need of command there. On the same occasion Phillip hastened with the same spontaneous enthusiasm to tell the good news to Nathaniel. The Samaritan woman did not need to be sent to the city to spread the news about Jesus; she quickly -went of her own accord. Her ardent heart and enthusiastic testimony made her an effective missionary. "And from that city many Of the Samaritans believed on him because of the word of the woman who testified." When persecution scattered the Jerusalem church, those fleeing laymen "went about preaching the word." They left because they had to leave and not because they were "sent out" as missionaries; but as they went there was in them an impulse to tell of Christ, which no hardship could discourage.
What explains the
thedaring, the audacity, and aggressiveness of young people as they face the work of life? They go through the powerful urge of their impulses; it is not normal for them to do otherwise. Christ is able to do for us "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." He can enable us to return to our "first love," and give us inure heart for every Christian duty. "They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up as eagles; they shall run and not be weary." May God give us unwearied hearts for our missionary work!
III. Missions and Church Perpetuity.
The desire to live is universal. No Christian worthy of the name desires to witness the death of his church. It is a serious condition that calls for the Lord's condemnation. "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and are dead." The perpetuity of the life of every Baptist church is inseparably related to missions.
No church can forfeit the stewardship of missions and live. When Jesus said to the Jews: "The kingdom of Gad shall be taken from you and given to a nation BRINGING, FORTH THE FRUITS THEREOF," he announced a spiritual truth that may he as true of a Baptist church as it was of the Jewish nation. The church 'which abandons the doctrine and duty of missions fails to bring forth the fruit for which it was established. The mission of the church is to "make disciples" at home and in the "regions beyond."
The example of the withered fig tree preaches powerfuily and directly to our churches on the mission task. A fig tree exists primarily to bear fruit. Who will say that the Master was unreasonable in pronouncing a withering condemnation upon a useless tree. And is not the owner of the vineyard wise when he seeks fruit three years after the tree's maturity, and, finding no figs, orders the vine dresser to "cut it down?" "Why," indeed, "cloth it cumber the ground?" Has this not been the penalty of fruitlessness among men and nations through all history? When God commits to nations or men or churches certain capacities or resources or principles, and charges them with the responsibility of using and multiplying them, and they fail, why should not this stewardship he forfeited? Upon this principle the kingdom of God was taken from the Jews, and for two thousand years the genius of this great race has displayed itself in other fields than that of religion. The useless tree will be digged up; the unused talent will be taken from the slothful servant and given to the man who will use it; the unoccupied kingdom will be taken from its idle occupants and bestowed upon those who will improve its privileges. Is there not an economy throughout nature that tends to discard what is useless?
The fruit that gives promise of the perpetuity of our churches is evangelism and missions. The church that ceases to be missionary is doomed to death. And the church that is missionary will live. So long as a church is true to the Word, and so long as there are sinners and a living Christ, the church that seeks to give the gospel to the world cannot die. Pledging anew our hearts and our hands to our mission task we can pray:"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; Yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it."
IV. Missions and Christ's Promise.
We cannot close this discussion without a reference to our Lord's last missionary promise. Peter tells us that we have "exceeding great and precious promises." "And there hath not failed one word of all his good promise!" There are promises for every need — promises for temptation, promises for the aged. and promises for death. But what promise in all the Word of God comes to our mind so readily as that given to encourage missions? "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations .... and lo, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD" (Matthew 28:19). It is not strange that we should lean upon so beautiful and tender a promise for every dark hour. But we should not forget that this beautiful and comprehensive covenant of the Lord was given, not to cheer those in "the valley of the shadow of death," but to enhearten men and women who in any way seek to publish the gospel.
And it is a promise which is backed by "all power"—unlimited power. God is able to make "all things work together for good" to the preachers and heralds of his Word. The Lord's commission must have seemed an absurd and audacious thing to the "wisdom of this world." But how gloriously the divine power was vindicated. Paul's ministry as a missionary was unique in its heavenly power. So of Carey and a host of other missionaries. When Morrison was starting to China a skeptical critic asked him sneeringly if he expected to make an impression on China and her millions, bound by tradition and paganism. Mr. Morrison replied in substance: "No, sir, but I expect God to make an impression upon them." There are times when the preacher and missionary may feel an overwhelming sense of lonliness. But the God of Elijah and Paul lives, and possesses "all power."
"Truth forever on the scaffold;
Wrong forever on the throne.
But that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God amid the shadows,
Keeping watch above His own."
And the promise of power was not merely for the first Christians. It was for all who should conic after them. "I am with you alway"—"all the days" (the "Greek), And this is to continue unto the end of the age. The promise holds good for all the days—days of strength and weakness, days of success and failure, of joy and sorrow, of youth and age, days of life and of death "unto the end of the world." How varied and multitudinous the labors of missions through the ages. Yet through all the centuries God's power has been with the laborers.
History can point to no triumph greater than
thanthose of the missionaries. Not only has the missionary carried the gospel to all lands, but he has often been the forerunner of civilization itself. We are under obligation to the workers in the fields of education and science, for their triumphs have been inestimable. Our hearts glow with pride at the names of Washington and Lee. But towering above these and others, as splendid as they are, are the names of Paul, Carey, Judson, Spurgeon, Livingston, and Morrison, and a host of other workers whose names and deeds are written in heaven.
Let us be encouraged today to go back to our churches and rededicate ourselves to the hard bat glorious task of evangelism and missions at home and abroad. And let us have boundless trust in the divine gospel, for wherever it is preached in all the world it will vindicate its power.
[From: T. P. Simmons, editor, The Baptist Examiner, Marion, KY, November 2, 1931, pp. 1-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
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