THE CHALLENGE OF MISSIONS
John A. Hatcher
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MISSIONS IS ABOUT GOD’S WORK
Although men are indispensable to the work of missions, it is no human project. Love drew Salvation’s plan—eternal Love—long before man was brought on the scene. It is His plan for men to be shareholders in all that He is and has. “Let us make man in our own image,” said the Tri-personal God. “One that is like us who will be able to participate in and enjoy all that is ours.” Man would be able to be in God’s presence and enjoy communion with Him. Man was made to be free, but, his allegiance had to be voluntary. This makes the testing of man’s will not only a possibility; but a necessity. For this reason the arch enemy was allowed to enter man’s domain. Man’s will was on trial.
Man failed to make the right choice and forfeited his dominion to the ruler of darkness. Why was man created so he could sin? Here enters the debates about free will. C. S. Lewis wrote, “When we have understood about free will, we shall see how silly it is to ask, as someone asked me: Why did God make man of such rotten stuff that it went wrong? The better stuff a creature is made of—the cleverer and stronger it is—and the better it will be if it goes right, but, also, the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better or worse; a child better or worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit—best or worse—of all.” Satan went bad and man went bad because he chose to follow him. Due to man’s choice, eternal punishment, determined for Satan and his angels, became the lot of sinful man. Justice so demanded.
However, God is, more than Justice. He is Love and Mercy. He had another plan built upon the person of the Son. That project included grace and mercy for those under eternal judgment. There would be redemption for the cursed. —“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” 1 John 3:1 To justify sinners and be perfectly just, God gave His own Son to redeem men from the curse of sin. Romans 5:26
The Damascus Road experience of Saul of Tarsus shows that missions is God’s project. The glory of the risen Lord cast a blinded Saul to the ground. “And a voice said to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?’ and he said ‘Who art thou Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecute.’ Saul had persecuted the servants of Christ—the church—but in reality he was warring against Jesus, for He indwells His servants and His churches. Missionaries, get this into your minds and hearts. Missions is God’s work and when people despise you, they are despising the Lord. When God’s people and churches neglect this work they are neglecting the work of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit made this clear as he led Luke to write the book of Acts. It is the evidence that Missions is God’s work, and is under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught this to the apostles before returning to Heaven. “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he might abide with you forever; even the Spirit of Truth; who the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but ye know him for he dwells with you and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17) Jesus said the world would not receive (be able to take) the Holy Spirit. Then Judas, not Iscariot, asked how the Comforter could come and be known to them and not to the world. To this question Jesus replied, “If any man love me he will keep my words and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him…These things I have spoken unto you, being present with you. But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, which I have said unto you.” (John 14:23-26) In Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen of the book of John, Jesus continues His teaching about the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. In His last conversation with the apostles Jesus made it clear there would be a change of Leadership from the Son to the Holy Spirit. “And being assembled together with them, commanded that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which ye have heard from me.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence…but ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. “(Acts 1:4,5,8)
The Holy Spirit came as promised. His coming was evidenced by miraculous gifts given to the apostles. They spoke in tongues without having studied them. They received the power to heal, to prophecy, to discern spirits, as well as other gifts. The Holy Spirit directed the apostles and the churches in the apostolic period concerning the work of God.
First, the Holy Spirit identified and accredited those chosen as apostles, His church, who were to do His work. Peter stood with the eleven and declared that the Holy Spirit was identifying the servants of the Lord (Acts 2:7,14,18). His presence and power were manifest in the apostles’ wisdom and courage, as (Acts 4: 13-16) well as in their works. The Holy Spirit directed the choice (Acts 6:4-8) of the first deacons. The Holy Spirit blessed the ministry of Philip, both in public preaching and in personal (Acts 8: 5-8,26-39) evangelism. The leadership in the churches was directed by the Holy Spirit: Peter was sent to the Gentiles to the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). Barnabas was sent to Antioch (Acts 11:22-24). Paul and Barnabas were sent from the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3). The book of Acts is the witness of the Holy Spirit as to whom God had called and set apart. The ministry of Peter is foremost in the first part of the book and the ministry of Paul is in the spotlight in the last half of the book. (Cf. Galatians 2:8) The Holy Spirit continues to call and prepare men for the ministry.
In addition to the choice and accreditation of God’s servants, the Holy Spirit instructed them WHAT to do. First, they were to preach the message of Jesus Christ—His death, burial, and resurrection. They did so continually. The twelve preached on the day of Pentecost, they preached in the Temple, they preached publicly, they preached from house to house, they preached to the Samaritans, and they preached to the Gentiles. They heralded the message of Jesus Christ to the multitudes, they conversed the message de Jesus Christ privately, they told the message as they fled, as they hid, when they were free, when they were in prison, when in court, and when shipwrecked. Secondly, they baptized the ones who believed. Churches were established and confirmed in the faith. They did not go about selling sacraments nor did they carry a pocket full (Chaucer) of pardons “hot from Rome.” Their ministry was of the Word of God. No sacramental plan of salvation is led by the Holy Spirit whether it be from the church of Rome or the churches of the Reformation. Preach the Word! because “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” is the Spirit’s instruction.
Not the least among the works of the Holy Spirit was His guidance concerning where and to whom to preach. He instructed the apostles to preach to Jew and Gentile. The twelve were reluctant to preach to the Gentiles—Peter being the most reluctant. But it was to Peter the keys of the Kingdom were given and he must be the one to use them. He and John (Acts 8:14-15) went to Samaria to verify the salvation of the Samaritans. It was righteous Peter who was sent first to the Gentiles—to the (Acts 10) house of Cornelius. After the vision in Joppa, Peter was sent to Caesarea with a zeal and enthusiasm equaled only by the prophet Jonas on his way to preach at Nineveh. But, the Holy Spirit taught him well and Peter learned the truth—Jesus died for Gentiles, also. Peter’s witness concerning the Gentiles was vital (Acts 11 & 15). The Holy Spirit led and directed the work of Paul. He did not permit the apostle (Acts 16:7) to go into Asia. He led him into Macedonia through a vision (Acts 16:9). The leadership of the Holy Spirit is just as vital to God’s messengers today.
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