The Motive for Missions
November 28th, 1965 @ 8:15 AM
THE MOTIVE FOR MISSIONS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-28-65 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Motive for Missions. I have gone through an evolution this week in getting ready for the services of this day. I at first planned to continue this long series we have been following on the Holy Spirit. And then as I began to pray about our mission program and the week of prayer, I turned aside from that subject of the Holy Spirit to speak especially concerning our appeal for the missionary in the earth. Then I began to prepare the sermon on motives—plural—“Motives for Missions,” and I hope someday to preach it. But as I continued in the preparation for the service, one motive so stood out, and overpowered in my own thinking all of the rest, until I have come to deliver the sermon on, singular, the motive, the motive above all other motives, The Motive for Missions.
And you will get a good idea of what it is from a sentence out of the sermon of Simon Peter in the fourth chapter of Acts, verse 12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. And you will find the same kind of a sentiment expressed by the apostle Paul when on his missionary journey through Europe he said to the men gathered on Mars’ Hill in Athens, “The times of this without knowing, without understanding, God has overlooked; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” [Acts 17:30]; the motive for evangelism, for missions.
There are many blessings that accrue from the triumph of the Christian faith. Barbarous tribes have been civilized. Savages have been introduced to better habits of industry. The benighted have been taught how to build better houses and how to weave and to make better clothes. But the apostles, like Peter and Paul, would be astonished and amazed if any of these reasons were given for the missionary enterprise. These advantages that accrue, from the missionary gospel and visitation and the power of the presence of the Lord among a people, are incidental. The incomparable and infinite blessing is to know God Himself and to be saved.
As the Lord Jesus said to His disciples in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, “Rejoice not in this, that demons are subject unto you; but rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven” [Luke 10:20]. The infinite blessing is to know God and to be saved. The great need of the mission fields of the world––and that means our own street and our own city and state as well as the farthest confines of this globe––the great need of the families, and races, and peoples of the earth is to be changed, to be born again, to be saved, to be introduced to the true God in Christ Jesus.
We could introduce to a miserable cluster of huts in the heart of Central Africa or on one of the isles of the South Pacific, all of the ways of affluence that we know in this American life. We could bestow upon them the glitter, and the glamour, and the riches of the foremost cities of Europe and America. We could transform their chieftains into brilliant statesmen. We might cultivate among them the ability to discourse on the philosophy of Plato or this modern philosophical fad of existentialism.
We could teach them to admire the brilliant genius of an Aeschylus. They might finally attain to the place where they could write brilliantly their discourses on the discoveries of science. And they might be able to create a literature in its original grace and beauty to match that of a Shakespeare. But what would all this be compared to their knowledge of the true God, that they might be saved, that they might be fellow heirs in the kingdom of Christ in the hearts of men in this world and in the ultimate and final kingdom when God shall reign over all the peoples and nations of the earth? There is a superior, unique, separate, high as heaven motive for evangelism and for missions; and that is that we might be saved.
Now I see these human values in all of the enterprises and efforts of life. I see it in the life of a physician, of a doctor. It is true that the doctor deals with anatomy, and with metabolism, and with body chemistry, and with all of the other things that enter into the physical functioning of our human life. But the great motive that ought to lie back of the healing hands of a true physician would be to bless, and to help, and to heal these who are sick. His motive ought always to be humanitarian, far above the science that he might practice or the discoveries that he might make. The great motive that ought to lie back of the life of a physician is in the world of human relationships. “This is my son. This is my daughter. This is my mother or father. This is my wife or husband. Now doctor, I’m praying that God will give you wisdom as you ask healing help from heaven.”
The same thing would be true in the life of a lawyer. He lives in a world of retainer fees. And he lives in a world of books, and precedent, and practice, and courts. But the great motive that ought to lie back of his professional life is that he might help the innocent and guide people through the maze of modern intricacies. The same thing ought to lie back in motive the life of a businessman. The businessman lives in a world of profits and of money. But the great hope and vision of a wonderful businessman ought to be to create wealth to bless people, to create jobs, and to make situations where all of these who need to work and to make a living for their families might have an opportunity. Back of these professions and back of these lives are always the infinite possibility of being a minister to the needs of humanity.
Now may I take the same idea and apply it to the Christian missionary? Out of all of the blessings that may accrue from the message and the preaching of the preacher and emissary of heaven, the great motive that lies back of what he does lies in the human soul: that they might be saved. And God will bless any church, and God will bless any denomination, and God will bless any missionary endeavor that has that for its tremendous and illimitable commitment. We are preaching, and teaching, and praying, and visiting, and working that the lost might be saved. And however these other blessings accrue, they are incidental compared to the tremendous commitment that God in Christ might be formed in the hearts, and souls, and lives of the people.
One time I listened to a pastor whom I knew as a boy in Amarillo. His name was Dr. H. W. Virgin, Dr. Henry Whiting Virgin. He was called from the First Baptist Church of Amarillo to the pastorate of the North Shore Baptist Church in Chicago. And he belonged as a pastor of that church to the Northern, what they call now the American Baptist Convention. And I heard him make an address one time in the years ago, and this is what he said. He said, “I have been appointed the chairman of a committee to make a survey of all of the Baptist churches of the Northern Baptist Convention.” He said, “We have just committed that survey and we have made our report to the convention.” He said, “There is one thing that I have found that is inevitably and everlastingly true, one thing, and it is this: that any man who preaches a social gospel fails.” Then he illustrated it, he said, “In our survey, we found one of our great churches housed in one of the most beautiful, and adequate, and spacious buildings on the North American continent. The pastor of that church is world famous. He preaches on the radio and he lectures extensively over the nation. Even the assistant pastor of that church,” he said, “is nationally famous.”
He said they have a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars and an extensive staff. “But,” he said, “when we studied the church, and considered its plant, and considered its pastors, and considered its work, we are amazed and astonished to learn that in the previous year they had three conversions; three conversions.”
There is a tremendous commitment to which God has called His churches, and His denomination, and His people, and His pastors, and His staff, and His deacons, and His Sunday school leaders, and everybody that belongs to the body of Christ. Our commitment above all others, however we may be engrossed in the affairs of the day, and however we might be tempted to discuss the issues of the hour, our great commitment is to win the lost to Jesus. Here on the foreign field it is the substance and the foundation of all of the Christian missionary enterprise. It is the motive for missions. Oh, the dearth that falls upon God’s work when we turn aside from that tremendous commitment!
One time in Bangkok, in the capital of Thailand, old Siam, there came up to my traveling companion and me two elderly English ladies. And that conversation with those two English missionaries was one of the most enlightening in which I ever shared in my life. There one time was a flourishing Baptist mission supported by our English brethren. There was at one time a flourishing Baptist mission in Thailand, blessed of God, souls were being saved, churches were being organized, evangelists were preaching the gospel, and the energies and the prayers of the people were turned toward the saving of the lost.
Then liberalism came. And instead of preaching the gospel of the Son of God, that men are lost and judgment bound [Romans 3:23, 6:23], and the blood of Jesus Christ alone can wash us from our sins [1 Peter 1:18-19], and there’s none other name under heaven whereby we must be saved [Acts 4:12]; instead of preaching the gospel of the grace of the Son of God [Ephesians 2:7-8], then the denomination began to turn and to discuss the ethics that are to be found, and the marvelous, maybe moral, philosophical teachings that can be discovered in other religions, and maybe we ought to put together an eclectic system, the best out of Buddhism, which is the national religion of Thailand, and the best in Christianity, and the best in these other faiths. And instead of going out and teaching that men are lost without Jesus, maybe we ought to seek to kindle and to fan the divine spark that is in all men.
And they changed from the gospel of the Son of God to a modern presentation of a liberal deifying of humanity. And the missions died. And the missionaries ceased to come. And the gospel message ceased to be preached. And those two old English missionaries were the last that were left. And they came to us and begged that we take the properties and we take the mission, for they had no future, no one else. This was the end of the way for that one time flourishing message of Jesus among the Thai people. Oh, you can hardly believe such things could happen!
Whenever the nerve is cut—that men are lost without Jesus [John 3:36]—and that our great calling from God is to preach the blessed Savior the Lord Jesus, whenever that is cut, the missionary enterprise withers and dies in the earth. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]; the motive for missions.
Now may I speak of the glorious international created by the missionary enterprise? God’s men, God’s servants who preach the gospel, the saving gospel of Christ anywhere, anywhere; there are no frontiers anymore. America is a mission field. Texas is a mission field. Central America is a mission field. Europe is a mission field. There are no frontiers anywhere. Everywhere the gospel ought to be preached in convicting and saving power.
Now there is a marvelous international created in the propagation, and presentation, and preaching of the gospel of the Son of God; an incomparably dear, and meaningful, and precious one, the real one. I could call it “The true red international,”
bathed in the blood of the Son of God, and sanctified by His living presence among His people.
All right, first, of three things that I could speak about the creation of the new international, the new fellowship, the new body created in the preaching of the gospel of the Lord Jesus, in the saving of souls: one, there is a unity in prayer. Oh, and how beautiful, and how precious, and how meaningful! All the way around this globe, all around the globe in a hundred and a hundred different languages, colors, peoples, tribes bowing in prayer interceding before God in the name of Jesus. That is one of the most meaningful of all of the fellowships that God could ever endow a people, a unity in prayer, here, and yonder, and beyond, and still beyond praying, asking of God. Oh, how meaningful!
I was walking along and saw the tiniest little church I think I ever looked at; a tiny little church. I walked inside of it and my hands could touch the ceiling. And when I extended both of my arms, I could almost touch the walls on either side. It looked like a little doll house of a church. Yet it was plainly a church, had a little steeple on it, had two tiers of seats in it, had a pulpit and a rostrum, all the accouterments of a church but the smallest one I had ever seen. And as I walked around I thought, “Well, I wonder what kind of a church this is?” And I saw a large placard pinned against the wall back of the pulpit, back of the pulpit. And I walked over there and looked at it. And there were pictures of our missionaries. There must have been at least a hundred missionaries whose pictures were printed on that large paper pinned against the wall. And then there was an announcement of a series of prayer meetings in a week of prayer and then an offering for our foreign mission enterprise.
And I looked at that and looked at the church and I was overwhelmed by the feeling, and the persuasion, and the knowledge of how the outreach of God’s people touches other languages, and other nations, and other tribes to the ends of the earth. That little band and I wonder how many they were when they gathered for their services of prayer; but God said, “Where two or three are gathered together . . . there am I in the midst of them” [Matthew 18:20]. That little band in a stated and announced week of intercession, touching all of the other nations and families of the earth, oh how meaningful, how significant! And when God looks upon it, it must stay His hand of judgment as if God had been able to find the ten righteous men in Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 18:32]. Verily, these who pray uphold the very pillars of the foundation of the earth; united in prayer, a world fellowship of intercession.
A second characterization: united in witnessing, testimony, soulwinning; they there, and those yonder, and we here, testifying to the saving grace of the Son of God, appealing for people to come and accept Jesus as Savior. “Give life, and love, and devoted fellowship, and follow-ship, and comradeship to the blessed Savior. Come, walk with us.” Oh, how precious and how meaningful; joined together in witnessing! They there, preaching the same gospel, making the same appeal, pleading with men to come to Jesus; and we here, united in witnessing.
I one time heard a minister, he belonged to another denomination. And he said that in his congregation was a very wealthy man but a very godly man. And this lawyer whom God had prospered so greatly, came up to him and said, “Pastor, the Lord has been unusually good to me, and I want to do something special for the Lord. Would you have a suggestion to make?” And the pastor said there came into his mind, just as though it were whispered from heaven, there came into his mind this suggestion. And he said to his wealthy parishioner, “Let me tell you what you do. You get you a missionary in the Orient and let him be your missionary and your representative, and you take care of him and you support him.”
And the suggestion found lodgment in the heart of the lawyer and the lawyer did it. My remembrance was that the missionary he chose was one that they sent to Korea. So the pastor said the godly man got a large picture of his missionary and put it at the head of his bed. And every night at the close of the day, the lawyer would get on his knees by the side of his bed and pray this, “Now Lord, bless my missionary as he rises for the new day and as he witnesses for Jesus. And bless me, Lord, as I rest in sleep.” Then the next morning the lawyer, getting out of bed, would kneel by the side of the bed and pray, “And now, Lord, bless my missionary while he rests in sleep. And bless me while I witness for Thee this day.” Oh, I thought that was one of the finest things I ever listened to!
“While the sun is shining on us, and it is dark over there in the night, may God bless me while I witness for Jesus and bless my missionary while he rests in sleep. Then as the hours pass and it is dark here at night, and it is light over there; now Lord, bless my missionary while he witnesses for Jesus and bless me while I rest in sleep.” What a glorious fellowship, the true international bound together in a glorious commitment to witness for Jesus, here, there.
I have time for one other; united in a glorious body of Christ, the churches of Jesus, the fellowship of His saints, united in prayer, united in witnessing, united in giving. These young people have never lived through a depression. I began my ministry in the Depression. I remember one of our denominational statesmen and leaders standing up before a student group at Baylor. And he described the broken heart of Dr. Love, the secretary of the foreign mission board and described his burial service. Then he described the burial service of Dr. Eugene Sallee who had been called home from China to help in the work of the board.
Those were tragic and sad days. I remember a tract put out by the board entitled, “Are Southern Baptists going out of the mission business?” My first convention was in 1933, held in Washington. And at that convention, Southern Baptists faced the possibility of going out of the mission business. There was a debt on the Foreign Mission Board of one million six hundred thousand dollars, an astronomical sum at that time, owed five Richmond banks. At that convention there was presented the new secretary of the Foreign Mission Board, Dr. Charles E. Maddrey. And he said the five Richmond banks called him at a stated meeting and said, “We are asking you to pay the money you owe the five banks.” And Dr. Maddrey said, “But brethren, I cannot do it. There’s no possibility of paying the debt.”
“Then we demand,” said the bankers, that “the debt be paid anyway.” And Dr. Maddrey replied, “But there’s no way for us to pay except to try to sell the assets of the board and that would throw us into bankruptcy and destroy us.” Dr. Maddrey said, “I have just come as secretary of the board. Give us a chance. Give me a chance and let me see what I can do.” And one of the bankers said, “Let’s give him a chance;” and they agreed. And the secretary said, “For twelve months we were in the hands of friendly receivers.”
And he made an appeal that that year our churches do its utmost in prayer and supplication to make possible a great Lottie Moon Christmas offering. That was the first and the beginning of my taking up a Lottie Moon Christmas offering in the church, in 1933. I went back to my little rural churches, two of them, and I did my utmost to lay upon their hearts the missionary cause of Christ in the earth. And I am sure, all through the bounds of our association of churches, other pastors did the same thing.
And that year, we had a tremendous Lottie Moon Christmas offering for foreign missions. And that year we saved our Foreign Mission Board. And that year the whole tide turned. And from that year until this, God has increasingly blessed our missionary enterprise. And what a union, and what a fellowship, and what a holy and heavenly privilege with our brethren who name the name of Christ around this earth; joining together in a special gift, a special remembrance of our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus.
Oh, this is a holy and a heavenly time of the year! To others––maybe for drunkenness, and rioting, and partying, and banqueting, and a thousand other things where they get drunk and where they give their lives to dissipation but not to us––to us, this season of the year when we celebrate in gladness to God the incarnation, the nativity of our living Lord [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 2:8-16]; to us this time of the year is a year and a time for prayer, and for commitment of life, and for the love of Jesus, and to bring a gift in His name, and to give ourselves in a new way, that the lost might be saved. The Lord bless and sanctify our people and our church, as with our brethren in all the nations under the sun, we join hands in prayer, and intercession, and devoted love, and witnessing to make Jesus known in the earth.
Now while we sing our song of appeal, may God bless this testimony, and this service, and this hour with souls. May God be good to us, as we pray God shall bless with souls, these who witness across the seas. Now may God bless with souls our testimony and our witness here. Come, on the first note of the first stanza, come. A couple you, a family you, one somebody you; as the Spirit of Jesus shall open the door, shall say the word, shall make appeal, come. Somebody to give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], “Today, I take the Lord as my Savior” [Ephesians 2:8]. Somebody to put his life in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], to pray with us and to serve our blessed Savior with us, as God shall say the word. On the first note of the first stanza, come, come. Make it now, and God bless you as you come, as we stand and sing.