Ministering In Missions
November 29th, 1981 @ 8:15 AM
MINISTERING IN MISSIONS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-29-81 8:15 a.m.
And we welcome the great throngs of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio. The First Baptist Church in Dallas welcomes you and no less its pastor who is bringing this message this morning entitled Ministering in Missions.
I wonder how fast you can turn in your Bible. Let us turn to the passage you just read, then we are going to turn to the last chapter of Mark, and the last chapter of Luke, and the twentieth chapter of John, and the first chapter of Acts. So let us just start moving. Do you have the first one, the last chapter in Matthew? We are going to read the last two verses. Matthew 28:19-20, you have that? Then let us read it again out loud together. Matthew 28:19-20:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Now the last chapter in Mark, turn to Mark, last chapter in Mark; we are going to read verse 15. The last chapter in Mark, verse 15, you have it? Mark 16:15, together:
And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Now the last chapter in Luke, Luke 24; we are going to read verses 46, 47, and 48. The last chapter in Luke, Luke chapter 24, verses 46 to 48, now let us read it out loud together:
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And ye are witnesses of these things.
Now John chapter 20, John chapter 20, verses 21 to 23; John chapter 20, next to the last chapter. Chapter 21 in John is an addendum, it’s an appendix; the gospel actually ends with the twentieth chapter. Now chapter 20, verses 21 to 23:
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.
And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained.
Now, the Book of Acts, the next one, the Book of Acts: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, now Acts chapter 1, verse 8, chapter 1, verse 8; the Book of Acts chapter 1, verse 8, together:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost has 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.
Now let me show you the most amazing development in Christian history: for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years it was denied and debated whether or not we had any obligation to preach the gospel to the world. Can you believe that? After we have read it in Matthew, after we’ve read it in Mark, after we’ve read it in Luke, after we’ve read it in John, after we have read it at the beginning of the great evangelization of the world in the first chapter of Acts, for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years it was denied and debated that we had any obligation to preach the gospel to the nations of the world. That’s what the perverted mind can do with Holy Scripture.
In 1789, at the Northamptonshire Baptist Association, John Ryland, being the associational moderator, recognized a young Baptist pastor. He was a shoe cobbler, as so many Baptist pastors in frontier areas and in small churches are. They made their own living. They were tent makers, like the apostle Paul: he worked with his hands, and preached the gospel. There wasn’t any support for him so he could give himself for it fully, until they sent him a present from Philippi. This man was also like that; he was a shoe cobbler. And as he cobbled shoes, as he mended shoes, on one side of him he had a map of the world, on the other side he had an open Bible. His name was William Carey, pastor of a little church in that Northamptonshire Baptist Association. And when John Ryland, the moderator, gave him opportunity to propose a question to be debated by the ministers and representatives at the convocation, the young pastor stood up and said he would like to propose whether or not it was obligatory on the ministers of all time to preach the gospel to all nations. And when he proposed that question, John Ryland said to him, "Sit down, young man, you are a miserable enthusiast. Let God convert the heathen any time He pleases. But it will be without your help or mine."
In the next year, in 1790, the young man was invited to preach the associational sermon; and he preached a famous one. Taking his text out of Isaiah, he preached this: "Attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God" [Isaiah 54:1-4]. He had the sympathy by that time of some of his fellow ministers; and finally, the second day in October, in 1792, in a little town called Kettering, in a room in a widow’s house, a dozen ministers, twelve of them, organized themselves into the first modern missionary endeavor. Can you believe that? After hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, there were finally twelve Baptist preachers who gave themselves for the evangelization of the nations of the world. And, as you know, William Carey went out, and Andrew Fuller held the ropes, and they organized their first missionary support.
I have been in Kettering, looked at that little room. I have been in Serampore, just north of Calcutta, on that one branch of the Ganges River, where William Carey spent his life translating the Bible into the languages and dialects of India, and building a school for the evangelization of that subcontinent.
One of the English people came to the Iron Duke of Wellington, and said, "Do you think it is obligatory that we preach the gospel to the heathen?" And he replied, "What are your marching orders?" What did Jesus say? The mandate of our Lord is explicit: there is nothing in the Word of God plainer than our assignment for the evangelization, the discipleshipping, the winning to Christ of all of the peoples of the world. There is no excuse written in the Book. It has nothing to do with how hard it is, or the tremendous sacrifices to be made, or the opposition we face, or the persecution that awaits; it is just simply a mandate that we go and evangelize the people of the world.
I think sometimes, when that mandate is so authoritative, and so fulsome, and so unequivocal, I think sometimes of that mistake that was made in the Crimean War, when an officer of the light brigade gave the command to charge, and though he had blundered,
Theirs was not to make reply,
Theirs was not to reason why,
Theirs was to do or die.
And into the valley of death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Bravely they rode, and well,
Into the jaws of death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.
["The Charge of the Light Brigade"; Alfred, Lord Tennyson]
That was God’s intention for His disciples: a mandate obligatory from heaven.
Why the urgency of that Great Commission of our Lord? The answer from the Bible is plainly stated: the world of humanity is lost without Christ [1 John 5:12]. We face an eternal judgment and a forever damnation unless we are saved in Him. The doctrine of hell, of judgment, of damnation, is not a theological fad. It’s not something that the congregations listened to in 1740, when Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon on "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." It is not a truth, it is not a revelation, it is not a doctrine that was permissible in that day, over two hundred years ago, but today it is offensive to cultured ears. It is a forever revelation of God: a man is saved in Christ, or he is lost forever, damned forever, from the presence of God [John 3:36].
It is difficult to forget that it was Jesus Himself who spoke most and most solemnly concerning the condition of the lost and of the damned. In the sixteenth chapter of Luke, it is the Lord who says, "In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment" [Luke 16:23]. It was the Lord Himself, who, in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, describing the judgment of the nations of the world, said, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matthew 25:41].
Picking up that theme and that truth, it is the apostle Simon Peter who said, in Acts 4:12, "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." It was the apostle Paul who wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8: "The Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance upon those who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Christ." It was the author of the Book of Hebrews who wrote this burning, searing, condemnatory passage in Hebrews 10:26-31:
If we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
But a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation, that shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace, and hath refused the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified?
For we know Him who hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will repay, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,
",For our God is a consuming fire" [Hebrews 12:29]. It is the apostle John who wrote in Revelation 20:15, "And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."
A liberal theologian said, answered, in reading these passages from the Bible, he said, "If the doctrine of damnation were written on every page of every leaf of every Bible in the whole world, I would not believe it." Fine, and beautiful. It is no thrill of heart; it is no joy of expectancy to think of the damnation, the hellfire lostness of these who refuse the grace of Christ. But I do not know of a harsher, or starker, or cruder, or ruder, or more tragic truth than this: that humanity is lost without Christ [Ephesians 2:12]. However you want to express it, theologically, or philosophically, or economically, or maritally, any way you want to say it, men are lost without God.
This is our awesome responsibility. Ever since Cain said, "Am I my brother’s keeper?" [Genesis 4:9]; ever since the prophet Ezekiel wrote, "The blood of the lost is on our hands" [Ezekiel 33:1-9]; ever since the apostle Paul, when he’d preach the gospel, said, "I bear record this day, I am pure from the blood of all men" [Acts 20:26]; thus the responsibility of the welfare and the souls of the peoples of the earth is on our hands. It is a personal responsibility. I am chargeable before God. I am born into that responsibility, I cannot escape it. Nor can our church. It is not only a personal accountability, it is an ecclesiastical responsibility. Any church that is not faithful to this great mandate, God says, as He said to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:5: "Except you turn, and do the first works, I will remove thy lampstand out of its place; except you turn."
Have you been in Ephesus? Have you been in Constantinople? Have you been in Jerusalem? Have you been in Antioch? God removed the lampstand out of those churches. They turned aside from the great commandment and mandate and commission of our Lord [Matthew 28:19-20], and they died. And when I look at the churches of England, and the churches of continental Europe, and at the churches of America, my impression is they are dying. They have forsaken the great commandment of our Lord. And instead of turning their faces outward and to the lost, they are turning their faces inward and building their ecclesiastical community in a smaller, smaller, decreasing ring around themselves, and are beginning to die.
"Well, pastor, are you so sure of that?" Well, if you don’t mind, let us look. In 1900, twenty-five percent of the world’s population was evangelical Christian. In 1981, today, it is five percent. In the year 2000, it will be less than one percent. How long is it to the year 2000? Something like eighteen years, isn’t that right? There will be less than one percent of this world that is evangelical Christian. In 1981, the world population was four billion; by the year 2000 it will be seven billion. To maintain the same ratio, that is five percent even, of Christian to non-Christian, we would have to baptize sixty-two and one-half million converts every year. We baptize five hundred thousand.
If you lined up all the lost people, that line would reach around the globe thirty times. That line is growing twenty miles longer every day. Assume we started today to drive down that line and give every person a New Testament: if we drove fifty miles per hour for ten hours each day, it would take four years and forty days to get to the place where the line ended on the day we began, because the line would have grown thirty thousand miles during that trip.
What are we facing? We are facing a world that knows not God. And it is furiously becoming entirely pagan, or heathen, or downright atheist. Our Lord has given us a strategy for world conquest: "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth" [Acts 1:8]. Our Lord was a strategist of the first order; and this is His great command for outreach.
Did you notice in the commission you read out of Luke, it said that, "beginning in Jerusalem"? [Luke 24:47]. The light that shines the farthest shines the brightest at home. If we’re not interested in the lost here, we’ll not ultimately be interested in the lost out there. And if we don’t try to win people here in our Jerusalem, we ultimately will not seek to win them across the seas. It was not just upon Simon Peter that the Holy Spirit fell at Pentecost: but the lambent flames of fire burned upward over the head of each one of the one hundred twenty [Acts 2:1-4]. And when Peter stood up, it says he "stood up with the other apostles" [Acts 2:14]. They all witnessed to the Lord. And that is our personal and inescapable assignment. It is not, "How many sermons have I preached lately?" or, "How many songs have we sung recently?" or, "How many lessons have we taught in the last few weeks?" It is, "How many people have I spoken to personally about the Lord?"
How many have you? How long has it been since you walked down this aisle and brought someone to the pastor, and said, "Pastor, by the grace of God, I have won this somebody to the Lord Jesus."? Did you ever do it? It is not hard to find why it is that our world is beginning to stumble, and to fail, and to fall before the mandate of Christ: we have failed our Lord. And when we face the whole pagan world, somehow we cringe before it.
But they didn’t: that little band of eleven, the apostles of Christ, faced the entire pagan Greco-Roman Empire with the message of redemption. They did it. That little band of twelve Baptist preachers began the modern missionary movement in the power and persuasion that God was with them. And that ought to be our commitment in our day and in our generation.
Praying for our young people, may God call them to be witnesses for Christ, some of them on the other side of the sea. And praying for ourselves, that we will have the spirit of intercession, and of burden, and of care, and of concern, whether or not the people are won to Christ or not.
This is our Thanksgiving weekend. We are thankful for God that we have bread. We are thankful to God that we have health. We are thankful to God that we live in an affluent society. But let me turn that around, if I may. Shall I be thankful to God that I have bread, while others starve? Shall I be thankful to God that I have health, while others are sick? Shall I be thankful to God that I am affluent, while others are in poverty? Shall I be thankful to God that I have the light of Christ, while others live in darkness? No. Let me be thankful to God that I have bread that I can share with somebody else; that I have strength of life, health, that I might be a blessing to the weak and the sick; that I have affluence that I might share what I have with those who need the gospel of Christ; that I have the light of God from heaven that I might bring it as a blessing and a hope to those who are in darkness.
My brother and my sister, if I had a cure for cancer, I ought to stand in this pulpit and proclaim it to the world, "I have hope! I have a cure for cancer." If I know a way out of war, I ought to stand here and proclaim it to the nations of the world. If I have a way of blessing for heart, and home, and family, and child, I owe it to the world to lift up my voice and announce it to all humanity.
I know of lands that are sunk in shame,
Of hearts that fail and tire;
But I know a Name, a Name, a Name
That can set those lands on fire.
Its sound is a brand, its letters flame,
I know a Name, a Name, a Name,
That can set those lands on fire.
[Author and Work Unknown]
There is no other way for lost and darkened and helpless humanity but in Christ our Lord: preaching Him here, sending others to preach where I can’t go, and all of us sharing in the great missionary effort of our Lord.
So every day and every service during this month of December, our wicket basket here on God’s Word, our wicket basket there on God’s Word, when we give appeal, some of us coming down that aisle to accept Jesus as Savior, some of us coming down that aisle to put our lives in this wonderful church, some of us coming down that aisle for the blessing of God in intercessory prayer, some of us coming down that aisle to answer God’s call for our lives; when you thus come, stay with the pastor; and we’ll pray together. And then some of us come down that aisle to give a special gift for our Lord, for His work in the earth; give it to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions, give it to any cause dear to your heart. But this month of December, let’s do something unusual for God.
I’ve got three services this day. I’m starting out with a thousand dollar gift at this first one. May God bless us, not only as we pray, and not only as we witness, but also as we make it possible for others to do a good work in lifting up the name of our wonderful Lord.
Now may we stand together?
Our precious Savior, there’s no one in divine presence today but would like to confess we haven’t done our best for Christ. We have been slow and hesitant, we have been dilatory and late, we’ve been selfish, and we’ve tried to consume upon our own lives the richness of God’s grace and benefits and blessings for us. We haven’t shared them as God would be pleased with. But our Lord, this service we are turning: we’re going to do better, starting right now. And we pray that this month of December will be a mighty month in the dedicatory response of our wonderful people.
And in this moment that we wait and pray, may God bless you who have it in your heart to respond. If you come to make a gift, you can go back to your seat. But if you come to give your heart to Jesus, or your life with us in the church, or to answer a call from heaven, stay with the pastor, and we can pray together.
Thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest You always give us, in Thy wonderful name, amen.
And while our people pray and wait, just for this moment of appeal, down a stairway, down an aisle, "Here I am, pastor, I’m on the way." While we sing our song, welcome, welcome.