Missions Our Mission
December 1st, 1991 @ 10:50 AM
MISSIONS OUR MISSION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-1-91 10:50 a.m.
I am your pastor, W. A. Criswell, bringing the message in keeping with our annual week of prayer for foreign missions and our Lottie Moon Christmas offering for the evangelization of the lost of the world. The title of the message is Missions Our Mission, or Our Message Is Missions.
The last words of Jesus are always doubly dear and precious to us. Any word of our Lord is profoundly significant. If we were to find another sentence it would be heralded to the entire earth. How much more so when we read our Savior’s will and testament to those who have found life in Him.
Matthew records it like this:
Jesus came, spake unto them, saying, All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the triune God,”
And teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the age.
And Mark wrote it like this:
And Jesus said to them, Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned.
Luke wrote it like this:
Jesus said to them, Thus it is written, thus it was necessary for the 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 to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And John, the sainted apostle, wrote it like this:
Jesus said to them, Peace be unto you, shalom; as the Father hath sent Me, I also send you.
And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, Receive ye the Holy Breath—
pneuma, breath, Spirit—
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
And the beginning of the Book of Acts:
You shall receive power, when the Holy Breath has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, in Judea,
in Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.
And the Bible closes with those final words of our Lord, “”I Jesus;
have sent Mine angel to testify of these things in the churches.
I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and the Morning Star.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him who is athirst come. And whosoever will—
ho thelōn, anybody—
let him take the water of life freely.
Thus the great commandment of our Lord; it is clear in its statement, most so. In this word of commission that closes the Book of Matthew, there are three participles and one imperative. The participles, poreuthentes, “going”; baptizontes, “baptizing”; didaskontes, “teaching.” And the one great imperative, mathēteusate; “Go ye therefore and mathēteustate, make disciples” [Matthew 28:19-20].
This is the command of our Lord given to all of His apostles and disciples. When Paul writes of the Great Commission of our Lord, he speaks of it as being given to over five hundred brethren at once upon an appointed mountain in Galilee [1 Corinthians 15:6]. The commission involves all of us, plainly stated and commanded by our Lord. This great commandment is clear in its interpretation and in its fulfillment.
In the Book of Acts, Jesus came and spake unto them saying, “All authority, power, is given to Me in heaven and in earth” [Matthew 28:18]. “Receive ye the Holy Spirit; and ye will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth” [Acts 1:8].
They began in Jerusalem [Acts 2-7], then preached the gospel in Samaria, the great revival under Phillip [Acts 8:5-25]; then under Simon Peter, sent to a Gentile court of a Roman soldier named Cornelius [Acts 10:1-48]. Then unknown disciples of our Lord preached the gospel in Antioch, the second great city of the Roman Empire, and the hand of the Lord was with them, preaching the gospel to the Greeks, to Gentiles [Acts 11:20-21]. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch [Acts 11:26]. Then out of Antioch the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Me these that I have called for the missionary ministries beyond this great city” [Acts 13:2]. And Paul and Barnabas and Silas and Dr. Luke took the message of the Lord to the whole Roman Empire [Acts 13:2-28:31].
Then, continuing that marvelous ministry of outreach and mission, in 596 Augustine carried the message to our ancestors, the Anglo-Saxons in Kent in southeast England. And preaching the gospel to Ethelbert the king and to the princess he married who had become a Christian, Bertha; they were won to the Lord, and on a Christmas day ten thousand of those Anglo-Saxons, our ancestors, were baptized into the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And continuing that glorious ministry, those English people sent to the New World of America, the Puritans. And to Rhode Island, our Baptist progenitors, Roger Williams and John Clarke, building their First Baptist Church in Providence and their First Baptist Church in Newport; then beyond the Alleghenies, these emissaries of the courts of heaven pressed westward—through the wilderness, through the great expanse of mid-America, and finally out to where I was. And there on that New Mexico-Texas line, old Brother Gant, a pioneer preacher of the gospel of Christ, brought the saving message to us.
How gracious and good God has been that we have heard, and in the Holy Spirit have accepted, the saving grace of our Lord; not only clear in its statement, not only clear in its interpretation, but also clear in its urgency.
It’s an unusual thing that the greatest chapter in the Bible, the third of John, closes with this verse, “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son hath not life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him” [John 3:36]. In that same avowal, Simon Peter preached in Acts 4:12, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” And the apostle Paul took that word to himself as he answered God’s call to be an emissary of heaven, an ambassador for Jesus. And he writes:
If I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of: for anankē—
Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is me, if I preach not the gospel!
For if I do this, hekōn, I have a reward: but if akōn, I am entrusted with an oikonomian—
hekōn, “willingly”; akōn, “unwillingly—
Whether I do it willingly, or under necessity, anankē, unwillingly,
I must preach the gospel, for an oikonomia has been entrusted to me.
[1 Corinthians 9:16-17]
“I am a slave in a kingdom of our Lord and I have no other choice”; we are disciples of our Lord, and as such we have an oikonomia, a stewardship entrusted from His gracious saving hands, and I must be true to it until death [1 Corinthians 9:16-17].
Now, out of a vast array of godly men and women, who have through these two centuries borne the good news of salvation to the kingdoms and nations of the world, I have chosen two, two women.
The first one is the first woman missionary to China. Her father was a Baptist minister in Virginia. And at a camp meeting, a Baptist camp meeting, she gave her heart not only to the Lord, but to be an emissary from abroad. And at this time, there was no division between the North and the South, and the Triennial Convention appointed her and the young man she had just married to be missionaries to China, our first to the East.
In Hong Kong there is a place called Happy Valley. And in that Happy Valley, our missionaries are buried. And as I walked through Happy Valley, looking at those stone monuments to our missionaries, I copied this one of her:
FIRST AMERICAN FEMALE MISSIONARY TO CHINA.
THE Rev. Addison Hall Of Virginia, United States.
The REV. J. LEWIS SHUCK, MISSIONARY TO CHINA
American Baptist Board for Foreign Missions.
Born October 28, 1817.
Married Eighth of September 1835.
Arrived in China, September 1836.
In the prime of life, in the midst of her labors, and in
the meridian of her usefulness, suddenly but
SHE DIED AT HONG KONG, NOVEMBER 27, 1844,
AGED 27 YEARS.
Then, carved, “[Hallowed] and blessed is the memory of the good.” That’s our first woman missionary out of America.
My second one, a woman: there was a gloriously gifted and learned man of God from Scotland named Robert Moffatt, called of God to be a missionary in the midst of the last century. He went to South Africa. In Cape Town, there came word to him that there was a big giant of a heathen South African, named Afrikaner, and he intimidated and terrified all who would even come near to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. And Robert Moffatt said, “I’m going to find him and convert him.” He was gone months and months; people thought that either lions or a wild Southern tribe had slain him, devoured him, killed him. But, after those months, into the town of Cape Town walked Robert Moffatt, with a giant by his side named Afrikaner. When they walked into the city, word spread that Afrikaner had come. And they fled in terror at the thought of his presence. But Robert Moffatt said, “He’s a Christian. He’s a child of God.” And they gathered around in amazement and wonder. And Afrikaner went back into his tribe and throughout southern Africa, welcoming the men of God and the women of the Lord who were naming the saving name of Jesus our Lord.
Up there in Scotland was a young man by the name of David Livingstone, felt called of God to give his life as a missionary and went down to South Africa. He writes, so David Livingstone says in his journal, he writes, he never intended to marry. He was going to give his whole life and strength just to the Lord. But when he came to South Africa, he met Robert Moffatt’s beautiful daughter named Mary. And he fell in love and he married Mary Moffatt. And Mary Moffatt went with David Livingstone in those long and grueling missionary exploratory journeys in all of Central and East and West Africa.
Now, Livingstone was sitting by the side a rude bed formed of boxes, but covered with a soft mattress, on which lay his dying wife, Mary. She was sinking into the depths of slumber, darkness, and death. And the man who had faced so many deaths and braved so many dangers was now utterly broken and weeping like a child. “Commend her spirit to God,” Livingstone asked of a missionary friend. So, kneeling down, they prayed by her bedside. A coffin was made during the night, and the next morning she was buried under the branches of a great baobab tree. She, as her husband was later to do, gave her heart to the Africa they both so dearly loved.
These are the examples of the emissaries from heaven who have preceded us in giving their lives for the saving of the lost. O God, what a great company to which we belong and whose footsteps we have privilege to follow.
Let me close with a word in another vein. The Great Commission in Matthew avows, “You go…and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age” [Matthew 28:19-20]. If we will go—either we or through our gifts, going through somebody else—God says He will be with us. So in these days past, I became a close and intimate friend with Cameron Townsend, the founder of the Wycliffe Bible Missionaries. And summer after summer, I would go with Uncle Cam on missionary journeys to Central America or to South America.
And in those days, there were five of those missionaries that were killed by the Auca Indians, five of them, slain at one time. And two women, one a sister of one that had been killed, one the wife of one that had been killed, went into that tribe and won them to the Lord. So down there in Ecuador and Peru with Uncle Cam, he insisted that I go visit those Auca Indians. He put me in a little one-seater plane with a pilot and away we took off in bad weather, and landed in the jungle in a little open area. And when I got out, no sooner had my foot touched the ground, than I was accosted by the one woman of the two who lived there with that Acua tribe.
And the first thing that she said to me she said, “I want you to know I am not responsible for your life.” Dear me, what a welcome! She said, “The Auca tribe down the river, the down-river Aucas are momentarily expected here to wipe us out, and here you are. And not only that, but this weather! When the weather is like this, sometimes it takes two or three months for a plane to come in and get out. And here you are; and I want you to know, I am not responsible for your life.”
I looked around at those Acua Indians, and it scared the loving daylights out of me, just looking at them. Some of them were the most vicious-looking creatures I ever saw in my born days! And there I was, walking around among those people, frightened to death.
Well, they decided to have a service, and I was to conduct it for them. And their church was a high platform, about fifteen to twenty feet high, and, then above that, a thatched roof. The men went up there to church, shimmied up those poles. Goodnight alive! I said to one of them, “You see that tree right there?” It was a hundred feet up there to the first branches. I said, “Can you climb that tree?” He went right up, just like that. All the men shimmied up those poles to that platform they called church. And I came climbing up the steps with the pregnant women and the children—I tell you!
Well, we all gathered there, the entire tribe. And I was, as I say, scared to death. What that woman had said to me about those downriver Aucas coming any minute, any moment, and slaying the whole tribe—that included me, she had said. Well, when we started, they said to me, “Would you sing us a song?” Their songs had only two notes, just two notes; and our songs with several notes was a miracle to them. I said, “I’d love to.” So, I stood up there at the front of that group and I sang “Amazing Grace.” Well, I sang the first stanza, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…” And I don’t know why, but inadvertently and unplannedly, I skipped the second stanza, and I sang the third stanza.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Twas grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will take care of me and lead me home.
[“Amazing Grace,” John Newton, 1779]
Sweet people, I can’t describe it; I had one of those strange experiences that come just once in a while, once in a life. Fearful and terrified and frightened as I was, when I got through singing that third stanza, “’Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” I had the most indescribable peace and quiet in my heart that you could ever experience, and I wasn’t afraid anymore. Isn’t that what He said? You obey, you follow after, you be true to the faith, and I will be with you to the end of the age [Matthew 28:20]. That promise is for all of us when we do God’s work and will Jesus is with us. Oh, bless His wonderful and saving name.