OUR MISSION IS HIS COMMISSION
By William Graham, Missionary to Spain
Christ didn’t just say, “Preach!” He said, “Go ye into all the world and preach!” Christianity, from day one, was a mighty missionary movement fuelled by a zealous passion for the glory of God and whole-hearted obedience to His Great Commission. The late BH Clendennen was fond of saying, “You don’t debate the Great Commission; you obey it!” Never have truer words been spoken. The Holy Spirit is the missionary Spirit who equips and guides the saints who dare to venture out in holy obedience. It was this Spirit that urged John Wesley to utter, “The world is my parish”. Every Bible reader knows that the New Testament is mission-focused: it is upwards-looking and outwards-looking.
Most believers, however, are surprised to find that missionary principles are shown forth in the Old Testament. Our God is eternal and universal. His Gospel is a universal message and His mission is a universal one. God is the Creator of mankind: a race that due to the radical effects of sin has lost contact with Him. We are all created in His image and likeness, yet dead in trespasses and sins. Hence the desperate need of salvation. Scripture shows us a Good Shepherd who goes in search of His lost sheep to bring them back to the fold. As soon as Adam fell; the Lord prophesied of a coming redemption (Genesis 3:15).
His pact with Abraham was to be universal in its scope (and not just national), “In you shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). God called His people with the purpose of making them “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6), that is, mediators between God and men. Israel was to show forth the glory of the Lord of hosts. The Psalms are conscious of the universal proclamation of God’s glory among all peoples: “let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (Psalm 67:4) and “sing unto the Lord all the earth” (Psalm 96:1). Jonah, for example, stands as a perfect personification of God’s merciful call unto other nations. Missions are everywhere present in the Old Covenant.
In the New Testament, Christ Himself was a missionary. It was David Livingstone who commented, “God had only one Son and He made Him a missionary”. He was the Servant of the Lord who was to bring light unto the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6). In Christ, the Son of God became man so that men could become sons of God. Church history has been correct to realize that His incarnation has a gracious saving purpose behind it. He was the fulfillment of the promise given to Adam in the Garden and to Abraham in Ur. The Word took on flesh to draw men unto Himself.
Christ’s commands made the church a centre of missionary activity. The book of Acts witnesses the church reaching out to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and unto the ends of the earth. Pentecost birthed forth a fierce missionary output. The Spirit refused to allow the saints to sit still playing religious games while the rest of the world went to hell around about them. He urged them forth into all the world. The Spirit was sent to convince the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). And Jesus was careful to command the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they had received that mighty power from on high (Luke 24:49). His commission is based upon His omnipotence, “All power is given unto me in heaven and earth. Go ye therefore” (Matthew 28:18-19). And those first disciples were faithful to the end. Only death stopped them from pressing on.
Now we are a nation of priests unto God; debtors unto Jews and Gentiles; ambassadors for Christ, as if God Himself were calling men unto Himself through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). In my travels throughout Europe and Central America, I have noticed that the healthiest churches are those that have a strong burden for missions and actively support them in prayer and finances. When Pentecost came to Azusa Street over 100 years ago, the result was a flood of missionaries to the corners of the earth; and the same is true of such churches today. The fullness of the Holy Spirit is not just for goose-bumps and a ‘feel-good’ experience; it spurs us on to serve the Lord with boldness and courage. After all, true worship is obedience.
The great problem today is that we don’t believe that the Gospel is necessary. We have become accustomed to the message of Christ and Him crucified. But God-glorifying missions are always the fruit of souls captivated by the majesty of our Triune God. John Piper called missions, “An overflow of our delight in God”. We do missions because they are the will of God. Our mission is His commission. And the Holy Ghost is our Missions Director. Whatever happened to the days of Acts when the requirement for a missionary was the fullness of the Spirit and a clear calling by Him? In 2010, there are church organizations that won’t let you be a missionary until you’ve got a doctorate in ecclesiastical psychology, policy and politics. One Protestant denomination announces to its potential ‘missionaries’: “it is preferable that you be a Christian”. Where have we got to? The reason for so much of our church infighting and pettiness is precisely because we’ve forgotten the urgency of the divine mandate to preach the Gospel to every creature.
Where are the men like Rowland Bingham who exclaimed, “I will open Africa to the Gospel or I will die trying!” Are we here on earth to clap our hands and flirt about with the world or to preach this glorious Gospel until we drop? Or what about C.T. Studd who gave his whole life up to serve God: “Some wish to live within the second of a church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue ship within a yard of hell”? And what shall we say of Zinzendorf, “I have but one passion: it is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ”? There was a time when a fire-filled breed of men arose that stuck their chest out against death and demons in divine defiance, knowing that He who was with them was more than all of those that were against them. They laughed off struggles; and stuck their fist up against hell’s opposition. The devil snarled at them; but they roared back! They shed blood, sweat and tears; theirs was a faith of fire! They were soldiers; and may God grant us a multitude like that in these days!
If you want peace, there is plenty of peace in the cemetery. If you want life, glory and passion, I can only repeat to you the words of the Master, “Go ye into all the world and preach!” I invite you to read of souls like Hudson Taylor, Alexander MacKay, James Gilmour, William Carey, Henry Martyn and Robert Moffat, etc. Their lofty spirituality takes our professed Christianity by the throat and puts it to shame. They were saints who could pray with David Brainerd, “Send me even to death itself, if it be but in Thy service; and to promote Thy kingdom”. Would you hide the cure for cancer? Would you let a man stay asleep in a blazing house? Would you steal the water of a dying, thirsty people? We owe this world the Gospel!
Have you obeyed the call of the Master? What have you done with His most holy command? If you don’t believe in missions; you don’t believe in the God of the Bible.