The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Dr. S. E. Anderson
The missionary work of Christian churches did not begin in the book of Acts, although its rapid expansion is told there.
The missionary work of Christ's first church began in the Gospels. Some verses are mere hints of this task, while others are clear indications of the worldwide scope of the gospel. The twelve disciples were given repeated instructions as to their missionary program in places near and far.
The first church consisted of Jews. They were narrowly patriotic, much like Jonah who would rather not have Gentiles saved at all. The Twelve likely shared the prevailing sentiment of other Jews as to their being the chosen people. But God had chosen them to be the missionary nation to the world (Ex. 9:16; Num. 14:21; I Sam. 14:36; Ps. 66:4).
The Lord Jesus began teaching Missions to them early. Consider these items:
1. "Ye are the salt of the earth ... Ye are the light of the world ... Let your light so shine before men" (Matt. 5:13-16). In order to be the salt of the earth, Christians must go all over the earth, even as Christ indicated more clearly in His Great Commission. As for a lighting system, Christ is its organizer and power house; the Holy Spirit is its wireless transmission system; the churches and mission stations are light houses, while individual Christians carry this heavenly light into every place where unsaved souls are to be found.
2. "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying ... as ye go preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand ... freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:5-8). This well-organized missionary venture was meant for Jewish people; later on the Samaritans and Gentiles would get similar attention. The significant fact is that this first little church became active in missions, every member of it. Let no one minimize this pioneer work until his own church equals it. Jesus gave a prophetic foreview of missionary work. "Ye shall be brought before governors and kings ... And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake" (Matt. 10:17-23). This shows the worldwide scope of Christ's plans for missions.
3. "The field is the world" (Matt. 13:38). Jesus was explaining the Parable of the Tares to His disciples. The sower is the Son of Man and the good seed are the children of the kingdom. Then Christian witnesses are to be "sown" in all parts of the earth. The devil will continue to sow his tares which will in the end of this age be gathered and burned. But the righteous will be assembled by angels, and shall finally shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Jesus emphasized all this by His solemn assertion. "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 13:37-43). The more missionary work we do, the fewer will be the tares.
4. "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10). This is part of the Olivet discourse on eschatology, or last things. It is a clear announcement of His missionary plans for the whole earth. That churches have been slow to obey Christ is seen in the fact that the world now has more unsaved than ever, and the ratio of Christians to pagans is decreasing. The remedy? A stepped-up, accelerated, intensified missionary drive with emphasis on making each convert another missionary.
5. "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman bath done, be told for a memorial of her (Matt. 26:13). On the eve of Christ's betrayal and trial, a woman anointed the head of Christ with precious ointment for His burial (verses 6-12). The disciples complained about "this waste" but if all Christians loved the Lord as this woman did, and gave as generously, then His Great Commission would have shown more success by now.
6. "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 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" (Matt. 28:18-20). This missionary mandate was repeated in Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:47 and in Acts 1:8. Here all power, all nations, all things, and all times are included. The power is the risen Christ, mediated to us by the Holy Spirit. The nations include all human beings. The "all things" include muck but only baptism is mentioned specifically. The "always." began with the Twelve and continues until Christ's return.
7. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils" (Mark 3:14, 15). The mistaken view is often heard that not until Pentecost was power given to Christian witnesses to do missionary work. The Christian program was much the same after Pentecost as before, except that the omnipresent Spirit replaced the physical Christ. But the power given in Matthew was as great as that bestowed in the Acts.
8. "And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth two by two; and gave them power over unclean spirits ... And they went out, and preached that men should repent" (Mark 6:7, 12). This preaching of repentance, it should be recalled, was actually the preaching of conversion. Thus the gospel in Mark 6 was similar to that in Acts and after, even until now.
9. "And then shall he send his angels; and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven" (Mark 13:27). This prophecy clearly indicates that missionary work, and much of it, must be done before every part of the earth has saved people.
10. "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, -I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:10). This is the first intimation in the Gospels that all the earth was to benefit by Christ's coming. The shepherds went "with haste" to see the little Lord Jesus. Having seen the Savior of the world, the "shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God" (Luke 2:20).
11. "Then he called his twelve disciples together... And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. .. And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere" (Luke 9:1, 2, 6). One wonders how many thousands of converts these twelve men won for Christ.
12. "After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two by two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest" (Luke 10:1, 2). With 35 missionary teams working, how great was that harvest! Small wonder that Christ rejoiced at their enthusiastic report.
13. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). This Messiah, said the Baptist, was for the whole world. And even though Peter heard it again, he needed a special miracle to convince him to go to the Gentiles (Acts 10, 11). And years after, Peter fell into the narrow rut of Jewish separatism from which Paul warned him (Gal. 2:1114).
14. "For God so loved the world ... that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:16.17). Many people have glibly recited these missionary verses, and then give little or nothing to missions! A missionary to the Aucas said, "He who gives what he cannot keep will gain what he cannot lose."
15. "And many more [Samaritans] believed because of his own word ... Now we believe ... that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world" (John 4:41, 42). Christ's mission into. Samaria taught His disciples broadmindedness. If the gospel succeeded in Samaria it could succeed anywhere on earth.
16. "For the bread of God ... giveth life unto the world ... my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:33, 51). This gospel for the world offers "life forever," the same as is now proclaimed wherever Christian missions go.
17. "Then spake Jesus ... I am the light of the world" (John 8:12, 9:5). This is "the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (Matt. 4:16; Luke 2:32; John 1:9). But this Light needs many more light bearers.
18. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). Response to Christ's sacrifice is universal. Honest hearts everywhere vibrate to His love.
19. "I am come a light into the world ... I came not to judge: the world but to save the world", (John, 12:46, 47). How, often one hears condemnation instead of Christ's repeated assurance that He came not to judge the world. He came to save it! We should accentuate the positive as Christ did.
20. "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world" (John 17:18). It is wonderful to be compared with the Lord Jesus! We have the same message and mission as His. We are commissioned by the Lord of Glory. We carry good news. We tell of redemption accomplished. We bring love where there is hate, hope in place of despair, knowledge to displace ignorance, health to replace disease - this is our task. The "gathered church" is to scatter the good seed.
21. "To this end I was born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice" (John 18:37). Honest people, those who are "of the truth," will respond to Christ's gospel through our voices. Truth responds to truth, as a tuning fork responds to its matching tone from a piano.
22. "Ye shall be witnesses unto me ... unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). With Christ away personally, we need the indwelling Spirit individually, to empower us. A heart filled with love for Christ, and a determination to obey Him, is strong evidence that the Holy Spirit fills us. With a gospel firmly rooted in the four Gospels we can speak with confidence, thus repeating the exploits of those whose courageous labors are recorded in the last 23 books of the New Testament.
In summary, the first church was built by the Lord Jesus Christ, on the apostles who had been indoctrinated previously by Spirit-filled John the Baptist. Every member was Christ-centered, disciplined by the Master Himself, evangelistic in purpose, free from civic and political entanglements, gathered out from the world to be a holy and dedicated company, moulded by the Lord Jesus to serve as an ideal for later generations, joyful in their Lord's company and service, kind in disposition even as Christ, localized in organization and identity, wholly committed to the worldwide mission of bearing witness to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only possible Savior of the world.
We can claim the four Gospels as the charter and constitution of our churches. We claim Christ, why not His words? The entire New Testament is for us, not merely a part. We need not divide this contemporary Testament into dispensational compartments. Our New Testament age began with the first verses of the four Gospels.
Each Christian can give himself completely to Christ through his church, and thus to all the world. Our Lord has no other plan, except the churches, to save the lost.
Each obedient believer can claim real kinship with the Christ and with the church of the Gospels. We have the same Savior, commission, program, motive and message as the apostles had, before and after Pentecost. And our Lord has given to us the Holy Spirit for comfort, understanding and power. As we obey Him in exalting Christ, we become like the First Church.
Let us not buy a mess of pottage, such as extreme dispensationalism or liberal ecumenicism, with our precious birthright of church truth as found so abundantly in the Gospels!