How Salvation Reaches the Ends of the Earth (Romans Sermon 78 of 120)
September 04, 2005 | Andrew Davis
Evangelism, Missions, Preaching
Dramatic Moment in the History of Missions
I think every preacher would like to preach just one time in their life something that would be called a deathless sermon, a sermon that lives in the minds and the hearts of the hearers. I know, as the pastor of a local church seeking to minister the word of God in week after week after week, that you can't rise to those heights every week. It's enough just faithfully to open the word and share those things that would be beneficial and strengthening to the body. I do not, therefore, promise that every sermon will be better than the previous one. I can't keep that up for long. But there was a dramatic moment in the history of missions, the history of the church, on Wednesday, May 30, 1792, when William Carey preached what came to be known as the 'Deathless sermon.' He was at a missions conference in Nottingham, England and he preached based on Isaiah 54:2-3. Earlier that year, he had written a seminal work, an incredible work on missions called An Inquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. Basically, Christians ought to do what they can and show great effort and ingenuity towards the salvation of those who've never heard the Gospel. And that was radical and revolutionary for Protestants at his time.
Now he gets up to preach this deathless sermon, and it came in basically two points, a two-point outline. Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God. And his application was missions. Now the ministry of William Carey in 1792 was directed toward one end, and that was dispelling attacks against the missionary ideal. There were people, Protestants, in this age that said that we don't need to be involved in missions. Specifically, some ministers who held in a strong way to the overall sovereignty of God over all things. God rules over all things. Their application of that is, therefore we don't need to be involved in missions. And so William Carey is seeking to defend the concept that we need to be willing to go even to the ends of the earth to share the Gospel with those who haven't heard.
I believe that's exactly what the apostle Paul's doing here in Romans 10 as well. Because his ministry was also being attacked, viciously attacked by the Jews of his age. They were vigorously against his preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles. And so Paul here is giving, I think, a defense for his ministry. And in so doing he gives us really, I think, a timeless defense of cross-cultural evangelism and missions, the imperative that we have to go even to the ends of the earth to share the Gospel. Look what it says. You've just heard it read, but the beginning of verse 13, "'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.'"
Redemption Accomplished and Applied
When I was in seminary I read an incredible book on the theology of salvation. It was written by John Murray and was called Redemption Accomplished and Applied. We believe that the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross of Calvary, was sufficient for the sins of all people of all times. There's nothing deficient in the shedding of the blood of Christ, nothing incomplete in it. And when he said, "It is finished", that part of the redemptive plan of God was finished, but the redemptive history was not. There was still the need to take that blood of Christ and apply it to lost people, for their individual and personal salvation. And that's been the story of the church for the last 2,000 years. Redemption was accomplished by Jesus Christ, now it's being applied by the Holy Spirit through the church.
And what a glorious story it's been, it's an incredible journey. Jesus laid out the road map. Already had it been laid out in the Old Testament, and he just merely, after his resurrection, in the short 40 days he had with his disciples after he rose from the dead and before he ascended to the right hand of God Almighty, he spent some time with his disciples and trained them and taught them in what their work was going to be now. And it says in Luke 24:46-48. "He told them, 'This is what is written, that Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.'"
Brothers and sisters, the journey from Jerusalem to Irian Jaya has been the most glorious journey in human history. It's a journey of blood and toil and tears and courage, a journey of death, of martyrdom, of ingenuity and creativity, a journey of love. And it's been remarkable. It's a story, the apostles, who, tradition has them going as far east as India, as far south as the Sudan, as far west as Spain, as far north as Cyrenae, Central Asia. The apostles, that first generation, traveled all around, and all of them paid for their ministry with their lives, except the apostle John, who died in exile at Patmos. And from the apostolic age until today, the Gospel has traveled across mountain ranges, raging white water rivers and burning sands of the desert, tundra, jungles, oceans to reach the ends of the earth, and it's been incredible.
The Theological Underpinnings of the Long March of the Gospel
Now I think the long march of the Gospel is worth studying. But I think it's also vital for us to understand the theological underpinnings of why it was right to go. Those questions are still in front of us today as they were in William Carey's era. We still need to have a defense for cross-cultural missions. We need to have a defense for it in our pluralistic age in which people doubt the idea of absolute truth, and therefore would definitely doubt the missionary endeavor. They would say, "Why in the world would you want to export something like that to the ends of the earth?" And so we have to make a defense. But it's always been that way even in Baptist history. One of the shocking things I learned in the last four or five years about Baptist history is there was something called the anti-missions movement in the 19th century, and a number of churches were against the organization of Baptist churches for the purpose of missions.
That was the beginning of the Southern Baptist denomination, was that individual churches be organized for the purpose of great commission work. But there was a backlash movement that said, "We don't need to be doing that." Frequently, the churches espousing this were talking about the absolute sovereignty of God, and that there was no need for us to get involved in that. And they didn't want to contribute any money to missions. And so, for all time in history, we have had to defend the missionary endeavor, to defend it. The apostle Paul had to do it. Just to set some context here, in Romans 9-11.
The apostle Paul is dealing with the problem of the Jews, his own countrymen, who were almost universally rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that was greatly troubling to the apostle Paul, greatly troubling. And so he's dealing with that question. And in the middle of that whole section, Romans 9-11, he's dealing with, I think, the fact that part of their bitter opposition to the Gospel was their bitter opposition of Paul's ministry to the Gentiles. They hated the idea that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had any saving intent toward the Gentiles. It bothered them. And so they opposed his preaching to the Gentiles vigorously. A good example, this is just a little note of Paul's life and ministry, and that is his ministry to the Thessalonian Jews and then in Berea, and then what happened after that. Just a little slice of the Book of Acts and 1 Thessalonians 2, it says in Acts 17:13, "When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there, too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up."
You could almost ask some of these Jews, "What's your occupation or hobby, or what do you like to do?" "I like to follow Paul around everywhere he goes, and stir up mob scenes against him." They were against his preaching ministry. And they left behind their own work and their own lives so that they could pursue Paul and make trouble for him everywhere he went. And Paul talks about it in the 1 Thessalonians 2, he said, "You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches in Judea, suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets and also drove us out. They displeased God and are hostile to all men, listen, in their effort to keep us from speaking to the gentiles, so that they may be saved." So they were bitterly against Paul's missionary efforts toward the Gentiles, and I think what Paul's doing here, in Romans 10:13-15 is he's defending his ministry, as the apostle to the gentiles, concerning the preaching of the Gospel. But he's doing more than that, because he's giving a kind of a universal rationale for the preaching of the gospel to anybody, Jew or Gentile. Everybody gets saved the same way. That's what we talked about last time, in verse 13, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved," Jew or Gentile, and therefore, we must preach. The Gospel must be proclaimed or people cannot be saved."
I. A Glorious Chain of Questions
Now, Paul is defending his minister and he does so with a glorious chain of questions. You see it there in verses 13-15. He begins with the basis. Theologically, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. That's how we get saved. Just by way of review, we talked about this over the last two weeks. What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord? Well, the analogy I use last week is of a drowning man or woman, they're not going to just out of pride, they're not going to say anything until they are convinced that they're drowning, because it's just embarrassing. And so somebody who calls on the name of the Lord is stripped of any self-illusions that they can save themselves, any illusions of their own righteousness they realize they cannot, they will not be saved unless Jesus saves. And so they call in Christ's name. Now what does it mean to call in his name? Well, it means to acknowledge what has been revealed about the Lord. What is his character? What are his great acts in history and what are his promises?
That's what we talked about, to call in the name of the Lord, to call on his character, to call on his acts in history, to call on his promises and say, "Lord, what you have done for them in the past, do it for me now, save my soul."
Well, that's what it means to call on the name of the Lord. Now, Paul digs a little deeper concerning that process and in so doing, he's defending the ministry of the Gospel, he's defending missions, he's defending evangelism, and he does it with a glorious chain of questions. Verse 14, "How then can they call on the one they have not believed in, and how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard, and how can they hear without someone preaching to them, and how can they preach unless they are sent?" Now, all of these questions are what we call rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are questions that are asked for an effect in an argument. When you're making a presentation generally, they're questions that everyone knows the answer to, but you ask the question to draw the audience into your way of thinking, to kind of make them say back what it is that you see to be the truth.
And so he's asking questions that everyone knows the answer and they all assume a negative answer like this. No one can call in somebody they don't believe in, can they? Of course not, and no one can believe in somebody of whom they've never heard, can they? Well, of course not. And how could anyone hear or know about somebody unless someone tells them. There's no way that we could understand something unless somebody tells us. And how can they be told, unless they're sent? All of these things are just assuming an answer. And in so doing, he is making a defense. Now, Paul's assumptions here are amazing, they are deep and strong and worthy of study.
Look at the first one. "How then can they call on the one they have not believed in?" Basically, no one can call on someone they don't believe in, can they? That's what he's saying. What this means to me is before any one cries out to the Lord for salvation, before any sinner's prayer gets prayed, there is first justifying faith. First, the heart believes, then the call goes out. And we've learned from moments for and again and again that that's the faith that saves us, we are justified by that inside faith. When we have come to faith in Christ, the Lord sees and he justifies us, and then out comes the call in the name of the Lord. And so, you can't call in somebody you've not believed in. The call comes after the faith, the faith is the first thing then. We first believe, and then comes the call. But before the faith, you have to hear.
Prior to faith is hearing. "How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?" Before you can call in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, you have to hear of him, and know of his life and his saving work. We were going out yesterday and inviting people to a picnic that we're going to have today in our International Sunday School. And I was talking to a man from an East Asian nation. He'd been here for a year and I asked him if he knew about Jesus Christ and he just kind of smiled, he said, "Well, that's what people say when they get angry or hurt themselves in this country."
I couldn't believe it. I said, "Well, you don't know anything else?" "No." All he knew was Jesus Christ is a swear word in America. I thought, we have a journey to travel, don't we. I didn't know how long I was going to get at his doorstep, I had, as it turned out about seven or eight minutes and I saw it to begin to tell him something about Christ, and who we believe he is. That He is God and he entered human history 2000 years ago.
And he was tracking, he was saying, "Oh, what happened before that?" He said, "The history of my country goes several thousand years before that," and so I had to talk about how he had always existed but he chose in the middle of history to enter in a human body. And so we got into this discussion, so already he was starting to hear in somebody he never heard of before, but he sure couldn't call on that one until he'd heard of him. And that's what Paul is getting at. You have to hear that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, that he lived a sinless life, that he did incredible miracles, taught incredible things, that he claimed to be God in the flesh, that he was rejected by his own people, and killed for blasphemy, that he died on the cross, that he shed his blood as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, he died in our place, and that God raised him from the dead on the third day. You have to have those basic facts and without those facts and the promises that are connected with it, you can't call in the name of the Lord, you can't believe in him.
And so prior to faith is hearing and in Paul's flow of questions here, prior to hearing is preaching. Look at verse 14. "How can they hear without someone preaching to them?" Basically Paul's assumption here is you can't discern anything about Jesus of Nazareth from anything but preaching the preaching of the Gospel. Now, he's already told us in Romans 1:20 that you can discern a creator from creation. It says in Romans 1:20, "Since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." What does that mean? By looking at a sunrise or sunset, by looking at a starry night, by looking at a majestic mountain range, or looking at an interesting bird, like an ostrich or something like that, or even looking at yourself, physically, you can discern there must be a creator and he must be powerful, and he must be loving, and he must be good, you can discern certain qualities about God, but you cannot discern Jesus Christ the redeemer by looking at physical created things. You have to be told about him. You have to be told by a preacher and without a preacher, no one will know a thing about Jesus Christ.
And then the final step is prior to preaching is sending. These preachers must be sent. How can they preach unless they are sent? I believe Paul is referring initially, immediately to himself, he was a sent one to preach the Gospel, the word apostle. He's constantly referring to himself as an apostle, apostle literally means in the Greek one who is sent, a messenger of a king or a governor, sent with a message, an important message. He is a sent one. And there must be a journey traveled and there must be some news to be sent with the sent one. That's what an apostle was. Well, who does the sending?
Well, the apostle Paul was very clear about this, in Galatians 1:1, this is what he says, "Paul an apostle sent not from men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the father who raised him from the dead." Who sent Paul? Well, yes, the church of Antioch laid their hands on and send him off.
Definitely, and they're praying for him. But it was not the church of Antioch, that sent the apostle Paul in his missionary journeys. Local churches like ours, we can get involved in seeing what God's doing in a person's life and laying hands and saying, "We're with you, we want to pray with you, we're going to join with you." But God has called these people. It is God who does the sending. It is God who sent the apostle Paul. It was God who sent Christ Jesus as the first apostle. It's called he's the apostle of our faith in Hebrews. And it says that he was sent by God the father. Listen to this, speaking of Christ. In Luke 4:42 through 44, it says, "At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them." They wanted Jesus to be their private Messiah or their private preacher and wonder worker. "Just stay here, we'll feed you well. We got a job for you here."
And Jesus says, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God," that's the Gospel, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." He was a sent preacher of the Gospel sent by God the father. And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. Well, in like manner, Jesus then commissioned the apostles and sent them as well. It says in Mark 3 that he designated 12 of them to be apostles that they should be with them and that he might send them to preach. They were sent out by Christ to preach.
And then this is consummated after Jesus' resurrection. In John 20 Jesus said, he shows them his hands and his sides, they look at the physical evidence of his resurrection, they're overjoyed at the evidence that Jesus has defeated death. Oh, what a night to be there, the night of the resurrection, that first Sunday. What an incredible time that must have been. And Jesus giving the physical evidence of his resurrection, he said this, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Well, that's powerful, isn't it? They were commissioned to go, commissioned by Jesus himself. And then he said this, "With that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'" So the mission, they're going on as a mission, for the forgiveness of sins, they're proclaiming a gospel by which people's sins will be forgiven.
Well, I think that this commission… Let's not make the mistake that some have made in church history of thinking that this commission was only for that first generation of apostles. Some have made that mistake in church history, that is false because it says in Matthew 24:14, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Friends, is the end here yet? No, the end is not here, or we'd be in the new heavens and the new earth. You don't miss something like that, friends. We would know. Some said the end has already come. Hymenaeus and Philetus in 2 Timothy said the resurrection has already taken place. How do you make that work? It seems like everything is about like it was. Friends, the end hasn't come yet. And you know what that means? The preaching ministry isn't done yet, there's still work to be done. Another evidence is the great commission itself in Matthew 28:20 it says, "And surely I will be with you," plural, "always to the end of the age." Clearly Jesus intended a sent preaching ministry to the end of the age.
You know what that means? That means some people in our generation are sent as well. I'm going to argue that if we're healthy Christians, we're all sent and that we should be saying what Isaiah said, "Here am I, send me." Give me a specific portion of this ministry of reconciliation. Give me a job to do. Give me a place in the harvest to work. I don't want to be left out. It says in Proverbs, a disgraceful son sleeps during the harvest. I don't want to be sleeping during the harvest time, I want to be involved, I don't want to be left out or left behind. I want to be involved in what you're doing, Lord.
II. The Beauty of the Missionary History
And so, I believe that missionary history is one of the most beautiful things there's ever been. The beauty of missionary history. Look what the Apostle Paul says, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news." He's quoting Isaiah here, Isaiah 52:7, which we heard read for us earlier. "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" That's the message. God is sovereign, even over sin and death.
Our God is a king. Repent and enter the kingdom of God, that's the message. And so Isaiah was foreseeing a day when messengers would go out all over with beautiful feet and take this incredible message, and take it to the ends of the earth. And that's being fulfilled, and has been in the last 2000 years. Now, in the ancient world when things were technologically at a different level than they are today, there were still these mighty empires. And if an emperor, a single man, wanted to control his extensive empire, he had to develop a network of communication, of couriers, and of roads, and of other things so that messages could be taken from his throne to the ends of his empire and he could receive news back, perhaps of a rebellion that's rising or some other issue in his empire. There has to be an interconnection of communication. The Roman Empire had it for sure; 51,000 miles of Roman roads. Satellite photos show that they are in some of the most efficient places in all of Europe. It's incredible what the Romans did. Some modern highways are built on those ancient Roman roads and they were such an effective form of intercommunication in the Roman Empire. So also in the new world, when Cortez landed in Mexico, he found some runners from Montezuma of the Aztecs that ran back, and within 24 hours, Montezuma had full information about Cortez, how many men he had, what he had with him, it was 260 miles away, 24 hours later.
So there's this system of couriers and of messengers who take the message by foot. Nowadays, we of course have the Internet and we have cell phones and all kinds of stuff in the world to become a small place. But back then, the news traveled mostly by foot. And so it was also with the news of the resurrection of Christ, it was first carried after the angel announced it to the women, the women carried it by foot to the disciples. It says in Matthew 28:8, "So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy listened and ran to tell the disciples." So, there go the feet, running with the good news that Jesus has risen from the dead. And then there's Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, the Spirit tells him go down to the road, that desert road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, and he goes down and there's this Ethiopian eunuch and he's riding in a chariot, and the Spirit told Philip, "Go up to that chariot and stay near it." Well, the chariot goes on by so Philip's got to run. And so he's running and saying, "Do you understand what you're reading?" He said, "Well, come on up here and explain it to me," and he's explaining the prophecy of Isaiah about Jesus Christ. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.
Now, this brings us into a minor problem. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think the feet are beautiful. I don't mean any offense to any of you who may have spent between $25 and $50 beautifying your feet in the last month or more. You don't need to tell me who you are, we won't make you come up and give a testimony of the boutique you went to or what they did to try to make your feet more presentable. I'm not saying that they're not pretty, okay? Sisters, believe me, I am not trying to insult you. I definitely think that women's feet are more attractive than men's feet, so it's good that men don't show their feet as much as the women do. But you have to go a long way before feet are even worth looking at, wouldn't you agree? They're not naturally beautiful despite our best efforts, and even if you've gone to one of those boutiques and they're really looking good, relatively speaking, none of you would say, "My feet are my best feature really. I'm going to lead with my feet." Okay?
Then what is Paul meaning? What is Isaiah meaning, friends? What is God meaning by this expression? The way I read it is this, the news is so good, even something as low and dirty as feet will be embraced by the people out of joy. You can almost imagine, once some people come to realize what is being preached, the danger they were in apart from Christ, and how much they have been forgiven and loved. They could fall on the ground and kiss the feet that brought that good news. I think that's what's going on here. It's not that feet are beautiful, it's that the message is beautiful, it's that the missionary heart and love is beautiful, that the willingness to suffer to bring this gospel to people who have never heard, the willingness even to be martyrs for that process is beautiful. As the Apostle Paul said, "Now I rejoice in what was suffered on your behalf and I fill up in my body what is still lacking in regard to the afflictions of Christ for the sake of His body." There's nothing lacking in the atonement, but there's still needed to be redemption, not just accomplished but applied and it takes suffering to do it, doesn't it?
And he says, "I rejoice in the story, I rejoice in somebody who's willing to pay the price to bring the gospel to Colossae." That's what he's saying. And it does take suffering, friends. And you know it, and that's why some of us shrink back from getting involved. But how beautiful are the feet of those who bring this good news.
III. Facing Difficult Questions
What about those who have never heard the gospel?
Now, this brings us into some difficult questions. For example, immediately off this text, I would think we'd come to the question, "what about those who haven't heard the gospel?" It comes right out of this in that it says, "How can they call on the one they've not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?" The two words not heard tells us there are people who have not heard. And as a matter of fact, as long as there are people who have not heard, there's still the opportunity or the possibility of preaching ministry.
Jesus said in Matthew 10 when he sent them out two by two, he said, "When you are persecuted in one place, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." There's different ways to interpret that, but I say this, there will always be another hill to go across and more people to preach to until the Lord finally ends the gospel enterprise. And so there are people who have not heard of Jesus Christ. Apparently, there's some living right close to us and right close to Duke University who think that Jesus Christ is a swear word Americans say. You don't have to travel very far to share the gospel to somebody who has never heard of Jesus. Well, what about them? Well, the implication is clear, without hearing they cannot believe, and without believing they cannot be saved. And so therefore, they are lost without this gospel. They are lost.
Summer of 1983, I was on an evangelism project with Campus Crusade for Christ. We were in Boston and... Actually, we were in Hampton Beach but we went down to Boston to do an outreach in Boston Common. The first time I ever preached in front of a crowd was giving my testimony and sharing the gospel in Boston Common. I thought, "Wow, if my mother could see me now, my father could see me now. What an incredible moment it was." And people are just hustling by, but some stood and listened, and I was scared out of my mind. But after that afternoon of witnessing, I found out that John McArthur was doing a Q&A, question and answer session at Tremont Temple Baptist Church just a quarter of a mile away from where we were. Starting at 7:00 o'clock that night, I was so excited. He was my mentor by radio, still is. I've seen him but I've never met him, he doesn't know me, but he's been my mentor in preaching so I wanted to go and just be part of the Q&A. Well, there are hundreds and hundreds of people there. And I couldn't leave well enough alone. I had to be one of the ones to ask a question, so I went up to one of the microphones and the question I asked was the kind of question that's asked within the first year of your Christian life, "What about those who haven't heard the gospel?"
Well, he gave an answer I'll never forget. I will never forget it. He said, "You want to say inside your heart that they're okay, don't you? That they're fine the way they are." He said, "But don't you understand what that does to the gospel ministry? It turns it on its head, it makes it bad news, not good news. Basically you're bringing death and destruction everywhere you go. Everybody was fine until the missionaries came. But now they came and brought us the bad news about Jesus, that if we don't believe in him we'll go to hell. We were fine before they came. That's not what it says here, it says, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news,' that means they're already condemned, they're already in great danger. And the missionaries came and freed them from it. And how great are the people's joy." Now, there's much more I can say about this question of, "What about those who haven't heard the gospel?" But at least this much I can say, they are lost apart from this message. They are lost.
Now, can God do something other than by human means? He can do anything he wants. He can send an angel if he wants to. He hasn't said, "I will only do it through human beings and through the church." He hasn't said that. But as we read this series of rhetorical questions, we have to act that way, don't we? That this ministry has been committed to us, and so we must take it on.
If God is Sovereign, Why is Preaching Necessary?
Second question, If God is sovereign as we've read in Romans 9, if he knows who the elect are, if He's chosen them before the foundation of the world, if they most certainly will be saved as we learned in Romans 8, then why is preaching necessary? What do we need to do? And this is the angle that William Carey was facing. There was a minister that said to him a very famous quote, "Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine."
Now frankly, I don't have anything, any problem with an aspect of what was said there except the word 'will.' When God pleases to convert the heathen, he can do it without your help or mine. That's true. But has he chosen to, friends? And I say he hasn't. I say he's chosen to do it, including us in the ministry of reconciliation. He's fully capable of doing it any way he chooses. So they took the sovereignty of God and applied it wrongly. God is a God not just of the end destination, but of the journey to get there, and he has ordained the clear preaching of the gospel message is the way that people are going to get saved. And Jesus put it this way very plainly, "He who is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." Friends, what is Jesus gathering? Is he not gathering his sheep? Is he not gathering souls into the kingdom? Is he not gathering up his wheat into his barn and gathering the good fish in baskets? Is he not gathering people for salvation?
And if you're not involved in the harvest, you are actually scattering. If you're not involved in the evangelistic and missionary enterprise of Jesus Christ, you are scattering, Jesus says. He says also in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, "All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them and he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We implore you, be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." You see that? God's making his appeal through us. We're imploring and begging and pleading with sinners to come to faith. He's committed to us this ministry, this message of reconciliation.
Isn’t preaching becoming obsolete?
Third question. Isn't preaching becoming obsolete? We are a modern technologically advanced people who love the flash of multimedia presentations, and television commercials flash images at your eye at the rate of two or three times a second, sometimes more quickly than that. Wow! Now moviemakers are using state of the art, high-end computer, super computers to produce unreal special effects that boggle the mind and challenge the imagination and in some cases, attack the soul. But they are doing things that visually you couldn't even have imagined 10 years ago. But when you go to church, all you get is old fashioned preaching, what some people call a talking head standing behind a wooden podium and telling us how it's got to be. And we're not really like… We don't like authority. And so the whole talking head thing is probably on its way out. Isn't preaching becoming obsolete? The rest of the world knows it. Why doesn't the church know it?
I heard about one church that got rid of the pulpit and set up bar stools across the front and had every week four different people come up and just share about spirituality with a cordless mic while the pastor sat cross-legged listening to them, never said a word. That's what you get on Sunday mornings at that church. Other churches they call it emerging worship, they've gotten rid of content altogether. And so you just go in for sensory experiences, like the sound of dripping water or running water or the field of silk or you get a smooth black stone and drop it in a well talking about how God has forgotten our sins and this kind of thing. So, the content's out entirely. Isn't preaching becoming obsolete? Well, no. I think in this verse it says, it implies that preaching, the communication of the gospel by verbal means will last to the end of the world. It will last to the end of the world because the content is the ground of faith. It says in Romans 10:17, Faith comes from hearing, and the message of Christ is what they hear and that is the basis of faith, is they hear this content about Jesus. Faith springs up in the heart. It's not a flashing of images on the retina. Its content communicated in this way.
Is Preaching the only method that God can use?
The next question is, "Well, is preaching the only method that God can use?" No, there are all kinds of incredible tract ministries and books that are printed and multimedia presentations of Christ and movies that are made and other bases for getting the word across. But I believe this, there is something powerful about a human being standing in front of another human being one on one or one in a hundred, a thousand communicating the message of the gospel. I think God has ordained to bless it and He will keep on blessing it to the end of the world. There's something incarnational about, something that we're standing in front of them and sharing with them not only a message but our lives as well. And so this kind of communication will keep on going until the end.
Isn’t missions arrogant?
The final question I want to answer is, "Isn't missions arrogant?" Isn't it arrogant for us to think surely we're the people and truth will die with us, they're all waiting to hear from us, those heathen. And if we just go and just share them the truth then they can be like us. Isn't that arrogant? You may hear things like this at sociology departments and other places of high education, and just our pluralistic culture is going to say, "It's arrogant, what you're doing." It was told to me, it's been told to me two or three times. It's arrogant. Well, first of all, it would be arrogant if we were preaching ourselves as savior of the world. But Paul settled that when he said in 2 Corinthians 4:5, "We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." It might be arrogant if we had concocted this gospel message, if we had written it, if we had originated it, but the Scripture says prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Friends, is it arrogant to point to the Rockies and say, "Isn't that majestic?" Is it arrogant to point at a beautiful sunset and say, "Isn't that beautiful?" This is not our truth. We inherited it 2000 years later, we just come to believe it. And part of the truth is, he who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so we want to gather with Jesus, and so He has sent us out to share that. This is not arrogance, it is truth.
Now, what application can we take from this? Well, first, if you have never trusted in Christ, there wouldn't be any sense of me talking about missions without directly applying the gospel to you. There is no other salvation. There's no other way to be saved. If you are trusting in something other than Jesus, you will be gravely disappointed on judgment day. Come to faith in Christ now. Believe in Him, trust in Him for the salvation of your soul.
But if you are a Christian, I want to ask basically this question. William Carey said in his two-part sermon, "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God." Can I ask you a question? What great thing or things are you expecting from God over the next year? Secondly, what great thing or things have you attempted for God in the last year based on that great expectation? Thirdly, what great thing or things are you willing to do for God over the next year? He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. Are you willing to join Christ in his gathering ministry? Are you willing to do something great for him, to shake off laziness, to shake off the deception that materialism is going to satisfy, to shake off what the devil's selling us, and to join Christ in the mission field?
Now, I know that some of you are not going to be called literally to get on a plane and go to some other place, but I've already shared with you, there are people right near us who need to hear the gospel. Some of them frankly are from our own culture. Are you willing to cross the street and share the gospel? Let me say something directly to us at Southern Baptist. Old Testament version of evangelizing was what we could call, come and see evangelism. Jesus spoke of this when he said about Solomon, "The queen of the south came from the ends of the earth," came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, Jesus said, and now one greater than Solomon is here. Well, the one who's greater than Solomon said, "I'm not waiting for them to come here, we're going there." And so the New Testament mission is go and tell, not come and see. Well, I fear that Southern Baptists are much more come and see evangelizers, inviting people to church, saying come, the pastor will preach a message. And so the pastor must and should preach the gospel, but most people get saved other times in the week. Are you willing to be involved at the workplace? In the neighborhood? In the halls at school at the university? Are you willing to be involved with the people you meet this upcoming week?
And are you willing to expand your circle of influence so that, like Ron was saying, you can actually get involved in the great commission that God's called us to do. What great things are you expecting from God? And what great things are you willing to attempt for God? It could be that God would lead us as a church, not only to give money. At the end of the service there'll be a deacon standing at the door to give money to Hurricane Katrina victims. And not just to go to Graystone and actually bring physical stuff, but there might be a team of retired people or people who have the ability to actually go down there, bring some of those things and use it as a platform to share the gospel. That's a great thing that maybe you weren't considering doing before today. Are you willing to consider that kind of missionary life? Are you willing to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God? Close with me in prayer.