By Joseph Ametepe
God's heart is a missionary heart. It is a heart that cares for all the people of the of the world. His is a loving heart, which wants the very best for all those He created. He wants His love, life, saving grace and care to be experienced by all who will receive and embrace them. Indeed, our God is not self-centered. He is not self-seeking. He wants to share His life and love with others. His desire to share His life and love with the people He created led Him to send to earth, His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. That same desire led Him to send His Holy Spirit to dwell in and be with all, irregardless of color, country or culture, who believe in His Son Jesus Christ.
• God wants His believing children to minister to He Himself. He also wants them to serve one another in the family of God. Since it is also God's desire for the people of the world to experience His loving care, concern and compassion, He gives His people the privilege and honor of serving them. His people have the awesome privilege of not only ministering to Him and to each other, but also to those who are outside of His believing community.
• In the New Testament times believers gathered together to minister to God in worship and praise of Him, as well as to minister to each other in instruction and fellowship. The believers then went out to serve unbelievers by sharing the life giving message of the good news of Jesus Christ. In their worship and praise the early believers focused on the Person of God Himself. In instruction and fellowship they focused upon themselves and fellow Christians who were in the Body of Christ. But they didn't stop at focus upon themselves. They also turned their focus on unbelievers, reaching them with the loving message of the gospel. They maintained proper balance between all these three areas of ministry. As a result, the New Testament church was spiritually healthy.
• It seems that the Church of today has missed the mark in this area of maintaining proper balance between ministering to God Himself, ministering to each other in the Body of Christ and ministering to the people of the world. There are churches who focus on worship and edification of their members whilst neglecting ministry to unbelievers. Others focus exclusively at reaching the lost and as such design their services for non-Christians who happen to be there. Still others gather primarily for interaction among Christians while neglecting the other areas of ministry-namely ministering to God Himself and ministry to the lost. This was not the pattern of the early church in the Book of Acts. The early believers gathered together to worship and praise God and be edified; then they went forth to reach the lost in the world without. They ministered to God. They ministered to one another's need. And they ministered to those who were outside the household of faith. This balance must be rediscovered and followed not only for the spiritual health and well-being of the Church today, but also for her effectiveness in serving God's purpose in the world.
The Definition of Ministry
• Ministry is a privileged-partnership with God through the Holy Spirit and with Spirit-filled born again believers in serving the Person of God Himself, the people of God and the people of the world in love, in order to advance the redemptive purpose of Jesus Christ to the glory of God.
• Please notice that in this definition, ministry is both a privilege and a partnership. Furthermore, it is a personal act of service to God, His people, that is, the Body of Christ, and to the people of the world. It is carried out in the power of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of glorifying God.
• It is a privilege because God chooses in His grace to bestow on redeemed sinners the blessed honor of service in His kingdom. There is nothing we could do to deserve or earn this honor. It is purely due to His marvelous and matchless grace. It's all about His grace. It's all about His favor. It's because of His doing, that we, who are savingly related to Him through the blood of Christ could approach the holy and righteous God to serve Him and His purpose in this world. This is an incredible privilege and honor bestowed on mortals.
• It is a partnership because God invites believers in Him to be His fellow-workers. This is awesome. God, who is altogether holy, all-wise, all-knowing, all-truthful, all-powerful, almighty, and all-sufficient, needing no one to assist Him, chooses to call us into His service to be His partners in advancing His redemptive purpose. This is amazing. The Holy Spirit deeply impressed this truth on Apostle Paul's heart. Twice, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he brought it to the attention of the believers in the church of Corinth.
• "We are God's fellow-workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9).
• "Working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain" (2 Corinthians 6:1).
• In Mark 16:20, we read:
• "And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed."
• Also, in 1 Thessalonians 3:2, the Bible says:
• "We sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow-worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith."
• Clearly, these Scriptures reveal that ministry is indeed a partnership with God, a working together with God Almighty Himself. He did not leave us here to do our best without His partnership and presence.
• Ministry is not only partnership with God, but also partnership with other believers who love God and desire to honor Him. Paul was blessed with both partnership with God and other like-minded believers who served God's purpose out of love for Him. He had partnership with Epaphroditus, whom he described as "my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier" (Philippians 2:25). He also had partnership with Euodia and Synteche, whom he described as "my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life"(Philippians 4:3). Philemon, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke were among Paul's fellow workers (Philemon 1, 24). Prisca and Aquila were also his fellow workers in Christ Jesus (Romans 16:3). Clearly then, ministry is partnership with God and other like-minded believers who are brought together by God to serve His purpose.
• It is a personal act of service. Each and every single believer has been gifted and equipped to serve in the kingdom of the Great King. Serving God, His people, and the people of the world is a personal responsibility for each believer. No one can excuse himself or herself from it.
• Please, also note that the power for service is provided through the Person of the Holy Spirit. Reminding the suffering first century believers (who were scattered in what is now modern Turkey), inspired Apostle Peter, clearly presented to them that God is the One who provides strength for our service.
• "Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 4:11).
• Finally, notice that the purpose of ministry in our definition is the glory of God. Ministry is not about our glory. It's not about our fame. It's not about our honor. It's not for our praise. It's all about the glory and honor and praise and fame of the all-sufficient God.
Overview of Article
• Ministering to the people of the world is dear to the heart of God. It is one of His passions. It is also His delight. In the demonstration of His passion and delight, God sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the whole world. He also sent His Holy Spirit to empower His believing people for this service. God has given His people the awesome privilege of serving Him in the world. He has chosen them to partner with Him. He wants them to be His hands and feet for reaching the lost with His grace, love and truth. He wants them to be His instruments, those through whom He works to bring His love, grace, truth, care and compassion to the people of the world.
• One of the things I appreciate about God is that He clearly spells out to His people how He wants His work done. He doesn't give them a task without specific instructions about how that task or service is to be done. He doesn't just leave His people to do their best hoping that somehow they will be able to figure out how to accomplish the task He's given them the way He wants it done. He doesn't leave us to our own imaginations when it comes to doing His work. He knows that we do not have the wisdom in ourselves to do what He calls us to do without His clear instructions. We need Him and we need His guidelines to follow in order to do what He wants us to do His way.
• To serve the people of the world God's way demands that we must examine the Scriptures afresh to discover the patterns and principles God established and preserved in them for us to follow. For God's people to be fruitful in their service to the lost, they must not just serve, but serve God's way. This is the underlying key principle for ministry. We must learn to serve God's way and His way alone. This is what counts for eternity. Serving God's way alone makes an eternal difference in people's lives.
• To serve the people of the world God's way, we will look at how the Lord Jesus Himself carried out His service to them, what He commanded His disciples regarding serving the people of the world, and how His first century disciples continued what He started. The patterns and principles discovered from these examinations will help us formulate ways of serving the people of the world today that are consistent with the Scriptures.
Ministering to the People of the World as Carried Out by Christ
A. Commitment to Preaching and Teaching the Gospel of God
• At the beginning of our Lord's ministry He specifically announced that He had been anointed to preach the gospel. We read of this in the Gospel of Luke. Reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah which was handed to Him in the synagogue in Nazareth, His hometown, our Lord found the place where it was written:
"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD" (Luke 4:18).
• The Lord Jesus rightly applied this prophetic word to Himself. He is good at explaining to us the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. He knows all the things which are written about Him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.
• The Lord Jesus was specifically anointed to preach the gospel to the people of the world. Preaching the gospel was therefore the primary way in which the Lord Jesus served the people of the world.
• It is significant that, in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the first recorded activity of the Lord Jesus Christ after His baptism and temptation is His preaching and teaching of the gospel in Galilee.
"Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Napthali... From that time Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:12-13, 17).
"Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God" (Mark 1:14).
"And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and the news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all" (Luke 4:14-15).
• From the very beginning of His ministry, our Lord, established a pattern for His disciples to follow in serving the people of the world. This pattern is simply this:Ministering to the people of this world demands commitment to the preaching and teaching of the gospel of God. The gospel message centers upon the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and what God has done through Him for the salvation of lost sinners. Its essential elements include the status of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, His genuine humanity, His death on the cross for our sins, His burial, resurrection, subsequent appearances to His disciples, and His future coming in judgment. For the definition of the gospel, please click here.
• Later in his writing, the inspired writer of the Gospel of Matthew characterizes the ministry of our Lord Jesus as follows:
"Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people" (Matthew 4:23; cf. 9:35).
• The inspired writer of the Gospel of Mark captures an interesting event in the life of our Lord, early in His ministry. After a day of ministering healing to demoniacs and healing many who were ill with various diseases, our Lord woke up early in the morning to spend time alone in prayer. Simon Peter and his friends searched for Him and found Him. Their message for Him when they found Him was that:"Everyone is looking for You" (Mark 1:37). Our Lord's response to His disciples' statement revealed what His primary service to the people of the world was.
"He said to them, 'Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.' And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons" (Mark 1:38-39).
• Dr. Luke was also inspired to report on this unique event in our Lord's life, stressing again that Christ's purpose in coming was to preach the gospel to the lost.
"When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. But He said to them, 'I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.' So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea" (Luke 4:42-44).
• The crowds urged the Lord Jesus not to leave them. But He reminded them that He had work to do in the other cities in Judea or in the country of the Jews including Galilee. So from synagogue to synagogue He went preaching the good news about the kingdom of God, of which Jesus Himself was the King.
• While he was in prison, John the Baptist, sent his disciples to ask Jesus Christ whether He was really the One who had been prophesied. Our Lord's response to John the Baptist included as evidence the fact that "the poor have the gospel preached to them" (Matthew 11:5; cf. Luke 7:22).
• These Scriptures and others, such as Matthew 11:1;13:1-54; Luke 4: 31-32; 5:3; 6:6; 8:1; 13:10, 22; 19:45-48, all reveal that our Lord's main service to the lost while ministering here on earth was preaching and teaching the good news.
• Even in the last week of His earthly ministry, our Lord taught daily in the temple (Luke 19:45-47). He was committed to the preaching of the gospel even to the end of His life. The inspired writer of the Gospel of Luke, Dr. Luke, gives us a vivid picture of our Lord's steadfast commitment to the preaching and teaching of the gospel to the very end in these words:
"On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him, and they spoke, saying to Him, 'Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority'" (Luke 20:1-2).
• Our Lord knew that His most important service to the people of the world was the preaching and teaching of the gospel. He did this to the end even in the midst of fierce opposition. He did not abandon His service to the lost because of opposition from His enemies. He pressed on to the end. He finished His task. Nothing was left undone.
• Clearly, the life of our Lord Jesus reveals that the preaching and teaching of the gospel of God is God's way of ministering to the people of the world.
• Prayer was paramount in our Lord's life and ministry. The Sinless Son of God devoted Himself to prayer. Our Savior was a Man of prayer. His prayer life was rich and rewarding. Prayer was not an option for our Lord. He understood the preeminent role prayer plays in the life of a minister of God or in the life of a believer. Our Lord rose early to pray. He often withdrew from the crowds to pray. He spent whole nights in prayer. Our Lord really labored in prayer. Prayer was a priority in His service.
• It is very interesting to note that each of the four Gospels has something to say about our Lord's prayer life. However, the Gospel of Luke, which presents Jesus as Son of Man, fittingly has more to say about His prayer life than any other.
"In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there" (Mark 1:35)
"Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, 'You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased'" (Luke 3:21-23).
"But news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sickness. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing" (Luke 5:15-17).
"It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them... Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all" (Luke 6:12-19).
"And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, 'who do people say that I am?'" (Luke 9:18).
"Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming" (Luke 9:28-29; cf. Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8).
"Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray, and when it was evening, He was there alone" (Matthew 14:22-23).
"Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent..." (John 17:1ff).
• Showing from the Scriptures that our Lord was indeed a praying Savior is indeed good and sound, but that's not enough. We must go a step further and ask ourselves, 'why did He devote Himself to prayer?' Well, one of the primary reasons for our Lord's constant devotion to prayer is power to minister not only to His followers but also to the lost. Power for service was readily available to the Lord Jesus because of His devotion to prayer. This is clearly seen in the correlation established between prayer and power in two of Luke's passages, namely Luke 5:15-17 and Luke 6:12-17 (please, review them again.) These passages clearly teach this biblical principle: Divine power for service is released through a devoted life of prayer.
• It is a fact that our Lord served the unsaved effectively and efficiently because He was in touch with God the Father. Our Lord's life presents a powerful message to all of God's people: To serve the people of the world God's way, God's people must devote themselves to prayer for power for service. We cannot serve God's way without God's power.
• The Lord Jesus demonstrated that He was indeed a compassionate Savior. Our Lord's compassionate care and concern for the unsaved was shown in many ways. Seeing their helpless and harassed condition, He commanded His disciples to ask God to send laborers to work among them. He fed the hungry. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He wept over their rebellion.
• Let's look at the Scriptural records to see our Lord's expression of compassionate care and concern for the lost.
• Acting like Yahweh in the Old Testament (see Ezekiel 34), the Lord Jesus felt compassion for the shepherdless crowds and specifically commanded His disciples to pray for workers to be sent out to serve among them.
"Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest'" (Matthew 9:35-38).
• The word translated "distressed" also means "harassed, bewildered, bullied, or oppressed." Also, the word translated "dispirited" is also rendered "helpless or dejected." Being God in human flesh, Jesus saw the true condition of lost humanity. They may put on great smiles and happy faces, yet they are under spiritual oppression. They are burdened and bewildered with the load of guilt and sin. In the face of such problems, they are dispirited, dejected or helpless and unable to rescue themselves or escape their oppressors. The amazing thing for me is that, the Lord Jesus didn't just pass them by. He could have done that and still be justified in His action. After all, they chose to walk in a way they thought was best for their lives. Isn't that the basic human problem? Yes, it is! For the Bible says so: "All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him [Jesus]" (Isaiah 53:6). The Lord Jesus could have left the harassed and helpless crowds in that condition. But He didn't. He is the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep. His compassionate care and concern for the lost masses was shown in His instruction to His disciples to pray for workers to be sent out into God's harvest among the lost. By instructing His disciples about the need for more workers to be sent out in His harvest, our Lord sought to awaken a similar compassion in them. They would have just gone on. But they were with One whose heart is full of compassion for sinners. Oh that we would also be like our Lord in demonstrating compassionate care and concern to the lost!
• For our Lord, compassion is an action word. Whenever He is moved by compassion, He takes an action. Feeling compassion for the masses of people who had followed Him on foot from various cities and were now far from home, our Lord healed their sick and also fed them to satisfaction.
"Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, 'This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.' But Jesus said to them, 'They do not need to go away, you give them something to eat!' They said to Him, 'We have here only five loaves and two fish.' And He said to them, 'Bring them here to Me.' Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to His disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children" (Matthew 14:13-21; cf.Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-13).
• After our Lord's healing of the sick, His disciples were quick tell Him what He should do. He should send the crowds away, since they were in a remote place and it was already getting late. How little they understood the heart of Christ or discerned His great and awesome power! How quick we are in giving God an advice! The disciples should have asked the Lord Jesus to meet the need, not send the people away. They had watched Him turned water into wine in Cana (John 2:1-11). They had seen Him performed miracles on other occasions. They didn't even think of praying for the need to be met.
• The Lord Jesus showed that He was truly a compassionate Savior and Shepherd. He went to work, taking a series of actions. He alone multiplied the loaves and fishes. He gave the orders to the people. He blessed the food. He broke the loaves. The disciples, however, were given the privilege of distributing the food and gathering the left over food.
• Our Lord showed in the demonstration of His compassionate care and concern to the lost that, as long as there was a genuine need, He would take action to meet that need. And so, the Bible gives us another report of Jesus' feeding of the multitudes.
"And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way. The disciples said to Him, 'Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?' And Jesus said to them, 'How many loaves do you have?' And they said, 'Seven, and a few small fish.' And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets. And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children" (Matthew 15:32-38).
• The unique feature of this story is our Lord's own declaration that He felt compassion for the people; "I feel compassion for the people." After three days of being with Him, they had run out of food. The Lord would not let them go away hungry; they might collapse on the way. How thoughtful the Savior is of our needs! Even before the crowds would face the daunting challenge of going away hungry, Jesus thought about their plight and was about to take action to provide for their need.
• The expression "I feel compassion for the people," literally means "I am filled with tenderness for the crowd." The Greek word for "compassion" is "splangnizomai." It means "be moved with pity, or compassion, have pity or compassion, feel sympathy with or for someone. The deepest feeling was aroused in our Lord about the situation of the crowd. His heart was moved and stirred within Him. And as we saw earlier, His compassion led to a series of actions. He multiplied the loaves and fishes. He gave the orders to the multitudes. He gave thanks. He broke the bread. Again, the disciples were given the honor of distributing and gathering the leftover food.
• Our Lord's compassion care and concern was not limited to meeting the needs of the multitudes. It was also expressed on a one-on-one basis. For example, it was expressed to a leper seeking cleansing from Him, as well as to a woman who had lost her only son.
"And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, 'If You are willing, You can make me clean.' Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed" (Mark 1:40-42).
"Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her and said to her, 'Do not weep.' And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise!' The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave Him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God..." (Luke 7:11-16).
• In both of these stories, compassion was followed by concrete actions. In earnestness, a leper, an unclean person, an outcast of society, reverently and humbly approached Jesus and specifically asked Him to make him clean. In response to this humble believing prayer, the hand of the Holy and Only Son of God was stretched forth to touch the leper. Under the law, a person became ceremonially unclean when he touched a leper. But Jesus touched him and was not made unclean. Instead of being made unclean, Jesus made the unclean clean. Christ's word alone might have healed the leper; but He applied, at the same time the touch of His hand, to express the feeling of compassion.
• In the case of the widow of Nain, our Lord acted to bring help and hope to the hurting and heart-broken widow without even being asked or approached for help. Jesus, our Lord, saw her deep hurt and pain. That was enough to move our Lord to stop the procession and raise the dead man. We may not be able to speak in our pain, but Jesus who knows our heart, hears the cries of our heart and reaches out to express His care and concern for us. Isn't He a wonderful Savior? Yes, indeed!
• Jesus' compassionate care and concern for the lost was also demonstrated in His weeping over the rebellion of the lost, whom He came to seek and save.
"When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes" (Luke 19:41-42).
• Standing outside Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus uttered this lament to show His deep concern for the lost sheep of Israel. The children of Israel had missed a golden opportunity. If they had only received Jesus as the Messiah, it would have meant peace for them. But they didn't recognize that He was the source of peace, being Himself the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He came to His own people but His own rejected Him. Our Lord wept. What a wonder! Oh that we would reflect on the wonder of the Savior's tears until our hearts are moved with compassion to weep over the sins of the lost! Is our heart crushed over the staggering sin of the people of the world?
• The expression of compassionate care and concern for the lost was one way our Lord effectively served them. Feeling compassion for the lost and hurting always moved Him to action.
• Our Lord's service to the people of the world include calling them to repentance. Like Yahweh, our Lord Jesus' desire is that sinners will turn from their sins and turn to Him. This desire of Yahweh and for that matter that of the Lord Jesus is clearly and convincingly set forth in the prophecy of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a priest and prophet. While in exile in Babylon, God used Ezekiel to deliver a series of prophetic messages, pleading with the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem to turn from their wicked rebellion against Yahweh. In two of these messages, it was made clear to the stubborn and rebellious Jews that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. His longing is that the sinner will turn from his sins and live.
"Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?... Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord GOD. Therefore, repent and live"(Ezekiel 18:23, 30-32).
"Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'" (Ezekiel 33:11).
• This is a message of hope and life. There is hope for the worst sinner, but the only hope is in turning from sin, and not in condoning it. God gives the sinner the opportunity to turn away from his sins. He pleads with the sinner to turn from his sinful ways. He calls to the wicked to turn from his wicked ways and live. His heart's delight is in seeking the best for the lost sinner, and that is, that he may turn back from his sinful ways and live. His desire for the sinner is "repent and live."
• This was the message the Lord Jesus preached to the lost sheep of Israel. From the very beginning of His ministry to the end, He never failed to call the lost to repentance. Both Matthew and Mark recorded that at the beginning of our Lord's ministry in Galilee, He called sinners to repentance.
"From that time Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).
"Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15).
• Our Lord called on men to repent and believe in the gospel. The King of the kingdom had appeared on the scene and was calling sinners to turn from their sins. In order for sinners to be eligible to enter the kingdom of the King, they had to do an about-face regarding sin in their lives, and believe the good news concerning the Lord Jesus. Repentance is simply therefore a one hundred and eighty degree turn from sins and sinful way of living to the Savior of sinners.
• In the days of our Lord, Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum were prominent cities in Galilee. These cities were greatly privileged to have the incarnate Son of God walk their dusty lanes. These cities saw His works of power within their walls. However, in the face of this overwhelming evidence, they stubbornly refused to repent. Their refusal to repent led to our Lord's pronouncement of the most solemn woe upon them.
"Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 'Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you" (Matthew 11:20-24; cf. Luke 10:13-15).
• The whole point of our Lord's denunciation is that God's revelatory works are intended to lead people to repentance, not rebellion. These cities had been given a great privilege which brought a great responsibility. Hundreds of years before the coming of Christ, Sodom, Tyre and Sidon had fallen under the judgment of God because of their sins. Sodom was judged for their homosexuality while Tyre and Sidon were judged because of their idolatry and wickedness. Recalling these judgments of God, our Lord stated that if Tyre and Sidon had been privileged to see His mighty works which Chorazin and Bethsaida had seen, they would have humbled themselves in deepest repentance. Had vile Sodom, the capital of homosexuality, been so privileged as Carpernaum, it would have repented and been spared. Its people should have repented and gladly acknowledged the Lord. In the day of judgment, Tyre and Sidon would fare better than Chorazin and Bethsaida. Similary, Sodom will not be punished as severely as Capernaum in the day of judgment.
• Responding to the scribes' and Pharisees' demand for a sign, the Lord Jesus once again brought up the all-important issue of repentance of sinners. These leaders, as well as the rest of the people, needed to turn away from their sins and turn to the Savior.
"The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Matthew 12:41).
• The Gentiles of Nineveh were far less privileged than the present generation of Israel. Yet when the men of Nineveh heard the preaching of the prophet Jonah, they humbled themselves in sackcloth and ashes and turned away from their sins. But unfortunately the people of Lord's day failed to repent of their sins, even though they had Someone greater than Jonah calling them to repentance.
• Using two separate national disasters as the basis of His interaction with His audience, the Lord Jesus taught about the importance of personal repentance.
"Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:1-5).
• Some Galileans had traveled from the north of Israel to Jerusalem to worship. Unfortunately, they did not return home to share their worship experience with their families, friends and relatives. Pilate, the wicked governor of Judea, had ordered them to be slain while they were offering their sacrifices. The fact that the people told Jesus about this disastrous event implies that He was not at Jerusalem when it occurred. The Jews often attribute tragedy directly to one's sin (see John 9:1-3). Our Lord refused to say that that was the case in this calamity. However, our Lord affirmed the sinfulness of all people (vv. 3, 5). The second tragedy which our Lord used to teach the need for repentance was a collapse of a tower in Siloam which caused the death of eighteen persons. The point our Lord emphasized by this event was that this catastrophe should not be interpreted as a special judgment for gross wickedness. Rather, it should be seen as a warning to all Israel that unless they repented, a similar fate would come upon them. In other words, anyone who disregards God cannot count on immunity from sudden adversity. The Galileans and the eighteen on whom the tower fell, perished physically, but all who do not repent face spiritual death, that is, eternal separation from a loving God.
• Repentance was our Lord's message in the parables of the lost sheep and the lost silver coin. He taught that there was joy in heaven over the repentance of a single lost sinner.
"I tell you in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance... In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:7,10).
• Our Lord's message is clear and loud. The sinner who humbles himself before God and confesses his lost condition to God brings joy to the heart of God and to the heart of the heavenly hosts. However, God and His heavenly hosts, obtain no such delight of heart from those who never feel their need for repentance.
• In His service to the people of the world, our Lord, not only called them to repentance but He also instructed His followers to do so in their service to them. Just before His ascension, He directed His disciples to proclaim repentance in His name.
"And He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem'" (Luke 24:46-47).
• Calling sinners to repentance was one of Jesus' main services to the world. He regarded it as an important ministry to sinners. This was God's way of ministering to unbelievers. As such, from the very beginning of His ministry to its end, He faithfully urged the lost to turn from their sins to Him that they may live. He does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.
• Another important service our Lord rendered to the people of the world was commanding His followers to pray specifically for workers to be sent out to serve among the lost. Our Lord was a praying Savior and Shepherd. He understands that God is willing to release His power through His praying people. He is also well aware of the work which can be accomplished through God's praying people. As such, our Lord diligently instructed His followers about prayer. He did this by personal example as well by purposeful education.
• Some of our Lord's teachings on prayer are found in Matthew 6:1-17; 7:7-11; Mark 11:22-26; and Luke 18:1-17. In these passages He taught about the elements of prayer such as God the Father's desire to see His kingdom advance, forgiveness, faith, fasting, perseverance and reward.
• However, in two of His teachings on prayer, His focus was on praying for workers to be sent out to work among the lost. The first of these teachings was recorded by Matthew, while the second was recorded by Luke, the physician.
"Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest'" (Matthew 9:35-38).
"Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Luke 10:1-2).
• Even though the commands to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest are the same in both Gospel accounts, the occasions on which they were given are different. After the instruction in Matthew, only the twelve disciples were sent into the northern regions of Israel to preach and perform healing. On the other hand, in Luke's account, seventy disciples were sent out to the south of Israel along the route the Lord Jesus was following to Jerusalem. The repetition of the command to pray for workers to be sent out into the harvest field indicates that it is very important to the Lord Jesus. Our Lord considers praying for more laborers to be purposefully sent out to serve among the lost as an essential part of His overall plan of ministering to the lost.
• In His service to the lost, the Lord Jesus Christ personally invited them over and over again to come to Him that they might have life, rest and be fed with real food for the soul.
• Seeing with divine eyes, our Lord saw the lost as weary, harassed, helpless and burdened with the weight of sin and guilt. He genuinely wanted them to have rest for their weary souls. He desired for them to be released from their burden of sin and guilt. He wanted them to experience true refreshment. Knowing they would not naturally come to Him for rest, refreshment, release and for help, our Lord personally took it upon Himself to invite them to come to Him.
• Our Lord's willingness to give rest and refresh was prophesied several hundreds of years before His coming to earth in human flesh.
"For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes" (Jeremiah 31:25).
• Perhaps the most clearest personal invitation to Himself which our Lord made to the lost is found in Matthew 11:28-30. There we read these wonderful words:
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
• Bible Commentator William MacDonald beautifully comments on these verses:
"To come means to believe (Acts 16:31); to receive (John 1:12); to eat (John 6:35); to drink (John 7:37); to look (Isaiah 45:22); to confess (1 John 4:2); to hear (John 5:24, 25); to enter a door (John 10:9); to open a door (Revelation 3:20); to touch the hem of His garment (Matthew 9:20, 21); and to accept the gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). The object of faith is not a church, a creed, or a clergyman, but the living Christ. Salvation is in a Person. Those who have Jesus are as saved as God can make them. In order to truly come to Jesus, a person must admit that he is burdened with the weight of sin. Only those who acknowledge they are lost can be saved. Faith in the Lord Jesus is preceded by repentance toward God. Notice that rest here is a gift; it is unearned and unmerited. This is the rest of salvation that comes from realizing that Christ finished the work of redemption on Calvary's cross. It is a rest of conscience that follows the realization that the penalty of one's sins has been paid once for all and that God will not demand payment twice. In verses 29 and 30, the invitation changes from salvation to service."
• Indeed, how kind and loving is Jesus! He doesn't wait for the lost to call to Him or come to Him. He takes the initiative to invite them to come to Him for the gift of salvation and freedom from the burden of sin and guilt. This is indeed a wonderful service to the lost.
• The inspired writer of the Gospel of John, Apostle John, specifically tells us that his book is evangelistic. The purpose of the book is expressed in these words, "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31). It is therefore no wonder that this Gospel portrays the Lord Jesus' repeated invitation to all who are lost to come to Him for life and salvation.
• Speaking to the Jews who were seeking to kill Him because He was claiming equality with God, our Lord declared:
"You search the Scriptures because you think in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you were unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life" (John 5:39-40).
• The Jews missed the point that the main subject of the Old Testament was the coming of Christ. In addition, they were not willing to come to Jesus that they might have life. He was there willing for them to come to Him to receive the gift of eternal life. But they did not come to Him. They loved their sins more than they loved the Savior. They did not want to give up their wicked ways.
• Speaking of Himself as the "Bread of Life," making a claim to equality with Yahweh, the Lord Jesus assures His hearers that those who come to Him will find enough in Him to satisfy their spiritual hunger forever.
"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst'" (John 6:35).
• Those who come to Jesus Christ, those who believe on Him find their thirst forever quenched. No one who comes to the Person of Jesus Christ ever suffers from spiritual malnutrition. He gives spiritual food that satisfies the soul.
• The Lord Jesus further makes it clear to those He is personally inviting to come to Him that He will never ever turn them away. He will always embrace whoever comes to Him.
"All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John 6:37).
• The verse contains two of the most important teachings of the Bible. The first has to do with the sovereignty of God. He has given certain ones to Jesus, all of whom will be saved. The second has to do with human responsibility. Anyone who hears the voice of God calling him must personally come to the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. No one who comes to God through Jesus Christ will be expelled. Rather, he will be embraced. The Bible clearly teaches that God has elected certain persons to salvation. It also teaches that man is responsible to accept the offer of life and salvation found only in the Person of Christ Jesus.
• The two great truths of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility were once again set before the audience our Lord was teaching as He tried to help them to see that God is the One who takes the initiative to call people to Him and those who are instructed by God will respond to what they have heard and learned and come to Him.
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me" (John 6:44-45).
• In his natural state, man in himself is utterly hopeless and helpless. He does not even have the strength or the desire to come to Jesus by Himself. Knowing the helpless and hopeless condition of man, God Himself first acts in his life and seeks to win him to Himself. However, man has the choice of accepting the Lord Jesus by coming to Him and expressing faith in Him or refusing Him. The point of these verses is that we never would have had the desire or the want to if God had not spoken to our hearts. God speaks to our hearts through the clear teaching of His precious and holy Word. Those who respond to the teaching of God's Word and learn from the Father are the ones who come to Jesus Christ for life and salvation.
• Whenever God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are placed side by side, we must call to mind the inspired words of the prophet and the man of God, Moses, which are recorded in Deuteronomy 29:29.
"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law."
• God has His secrets. Let's allow Him to keep them. But let's also do what He tells us to do. In this case, He says a sinner who has been taught of Him and hears His voice calling him must come to Christ.
• Our Lord would not want His audience to miss the point that God always takes the initiative to draw the sinner to Himself. Many who had followed Him and professed to be His disciples found His teaching to be offensive and distasteful for them to receive. Many of these professed disciples were not real believers after all. They withdrew from Him and were no longer walking with Him. At such a time, our Lord spoke these solemn words:
"And He was saying, 'For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father'" (John 6:65).
• There is no doubt that these words are an attack on the pride of man, who thinks that he can earn or merit salvation through his own good behavior and good deeds. Our Lord wanted all to know that even the power to come to Him for salvation and eternal life can only be received from God the Father. This is humbling to self-sufficient man. But it is healthy and helpful for him. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
• Speaking at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Lord Jesus invited the religious Jews to come to Him for spiritual satisfaction.
"Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone is thirsty, let Him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39).
• Our Lord's invitation was extended to anyone. Anyone who knew he was thirsty, that is, spiritually needy was invited to come to the Person of Christ Himself. It is an established spiritual principle:
"Unless a person knows he is a sinner, he will never want to be saved. Unless he realizes that he is lost without Christ, he will never desire to be found. Unless one is conscious of a great spiritual lack in his life, he will never want to go to the Lord to have that need supplied. The Savior invited the thirsting soul to come to Him - not to the church, the preacher, the waters of baptism, or the Lord's Table. Jesus said, 'Let him come to Me.' No one or nothing else will do. 'Let him come to Me and drink.' To "drink" here means to appropriate Christ for oneself. It means to trust Him as Lord and Savior. It means to take Him into our lives as we would take a glass of water into our bodies. To come to Christ and drink is the same as to believe on Him. All who believe on Him will have their own needs supplied and will receive rivers of spiritual blessing that would flow out from them to others." - W. MacDonald
• Perhaps, one of the greatest claims our Lord Jesus made is the one found in John 14:6. His claims in this verse are exclusive, and rightly so. Answering Thomas's question, ("Lord, we don't know where You are going, so how can we know the way?") in the Upper Room:
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me'" (John 14:6).
• The Lord Jesus does not merely show us the way to the true and living God. He Himself is the Way. Salvation is found in a Person. The Scripture says, "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Believing the Person of Jesus results in salvation. The Lord Jesus is not just one of the many ways to the only true God. He is the One and Only Way. Many misguided people think that the way to God is by following the Ten Commandments, or the Golden Rule of treating people the same way we want them to treat us (Matthew 7:12). Others think there is a way to God for them through ordinances and church membership. These will be rudely shocked to find that these paths will not take them to the only true God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ. Why? Because there is only one way to the only true God and it is through Jesus and Jesus alone.
• The great deception of our day is that it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere in believing it. All religions, they say, have some good in them and that they all lead to heaven in the end. Please make no mistake. All roads do not lead to heaven or to God the Father. The only way to the Father is through Jesus Christ. He is the truth, not just one who teaches the truth. Truth is in Jesus (Ephesians 4:21). Therefore those who have Him have the Truth. It is not found in anyone else. Bhudda, Confucius, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, etc. did not teach the Truth let alone have the Truth in them. Not only did Christ claim He is the only way to the Father and the truth, but He claimed to be the life. In other words, Jesus Christ is the source of life. Therefore those who receive Him have eternal life because Jesus is the Life.
• Being the only way to the only true God and the truth and the life, the Lord Jesus constantly invited the lost to come to Him. This was a necessary part of His ministry to sinners whom He came to seek and save.
• Our Lord Jesus served the lost and indeed, He served them well. But He also commissioned His disciples to serve the unsaved people of the world. This was a great privilege and honor for His disciples. They were invited to share in the holy service of the Great King. Our Lord knew that He was here only for a time, and soon He would return to the Heavenly Father. The work He had started would continue till His second coming in great glory and power. So the Lord Jesus trained and prepared some of His disciples to carry on the work He had begun. As part of their preparation, they were sent out on special preaching tours to those the Lord specifically directed them to.
• Three of the Gospels record our Lord's sending of His disciples on various short-term evangelistic missions. Mark and Matthew recorded one each while Luke recorded two. Matthew would later record the Great Commission at the end of its Gospel record.
• At the close of Matthew 9, the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. The next thing that happened was that He appointed twelve to be His apostles and sent them out. It is as if the Lord Jesus is saying, "Pray for harvesters, but be prepared to become one yourself." In other words, in praying for the supply of workers, we must be willing to go ourselves.
• In Matthew's report in chapter 10, we are told the Lord Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits... and sent them into the harvest.
"These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: 'Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give..." (Matthew 10:5ff).
• Matthew's inspired account not only affirms that only the twelve disciples were sent out, but also where they were sent to. They were sent to the northern part of Israel. They were not to go east to the Gentiles or south to the Samaritans.
• Mark's inspired report affirms that only the twelve were sent out on the first short-term missions outreach.
"And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff-no bread, no bag, no money in their belt... And He said to them, 'Wherever you enter a house stay there until you leave town. Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.' They went out and preached that men should repent. And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them" (Mark 6:7-13).
• The first of Dr. Luke's two accounts in Luke 9:1-6 is similar in most respects to those of Matthew and Mark. It was the twelve our Lord called together and sent out after giving them power and authority over all the demons. They were sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. Departing, the twelve went throughout the villages preaching the gospel and healing.
• There are several lessons preserved in these passages, but let me mention just four of them. The first is that Jesus Christ is unique. Other men had performed miracles, but no other man ever conferred the power on others. Our Lord performed miracles Himself and delegated His authority and power to His disciples. The second lesson is also from the life of Jesus Christ: He knows when and where to send His disciples. The third lesson is from the life of the disciples. They were obedient to the Lord. They went out proclaiming the gospel to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and performing healing as they were instructed to do. They did not follow their own agenda. They did not go out to do their own thing. They did exactly as they were commanded. The bottom line of obedience is doing exactly as God has commanded. Fourth and finally, God's servants must depend on Him to provide for their needs. The disciples depended on God to provide all they needed for their service on their short-term missions work.
• Luke's second inspired account of the sending out of the disciples indicates that a greater number of disciples were involved in another short-term missions work. The greater number, as well as the repetition of the sending out of His disciples, clearly show the importance our Lord attached to His service to lost sinners through His followers.
"Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves... The seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject are subject to us in Your name'" (Luke 10:1-3, 17).
• This is the only account we have in the Gospels of the Lord's sending out of the seventy disciples. This particular mission was to the south along the route Lord was following to Jerusalem. This mission was seemingly intended to prepare the way for the Lord in His journey from Caesarea Philippi in the north, through Galilee and Samaria, across the Jordan, south through the region of Perea, then back across the Jordan to Jerusalem. Earlier, the twelve were sent to the north.
• Again, we see that in praying for workers to be sent out, we must be willing to go. This is clearly seen in the connection between the expressions "therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers..." and the command, "go." Our Lord reminded the seventy disciples that they were being sent into a hostile environment. They cannot expect to be treated royally by the world, but rather to be persecuted and even killed. Their mission was not a mission of personal comfort. While there is much to commend modern short-term missions for, it is sad to see that there is so much emphasis on personal comfort on these missions. Our Lord did not lay such emphasis for His disciples; considerations of personal comfort were not to dominate their thinking. May it be so in our short-term missions work!
• Jesus Christ served the lost not only by His commitment to preaching and teaching the gospel, by His constant devotion to prayer for power to minister to them, by His consistent calling of them to repentance, by His compassionate care and concern for them in feeding them, healing them, weeping over their rebellion, by commanding His followers to pray for more workers to be sent out to work among the lost, by personally inviting them to come to Him, but also by commissioning His disciples to go out and serve them.
• In one of His resurrection appearances to His disciples, the Risen Lord commissioned them. On the evening of that first day of the week on which He rose, the inspired writer of the Gospel of John recorded that our Lord came and stood among the disciples calming their fears and more importantly commissioning them.
"As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21).
• Commissioning His followers to be sent out to serve lost sinners was so important to our Lord that He not only did it on at least two occasions before the cross but also at least twice before His ascension into heaven. The inspired writer of the Gospel of Matthew recorded our Lord's "Great Commissioning" of His disciples.
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age"(Matthew 28:18-20).
Ministering to the People of the World as Commanded by Christ
A. Authorization for Service to World
• Our Lord did not only personally ministered to the world, He also commanded His followers to do so. To accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior means to bring oneself under His rule and authority. It means also doing whatever He commands - obedience. Obedience to Christ's must always be out of love for Him. Love for His Person must be the motivation for doing what Christ commands. Teaching His disciples in the Upper Room before going to the cross, our Lord stressed to them that love for Him must be their motivating factor in carrying out what He commanded them.
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments... He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me... If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word... You are My friends if you do what I command you" (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:14).
• If the disciples truly loved their Lord, they would carry out His call to reach the people of the world with His love and message of life. Ministering to the lost was not an optional matter for them.
• The Lord Jesus did not send out His disciples in their own strength. Christ's followers had no authority in themselves to carry out the call to reach the people of the world with the good news. They needed His backing for what He was calling them to - a world wide work. Therefore our Lord wisely gave them that much needed backing. His commission to His disciples was prefaced by His statement of authorization.
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18).
• The Lord Jesus assured His disciples of His universal authority in heaven and on earth. On the basis of this universal authority, the Risen Lord gives His disciples the mandate of working purposefully toward the advance of His gospel in all the nations. They were authorized by the King of the universe. They were sent out as the agents of Christ, the Lord of all. They had the right to go and minister to the world. They had the backing of the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
• Earlier our Lord's authority for His ministry was challenged by the religious leaders of Israel (Luke 20:1-8). He knew very well, that after His ascension to the Father, His disciples would similarly be challenged. Actually, not long after His ascension, the same religious leaders who once challenged His authority, challenged that of the apostles. Peter and John were questioned by the religious leaders of Israel after being used by God to heal a crippled beggar at the gate called Beautiful. Peter and John spent the night in prison before being interrogated. "By what power or name, have you done this?" (Acts 4:7). Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter, knowing very well that they had been authorized by the Lord of the universe, confidently answered the religious leaders.
"Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by this name this man stands here before you in good health" (Acts 4:10).
• Christ not only commanded and commissioned His disciples, He also authorized them for service. Just as the early believers stood on the authority of Christ in their service to the world, so also Christians of today must firmly and faithfully stand on the authority of Christ to serve the lost. If our authority is challenged, we must not point to ourselves. We must point to Christ, the Lord, who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. We go in the confidence that our Lord Jesus is in sovereign control of everything in heaven and on earth.
• It was not enough for the disciples to be authorized for service, they also needed to be empowered for service to the lost. They had no authority in themselves for the call to evangelize all nations. Similarly, they could not carry out this world wide witness in their own power or might. The work they were about to be invest their lives in is a supernatural work requiring a supernatural power. It was not to be carried out in the strength, power or might of man. It was to be done in the supernatural strength and power of the Person of the Holy Spirit.
• Therefore, the Lord Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and that they would consequently receive power for service. Dr. Luke was inspired to record two important statements made by our Lord in connection with power for service, just before His ascension.
"And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city [that is, Jerusalem] until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth"(Acts 1:8).
• The disciples of Christ had been prepared by Him for three years. They had seen Jesus Christ at work, preaching, teaching and healing the sick in the power of the Holy Spirit. They heard His divine utterances. They saw His sufferings at His trials and on the cross. They knew of His death and burial. But they also knew that He was raised from the dead. The Risen Lord revealed Himself to them on several occasions. In short, they were His witnesses. They must go forth as heralds of the glorious message of the gospel of God. But first, they must wait for the promise of the Father, that is, for the coming of the Divine Person of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Then they would be endued with divine power to bear witness to the Risen Lord and Christ.
"This power is the grand indispensable of Christian witness. A man may be highly talented, intensively trained, and widely experienced, but without spiritual power he is ineffective. On the other hand, a man may be uneducated, unattractive, and unrefined, yet let him be endued with the power of the Holy Spirit and the world will turn out to see him burn for God. The fearful disciples needed power for witnessing, holy boldness for preaching the gospel. They would receive this power when the Holy Spirit came upon them." - W. MacDonald
• Just as the early disciples could not be effective in their witness without the power of the Holy Spirit, so also we cannot minister faithfully and fruitfully to the lost without the presence and power of the Person of the Holy Spirit. We need Him . We need His power for fruitful service to the unsaved. The early Christians waited ten days for the coming of the Holy Spirit in power upon their lives. While we do not need to go to Jerusalem and wait there, we can wait on the Lord for our strength to be renewed. The Bible says, "Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength" (Isaiah 40:31).
• Personally, by the grace of God, I have been praying everyday for the fresh power of the Holy Spirit to be released into my life, to win the lost, to woo them to God, to witness to them and to warn them. The fact that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us and also with us, does not mean we should not constantly and earnestly pray for fresh filling, fresh anointing, fresh power, and fresh fullness of the Holy Spirit. No day should pass in our lives without earnestly asking God for fresh anointing and power of the Holy Spirit upon our lives to empower us to minister to the lost effectively.
• The power of the Holy Spirit is indispensable, not only in our worship of, walk and work with God, but also in our witness to the people of the world. God, in His grace has made this power available to us. There is no excuse to give to God for our failure to be His effective witnesses. Why? He has provided all we need for our service to the lost.
• The Lord Jesus not only authorized and empowered His disciples, He also revealed to them the extent of their commission. His good news was not to be kept to themselves. It was to be preached in all nations. It was to be carried to the remotest parts of the earth. Yes, Christ declared that He is the exclusive Savior. But the extent of His commission is all-inclusive.
• Before the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, Christ had repeatedly revealed to His disciples that His gospel was to be preached in the whole world.
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come"(Matthew 24:14)
"Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken in memory of her" (Matthew 26:13; cf. Mark 14:9).
• The God who called believers to Himself is a God who loved the whole world and gave His One and Only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). His gospel is for the whole world. His good news is for all nations. He wants all He created in His own image to hear His message of life and redemption.
• In the Great Commission and other post-resurrection pronouncements of Christ, the Head of the Church, the Risen Lord, reiterated to His disciples that the whole world was their parish.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19).
"And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation'" (Mark 16:15).
"Repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47).
"You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
• In Luke's inspired accounts of the extent of the commission, our Lord gives a specific enumeration. Jerusalem, where Christ was crucified for the sins of the world, where also He rose triumphantly from the grave, was to be their starting point. Jerusalem was not the home city of the inner circle of our Lord's disciples. They were Galileans. But Jerusalem was where they were told to wait. Moreover, it was soon to be the site of Pentecost, on which thousands of new converts would be won to Christ. Jerusalem, was however, the most difficult place to bear witness for Jesus Christ. It was there that Christ faced the stiffest opposition of His life and ministry. It was there that He was rejected by the people of Israel and subjected to a humiliating death by crucifixion. But Jerusalem was where the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus, chose for His disciples to bear witness of Him. Their testimony was to be of Jesus and Jesus alone. They were not sent out to promote their culture, but to promote Christ.
• Beyond Jerusalem, the disciples were to be witnesses in "all Judea." Actually, in this context, the expression "all Judea," means the country of the Jews including Galilee. This region was inhabited by the Jews having the same customs as the disciples. They were familiar with this . This was the most comfortable area of outreach for the disciples.
• If Judea was a comfortable place for the disciples, Samaria was certainly an uncomfortable, unseemly, unbecoming, untoward and an un-called-for place for the disciples to take the good news. Samaria was the most distasteful area to serve. They were being called to serve not only people they were comfortable with and like, but also to people whom they [Jews] found most difficult to love.
• The Jews and the Samaritan had been engaged in a conflict for a very long time, dating back to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (see Ezra 4 and Nehemiah 4). When the northern ten tribes were taken into captivity in 722 B.C., the King of Assyria repopulated Israel with Assyrians. The Israelites who were left behind intermarried with the Assyrians. The product of this intermarriage was half-breed Jews called the Samaritans. These were living in the land before the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin were taken into captivity to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar, who also destroyed the temple of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
• When the Jews returned from Babylon and began the rebuilding of the temple, the Samaritans offered to assist, but their offer was turned down (see Ezra 4). Later, in the building of the wall of Jerusalem, the Samaritans ridiculed and opposed the Jews and did everything to discourage them from the work (see Nehemiah 4). Since those days, there was friction between the Jews and the Samaritans. Because of being half-breeds, the Jews had a deep dislike and disdain for the Samaritans.
• The Lord Jesus Himself experienced this friction. When our Lord asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water, she was quick to respond to Him with a "racial profiling" question. "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (John 4:9a). The inspired comment of Apostle John reveals the age old animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. "For Jews had no dealings with Samaritans" (John 4:9b). In their animosity toward Jesus Christ, some of the Jews slandered Him by calling Him a Samaritan. "Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?" (John 8:48). In His attempt to destroy the root of the Jews' deep dislike for the Samaritans, our told a parable about loving one's neighbor, in which He made the Samaritan the hero (Luke 10:29-37).
• When our Lord was refused passage through Samaria while He was on His way to Jerusalem, the sons of thunder, James and John, two true Jews, fueled by their deep dislike for the Samaritans wanted them consumed by fire.
"When the days of were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, 'Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?' But He rebuked them, [and said, 'You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them.' And they went on to another village" (Luke 9:51-56).
• It is so clear from the "fire commanding apostles" that the Jews deeply disliked the Samaritans. Surely, they were the people the Jews would have least desired to see become a part of Christ's church. Yet the Lord Jesus commanded them, "You shall be My witnesses in... Samaria" (Acts 1:8).
• The disciples were also instructed to be Christ's witnesses, "even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). They were to take the life-giving message of the good news to every tribe and tongue and people and nation. They were called for a world wide witness. Jesus Christ has called believers to a world wide witness. All continents, all countries, all cultures, all counties, all cities, and all communities, were and are to be reached and impacted with the saving message of Jesus Christ and the service of Christ's followers. The first century believers relied on the Holy Spirit to work through them to fulfill Christ's call upon their lives to be His witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Their witness impacted their world. Scripture testifies to this. "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also" (Acts 17:6 -RSV). The world took notice of the world wide witness of the early Christians.
• Millard J. Erickson, a godly Christian theologian writes to challenge the church to continue the task of spreading the message and love of Christ:
• "If the church is to be faithful to its Lord and bring joy to his heart, it must be engaged in bringing the gospel to all people. This involves going to people whom we like and people whom we may by nature tend to dislike. It extends to those who are unlike us. And it goes beyond our immediate sphere of contact and influence. In a very real sense, local evangelism, church extension or church planting, and world missions are all the same thing. The only difference lies in the length of the radius. The church must work in all these areas. If it does not, it will become spiritually ill, for it will be attempting to function in a way its Lord never intended."
• The extent of our service is all the world, beginning with our families, friends, and neighbors around us.
D. The Presence of Christ is with His Servants in their Service to the World (Matthew 28:20)
• Not only were Christ's disciples authorized and empowered, they were also assured that He was not sending them off on their own. Although He was soon to be taken from them physically, He would nonetheless be with them spiritually to the very end of the age.
"And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age"(Matthew 28:20).
• The Gospel of Matthew ends, not with command, but with the promise of our Lord's personal guiding and comforting presence with His disciples as they carry out His commission of reaching the nations. Christ's presence is with us in our service to the people of the world.
• The Lord Jesus was introduced in the beginning of the Gospel as Emmanuel, meaning "God with us" (1:23). He is still God with us, "to the very end of the age" (28:20). Not just the future is in view, but the whole of each and every day as we live it - to the end of history as we know it, when His kingdom will be consummated.
• The Lord Jesus did not send us out into the world to strive on our own without His guiding, comforting, assuring and assisting presence. Thanks be to God! As Christ's disciples, sent out by Him, it is assuring to know that we are not going forth alone or unaided. In all our service and travel, we will know the friendship, fellowship, and fullness of the presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of sinners, the Good Shepherd and the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
Ministering to the People of the World as Continued by Christ's Early Disciples
• The book of Acts shows that the early church was a praying church. When they were instructed by the Head of the Church to wait in Jerusalem they devoted themselves continually to prayer (1:14). They sought guidance in prayer for the replacement of Judas Iscariot (1:24-26). Those who were saved on the day of Pentecost continued steadfastly in prayer (2:42). Peter and John were on their way to the temple at the hour of prayer (3:1). After Peter and John were released from prison, the believers gathered to pray (4:24-31).
• When a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food, the apostles made their priorities known to the church body. They would devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word (6:4). The seven men who were chosen to serve tables were presented to the apostles. After praying for them, the apostles laid hands on them (6:6). Stephen prayed when he was about to be martyred (7:60).
• Peter and John, partners in prayer and in the gospel, prayed for the Samaritans who believed in Christ, through the preaching of Philip (8:15-17). When Saul (later Paul) was saved, the first thing he did was to pray (9:11). Peter prayed at Joppa, and Dorcas was raised to life (9:40). The Gentile centurion, Cornelius, prayed and his prayers went up as a memorial before God before he became a believer (10:1-4). Peter prayed on the rooftop in the house of Simon the tanner in Joppa (10:9). Peter's prayer was answered by a heavenly vision that prepared him to minister to the Gentiles at Caesarea (10:10-48).
• The leaders of the church at Antioch prayed and fasted (13:1-4). The result of this prayer and fasting was staggering, the gospel message advanced to the ends of the earth. Barnabas and Paul were released for a great missionary work.
• Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for the churches God enabled them to plant, having prayed with fasting (14:23).
• When Paul and his team came to Philippi, they went outside the city gate to a riverside, where they were expecting to find a place of prayer (16:13). Once when they were going to the place of prayer, they encountered a slave girl, who had a spirit of divination (16:16). Paul and Silas held a prayer and praise service in prison at Philippi (16:25). God responded to their prayer with a great earthquake and the salvation of the entire family of the jailer (16:26-34).
• When Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, he met with the elders of Ephesus at Miletus for a time instruction and a farewell message (20:17-35). After that, Paul prayed with them (20:36).
• Before Paul and his team left the believers at Tyre, they knelt down on the beach and prayed (21:5).
• Before the shipwreck on the Adriatic Sea, Paul prayed in the presence of all on board the storm-tossed ship, giving thanks to God for the food and encouraged them to eat some food (27:35-36).
• On the island of Malta, where Paul and two hundred and seventy-five others landed after the storm, Paul prayed and laid hands on the father of Publius, the leading man of the island (28:8). The man was miraculously healed.
• Clearly then, the atmosphere in which the early believers lived and served, was saturated with prayer. Their praying resulted in earth shaking events.
• The early church made prayer the foundation of their ministry to the lost. From the very beginning of the church, constant, fervent, believing prayer was given a prominent place in the lives of the small band of believers our Lord left behind to continue the work He had started. Obeying their Lord's direct command to wait in Jerusalem, the apostles and the other believers, mainly from Galilee, returned to Jerusalem where they gave themselves to unceasing prayer in the upper room.
"These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His mothers" (Acts 1:14).
• Two things characterized the prayer life of the early believers. First, they were united in purpose. This is clearly expressed in the phrase, "these all with one mind."They prayed with "one accord." The Greek word (homothymados) for this expression means with one mind or purpose, by common consent, together, unanimously. They were on the same page when it came to prayer. They had the same heartbeat in prayer. Actually, the expression "with one mind or accord"occurred eleven times in Acts. Unity in prayer is one of the essential keys that unlocks the secrets of God's blessing into the life of His church. Psalm 133:1 says,"Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity!" The early believers not only dwelt together in unity, but they devoted themselves to united prayer. Their united prayer would prepare the way for God to command His blessing into their lives, that is, the coming of the Person of Holy Spirit in power.
• The second characteristic of the prayer of the small band of believers is this: They were unceasing in prayer. They "were continually devoting themselves to prayer." The Greek verb translated "were continually devoting" is proskatereo. It means a steadfast and single-minded fidelity to a certain course of action. The believers waiting in Jerusalem faithfully devoted themselves to prayer. Their waiting on God was characterized by loyalty to prayer. Now, as then, God works when His people pray. Having observed the prayer life of Christ, these believers had this convincing understanding: It is only when God's people wait before Him in faithful, desperate, believing, fervent, unhurried, united and unceasing prayer that the reviving, renewing, refreshing, and re-energizing power of the Spirit of God is poured out into their lives. Therefore they gave themselves to prayer, communing with God and drawing closer to Him rather than sit and waste precious time like most believers do today.
• When three thousand new converts were added to the church at Jerusalem, they joined with the apostles in committing themselves to united and unceasing prayer.
"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42).
• The new believers proved the reality of their new found faith in Christ and relationship with Christ by continuing and committing themselves to the inspired teachings of the apostles, by their desire to be with God's people and share things in common with them, by their obedience in sharing in the Table of the Lord, and by their devotion to prayer. In prayer, they expressed their complete dependence on God. They would certainly be praying for power for service to the lost.
• As the early church grew, problems arose. But the apostles did not allow these problems to distract them or drain their spiritual energy. The problems only helped them to focus on what they were really called to do in order to serve God's purpose effectively. Thus, when there was a complaint about the daily distribution of food, the apostles gathered all the believers and set before them the priorities of their life and ministry. They would not neglect prayer and the ministry of the word of God.
"But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4).
• The verb translated "devote" is the same as in Acts 1:14; 2:42. Theirs was a steadfast and single-minded fidelity to the discipline and delight of prayer and the ministry of the word of God. Please, notice very carefully the order established in the passage. It is very significant - first prayer, then the ministry of the word of God. The twelve made it a point to speak to God about men before speaking to men about God. In their speaking to God about men, I believe the apostles asked God repeatedly for power to serve as Christ served. God answered their prayers powerfully. They were renewed and refreshed in the power of the Holy Spirit and ministered to the lost, bearing much fruit that lasted, to the praise and honor of God.
B. Commitment to the Proclamation of the Gospel (Acts)
• The early Christians did not engage in the politics of this world. Rather, they engaged themselves in the proclamation of the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were a people of one purpose - to preach the Gospel of God. They gave themselves to this task without distraction. Certainly, they must have believed that the Gospel of Christ is the answer to man's problems. This conviction was so strong that they carried the message of the Good News to all people in their generation. The heart of the ministry of the early church was the Gospel of God, which centers upon the Son of God, Jesus Christ and what God has done through Him by the Spirit of God, for the salvation of sinners.
• The book of Acts clearly shows the commitment of the early believers to the proclamation of the Good News to the lost. They knew that in Jesus Christ alone was life, salvation, peace, joy and hope for this life and for the life to come. Therefore, in ministering to the people of the world God's way, they consistently preached Jesus Christ and Him alone.
• On the day of Pentecost, Apostle Peter, in the fullness of the Spirit, preached Jesus Christ as crucified, resurrected, ascended, exalted and as Lord and Christ. Concluding his preaching on Pentecost, Peter declared in the Holy Spirit:
"This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: "The LORD said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ---this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:32-36).
• After the healing of the crippled beggar at the temple gate called Beautiful, Peter did not preach or promote himself. Rather, he preached and promoted Jesus Christ. Full of the Holy Spirit, Peter presented Jesus as God's Glorified Servant, Holy and Righteous One and as the Prince of life.
"The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the One whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to the death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all" (Acts 3:13-16).
• When Peter and John were brought out of prison to face the religious leaders of Israel in connection with the healing of the crippled beggar, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the Lord Jesus to them as crucified, resurrected, as the chief cornerstone, and as One in whose name alone salvation is found.
"Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead---by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must saved"(Acts 4:9-12).
• The inspired writer of Acts, Dr. Luke, summarized the ministry of the Jerusalem church as one of testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus in great power.
"And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33).
• The disciples were brought again before the Sanhedrin after spending a night in jail for preaching to the lost. The high priest accused them of disobeying the strict orders they gave them not to teach in Jesus' name and determining to make them guilty of Christ's blood. To these charges, Peter and the other apostles replied by preaching Jesus Christ as crucified, resurrected, exalted, and as Prince and Savior.
"We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as Prince and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:29-32).
• The Sanhedrin was determined to stop the spread of the good news. So they flogged the apostles and ordered them with a further threat not to speak in the name of Jesus. But the apostles went their way rejoicing and were ever more relentless in their passion to preach Jesus to the lost.
"And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ" (Acts 5:42).
• When a great persecution broke out against the Jerusalem church, all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. The scattering didn't stop them from spreading the good news to lost sinners. Philip was one of the scattered believers who came to the city of Samaria with the good news of Jesus Christ.
"Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them" (Acts 8:4-5).
• When Philip's work in Samaria was done, God moved him out of Samaria. God had been working in the heart of an Ethiopian eunuch who had come to Jerusalem to worship and was now on his way back to Ethiopia. He was seeking God through His prophetic word in the book of Isaiah. The eunuch needed spiritual instruction in order to gain spiritual insight and be saved. Philip was sent for this purpose.
"Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him" (Acts 8:35).
• The Ethiopian responded to Philip's preaching of Jesus. He was saved and baptized.
• Soon after Saul was saved, he was preaching Jesus to the lost in Damascus.
"Immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, 'He is the Son of God.'...Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 9:20, 22).
• After a life-changing lesson on the rooftop at Joppa, a transformed Peter went to Caesarea and preached to Gentiles who needed to hear the Good News of Jesus to be saved. In the Holy Spirit, Peter preached Jesus Christ as Lord of all, anointed by God, crucified, resurrected and as Judge of the living and the dead.
"You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He became visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins" (Acts 10:38-43).
• The result of Peter's preaching at Caesarea was "Pentecost at Caesarea." The Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles who came to hear the word of life. After personally experiencing the gift of the Holy Spirit, the new Gentile believers were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
• The believers who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the good news to both Jews alone. However, believers from Cyprus and Cyrene reached Gentiles in Antioch with the gospel.
"But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord" (Acts 11:20-21).
• Preaching on his first missionary journey in a synagogue filled with Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, the Spirit led Paul to recount the history of God's works with Israel. Then he brought his audience up to the events connected with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, emphasizing His resurrection and announcing forgiveness of sins through His name, and warning them of the danger of rejecting Christ.
"When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead; and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'You are My Son; today I have begotten You.' As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: 'I will give You the holy and sure blessings of David.' Therefore He also says in another Psalm, 'You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.' For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the prophet may not come upon you..." (Acts 13:29-40).
• Every city where Paul and his fellow-workers went, they preached the good news for they were convinced that it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
"[They] fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; and there they continued to preach the gospel...The next day he [Paul] went away with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch" (Acts 14:6-7, 20-21).
• On his second missionary journey, Paul remained committed to the proclamation of the gospel. Paul did not think that the gospel message was no longer relevant with the passage of time. Paul was a firm believer in the relevancy of the gospel for all people and for all times. So, at Thessalonica, in the Spirit, he preached gospel by preaching Christ.
"They came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise and again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ"" (Acts 17:1-3).
• Also when Paul encountered the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in the city of Athens, which was full of idols, on his second missionary, he did not think that the sophisticated and superstitious Athenians did not need the gospel. They too, like all others, needed to hear the message of life, and salvation in Jesus Christ. And so, in spite of being ridiculed, Paul preached the good news to them. Using the inscription, "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD," as a point of contact for his message, Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, introduced the true God to the unbelievers at Athens, as the Creator and as the Source of life and all things. Since the only true God has revealed Himself in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul was guided by the Holy Spirit to point to Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead at the conclusion of his message.
"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31).
• The early church's commitment to the proclamation of the gospel, which centers upon the Person of Jesus Christ, to a lost world as God's way of serving them, is summarized in the inspired words of Apostle Paul to the church at Colossae.
"We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me" (Colossians 1:28-29).
• Apostle Paul's personal commitment to the proclamation of the good news to the unbelieving people of the world is revealed in these solemn testimony to the church of Corinth.
"For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:16).
• Preaching the good news was not a vocation Paul chose for himself. God called him to this divine work. He would have been a most miserable man if he had not obeyed the divine obligation laid on him. The decision to preach the gospel to the lost did not come from Paul, it came directly from God. Therefore, in the Holy Spirit, Paul committed himself to the divine commission of proclaiming the good news to a lost world, doing so without charge and becoming all things to all people that God might work through him to bring them to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
• The early believers knew and were deeply convinced that the gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. As such, they carried its message from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, because this was God's way of ministering to the unsaved world.
• With the help of God, I have presented an overwhelming evidence from the Word of God to show that one of the primary ways God wants His people to follow in serving the lost is being committed to proclaiming the good news to them.
C. Compassionate Care and Concern for the Lost (Acts)
• Like the Lord Jesus, the early disciples demonstrated compassionate care and concern for the lost. Their care and concern for the unsaved was expressed in several ways. They went to where the unbelievers were in order to share the love and life-giving message of Jesus with them. In the authority of Jesus Christ, the early believers healed those God had directed them to heal. In the power of the Spirit, they performed miracles and wonders and signs among the lost. Also, operating in the power of the Holy Spirit, they delivered some who were held in spiritual bondage. Their concern and care for the unsaved was also expressed in pleading with those who were steeped in idolatry not to offer sacrifice to them as gods. In their care for unbelievers, they cried out with all that was within them to stop a jailer who was about to commit suicide. They also expressed compassionate care for the lost by reasoning with sophisticated, yet superstitious devout idolaters, seeking to point them to the one true God who has revealed Himself in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In demonstrating their concern for the lost, they also gave the unsaved godly counsel and warned them of danger, as well as gave them encouragement and hope in a dark and difficult time.
• Having stated the several ways in which the early believers expressed their concern and care for the unbelievers of their day, let's now look at the Scriptural evidences.
• In demonstrating their concern for the lost, the early church went to where the unsaved were to bring them the message of the gospel and the love of Christ. They were constantly on the move taking the good news to unbelievers. The missionary journeys of Paul clearly illustrate this point.
"So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews" (Acts 13:4-5).
"In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and Greeks... And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and stone them, they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; and there they continued to preach the gospel" (Acts 14:1, 5-6).
"A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." When he seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God has called us to preach the gospel to them" (Acts 16:9-10).
"Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures" (Acts 17:1-2).
• Paul and his fellow-workers really cared for the lost. They demonstrated that care by going to where the unsaved were.
• To show their concern and care for unbelievers, the early believers, healed the sick among the lost and performed miracles and wonders and signs. They did these under the direction of the Holy Spirit and in His power. Peter, Philip, Stephen, and Paul were empowered to perform healings, miracles, signs and wonders among the lost.
"But Peter said, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ Nazarene-walk!" And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God" (Acts 3:6-8).
"And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed" (Acts 5:14-16).
"And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:8).
"The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed" (Acts 8:6-7).
"Peter said to him, "Aeneas [he was paralyzed, and was bed-ridden for eight years], Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed." Immediately he got up. And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord" (Acts 9:34-35).
"At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother's womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, "Stand upright on your feet." And he leaped up and began to walk" (Acts 14:8-10).
"[At Ephesus] God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out" (Acts 19:11-12).
"Now in the neighborhood of that place [i.e. the island of Malta] were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed and entertained us courteously three days. And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured"(Acts 28:7-9).
• The early church's concern for the unsaved was also expressed in delivering some of them who were held in the grip of satanic forces, as well as some who were being hindered from receiving the light and life of Jesus Christ. On his first and missionary journey, God used Paul to free the proconsul Sergius Paulus, from the satanic influence exerted on him through a Jewish false prophet and magician named Bar-Jesus. Also, on his second missionary journey, God worked through Paul to rescue a slave girl who had a demonic spirit of divination.
"This man [Sergius Paulus] summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, and said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? Now, behold, and the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time." And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead them by the hand. Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord" (Acts 13:7-12).
"It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, "These men are bond-servant of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." She continued doing this for many days. But was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her! And it came out at that very moment" (Acts 16:16-18).
• In the Holy Spirit, Paul expressed righteous indignation against the magician who was using demonic powers to prevent the proconsul from receiving Jesus Christ. Similarly, Paul was deeply grieved about the wretched condition of the enslaved girl. So, in the all powerful name of Jesus Christ, he commanded the demon to come out of her. Immediately she was freed from this dreadful bondage, and became a sane, rational person.
• After the miraculous healing of a lame man, the people of Lystra concluded that Paul and Barnabas were gods who had become like men. Calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, the men of Lystra decided to make a sacrifice for them. In displaying their care for the unbelievers at Lystra, Barnabas and Paul earnestly pleaded with these superstitious idolaters and did everything to restrain them from offering a sacrifice to them. The men of Lystra actually believed that their gods had paid them a visit in the person of Barnabas and Paul. They would not want the people to think erroneously. So they sought in the Spirit's power to point them to the truth of the gospel.
"But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them..." (Acts 14:14-15).
• Although the Holy Spirit clearly led Paul and his team to Philippi, they faced stiff opposition there. They were not only beaten, but also imprisoned. In prison, Paul and Silas had a praise and worship service. God responded with a great earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison. The doors of the prison rooms were all opened. Chains fell off from the prisoners. They were free to flee. But that was a major problem for the jailer. Should any of the prisoners under his care flee, his head would be immediately chopped off. The moment of awareness came for the jailer. He awoke and saw that the prison doors were opened and thought that the prisoners had escaped. Rather than have his head chopped off, he decided to commit suicide. Paul demonstrated his compassionate care for the lost and desperate jailer by stopping him from taking his own life.
"But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!" And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household" (Acts 16:28-34).
• In this story, we see that compassionate care for the jailer opened the door for the presentation of the good news which led to the salvation of the jailer and his entire family. The jailer was fearful of losing his prisoners. Believing a lie, he nearly killed himself. Most often, those who commit suicide do so because they believe a lie. In case of the jailer, God placed Paul in his life to show him compassionate care and concern. God has placed us also in the lives of the lost and desperate to show them compassionate care, especially during those times they are bound by the lies of Satan.
• While in Athens alone on his second missionary journey, Paul saw that the city of Athens was full of idols. Knowing that God, revealed in Jesus Christ is the true God to worship, Paul's spirit was greatly distressed. Instead of leaving the unbelieving and ignorant Athenians in their spiritual blindness and ignorance, Paul expressed his concern for them by reasoning with them in the synagogue as well as in the market place. This led to an opportunity of presenting the gospel at the Areopagus. Beginning with God as the Creator and the Giver of life and everything, Paul, in the Holy Spirit, called on the Athenians to turn to God because He has set a day on which He would judge the world through Jesus Christ.
"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31).
• While traveling to Rome on a ship, Paul expressed concern and care for the lost by giving them godly counsel. They ignored his counsel though. But he also warned them of danger on their voyage. And when all hope was lost on the stormed-tossed ship on which Paul and over two hundred and seventy others were traveling, most of them being unbelievers, Paul spoke to encourage them and exhorted them to eat.
"Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also for our lives. But the the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul... Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss. Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship...Paul said to the centurion, "Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved."...Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish. Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food" (Acts 27:10-11, 21-22, 31, 33-36).
• Clearly, Paul was concerned for both the physical and spiritual welfare of the many unbelievers who were traveling with him.
• The early church expressed compassionate care and concern for the lost. They knew from the life of Christ that this was God's way of ministering to unbelievers.
• In their service to unbelievers of their day, the early believers did what their Lord and Savior did, that is, call sinners to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They were convinced that serving the lost God's way demanded that they call sinners to turn to God from their sinful ways to receive forgiveness for their sins and new life in Jesus Christ. Therefore without fail, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, they lovingly called unbelievers to repentance.
• Actually, they began calling the unsaved to repentance when they were under tutelage of the Lord Jesus Himself. On their first short-term missions outreach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, the twelve disciples preached repentance.
"They went out and preached that men should repent" (Mark 6:12).
• The disciples had watched the Lord Jesus Himself preached repentance. They learned that it was a necessary part of serving the lost God's way.
• The early Christians confronted the lost with the seriousness of sin and its consequences. They did not ask people to accept Jesus Christ as Savior until they had been told that believing in Jesus Christ involved repenting from sin, and that salvation was primarily from sin. Calling people to repentance was therefore a standard element of their service to the unsaved. The book of Acts clearly shows that this was so.
• On the day of Pentecost, Apostle Peter earnestly and lovingly called the unbelieving Jews to repentance. Having made known to them their sin of rejecting their Messiah and Savior, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, called upon each person in his audience to repent and receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Person of the Holy Spirit.
"Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself'" (Acts 2:38-39).
• Through the Holy Spirit, Peter, gave two commands, namely repent and be baptized. These commands were followed by promises of two blessings, namely forgiveness of sins and personal experience of the Holy Spirit. The above verse is not teaching that salvation is by baptism. Salvation is always by faith and faith alone, plus nothing else. Whereas baptism is an outward sign of the inward reality of faith in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
• Repentance is an about-face by which the sinner acknowledges his lost condition before a holy God who hates sin. It is a God-given change of mind that turns away from sin and turns to God for help. This is a gift of God to a convicted sinner. This fact is affirmed by the Scriptures. When Peter came back to Jerusalem from his life-changing evangelistic missions at Caesarea, where he presented the good news to many who were gathered in Cornelius's house, the Holy Spirit reported on the conclusion of the discussion between Peter and the rest of the apostles and brethren at Jerusalem. The conclusion reveals that repentance is gift from God.
"When they heard this, they were quieted and glorified God, saying, 'Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life'" (Acts 11:18).
• The Greek verb translated "has granted" (didomi) also means, "give in the sense grant, bestow, impart." The preacher of the good news does not grant repentance, God does. It is His gift that He generously and lovingly bestows on a convicted sinner.
• Earlier, when Peter and the rest of the apostles were brought before the high priest and all his associates, the Sanhedrin or the Council gave them strict orders not to teach in the name of Jesus. But the calm and confident response of the apostles was that they would obey God who raised Christ from the dead and exalted Him as Savior for the purpose of bestowing repentance and remission of sins to Israel.
"We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the One whom God had exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:29-31).
• 2 Timothy 2:24-25 also indicates that God is the One who imparts repentance to those who are opposed to God's messengers and message.
"The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."
• At first glance, this passage might seem to suggest that there is a question mark as to God's desire and willingness to grant repentance. That, however, is not the case at all. God is always waiting to bestow repentance on the sinner who comes to Him in humble confession. God never withholds repentance from anyone who comes to Him in humility, admitting that he is wrong.
• The teachings of Acts 11:18 and 2 Timothy 2:24-25 show that God gives repentance that leads not only to spiritual life, but also to the knowledge of the truth. Thanks be to God for this gracious work of His!
• When Apostle Peter was given another opportunity to preach Jesus Christ to the unsaved Jews of Israel after the miraculous healing of the crippled beggar, he again, in the Holy Spirit, called them to repentance.
"Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient times" (Acts 3:19-21).
• In the power of the Spirit, Peter, again gave his Jewish audience two commands, namely "repent and return." The second command, "return,"(epistrepho) means a change of mind or of a course of action, for the better or the worse. It speaks especially of a change in the sinner's relation with God. Obviously, Peter was calling the men of Israel to turn to the God of Israel, who revealed Himself fully in Messiah Jesus. They were called to make an about-face.
• Their turning to God would not be in vain. They were promised that their sins would wiped away or blotted out. They would subsequently experience times of refreshing, which simply refers to the blessing of Christ's future kingdom on earth.
• When persecution occurred in connection with Stephen, many believers were scattered. But they didn't go into hiding. They went about preaching the Lord Jesus. Their labor in the Lord was not in vain. We are told by the Holy Spirit: "And the hand of the Lord was upon them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord" (11:21). Although the details of their preaching were not disclosed, we can safely surmise that they called their hearers repentance, that is, to turn from their sins to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and new life in Jesus Christ.
• Calling sinners to repentance featured prominently in the ministry of Apostle Paul. On all his missionary journeys, the Holy Spirit directed him to call the lost to turn from their wicked ways to the One and Only true God, who revealed Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ.
• At Lystra, while on their first missionary journey, Barnabas and Paul called the Gentiles of Lystra to repentance after their miraculous healing a lame man from birth. Upon observing the miracle, the Gentiles of Lystra thought their gods had become like men and had come down to them in human flesh. Barnabas, they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes. The priest of Zeus whose temple was outside the city gate was ready to offer sacrifice with the crowds. Just at that time Barnabas and Paul rushed out into the crowds crying out:
"Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them" (Acts 14:15).
• In the power of the Holy Spirit, the missioners, called the Gentiles to repentance. They were called to make a change of mind for the better, that is, turning from lifeless, deceitful, worthless, and false idols and gods to a living God. Since these were Gentiles and not Jews, the missioners pointed to the evidence of the true and living God in creation and in providence. It was not an easy day of ministry for Barnabas and Paul. They had much difficulty in restraining the crowds from offering a sacrifice to them.
• At the Jerusalem Council, where the apostles and elders gathered to hammer out the relation of the Law to believing Gentiles, repentance to God was upheld. In the Holy Spirit, Apostle James, concluded his counsel to the Council with these words:
"Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood" (Acts 15:19-20).
• Calling sinners to repentance was a standard element of the ministry of the first century believers that they spoke about it so often. I am also convinced that they prayed often for God to grant the lost the repentance that leads to life.
• On his second missionary journey, Paul was frequently chased out of town. He was chased out of Thessalonica and later Berea. From Berea Paul came to Athens. While there, Paul didn't hold a pity party for himself. He knew that the God to whom he belonged and served is a God who turns the evil that is meant against His servants into good. With that attitude, Paul set about to minister the love of Jesus Christ to the people of Athens. His spirit was deeply provoked within him when he saw the city full idols. He went to the synagogue and the market place every day to reason with those God led to him. This led to a great open door. Paul was invited to speak at the Areopagus. Knowing that his audience was largely a Gentile audience and therefore were people without a biblical worldview, he pointed to God as the Creator and Lord and the Giver of life and all things. At the conclusion of his message, Paul was inspired to make one of the most powerful calls to repentance.
"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31).
• The passage makes it clear that God is commanding all men everywhere to repent, that is, to do an about-face, a one hundred-and-eighty degree turn from their sins to the Savior Jesus Christ. This is an urgent message, because God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). The only way to avoid the judgment to come is to turn to God from one's sins now.
• Meeting with the elders of the church of Ephesus at Miletus, Apostle Paul described his ministry as preaching what was helpful and proclaiming repentance to all.
"I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts: 20:20-21).
• Preaching repentance, that is, a turning to God from sins, featured prominently in Paul's ministry to both Jews and Greeks. Without discrimination as to nationality or religious background, Apostle Paul proclaimed the necessity of a turning to God from sins and faith toward Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinners. These are two fundamental elements of the good news. In every genuine case of salvation, there are both repentance and faith. These are the two sides of the gospel coin.
• Paul was committed to preaching repentance to all people because it was part of the special mandate he received from the glorified and risen Lord. Making his defense before King Agrippa and governor Festus at Caesarea, Paul stated the primary objectives of his calling as given to him by the Lord Jesus.
"But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me. So King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance" (Acts 26:16-20).
• It was on the way to Damascus that Paul was saved. It was there he began his ministry. Without fail, Paul fulfilled his calling by preaching repentance to all, starting from Damascus, calling Jews and Gentiles alike to turn to God and to prove the reality of their repentance. From the above passage, we learn that a turning to God has so many blessings. It rescues the sinner from darkness. It releases the sinner from the power and control of Satan. It leads to the reception of forgiveness of one's sins. It restores the sinner to an inheritance among the saints.
• In his second letter to the scattered and suffering believers in what is now modern Turkey, inspired Apostle Peter reminded the believers that God does not want anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance.
"The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
• Some of the enemies of the gospel in Peter's day were mocking the teaching of Christ's Second Personal Return. For them, as far as they were concerned, that was a joke. After all, things have remained the same. Therefore, there would be no supernatural intervention in the course of history. Filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, Peter responded to the scoffers, stating that if there seems to be a delay, it is not because God is unfaithful to His promise. It is because He is very patient. In His incredible patience, God has chosen to extend the time of grace so that sinners might have the opportunity to repent and be saved.
• Certainly, calling sinners to repentance was a standard element of the preaching of the good news to the lost by the early Christians. Calling the people of the world to repentance is an essential way of ministering to the lost. The apostles and the early believers faithfully did that and saw much fruit to the glory and praise of God.
• Following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, the early believers exhorted sinners to call on the name of the Lord to be saved. Their Lord and Master personally invited sinners to come to Him to find rest for their weary souls and life in Him.
• On the day of Pentecost, Apostle Peter, "the pentecostal preacher," declared to the crowds that all they had to do to be saved was to call on the name of the Lord Jesus.
"And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved" (Acts 2:21).
• Quoting an Old Testament prophecy of Joel, in the Spirit, Peter, invited his audience, most of whom were of Jewish origin, to each personally call on the name of Jesus in order to be saved from their sins. This is good news indeed. Salvation is offered to all people on the principle of personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. The expression "the name of the LORD," is an expression that includes all that the LORD or Yahweh is. Thus, to call on His name is to call on Yahweh Himself as the true object of faith and as the only way of salvation. The Bible makes it clear that the Lord Jesus is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His nature (Hebrews 1:3). So to call on the LORD is to call on Jesus Christ. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter, therefore pointed the crowds to Jesus Christ as the Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), the One to call upon for salvation.
• Apostle Paul knew what it meant to call on His name. Making his defense before an angry Jewish mob that had attempted to kill him in the temple grounds in Jerusalem, Paul, filled with the Spirit, related to them among other things how he was instructed by Ananias to call on Jesus' name for salvation and forgiveness of his sins. Ananias's inspired words to Paul were: "Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16). This verse is not teaching baptismal regeneration. What it is teaching is that calling on the name of the Lord in faith results in the cleansing of one's sins. Baptism is simply an outward expression of the inward reality of calling on His name in faith for salvation.
• From his own experience of calling on the name of the Lord for salvation and the teaching of the Scriptures, Paul was inspired to write to the church at Rome that salvation is available for all who call on the name of the Lord, whether Jew or Gentile.
"For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches to all who call on Him; for whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things" (Romans 10:12-15).
• Just as there is no difference between Jew and Gentile as far as the need for salvation is concerned, so also there is no distinction as far as the availability of salvation is concerned. But the question is: What are the steps that lead to the salvation of Jews and Gentiles? This is what the above passage deals with.
• Bible Commentator W. MacDonald states that the passage will be clearer if the order is reversed as follows:
"God sends out His servants. They preach the good news of salvation. Sinners hear God's offer of life in Christ. Some of those who hear believe the message. Those who believe call on the Lord. Those who call on Him are saved."
• Clearly then, an essential part of preaching the gospel is exhorting sinners to call on Jesus' name in faith for salvation. The apostles and the early Christians did exactly just that in their service to the lost.
Ministering to the People of the World by Christians Today
A. Constant Devotion to Prayer for the Progress of the Gospel
• To minister to unbelievers God's way, God's people must devote themselves to prayer for power for service and for the progress of the good news among the lost. We have seen that the Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ, diligently devoted Himself to prayer for power to serve among the lost of His day. Also, the apostles and the early believers steadfastly and single-mindedly gave themselves to prayer for fresh power to serve the unsaved.
• If we are to minister to the people of world according to the pattern God has established and preserved in His word, we will need to give ourselves individually and collectively continually to prayer asking God specifically to freshly and daily empower us for service among the lost. Personally, I have been specifically asking God daily to anoint me with the Holy Spirit and with power so as to win souls, to witness to the unsaved, to woo the lost to Him and to warn them.
• We do a great disservice to the people of the world if we, as believers in Jesus Christ, fail to engage ourselves in a steadfast and single-minded devotion to prayer for power for service among the unsaved and for the advance of the gospel of God.
B. Commitment to the Proclamation of the Good News
• While serving the lost in His ministry here on earth, the Lord Jesus committed Himself to the preaching and teaching of the gospel. He went from village to village, town to town, and from city to city preaching the good news of the kingdom. He demonstrated great passion in preaching and teaching the good news because He knew that this was God's way of ministering to the lost.
• The early believers followed in the footsteps of their Lord and Savior. They also demonstrated the same passion in proclaiming the good news to sinners. They believed that the gospel is relevant for all people and for all times. They knew that commitment to the proclamation was God's way of ministering to unbelievers. The Bible summarized their commitment and passion to the preaching of the gospel of Christ in these words:
"And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all"(Acts 4:33).
• Their testimony was not about themselves but about the Person of the Lord Jesus, who He is and what God has done through Him in the Holy Spirit in order to bring salvation for sinners. This was the way they ministered to the many unbelievers they encountered. They told them the story of Jesus. They shared with them the message of life and salvation in Jesus Christ. They presented Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation for sinners. They simply pointed the lost to Jesus Christ. They were not ashamed to speak of the Son of God who died a disgraceful death on a cross in order to save sinners. They spoke with great confidence and conviction about Him being raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God. They did all this because they knew that serving unbelievers God's way demanded that they tell, speak, share, preach, proclaim and present Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.
• For believers to minister to unbelievers God's way, they must each commit to the presentation of the good news. They must be convinced that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. They must be committed to preaching Jesus as the Savior of sinners.
• What the people of this world needs most is salvation from their sins, not more shopping malls, sales, shows, sport complexes, superstar models, self-esteem improvement seminars. Their greatest need is not the so-called "success, satisfaction, or security." They greatest need is salvation. This salvation is found in the gospel message. The gospel is all-important. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Romans 1:16).
• The gospel is the only route to salvation in Jesus Christ. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring salvation to lost sinners with all its attendant blessings. The gospel is the means by which life is obtained (2 Timothy 1:10). The gospel also brings peace and hope to those who believe its life-giving and life-changing message. As such, the gospel is described as "the gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:15) and the "hope of the gospel" (Colossians 1:23). For each and every believer to serve our unbelieving family, friends or foes, God's way, we must proclaim to them the good news of life, peace, hope and salvation in Jesus Christ. We cannot fail in this. We cannot excuse ourselves from this privileged responsibility. God has given us the answer to the world's greatest need - salvation from sin. Jesus Christ is indeed the answer for the world today. Whether the unbelievers listen to us or not, we must be committed to the service of preaching the good news of Jesus Christ to them. It is God's way of ministering to the lost.
• Christian theologian, Millard J. Erickson, writes:
"The gospel not only cuts across all racial, social, economic, and educational barriers (Rom. 1:16; Gal. 3:28), but also spans the centuries of time. A message which does not become obsolete (Jude 3), it is the church's sacred trust today. In an age in which most ideas and systems of thought, as well as techniques and commodities, are of a throwaway variety, the church has an infallible and enduring resource-a message which is the only means of salvation. The church can display the same confidence in the gospel that Paul had, for it is still the same gospel; time has not eroded its effectiveness. The church has the good news to offer to the world, news which brings hope. In this respect the message and ministry of the church are unique. For in our world today there is little hope...The gospel offers its blessings of peace, joy, and satisfaction in a way contrary than we expect... Because the gospel has been, is, and will always be the way of salvation, the church must preserve the gospel at all costs. When the gospel is modified, the validity of the church is lost. The church dies."
• The gospel is still relevant as it was in the first century. It is what God has given us to offer to the people of the world to bring them back to Him. It is what gives hope to a lost world of little or no hope. It is what brings life and salvation for those who are dead in their trespasses.
• Without doubt, the Bible convincingly shows that, ministering to the lost God's way, calls for a resolute commitment to the proclamation of the good news of our Lord Jesus. May God help us not to fail Him in this service!
C. Call to Repentance
• Both Christ and His early believers called the lost to repentance. Calling sinners to repentance was a standard element in their service to unbelievers. It must therefore be a standard element in our service to the lost today. In the strength and power of the Spirit, we must lovingly and earnestly plead with the unsaved to turn from their sins to a holy, gracious, merciful, loving, faithful, patient and righteous God, who does not delight in the death of sinners. We must make it clear to lost sinners that God is not wanting anyone to perish or be lost, but for everyone to come to repentance.
• As we have seen earlier from the scriptural record, the early believers, not only called the lost to repentance, but they also clearly and consistently spelt out the benefits of repentance to those they were calling to repentance. Similarly, in our ministering to the unbelieving people of the world, we must also set the blessings of repentance before sinners with all clarity and conviction. We must let them know that, if they genuinely turn to God from their sins, God will wipe away all their sins. God will forgive them of all their sins, no matter how horrible and terrible their sins are! We must tell them that if they make an about-face from their sins to the Savior Jesus Christ, God will free them from all the things they can't free themselves from. God will save them from their sins. God will give them the gift of the Holy Spirit. God will give them a new start in life, which leads to the best of all His gifts - eternity with Him.
• Calling sinners to repentance is so much needed today. The Bible has made it clear that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It also says in plain and simple terms that, "we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all"(Isaiah 53:6). Therefore, calling sinners to repentance is desperately needed. Only the repentant, not the religious, is accepted by God. I am afraid that in most of our churches, the religious has been mistaken for the repentant. This is sad indeed. It is because of our failure in making a clear call for sinners to repent.
• The Scripture has clearly established this fact: Ministering to the unsaved God's way demands that we lovingly and faithfully call them to turn from their sins to the Savior of sinners, Jesus Christ.
D. Commissioning of Workers to Go into the Harvest
• The Lord Jesus specifically and purposefully commissioned His disciples to go into His harvest. The Bible records five commissioning services of the early believers by our Lord Jesus. First, He sent out the twelve disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-15). They were to serve among the lost sheep of the house of Israel in the northern part of Israel. Second, our Lord appointed seventy (some manuscripts read seventy-two) others, and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. These went to the southern part of Israel, having been commanded to preach the gospel of the kingdom and to perform healing (Luke 10:1-11). Third, on the evening of that first day of the week on which He rose, He commissioned His disciples (John 20:21). Fourth, before our Lord departed to the Father in heaven, He again commissioned His followers to go into the world and make disciple of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). This commissioning service was performed on a mountain in Galilee. It involved the eleven disciples and possibly others (Matthew 28:16-17). Fifth, was the commissioning service just moments before our Lord's ascension on the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem (Acts 1:4-8). These commissioning services show the great importance our Lord attached to serving the lost.
• In the first two commissioning services, our Lord specifically commanded His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest to work among the lost. They were commanded to pray but our Lord also sent them out. This leaves a pattern for the church to follow today. Churches must pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. But they must also, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, send out workers whom God has set apart for missions and evangelistic work both at home and abroad. The leadership of every local assembly must be in tune with the Holy Spirit to show them those He has set apart for a special missions work, either locally or globally or both.
• I believe that one of the reasons why churches are not commissioning workers into the harvest to serve among the lost is that the leadership is busily lost in its programs and plans. The leaders of the early church learned to minister to the Person of God Himself. As they did so, and were in tune with the Holy Spirit, He revealed to them those He had specifically chosen to be sent out to labor among unbelievers.
• The pattern that has been established in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and the early church teaches that believers must deliberately and purposefully not only pray to God to send workers into His harvest, but also cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the commissioning of those He is calling for special local and global missions. For us to serve the people of the world God's way, we must each pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest and at the same time be ready and willing to be sent out to work among them.
E. Compassionate Care and Concern for the World's Needy and Suffering
• The Scriptures clearly reveal that our Lord Jesus cared about the problems of the needy and the suffering. His feeling of compassion for the lost always led Him to concrete actions. Moved with compassion, our Lord healed the sick, cleansed the unclean, fed the hungry and raised the dead. He delivered those who were oppressed by the devil, the one who has come only to steal and kill and destroy. He wept over the rebellion of the lost. He cared for the total man - spirit, soul and body. It is clear from the biblical record preserved for us about our Lord's life that this was definitely God's way of serving unbelievers.
• The early believers also expressed compassionate care and concern for the lost. In the authority and power of the Holy Spirit, they healed the sick, delivered those who were in spiritual oppression, went to where the unbelievers were to share with them the love, grace and truth of Jesus Christ, pleaded and reasoned with them to turn from their idolatrous and sinful ways, cried out in a loud voice to stop a fearful man who was about to take his own life for an unfounded reason, gave them godly counsel, warned them of danger, encouraged and exhorted them in their hopelessness and despair. They did these because they knew that God's way of ministering to the unsaved is showing them compassionate care and concern.
• That compassionate care and concern to the lost is to be expressed in concrete actions was taught by our Lord Jesus in the story of the good Samaritan. The Lord Jesus told this story to the lawyer (i.e. an expert in the Mosaic Law) who, asked Him what one should do to inherit eternal life. Our Lord's response to the lawyer's first question was that one can inherit eternal life by loving God with one's whole being and one's neighbor as oneself (Luke 10:25-28). The lawyer remarked that the Lord Jesus had answered correctly. But wishing to justify himself, the lawyer asked another question, and that was "who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29). Our Lord responded to this question with a parable.
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring out oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever you spend, when I return I will repay you.' Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands? And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, 'Go and do the same'"(Luke 10:30-35).
• It is clear from the story that the good Samaritan, although he had nothing to do with the attack on the man going down to Jericho, took it upon himself to care for the victim's needs even at personal cost, inconvenience, and possible danger to himself, because of his compassion for him. Notice carefully again that compassion led to a series of concrete actions.
• Compassionate care and concern for the hurting, needy, stranger and the suffering among the lost is appropriate for those who worship a God who Himself expresses such concern. If we are going to serve the people of the world God's way in our day, it follows that we must also, in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, express compassionate care and concern for the lost in tangible ways. Demonstrating compassionate care and concern to the lost is not mere talk. It is Christ's love in action. It is service in the strength of the Spirit to the lost to show them that God really loves and cares for them.
• The way in which we express compassionate care and concern to unbelievers is largely dependent on the leading of the Holy Spirit. He knows what is to be done in each and every situation. He may lead you to cook a meal for an unbelieving family in your neighborhood who is having difficult times. He may direct you to give a godly counsel to an unbelieving friend. He may also guide you to provide lodging for an unsaved friend for a few days or weeks. He may lead you to call on an unbelieving teenager who is contemplating suicide, to share with him that there is hope in Christ for him. He may ask you to warn unsaved teenagers of the dangers of doing drugs. He may use you to heal an unsaved person through prayer to open the door for you to share Jesus with him. The Holy Spirit knows exactly how we are to express compassionate care and concern to the lost. He will lead us to do so, if we learn to listen to Him.
• The destructions caused by the December 2004 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and Rita have opened a wide door for Christians to express Christ's compassionate care and concern to the lost. Many Christians have given financially to the relief efforts. Others have given their time and talents to help in the disaster areas. Others have opened their homes as temporary shelters for the unsaved. Compassionate care and concern to the lost is concrete action under the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is God's way of serving the people of the world.
• B. B. Warfield, a teacher at Princeton Seminary who died in 1921 wrote these insightful words about ministry to the poor and needy by comparing it to our Lord's ministry to us.
"Now dear Christians, some of you pray day and night to be branches of the true Vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of Christ. If so, you must be like Him in giving... "though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor"... Objection 1. "My money is my own." Answer: Christ might have said, "My blood is My own, My life is My own"... then where should we have been? Objection 2. "The poor are undeserving." Answer: Christ might have said, "They are wicked rebels... shall I lay My life for these? I will give to the good angels." But no, He left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost. He gave His blood for the undeserving. Objection 3. "The poor may abuse it." Answer: Christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample His blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet He gave His own blood. Oh, my dear Christians! If you would be like Christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and the undeserving. Christ is glorious and happy and so will you be. It is not your money I want, but your happiness. Remember His own word, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
• The Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) of America that led to the sending of the first overseas American missionaries in 1812, impacted not only students but the laymen of the churches. One of these was J. Campbell White, the first secretary of the Layman's Missionary Movement, which was formed on November 15, 1906, in New York. Articulating the vision of the movement Campbell wrote:
"This movement makes the largest demands upon men. It strives simply to voice to them God's call for a life whose dominant purpose is to establish the reign of Christ in human relationships...It reminds them...that selfishness is suicidal while service of others bring to the soul the supremest possible satisfaction."
• Self-centeredness can prevent us from expressing compassionate care and concern to the lost. We must not allow it to rob us from ministering to the unsaved. Christ and His disciples demonstrated compassionate care to the unbelievers of their times. So, in reliance of the Holy Spirit, must we. It is God's way of serving the people of this world.
F. Come to Jesus, Call on Jesus
• Throughout His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus personally invited sinners to come to Him to find rest, life and salvation in Him. He didn't wait for the lost to come to Him. He took the initiative to invite them to come to Him for the gift of salvation and freedom from the burden of sin and guilt. This was God's way of serving unbelievers: "Come to Me."
• Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the early Christians also exhorted the unsaved to call on the name of Jesus for salvation. They were convinced that salvation is only found in the name of the Lord. They were therefore very careful not to present themselves or any other thing as the source of salvation of sinners. They would not confuse the issue of who saves sinners from their sins. They knew that God's way of ministering to the unsaved is to encourage them to call on Him who saves, that is, Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinners.
• Similarly, if we are going to minister to the lost God's way, then, we must again and again exhort, urge and strongly advise them to come to the Lord Jesus and call on His name, which is an expression that includes all that the Lord Jesus is.
• We are to make it clear to them that they are coming to a Person for salvation, not to a program. We must tell them plainly that they are coming to Christ for forgiveness of their sins, not to a church. We must make them understand that they are calling on a Divine Being for the gift of eternal life, not on a denomination. We must clearly tell them that they are calling on or coming to God for freedom from the burden of guilt, not to a group. They must know that they are calling on the Savior for redemption, not merely following a set of rules.
• Ministering to sinners God's way demands that we exhort them to call on the name of the Lord for salvation. It requires that we invite them to come to Jesus Christ for salvation, not to a church.
• Sinners must come to Jesus Christ, they must call on His name alone, for He alone is able to save. The church is filled with unsaved people who have been invited to come to church, but not to Christ. It is overflowing with unbelievers who were invited to join a program, but not to join themselves to the Person of Jesus. It is full of lost persons who have come to a group, but not to God.
• How important then it is for us to rediscover this simple yet significant way of ministering to the people of the world. Enabled by the Holy Spirit, we must without fail and clearly tell them to come to Jesus and call on His name. If we commit to this way of serving the lost, those who are saved would be talking more about a Person than a program. They would share more about their relationship with God's Son, more than the group they are in. May God help us to go back to the basics of serving the people of the world God's way! He promises to bless those who serve His purpose His way. The apostles and the early believers didn't invent any new way of serving the lost. They simply followed their Lord's footsteps. They were not disappointed. Rather, they were fruitful to the point that the world took notice of their service to the lost, saying, "These people who have turned the world upside down have come here also" (Acts 17:6).
• Ministering to the people of the world is an important part of God's plan. It is dear to His heart. He sent His One and Only Son, the Lord Jesus to serve them. He came to seek and save the lost. He ministered to them God's way and thereby left an example for us to follow. In serving unbelievers, the Lord Jesus committed Himself to preaching and teaching the gospel of God. The good news is all-important. It is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. Salvation is the greatest need of the people of this world. Christ did not fail to serve them in this all-important area. In the Holy Spirit, the early disciples of our Lord also committed themselves to the preaching of the good news. They knew this was God's way of serving the unsaved. If we are going to minister to the lost God's way, then we must also in the Spirit, be committed to the proclamation of the good news to unbelievers.
• In ministering God's way to the unsaved, the Lord Jesus Himself practiced constant devotion to prayer for power to serve. His disciples also gave themselves to steadfast and single-minded loyalty to prayer for power to serve the lost effectively. They had come to understand that divine power for service is released through a devoted life of prayer. Similarly, for us to minister to unbelievers God's way, our lives must be characterized by constant devotion to prayer for power to serve them.
• In His service to the people of the world, our Lord demonstrated compassionate care and concern for them. His compassion always led to concrete actions. He fed the hungry. He healed the sick. He delivered the spiritually oppressed. He wept over the rebellion of the lost. He even raised the dead out of His compassion. The early church also expressed compassionate care and concern for unbelievers. In the power of the Holy Spirit, they healed the sick, delivered those who were under satanic influence, gave godly counsel, warned of danger, reasoned and pleaded with unbelievers. Thus a permanent pattern has been established for us. If the church is going to serve unbelievers God's way, then, she must, in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, express compassionate care and concern to the lost in concrete actions. We cannot neglect this important way of serving the suffering and needy among the unsaved.
• Knowing very well that, we all, like sheep, have gone astray, and each of us has turned to his own way, the Lord Jesus consistently called the lost sheep of the house of Israel to repentance. The apostles and early believers also made this a standard element of their ministry to the unsaved. Without fear or favor, they called sinners to repentance. They had no doubt that this was God's way of ministering to the lost. Similarly, with great conviction of heart, believers of this present generation and others to come, must call sinners to repentance, that is, to turn from their sins to the Savior, Jesus Christ, who is waiting to receive the repentant sinner. He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance.
• The Lord Jesus commissioned His disciples to serve among the unbelieving Jews of His day. The early believers knew they were sent out to serve among the lost. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they also released some among them who were set apart for special service among the unsaved. Similarly, under the direction of the Spirit of God, churches must send out those God is calling to a special service among unbelievers locally and globally. This can only happen if churches are seriously praying to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest. When we pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into His harvest, we must also be prepared to be sent ourselves. The disciples not only prayed to the Lord of the harvest, they were also sent out to serve among the lost.
• In serving sinners here on earth, our Lord Jesus personally invited them to come to Him for life, salvation and rest from the burden and guilt of sins. His repeated personal invitation to them was expressed in these simple yet significant words: "Come to Me."Jesus is the source of life and salvation. He is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. He is the One who reveals the Father to repentant sinners. He is the One through whose blood forgiveness of sins is obtained. It was therefore wonderful of Him to invite sinners to come to Him for these blessings and more. In the strength of the Holy Spirit, the apostles and early believers also exhorted sinners to call upon the name of the Lord. They were deeply convinced that salvation is found in no one else. They were fully certain that there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be save except the name of Jesus Christ. In ministering to unbelievers in our day, we must also, in the power of the Spirit, call sinners to come to Christ, not to a church. We must in the Spirit, direct their attention to the Person of Jesus Christ, not to a program. We must in the might of the Holy Spirit, exhort them to call on the Divine name of the Lord Jesus, not on a denominational name. This is so important. If we want to serve the lost as God wants them to be served, we must go back to the basics of making it a clear to them that it is to Jesus they must come for life and rest from the burden of sin. It is on the Lord Jesus' name they must call for salvation.
• Ministering to the lost is part of God's plan for our lives as believers. Like ministering to the people of God, it flows out of our personal and intimate ministering to the Person of God Himself. My prayer for you as a believer in Jesus Christ is that you will seek to deepen your relationship with God through your personal ministry to Him. And as you do so in the strength of the Holy Spirit, God will equip and enable you to minister more effectively to the people of the world His way and for His glory.