Theme of the 31st Convention of the CLC, June 16-19, 2014 “God Our Savior Desires All Men to be Saved!” [The first of two Convention essays appeared last month; it was titled “Jesus is the One Mediator of that Truth.” This second essay is by Pastor Michael Gurath, Phoenix, Arizona, and is abbreviated by the editor.] “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men,
the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-7)
“We are Appointed to ”Proclaim that Truth!”
I have always pictured Paul as a superhero kind of missionary. No shipwreck, snakebite, or near-death by stoning would deter him on his way. Imprisonments could not silence the message which he proclaimed. Who could hope to follow in those footsteps?
Discouragement and defeat dominate us when our eyes are not fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. This Jesus whom we proclaim remains faithful despite our flaws and our faithlessness. Even colleagues and fellow Christians may fail us, but our Appointer never has and never will. The Appointer’s promises are as sure now as the day they were given. It’s easy to grow more cynical as we grow older. We find ourselves wringing our hands, wondering what this world is coming to, and joining in the long lines of those who murmur about the opposition to the truth. We have been warned, however. This comes as no surprise because our Lord who is already in the future has informed us that people will suppress the truth (see Romans 1:18-20). It’s popular and even stylish in our society to suppress the truth. Absolute truth is viewed as antiquated closed-mindedness. It is supposed that we are at the apex of all human history with more access than ever before to all kinds of information, and yet we cannot know anything to be certainly true. What else could this be but the sinfulness of man on display? This is the foolishness of iniquity that would keep many in the darkness of unbelief. At the heart of the issue is not suppression of a set of doctrines. It is not a rejection of moral practices. It is not an aversion to statements of faith. The root cause is rejection of a Person, Jesus the Christ. The Christ that we proclaim is One who comes in and rearranges a person’s heart, making it His own dwelling place, thereby bringing life where there was only death. This won’t happen, however, if we remain silent. Appointed to proclaim this truth? Me? “Surely someone else is better equipped. I’m not ready and I’m not able.” We are not immune to experiencing the inner turmoil that Isaiah relates by inspiration of the Spirit. “And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’” (Isaiah 6:5) An angel took a coal from upon the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips, thereby forgiving him and making him clean. The results were immediate. God had a job for someone to go and proclaim His Word to a people that might never listen; nevertheless, this was His appointment. There was no more hesitation on Isaiah’s part. Now in the peace of forgiveness his spirit was steadfast and ready. “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8).
TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?
Apart from the question of how we are appointed is the matter of to whom shall we go and proclaim this truth. In His high priestly prayer (see John chapter 17), Jesus sends each of us just as He was sent. He has given us the two components necessary for our mission. We are given the truth and love for our neighbor. We are all appointed to proclaim this truth in settings that we’d never choose and to people with whom we have little or nothing in common. I recall a seminary professor in a candid moment explaining how he had never pictured himself serving a congregation in a heavily populated, urban setting. He had always had an affinity for the country and could relate to those who lived the rural lifestyle. Nonetheless, as he planned his future, it was the Lord who ordered his steps. The apostle Paul could identify with the reality of being sent to a people and place “out of his wheelhouse.” Proclaiming the truth among the Gentiles would be an uphill battle, one for which a superior Pharisee was not suited, at least not by human estimation. “And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” (Galatians 1:14-16a, ESV). One of the concerns raised regarding our foreign mission work—especially in a place like Kenya where a reported eighty percent of the population professes the Christian faith—is that our time and effort would be better spent where there is little Christian presence. In many cases statistics don’t tell the entire story. In Kenya it doesn’t take long to discover that the Christ who is professed is not the Christ who has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. We are appointed to proclaim God’s truth to the person who has never heard the name of Jesus as well as to the one who has been introduced to a fictional Jesus. This is a daunting task if we are preoccupied with our limitations and shortcomings. God is telling us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” not for the purpose of feeling exhausted but for the purpose of feeling exhilarated. He is the Partner in this mission for both missionary goers and missionary senders. Take heart, the Appointer is the One who has promised to be “with you always, even to the end of the age.”
THE GREATEST WORK ON EARTH
Jesus knew very well that He was sending the majority of His apostles to certain death. The fact that their Appointer remained with them was the reason they died so well. It was the reason why many wondered at them while they were being killed. It was the reason why they could sing to the very end of their lives and while we continue to proclaim this truth to the very end of ours. The one who holds all authority in heaven and on Earth is the Appointer who has forgiven, called, enabled, and strengthened us. Christ is the Truth that was wrongly put on trial. The Truth committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth, yet He was killed. In spite of all this, the Truth lives! The darkness could not comprehend Him and neither could it suppress Him. We no longer have reason to wring our hands in despair, because the Truth lives! “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). This truly is the greatest work on Earth for teacher, layman, and pastor alike. The Word of the Lord continues to increase and prevail mightily. “Two case studies are instructive. In 1900, Christians comprised 9 percent of the African population and were outnumbered by Muslims four to one. Today, Christians comprise 44 percent of the population, and in the 1960s passed Muslims in number. This explosive growth is now beginning in China. Christianity is not only growing among the peasantry, but also among the social and cultural establishment, including the Communist party. At the current rate of growth, within thirty years Christians will constitute 30 percent of the Chinese population of 1.5 billion” (Philip Jenkins, The Coming of Global Christianity, p. 56) Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he had recently become a Christian. He asked Luther, “What should I do now?”—as if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist or a monk. Luther asked him, “What is your work now?” “I’m a shoe maker.” Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.” Opportunity to proclaim God’s truth arises while we faithfully fulfill our vocations in a God-glorifying manner. It has been said that in seeking to proclaim God’s truth it “might mean that we go to the same Starbucks to form relationships, work out without an i-Pod to engage those around us, and play in the front yard rather than the back in order to be available for the neighbors.” Yes, in all circumstances we are appointed to proclaim that truth. Forgiven, called, equipped, and loved—even as the Son is loved by the Father—we proclaim this precious truth near and far.