ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS

Brothers and sisters, we are at war. The enemy did not need to creep into our midst; he announces himself in our presence every day. We see his acts of terrorism every day in death, evil, pain, tears, jealousy, division, slander, divorce, and the lack of loving allegiance to God our true King. For too long, we have been content to acknowledge our adversary the Devil without taking action. We thought that we could leave him alone and he would leave us alone. We could not have been more wrong. He never left us alone. He never will leave us alone in this life. We are constantly under attack from our ancient foe.

We will be content no longer. Starting today, we join in the declaration of war declared by our true Sovereign against our common enemy. Jesus decreed, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19). Paul taught that Jesus “gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13). In these two Scriptures, we see what we must do to win this war and how we must do it.

What We Must Do

The church has her orders: “Go and make disciples.” The first word in the Great Commission is “go” (πορευθέντες). Many of us interpret this as hide, retreat, or bend. “Go” means none of those things. Jesus instructed his people to be on the attack. In the second century, Ignatius wrote, “Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of [manifest] greatness.”[1] We would often consider living as a monk or in isolation with a community, but God told us to go. We must, therefore, be on the attack. Just like a coach can pull a “prevent defense,” we try to play not to lose. The problem is that never works. When a football team stops being aggressive, they lose. When a Christian stops being aggressive, the Devil continues his charge and wins.

Jesus then said that Christians should “make disciples” (μαθητεύσατε). This an imperative or a command which we must fulfill. The word means “to make someone a student” (BDAG). In Acts 14:21 the Gospel was preached and then the Scripture adds, “and they made many disciples.” They began studying and practicing the Word. Perhaps it will help us to understand our mission if we understand that our mission is directly related to Christ’s mission. Jesus said, “even as I have been sent by my Father, even so I send you” (Jn. 20:21). We are to do the same things Jesus did.

What did Jesus do? “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk. 1:15). Jesus trained others to be preachers and trainers of men. He said to Simon and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you to be fishers of men” (Mk. 1:18). Since this is what Jesus did, we know what we should do. Preach and make students of others.

How We Must Do It

Google “church growth books” and you will find hundreds and hundreds of suggestions. Ephesians 4 teaches us what Christ planned for his church to do so that it might grow. Jesus “gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).

Paul, the greatest missionary except for Christ, taught from the Spirit that God has different roles that each of us fits into so that people can be connected with the Word. One theologian preached:

IT is the duty of the Christian Church to preach the gospel to every creature because Christ the Head of the Church has commanded it so to do. It follows from this, that every individual member is obliged to contribute to this result, in proportion to his means and opportunities. No one believer is charged with the performance of the whole work. St. Paul was not bound to evangelize the entire globe, but only to preach as far and as wide as he could. The work that is assigned to the Church as a whole cannot be devolved upon a few persons, and no single generation is required to perform the service of all the generations of believers. On the contrary, each and every disciple of Christ has laid upon him a certain portion of this Christian service which he is solemnly bound to render.[2]

Notice first that there are different roles: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. There is some overlap and some people are better at different things, but there are some differences. Some of us think that because we can’t do something we can’t do anything. The Bible teaches that there is a role for you. The age of apostles and prophets has passed, but you can be one who shares the Gospel with others or one who shepherds or one who teaches. In some way, you can fit into one or all of these categories.

In other words, we are all either bringers, teachers, or keepers. All of us have something that we can do in one of these groups. All of these groups have the same purpose of pointing people to Jesus. Too often we are excited about helping but not about hearing. Friends, Christianity is about hearing. Helping is a secondary concern. Remember the apostles said they would not leave the ministry of the Word and prayer to feed starving widows. We often won’t get involved with prayer and the ministry of the Word and use our busyness with food to excuse us from that more important work. Martha was distracted with food and neglected Jesus’ sermon. Let us be more like Mary who chose the good part which will not be taken away from her (Lk. 10:41).

Are you a bringer, a teacher, or a keeper? Neither group is more prestigious than the other. All are necessary. You fit into one of these groups. This is the way God made you. You can nurture these skills and glorify God more and more. But you must recognize who you are and then get to work at being the best you can be for Christ.

Now Go Do It

I don’t know how many sermons you have heard about evangelism. I don’t know how many sermons I have preached about evangelism. I do remember standing in a small country church in the hills of East Tennessee and singing, “there’s a message true and glad for the sinful and the sad. Ring it out! Ring it out! Till the sinful world be won for Jehovah’s mighty Son, Ring it out! Ring it out!” During that song, the inclination to preach which I had became a conviction that remains even now.

Isaiah 55:10, 11 says, “For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void; but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” We get to be a part of this work of God. This is the most valuable work which could be done.

Here, then, is a ground of certainty that the work of the Christian evangelist will succeed. In lodging the truths of the Bible in any human soul, you are placing something there which is literally eternal; which will have the same value millions and billions of ages from now. No lapse of time can destroy its truthfulness or its importance. The work which you do when you put the few pages of a tract in the hands of an unrenewed man, and by your prayerful earnestness are instrumental in its being wrought into the texture of his mind and heart, will endure forever. You may build a pyramid, but it will one day be part and particle of the sands that are blown and sifted by the winds of the desert. You may compose an Iliad or a Macbeth; but it will lose its interest, and disappear from the memory of mortals when they stand before the judgment-seat of God. But if you teach to any human creature the words of Jehovah; if you mortise the law and the gospel into the framework of the human mind; you erect a structure which it is not in the power of man, or of everlasting time, to tear down and destroy.[3]

We should trust God to work as we go forward with his plan.

We should trust God to work as people become interested in the Gospel and as we go forward with the Gospel. Paul wrote, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how shall they call upon him of whom they have not heard and how shall they hear without a preacher? If the sinful world does not hear the message for the sinful and the sad, it will not be my fault. I will do everything in my power to preach that Word. Why not join Christ in this great work? Why not join Christ in the mission of God?”

 

[1] Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 75.

[2] William G. T. Shedd, Sermons to the Spiritual Man (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1884), 400.

[3] William G. T. Shedd, Sermons to the Spiritual Man (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1884), 407–408.

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