The Divine Imperative

"PREACH the gospel." This crisp, pregnant command of our Lord to His disciples on the occasion of His ascension, centralizes and defines the activity of His church. Evangelism was, and is, and must be the all-absorbing activity of the church of Christ. Medical, educational, social, and philanthropic works are integral aspects of Christianity, but only in relation to its chief commitment evangelism.

PREACH the gospel." 1 This crisp, pregnant command of our Lord to His disciples on the occasion of His ascension, centralizes and defines the activity of His church. Evangelism was, and is, and must be the all-absorbing activity of the church of Christ. Medical, educational, social, and philanthropic works are integral aspects of Christianity, but only in relation to its chief commitment evangelism. They are as the spokes of a wheel to its hub. Any overemphasis upon these activities will tend to detract from the church's primary function preaching the gospel.

Sin as a deadly cancer is rotting the heart of the world, destroying its moral fiber. Sin is a universal blight ruining and degrading all without respect of person or position. The sole remedy for sin is the gospel. It is within these terms of reference that Christ commands us, "Preach the gospel." There is no other antidote for sin. If men and women are to be reclaimed from sin it will only be through the preaching of the gospel.

The present age is one of debate and discussion. The prevailing attitude is that one man's view is as good as another. Consequently, there is a tendency within and without the church to despise preaching. Be that as it may, we cannot circumvent our Lord's command "Preach the gospel." The preaching of the gospel is a divinely ordained activity. God's Son was a preacher, the twelve disciples were preachers, the apostle Paul, the church's pioneer missionary, was a preacher. The church won its first converts through preaching. It was built up through preaching. It spread across the world through preaching. It has been revived and reformed again and again by the Spirit of God through preaching. Therefore, whatever human arguments may be brought forth against preaching, we are still confronted with Christ's imperative "Preach the gospel."

God has commanded preaching as the primary medium for communicating the gospel, and we must accept His judgment in this matter as superior to all others. It is in this context that we should understand the following counsel from one who rightly valued and appreciated the significance of preaching:

We are never to forget that Christ teaches through His servants. There may be conversions without the instrumentality of a sermon. Where persons are so situated that they are deprived of every means of grace, they are wrought upon by the Spirit of God and convinced of the truth through reading the word; but God's appointed means of saving souls is through "the foolishness of preaching." 2

Preaching the gospel within the frame work of the divine commission has assumed more far-reaching and intense urgency in our day than ever before. The world has embarked upon a deliberate rejection of Christianity, and as a direct consequence it teeters on the brink of universal and eternal destruction. "Man has come of age" and "God is an irrelevancy" are the views of the modern world overmastered by sin and ground down by its satanic power. The very remedy that will deliver man from sin's thralldom is rejected and denied. However, this rejection does not nullify or alter the commission of Christ or rob the gospel of its power. Now, as never before, the world needs the gospel. Christ commands it. Preacher, preach it! Discard man's opinions and ideas and let the divine gospel with its divine power throb and thrill in your heart and soul. Tell it out in the Spirit's power to a lost and dying world.

Divine Truth

The gospel contains absolute and authoritative truth concerning all aspects of divine-human relationships. Evolution, unitarianism, Sunday-keeping, spiritism, situation ethics, and a host of other errors would never have seen the light of day if the truths of the gospel had always been proclaimed, accepted, and believed.

Preaching the gospel means communicating to a lost world those absolute truths of revelation given to us by the God who created and sustains us. The gospel is God-given truth, and it is from here the preacher derives his authority and certainty. He speaks the words of God knowing they alone in the Spirit's power can touch the sinful heart and awaken desires for salvation. Only as the preacher is him self gripped by and convinced of the divine origin and certainty of the gospel he preaches will he shatter the power of error that shuts out the "Light of the world."

Men and women long for certainty and assurance. They are crying out for truth in a world of outright falsehood and half-truths. The gospel contains what they want and need. Human ideas and speculations will never shatter doubt and disbelief, but the truth of the gospel, heralded in the Spirit's might, in its very utterance tolls the death knell of error and falsehood. There fore, preacher, "Preach the gospel," talk it, write it, speak it, live it, love it, and give it full and free reign in your life for the salvation of men and women everywhere.

A Divine Task

The preaching of the gospel must be universal in its scope. By its very nature it is wholly inclusive, encompassing the whole earth. All the 3.4 billion men and women now living come within its compass. Their total evangelization is the divinely commissioned task of the church today. This task, staggering as it is, is not impossible. World evangelism is not beyond the ability or resources of the church of Christ, but well within her capacities rightly directed. Our Lord has not asked us to do the impossible. The progress of modern missions in the past one hundred and fifty years should convince anyone that total world evangelism in this generation is a practical possibility. Never have so many agencies been available for the universal proclamation of the gospel as now. With gratitude we may thank God for those of His servants who see and utilize them. Next to hearing of souls won to Christ nothing cheers and heartens the soul as hearing of new advances in communicating the gospel to the world. From thankful hearts we can praise God for those faithful men and women raised up who consecrate their talents and abilities to give the gospel wings to the world in this generation.

Preacher, look up, extend your vision. Let your heart and soul be thrilled through and through with your God-given task. Let yourself be stirred and gripped in your inmost soul with an expanding evangelistic vision. Give yourself unselfishly, unreservedly, wholeheartedly, to the work of evangelism. Allow the vision of a growing work to crowd into your life and crush out the trivia. Be so filled with the magnificence of the divine task that your enthusiasm will rub off onto your family, your fellow workers, your congregation. Infect all with whom you come in contact. If you want to open the mouth of the pew to witness, give it a breathtaking example. By all means, at all times, press upon all the urgent necessity to respond to the gospel. Compel all to dedicate their mental, physical, and material abilities for the universal proclamation of the gospel in this generation. Lift up your own eyes and the eyes of others to a worldwide task. Thrill their hearts and minds with a cosmic vision by being thrilled and gripped by it yourself. For the fulfillment of the preaching of the gospel in our day adopt one of the motto::; that inspired D. L. Moody, who said:

"Let us push out in all directions." 3 Preacher, nail your colors to the mast, and declare yourself for world evangelism in this generation.

When Christ said, "Preach the gospel," He was above all things putting His fol lowers on trust. To them He gave the task of evangelism, and this work is contingent upon their response. If the followers of Christ neglect or fail to respond to this commission, then it will never be executed. As God has made knowledge contingent upon our thinking for ourselves (He won't think for us), and as He has made the answer to prayer contingent upon our praying (He won't pray for us), so He has made the preaching of the gospel contingent upon our working. He won't work in stead of us, but He will work mightily with us.

Men may argue as to whether those who have never heard of Christ will be saved and further argue that as men will be judged by the light they have it is not necessary to evangelize the world. To such objections we repeat, Christ said, "Preach the gospel to every creature." His word is absolute and admits of no argument on this score. His commission is simple and direct and places us upon our honor for its fulfillment. It is not for us to argue, but to "preach the gospel." Notice the following observation from Gospel Workers on this point:

The Duke of Wellington was once present where a party of Christian men were discussing the possibility of success in missionary effort among the heathen. They appealed to the duke to say whether in his judgment such efforts were likely to prove a success commensurate to the cost. The old soldier replied:

"Gentlemen, what are your marching orders? success is not the question for you to discuss. If I read your orders aright, they run thus, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.' Gentlemen, obey your marching orders." 4

The gospel contains God's truth not only for these days but on every aspect of divine-human relationships. It is the church's task given her by God to preach this gospel to the whole world in this generation. It is a God-given trust the fulfillment of which is dependent upon our response. Like a clarion call echoing and re-echoing down the corridors of time the Master's command, urgent with compassion, falls upon our ears "Preach the gospel to every creature." Ours is the inestimable privilege to preach it.

 


 

REFERENCES

1. Mark 16:15.

2. Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 300. (Italics supplied.)

3. John Pollock, Moody Without Sankey, p. 245.

4. Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 115.


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August 1970

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