WHY MISSIONARY AND NOT ANTI-MISSIONARY

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By W. M. Harris, D. D.
Pastor First Baptist Church.
Galveston, Texas.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.-Matt. 28:19.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. – Mark 16:15-16.

THE THEOLOGY OF MISSIONS

MAN comes into the world with an interrogation point stamped in fire on his immortal self which increases in the intensity of its brightness and warmth as the world and life with their mysteries and problems unfold before him. He asks questions about everything, and ought to. He asks, ”Is God?” And answers, ”God is.” Is it probable that this God would have anything to say to his creatures along those lines of necessary knowledge upon which they can make no progress of themselves? It is. Has any man appeared in history who claimed to be the Word, the utterance of God ? Yes, – Jesus of Nazareth. Did he sustain himself in this marvelous role? Did he live up to his great claims? Did he live a life worthy of the Son, the manifestation, the Word of God? He did. Could a man be an imposter or a lunatic and sustain himself in such a character? No. The verdict of the ages is: ”My Lord! and my God!”

To the man who has asked and answered these questions you come with another question. You say to him: ”You are a follower of Christ, and you believe in giving his gospel to the whole world. Now, why? Why missionary and not anti-missionary?” And we are ready to answer.

First. We are world-missionary and not anti-world-missionary because our Master has commanded his people to be so. ”All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations,” (Matt 28:18, 19, R. V.).

During the session of the Southern Baptist Convention at Washington City, a smart man of the world remarked one day at the dinner table at my boarding house (the conversation having turned on the convention and its work) that he ”did not believe in Foreign Missions.” I said, ”you and the Lord Jesus Christ differ on that subject.” I shall never forget the very peculiar way in which he laughed; and he did not say another word. It probably occurred to him that while it is the privilege of the American citizen to ”differ,” yet differing with Jesus Christ on missions, or on any other subject, is poor business. Since he has said, ”Go and make disciples of all nations” why, of course, there is nothing to do but to ”go” and ”make disciples.” If missions did not ”pay,” if not a single heathen ever believed, if all alike refused to become disciples, to go and teach would still be but to obey the command. No further reason for obedience to orders need be sought by a soldier than the fact that they are orders.

Second. We are world-missionary and not anti-world-missionary because the world is lost and Jesus Christ is able and willing to save it while nobody else is.

A great many of us need to revise our notions of what it is to be lost. The common conception seems to be that to be in hell is to be lost. The true view is that to be in sin is to be lost. Sin is worse than hell and makes it what it is. Hell would not be the awful place it is if it were not for the sin that is there. And so Jesus came not to save people from a place called hell, but from a state of being and character, and a course of conduct called sin. ”He shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). It is sin that has cut the cable between God and man, and thus shut off from man that current of divinity in which alone is life, holiness and peace; and left him to death, misery and ruin.

Now, man is a sinner wherever you find him. The history of the world is the history of sin. On every page it is ”writ large” that ”man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” Depravity is an historical fact as well as a Bible doctrine. Man in the record which he has made for himself has, with his own hand, written the verdict of his own guilt-he is a sinner. And he is, I repeat, a sinner everywhere; in Europe, in America, in Asia, in Africa, in Australia, and in the islands of the seas-everywhere, he has sinned against whatever light and law he has had, whether of conscience, reason or revelation. Are not the Chinese sinners? If not, let me deal henceforth with the Chinese only. They shall not only do all my laundry work, but all my other work, and I should at once start for the Orient that I might spend the remainder of my days among them were it not that I am called to preach the gospel and my occupation would be gone in China. I could not preach the gospel there. The gospel can not be sanely offered to any one who is not lost. It is the gospel of the grace of God to condemned sinners. The first thing we have to do toward getting one to receive the gospel is to persuade him that he is lost. Christ came, he said, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. You would as well go to the jail and turn out a man who isn’t there or get the governor to pardon one who has never been convicted, as to offer the gospel of Christ to any creature of God who is not a condemned sinner. The thing is unthinkaable, absurd, and impossible.

But one says, ”Can it be possible that God will condemn people for rejecting his Son, when they have never heard of him?” No, it can not be possible. God will not condemn people for doing what they did not do. They are lost because they are in sin; to be in sin is to be out of harmony with God, and out of communication with him, and to be so is to be lost. But this question about rejecting Christ brings up a popular fallacy for which the pulpit is largely responsible-that ”unbelief is the great damning sin of the world.” If people are condemned and eternally lost for rejecting Christ, then it is perfectly plain that if he had never offered himself nobody would have been lost. Did Jesus endure all his sufferings that he might save the world from the penalty of rejecting him? He could have stayed in heaven with the Father, suffering neither humiliation nor death and done that. Really his death gives opportunity for rejecting him, and so according to the notion at this moment under consideration, he not only suffered unnecessarily, but actually occasions that condemnation of human beings for rejecting him, which would have been impossible had he never suffered. No, unbelief is not the great damning sin of the world. It is not for the rejection of Christ that people are condemned, and finally cast into hell. Let us illustrate: You have pneumonia. You call in a physician. He prescribes veratrum and a blister. We will suppose for the sake of illustration that it is an infallible remedy. You reject the remedy and die. Now, you die because you reject the remedy, and yet it is perfectly clear that the pneumonia kills you. Sin is a great fact before there is any need of a Savior. It is a virus and fever of the soul. Jesus Christ is the only remedy; if you reject that remedy, or if it does not reach you, is not known, is not offered, you are gone; but it is the pre-existing sin, the thing that made a Savior thinkable and needful, the disease for which he is the remedy, that destroys you. Unbelief or the rejection of Christ is a sin and augments the already existing sin whose penalty is death.

The world is a great big sinner. It is weltering in its iniquity. There is no part of it that is exempt. Man of every race and clime is a sinner. God is holy. By a law of spiritual affinity God and the sinner can not fraternize until there is a change. Hence ye must be born again. By the force of spiritual gravity every one will go to his own place. The sinner’s own place can not be the home of the good, in the presence and fellowship of God. He is lost in his sins and must be saved from his sins. I do not know of anybody that is able and willing to do this except Jesus, and therefore I am in favor of telling sinners of every race, color and clime about him.

Third. We are world-missionary and not anti-world-missionary because the whole world as a lost unit is in the divine contemplation always. It is contemplated by God the Father.

It is contemplated in his love. ”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

It is contemplated in his promise: ”Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” (Psalms 2:8.)

This same unit of a lost world that was contemplated by the Father in his love and promise, is contemplated by the Son. It is contemplated in his death. ”But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Heb. 2:9) ”If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (i John 2:1, 2.)

It is contemplated in his great commission: ”Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matt. 28:19.)

It is contemplated by the Holy Spirit who ”Reproves the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment.” (John 16:8.)

Now let us go back and trace the great connected thought in these passages of Scripture. When God the Father looked out from the depths of infinite love he saw a world flying off at a tangent, crashing away into darkness, and making ”sad discord” in the ”music of the spheres,” and seeing it, he pitied it, pitied this round ruined unit of a world, loved it in the unity of its condemnation, in the entirety of its lost estate, and sent his Son after it to offer to bring it back to its place in the musical mechanism of the universe. He is looking at the same object when He makes the promise of the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession to his Son.

When that Son hung on the cross, when the black shadow of the Father’s averted face fell on him, when he cried, ”Why hast thou forsaken me?”-that piercing shriek of agony that must have shivered the very atmosphere-when not a sympathetic voice reached him from heaven or earth, or hell or any peopled planet, he bore on his lone heart the guilt of a race, the weight of a world-that same world that the Father loved. When he was going back to God it was into every part and to every creature of this same world that he bade his disciples go with the glad tidings of himself.

To-day the Holy Spirit is convicting the same world of sin.

Fourth. We are world-missionary and not anti-world-missionary because of the believer’s unity with Christ. This unity is both legal and spiritual. And first it is legal. , The believer has been crucified with Christ. Jesus is his other self. He has died for me and as me. I am one with him on the cross, and from the cross on, forever. The believer went with Christ to the cross, to the tomb, arose with him, ascended with him, and is seated in him to-day ”In the heavenly places.”

”Lord Jesus, are we one with thee?
O height! O depth of love!
With thee we died upon the tree,
In thee we live above.”

Several things grow out of this legal unity with Christ: in the first place, what is ours is his; certainly, if he and we are one; not a thing do we possess that does not belong to him who is one with us. If followed out this puts the coffers of Christendom at the disposal of Christ.

But, growing out of this same unity, what is his is ours-certainly, if he and we are one; not a thing does he possess that does not belong to those who are one with him: ”All things are yours;” ”Joint heirs with Christ;” ”Who hath been appointed the heir of all things.” How marvelous the inheritance and the destiny of the child of God, how blinding the radiance of the glory that here unfolds to the astonished vision of the one who by faith and by the judgment of God has become identified with the Lord Jesus Christ!

But the very unity with Christ which makes us saved people at all, which makes his death our death, his life our life, his place our place, his wealth our wealth, makes his work our work. There is no escape from this, for a Christian. It only remains to ask what is his work? And the answer is not in doubt-the world’s evangelization.

I have said that the believer’s unity with Christ is spiritual as well as legal. This spiritual unity grows out of the legal unity. It is said that a great astronomer saw in a moment of the inspiration of genius the plan of the universe, and exclaimed, in a sublime rapture: ”I think God Almighty’s thoughts!” The Christian is one who has come into harmony with the divine mind, and so thinks God’s thoughts about grander things than the building of worlds and the organization of systems-about duty, responsibility, destiny, immortality, eternity; about humanity and divinity. And so he must come to take the Christ view, the divine view, of missions. It is a most glorious thing to agree with God.

TO SUM UP

We are world-missionary in our faith, and trying to be in our practice, because our Master commands us to be, because the world is lost, because God contemplates the world always, because the evangelization of the world is Christ’s work and his work is ours, because God has taught us to think some of his thoughts.

World missions include city missions, associational missions, state missions, home missions, foreign missions, as so many different departments of one great work; and in whatever department we labor we should never fail to recognize its relation to the others and to the whole. May God extend the horizon of every Baptist and every Christian until his vision sweeps the planet, and enlarge our hearts to take in the race.

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