by Susan N. Fitkin
This little booklet makes no pretense at being an exhaustive treatise of the idea that the themes of Holiness and World Evangelism are linked together in God's Word like conjoined twins. It is simply a review of a few of the many definite statements and illustrations that have been blessings in my own life.
Holiness and Missions, like conjoined twins, are inseparable concepts in Holy Scripture. God is a holy God, manifested as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Bible is a holy book, revealing God's plans for a lost and ruined race. God is a missionary God: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." -- John 3:16
The Bible is a missionary nook. The theme of the Bible is redemption. The central figure is
Christ, the foreign missionary who came to make provision that all people might be saved from
all sin, that God might have a holy people who would worship and serve Him here and dwell
with Him in a holy heaven through all eternity.
-- Susan Fitkin
In 1915 Susan Fitkin emerged as the first president of what is now Nazarene Missions International. This booklet was printed in 1940, Some minor editing has been done to increase readability. Among other things, many of quotations from the Bible are now from the New International Version rather than the King James Version. The original booklet also contained news on Nazarene global missionary outreach based on Fitkin's trips to several world mission areas as well as letters from missionaries and conversations with them when they were on home assignment. That historical material is not included in this ebook. -- Howard Culbertson
More on Susan Fitkin: Biography by Stan Ingersoll Fitkin's call by Steve Cooley She is also the author of Grace Much More Abounding, Nazarene Missions in the Orient, and Over in Old Mexico
Foreword Planned in the beginning Practiced in devotions Proclaimed by prophets Taught by the World Redeemer Demonstrated by the Early Church Propagated in the Epistles Ultimately triumphant in Revelation
In the dawning light of the beginning of what some call the dispensation of the Father, we find God planning for the redemption of a lost and ruined human race. The promise of a Redeemer brightens the first pages of the history of mankind. In Genesis 3:15 the promised Redeemer is referred to as the seed of the woman. Later, an important step forward in the fulfillment of that promise was taken by the choice of a family which would preserve the knowledge and worship of the true God and from which the promised seed of the woman was to spring.
Abram was a pioneer missionary. God's words to him in Genesis 12:1-3 are what have been called "The Old Testament Great Commission:"
"The Lord had said to Abram, Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you
I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'"
Thus called of God, Abram obeyed. He went out from his house in one of the finest cities of the times, and with his little company lived in tents. He traveled across the desert sixteen hundred miles before reaching the promised land. After crossing the River Jordan, he passed into the Valley of Shechem. Here, between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, God appeared to Abram again and gave him the second promise of the possession of the land by his seed. Here Abram built the first of those altars to Jehovah which the patriarchs erected wherever they pitched their tents. A few years later Jehovah, appearing to Abram, renewed the covenant in the new character of father of many nations1, in sign whereof He changed his name from Abram (exalted Father) to Abraham (father of a multitude). And Abraham received the definite command, "I am Almighty God; walk before me and be blameless . . . for I have made you a father of many nations" (Genesis 17:1, 5). History tells us that Abraham here received the full divine revelation. In the future he is presented in a higher character than before, and marked peculiarly as "the friend of God." God was there definitely working out His purpose through Holiness and Missions.
The last thirteen chapters of Genesis contain the narrative of Joseph's life, which may safely be called the most charming of all history. The character of Joseph is one of the purest that we meet in Scripture. Joseph was the favorite son of the Patriarch Jacob, and became a faithful foreign missionary.
It is true that Joseph did not choose to be a missionary, but God had chosen him, even as He chose Abraham, and as He chooses missionaries today in various ways. While Joseph was still a lad, he received his call and although he did not fully understand its import, he believed it and related it in the home. This brought Joseph much persecution from his jealous brothers. Later he was rescued from a pit where some of his angry brothers had cast him. He was sold to Midianite merchants who carried him to Egypt and sold him to an officer of Pharaoh.
The favorite son had become a slave in a heathen land. There is no record that Joseph murmured or complained. He was still trusting God, for we read, "The Lord was with Joseph, . . . When his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes . . . Potiphar put him in charge of his household" -- Genesis 39:3, 4
Not long after that, adversity knocked at the door. Joseph was tempted to sin. When he resisted, he was falsely accused and cast into prison. Again the sacred record declares: "But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden" (Genesis 39:21) and into his hand was committed all the prisoners that were in the prison, "Because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did" -- Genesis 39:23
After interpreting dreams for servants from the king's palace while reminding them that "interpretations belong to God," Joseph was called to the palace to interpret dreams for Pharaoh. First, however, he testifies, "It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace."
Joseph interpreted some dreams of Pharaoh to mean there were seven years of famine ahead. He offered some suggestions to Pharaoh on how to deal with that famine and the Egyptian leader exclaimed, "Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the Spirit of God?" (Genesis 41:38) Apparently Pharaoh had caught a glimpse of the true God through the Lord's faithful servant, for he continues, "'Since God has made all this known to you . . You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders.' . . . Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt." -- Genesis 41:39-40, 43
But this was only a part of God's plan. God was working out His great world program and thus Joseph was going to not only to be a blessing to the Egyptians. Joseph was to preserve the Hebrew nation that they might bear witness down through the centuries to the one true living God, preserve the sacred Scriptures, and eventually produce the promised World Redeemer.
When the prophesied famine hit Canaan, Joseph's brothers were sent to buy corn from Egypt. This Joseph freely gave them. Later, when he made himself known to his brother, he manifested a beautiful spirit. As he met with them, there was not a word of upbraiding or reproach from him. Instead, he wept over them, telling his brother not to be grieved: "God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance."(Genesis 45:7) He then bade them to return home in haste and bring his father and the entire company, with their flocks and herds. He assured them, "You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me, . . . I will provide for you there." -- Genesis 45:10-11
Upon their return to Egypt Joseph went out in his chariot to meet his father "and wept for a long time." (Genesis 45:29) Later Joseph brought his father before Pharaoh and the aged patriarch bestowed his blessing upon the mighty king. Then the house of Israel, which then numbered less than one hundred men, settled in one of the richest parts of Egypt. However, Joseph believed so fully that God's plan for this nation would be carried out that, before he died, he ordered that his bones should be carried with them when they did return to Canaan, their promised land.
Truly, Joseph was a faithful and successful missionary as well as an example of practical holiness of heart and life.
In the last four books of the Pentateuch we learn about an outstanding leader, Moses. He was a man of marvelous gifts chosen by the Lord for special service.
The first chapter of Exodus tells of the affliction of the Israelites in Egypt. That came about because "a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt." -- Exodus 1:8
Though the Hebrew people had multiplied exceedingly, they had also become a race of slaves. The Hebrews' lives were made bitter with their hard bondage. Not long before Moses was born, the new Egyptian king had ordered that every new-born Hebrew son would be thrown into the river. Nevertheless, Moses' life was miraculously spared. Taken to the Egyptian king's palace, Moses was reared as a member of the royal family. Then God heard the cry of His afflicted people and chose Moses to be agent of that answer. Hebrews 11:24 names Moses among the illustrious heroes of faith: "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter," choosing rather oppression with the people of God, than the fleeting enjoyment of sin.
Despite this decisive renunciation of worldly honor, Moses was not yet informed of the divine plan for his life. He still needed the experience he would receive at the "burning bush."
That burning bush scene took place in a desert region where Moses was living after having fled Egypt. One day Moses saw one of the dwarf acacias -- a desert bush -- wrapped in a flame of fire. "Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up." (Exodus 3:2) As Moses drew nearer to look at this marvel, God called to him out of the bush. After commanding Moses to remove his shoes (for the ground was holy), Yahweh announced himself as the God of Moses' "fathers" Abraham and Jacob. God declared He had seen the affliction of His people in Egypt and was come down to deliver them. He then called Moses to go and lead the people out. When Moses pleaded his unworthiness, he was assured of God's presence. Holiness, even in those early days, clearly meant a consciousness of the Divine Presence as well as purity of heart.
Space allows only a brief mention of the key events in this story of great deliverance. Success was given to Moses in the prolonged contests of will with Pharaoh. The Israelites faithfully followed God's instructions for observing the first Passover, a prototype of redemption by blood. Then, even as they were leaving Egypt, they found themselves facing an impassible barrier, the Red Sea. With the pursuing Egyptians about to catch up with them, God intervened. The waters parted as Moses stretched out his rod at God's command. The Israelites went over on dry ground while their enemies perished behind them. The Israelites halted and had a praise meeting, singing a song of praise for their deliverance. This song of Moses begins:
"I will sing to the Lord, for he I highly exalted. . . . The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. . . . Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you -- majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?" -- Exodus 15:1-2, 11
We are given a little glimpse of God's plan for His people when Moses went up into Mount Sinai. He was given a beautiful message to take back to them: "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6) And all the people answered together and said, "We will do everything the Lord has said." (Exodus 19:8) Notwithstanding that, after the giving of the Ten Commandments, Moses had to become an intercessor to save the people's lives. While he was up on Mt. Sinai communing with the Lord, the people had broken the First Commandment: "You shall have no other gods before me." -- Exodus 20:3
On Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the pattern for the tabernacle with rules to govern worship. The tabernacle consisted of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Holiness is a key word in Leviticus where it occurs 87 times. That a holy God must have a holy people -- His saints who had made a covenant with Him by sacrifice -- was a principle as sacred as the consecration of the priests. For both groups, there was the same simple law: "Be holy, for I am holy."
The "great commandment of the law" referred to in the New Testament is in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." The command in Leviticus 19:18, Christ declared, was second unto it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Provision was made for strangers who desired to join them. The last song of Moses, found in Deuteronomy 32, begins "Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass . . . I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect . . . A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he . . . Rejoice, O nations, with his people."
Holiness and Missions are clearly key twin elements in God's plan that men and women everywhere may come to know and love Him. He desires that all peoples will worship Him in the "beauty of holiness."
1In the Bible, the word "nations" does not mean the political entities like China, India and the USA. Rather, it means people groups or societies in which people speak the same language, have the same culture and live in or have originated the same area. "Natioins" is synonymous with the plural word "peoples." In other words, nations in the Bible means all of the people groups of the world other than the people of Israel.
David, the psalmist, has been called the "sweet singer of Israel." His poetry and songs were able to calm even the troubled spirit of King Saul. The Book of Psalms, which ends with a doxology, is the inspired prayer-and-praise book of Israel.
One day the prophet Samuel was commanded to go to Bethlehem to anoint a new king who would be chosen from among the sons of Jesse. A feast was provided and seven sons were called together. As the eldest, tall and dignified, stood before Samuel, the prophet thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed stands here," but he was warned, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:6-7) The other six sons were also rejected and Samuel asked Jesse:
"Are these all the sons you have?"
"There is still the youngest," Jesse answered, but "he is tending the sheep."
Samuel said, "Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives." -- 1 Samuel 16:11
As soon as the lad David arrived, "The Lord said, Rise and anoint him; he is the one." Samuel obeyed and "from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power" -- 1 Samuel 16:12-13
While alone on the Judean hillsides, David had become acquainted with God and loved and trusted in Him. As he afterward declared, he won victories through faith in God. God had been with David and had helped him while he was guarding the sheep to slay both a lion and a bear.
God had still greater in store for David. So we find him delivering the army of Israel from the challenging giant, Goliath. David did so, not as a soldier in armor and with a sword, but as a mere lad with a sling and a few pebbles; not in his own strength but "in the name of the Lord Almighty." -- 1 Samuel 17:45
The beautiful Book of Psalms, a great deal of which was written by David, has been a blessing to God's people down through the centuries. Its poetry gives us glimpses not only of divine leading and protection for David, but of Christ's kingdom and God's plan for the salvation of a lost world.
Psalm 2 has a divine revelation of Christ's kingdom. It would seem one day that David might have been looking about upon world conditions, when he wrote, "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kinds of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. Let us break their chains,' they say, and throw off their fetters.'" -- Psalm 2:1-3
Then looking up and remembering the power and majesty of God, David declared, "The One enthroned in heaven laughs . . . . [He] terrifies them in His wrath." (Psalm 2:4-5) Suddenly David was permitted to listen in to a conversation in heaven. He heard God the Father saying, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill." And God the Son replies, "I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, You are my Son . . . Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession." (Psalm 2:6-8) David's viewpoint had been changed; henceforth he saw not just the Hebrew nation. He saw God's plan and provision of redemption for the whole human race.
Psalm 22 contains a graphic picture of death by crucifixion. The circumstances described are precisely what was fulfilled by the cross on Calvary. Then, the words of verses 27-28 introduce the idea of world evangelism: "All the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations." [ more on Psalm 22 ]
In Psalm 46:10 we have that wonderful verse, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, Iwill be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 51 shows King David agonizing in prayer as he confessed to God that he had yielded to temptation and sinned against Him and as he pleaded for forgiveness. Also, at this time David was evidently given a vision of the depravity of his own nature, for he cried out:
"Surely I was sinful at birth . . . Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. . . . Create in me a pure heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me. . . . Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you." -- Psalm 51:5-7, 10, 13
David thus links a plea for his own inner holiness to a promise to bring sinners to the Lord.
In Psalm 57 David testified victoriously, "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music . . . Awake harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples." (Psalm 57:7-9) Also in Psalm 101:2: "I will walk in my house with blameless heart." Then follows a prayer in Psalm 67 which picks up the traditional "blessing" from Numbers 6 and interprets it as a way of enlarging God's kingdom, emphasizing the responsibility upon God's people for its accomplishment:
"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known upon earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy; for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him."
In Psalm 96 there is a beautiful song combining the themes of holiness and missions:
"Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth, . . . Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. . . . Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. Say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns' . . . he shall judge the peoples with equity."
Psalm portrays the glory, power and extent of Christ's kingdom:
"He will rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. . . . May His name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through Him, and they will call Him blessed. Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to His glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and amen."
David's prayers are still being answered. Songs of victory are being sung around the world as the blessed gospel light penetrates dense heathen darkness.
The prophets were God's missionary messengers as they spoke for God to Israel and to other peoples. Beginning with the Major Prophets, we have the wonderful prophecy of Isaiah, who has been called the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. The book of Isaiah has sometimes been called "the Gospel according to Isaiah."
Of noble birth, Isaiah made his home in Jerusalem. God enabled this evangelical prophet to pierce the centuries with an eagle eye. Isaiah recorded a clear account of the Messianic Hope beginning with the Virgin Birth, then through His sacrifice and suffering, and on to the time when He shall return to this earth to establish His kingdom.
One day an American District Superintendent, his wife, a noted evangelist and I were traveling through the Middle West in holiness and missionary conventions. Suddenly, the evangelist said, "You cannot guess what book in the Bible I love best. It is the wonderful revelation of Christ's kingdom in Isaiah."
I replied that Isaiah was also a favorite of mine.
Isaiah 42:4 especially inspires my heart," he continued. "He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."
"Why, that is my missionary text," I exclaimed, "the one that has encouraged me many times down through the years!"
It is quite probable that the vision recorded in chapter six is what made possible this wonderful prophecy. Isaiah announced that one day while at worship in the temple, "I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple." He also saw seraphims and heard them saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." He was permitted a momentary view into a heavenly holiness meeting, was put under conviction, and cried out, acknowledging his uncleanness. The remedy was immediately applied, "a live coal," from off the altar, fire to purify, typical of the Holy Spirit; and he received the witness: "Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for" (or cleansed).
Isaiah further declared, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" and without asking any questions replied, "Here am I. Send me!"
What a beautiful picture illustrating how holiness and missions are bound up together! God could then use his servant to proclaim the good news and to write this wonderful book that has brought blessing to His people down through the centuries.
In chapter nine, the prophet visualized a world in darkness. He writes:
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. . . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
In chapter 53 we have Christ's sufferings foretold:
"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. . . . But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 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, . . . By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken."
What a heart-breaking picture; what wondrous love and compassion! The old, old story must be repeated in every generation around the whole world.
In chapter 35 we have holiness and missions described vividly. Over this passage some Bible publishers have placed the caption, "The joyful flourishing of Christ's kingdom." It begins, "The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy." What a marvelous transformation this illustration portrays. It is followed by a prophecy whose fulfillment is found in the Gospels: "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. . . . And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness."
Then follows a vivid description of the way of holiness:
The fifty-second chapter has an exhortation to God's people:
"Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again . . . How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news. . . . who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, Your God reigns!' . . . The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God."
The Church, clothed in the beautiful garments of holiness and carrying the glad tidings to the world can count on all the resources of heaven, for "all the resources of God are available to those who carry out His program."
In chapter 55 of Isaiah there is an inviting call: "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters." All may freely partake "without money and without cost." The divine Savior has paid the full price of redemption for all. [ Devotional: To everyone that is thirsty ]
Isaiah not only had a world vision, but he also carried a heart burden for God's work. Chapter 62 records the fervent desire of the prophet to confirm God's people in God's promises, so that they shall not fail in doing their part to carry out His plan: "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory." Verses six and seven state that watchmen are to be always on duty, saying also that God will have no rest until His people shall be a blaze of glory in the whole earth. For have they not a world-wide mission?
And they are to be known as "the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord" that He may be glorified.
Chapter 64 begins with the words: "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! [mountains of difficulty, opposition and indifference]... the nations to quake before you."
In chapter 45, the prophet records an urgent message from God to His people about world evangelism:
"Gather together and come; assemble you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. Declare what is to be, present it -- let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me."
Then it would seem that God saw that His people were not sufficiently aroused to their responsibility to cooperate with Him in the world task. The prophet hears and records a heart cry from God himself: "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other."
With millions still in heathen darkness, do not we as members of Christ's Church today need to earnestly pray:
Stir me, O stir me, Lord, I care not how!
But stir my heart in passion for Thy world:
Stir me to give, to go, but most to pray.
Stir, till the blood-red banners be unfurled
O'er lands that still in heathen darkness lie.
O'er deserts where no cross is lifted high.
Stir me, O stir me, Lord! Thy heart was stirred
By love's most intense flame, till Thou didst give
Thine only Son, Thy best-beloved One,
E'en to the dreadful cross that I might live;
Stir me to give myself so back to Thee
That thou canst give Thyself again through me.
-- Mary Head, public domain
One day I was dining in the home of a missionary along with some other missionary-minded people. As we sat about the table, we began talking about God's Word. Someone remarked about the tragic situation of Israel and the faithfulness of the Prophet Jeremiah in his day.
The missionary, with tears in her eyes, exclaimed, "Poor, darling Jeremiah! I have just been reading that wonderful book."
We smiled at the unusual exclamation. However, anyone who has read prayerfully the life of this weeping prophet who carried such a tremendous burden that God's people should be true to Him and who probably suffered more persecution than any of the other prophets, will understand the reason for her tears.
The Prophet Jeremiah is introduced in the beginning of the first chapter as "Jeremiah son of Hilkiah . . . The word of the Lord to came him . . . in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah . . . down to . . . through the reign of Jehoiakim . . . down to . . . the eleventh year of Zedekiah." -- Jeremiah 1:1-3
Jeremiah began his ministry about sixty years after Isaiah's death. The events recorded in his prophecy cover a period of forty-one years.
"The word of the Lord came unto me, saying . . . I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Ah, Sovereign Lord,' I said, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.' But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, I am only a child. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord.' Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me. 'Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appointed you over nations, and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant . . . They will fight against you but will not overcome you.'" -- Jeremiah 1:4-10, 19
Jeremiah's ministry began before the Babylonian captivity. Israel had perilously backslidden. God, through His messenger, earnestly sought to call them back, offering mercy in place of judgment. In the prophet's first message to backslidden Judah, the Lord has Jeremiah remind them of their former kindness and love to Him when "Israel was holiness unto the Lord." Then Jeremiah pleads with them:
"This is what the Lord says: What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They did not ask, Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?'
"I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable . . . .
Therefore I bring charges against you . . . My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot hold water." -- Jeremiah 2:5-7, 9, 13
The tragedy of backsliding is portrayed in this message. The people's reaction to it is equally tragic. They not only refused to heed the message, but asserted they had not sinned, even though God himself declared they had turned their back upon Him and were serving heathen gods according to the number of their cities. No wonder Jeremiah declares a bit later: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure," and then asks, "Who can understand it?" -- Jeremiah 17:9
Jeremiah's second message was to all Israel. It was full of pathos and tenderness. God is yearning over His backslidden people.
"The Lord said to me, . . . 'Go, proclaim this message . . . Return, faithless Israel,' declares the Lord, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful' . . . Only acknowledge your guilt--you have rebelled against the Lord your God . . . (you) have not obeyed me . . . Return faithless people,' declares the Lord, for I am your husband.'" -- Jeremiah 3:11-14
Many in Israel heeded this message, for we read that, "A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel," and God's promise was, "I will cure you of your backslidings." (Jeremiah 3:21-22) They had evidently come to realize this, for they exclaimed, "Surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel." (Jeremiah 3:23) Then there was a second message to Judah, with more pleading, and gracious promises; urging them to stop, think, and give heed to God's words. Thus saith the Lord, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." But they said, "We will not walk in it." -- Jeremiah 6:16
The prophet was then directed to stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and plead with those who were still continuing the outward forms of worship to Jehovah; while they continued also to bow down to heathen gods. We have here another glimpse of the great love and compassion of the infinite God, and how His heart was grieved when His people did not walk in the light, and press on to holiness, but turned back to the world, and forgot their God. (Side note: What a calamity for people in any age to be content with forms and ceremonies.)
They were reminded again of God's faithfulness and love and exhorted to obedience. "From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors." -- Jeremiah 7:25-26
"If you really change your ways and your actions . . . then I will let you live in this place. . . . Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. . . . But they did not listen or pay attention."
Surely God had done all that was possible, and we hear Him saying, "I have forsaken mine house . . . I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies." His judgments followed, and before this message in the temple was finished, we are not surprised to hear the prophet exclaim, "Oh, that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people!" -- Jeremiah 9:1
Other messages follow on the broken covenant and the drought. As God's judgments began to come upon the disobedient people, the prophet was subjected to severe persecution. He was beaten by a false prophet, who was the son of a priest, and put in the stocks "by the house of the Lord." Being released, he continued faithfully to give the Word of the Lord to his persecutors. He prophesied of the Babylonian captivity and of the return after seventy years. Daniel was again shut up in the court of the prison, prayed, and received an answer that comforted his heart.
"I prayed to the Lord: Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. You show love to thousands but bring punishment for the fathers' sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve." (Jeremiah 32:16-19) Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying, "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" -- Jeremiah 32:26
The life of the prophet was threatened again and again. He was accused of being a false prophet and a traitor to his country, but he continued faithfully to declare God's messages. Finally, he was seized and let down with cords into a dungeon that was in the court of the prison: "And they let down Jeremiah with cords, and in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire."
This was reported to the king, and he sent thirty men to rescue Jeremiah from certain death. God was thus fulfilling His promise to His devoted servant.
At God's command, Jeremiah, while still in the court of the prison, wrote his prophecies in a book. This was read in the Lord's house on the fasting day and later also to the king and his princes. But they received not this message from God. Instead, when the scribe had read three or four pages, the king cut them out with his penknife and threw them into the fire on the hearth. This he continued to do until all were consumed. Then the king sent officers to arrest Jeremiah and the scribe who had written the book for him, "but the Lord hid them." The prophecies were rewritten, and God preserved them so that His people down through the centuries might realize the peril of disobeying God's word and backsliding when He had provision for them to have victory instead of defeat, and His presence, love and care in place of bondage, captivity and death.
Times of affliction are often times of greatest blessing to God's faithful children. Amid testing times, Jeremiah was comforted by a special promise: "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."
Then followed a vision of Christ, David's righteous Branch, and a promise of the final restoration of the Jews:"And I will cause the captivity of Judah, and the captivity of Israel, to return, and I will build them as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, . . . And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honor before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: . . . In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord of Righteousness."
This prophecy is to be fulfilled at the Second Coming of our Lord.
Jeremiah's prophecies included many nations, He was always a faithful witness for the Lord, whether in a heathen land, or in his own country. The special significance of these forty-one years of service was to preserve a remnant who remained true to God and to reveal the love and sorrow of Jehovah for His people, even when it was necessary to chastise them. Jeremiah's writings reveal a sorrow wrought by the Spirit in the heart of His servant, the Weeping Prophet.
The first chapter of Daniel tells of God's people being carried away into a heathen land. Jeremiah the prophet had faithfully warned them, from God, of seventy years captivity in Babylon, but their leaders refused to listen or to turn from their evil ways.
No doubt among these captives were many who often bore witness to their heathen neighbors of the God of heaven as the only God, but four are especially mentioned, who were princes -- young men of royal descent, educated and attractive. These were taken to the king's palace, but although exiles and subject to the temptations of a heathen court, they remained faithful witnesses, real foreign missionaries.
We will mention only a few of the miracles God wrought through Daniel, who seemed to be the leader. While the book deals largely with his long, eventful life, the story of the three Hebrew children who came through the fiery furnace unscathed is also familiar to all. The intertwining of holiness and missions is strikingly illustrated in the lives of these four faithful servants of God.
On arriving at their new home a test awaited them, but it is recorded, Daniel "resolved" in his heart to be true to God. He refused the meat and wine sent from the king's table. God gave Daniel favor with the officer in charge when Daniel courteously requested they be permitted to eat simple food. They won out also in the ten-day test. God blessed them. Later when the king had them brought before him and he communed with them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in his kingdom.
Then came a crucial test for these young Hebrews who were determined to live "set apart" lives. The king forgot a dream he had had and demanded that the "magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers" tell him the dream as well as interpret it. When they acknowledged their inability and declared that it was a request hitherto unknown, the king went into a rage and ordered them all slain.
Now Daniel and his companions were reckoned among this company, but they had not been notified of the incident until the summons came to go out with the others to be slain. Daniel answered the king's guard with "wisdom and tact" and secured permission to visit the king. He requested the king to give him a little time, promising to make known to him the dream. (Daniel 2:14-16)
Returning to his home, Daniel and his three friends went to prayer, and God answered. "During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision," after which they had a praise meeting, thanking God for making known to them what they had desired. (Daniel 2:19-20)
Daniel then sought out Arioch, the commander of the king's guard. He requested that he be taken to the king to make known the dream. Upon his arrival, the king demanded, "Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?"
Daniel, disclaiming any special wisdom, replied that it was not possible even for "wise men" to show the king his dream, "But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries," and he added that God was seeking to make known to the king what should be in the latter days. (Daniel 2:27-28)
Daniel then related the dream. I can almost see King Nebuchadnezzar nodding and smiling as the strange dream came back to him. After the interpretation was given, and Daniel's first sermon finished, the king was convinced that Daniel's God was the God of gods and a Lord of kings. He then promoted Daniel and "made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men." (Daniel 2:48) Daniel did not forget his three friends, but requested they also share in these honors. But although the king was convinced that the God of Daniel was above all gods, it took another experience of humiliation and repentance before Nebuchadnezzar really knew God, after which he gave his testimony in a proclamation to his kingdom which is contained in chapter 4:1-3.
To the peoples, nations, and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly!
It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation."
Also in the last verse of the record of his life he praised and rejoiced in the God of heaven: "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble." -- Daniel 4:37
Daniel also witnessed before King Belshazzar, the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar. When God wrote with a visible hand upon the wall of the palace during a drunken feast, Daniel was called in to interpret. But though Belshazzar trembled and feared, we have no record that he repented before he was suddenly slain.
A new king, Darius the Mede, then took over the throne. He appointed one hundred and twenty princes which should be over the whole kingdom, and over these three presidents, of whom Daniel was first. "Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom." -- Daniel 6:3
Daniel was now an old man and about to face the most severe test of his life. We are reminded here that even holy people are not exempt from devices of the enemy who seeks to destroy them. The story of Daniel is a familiar one in Christian homes, but did you ever notice that even his enemies bore witness to his faultless living: "We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God." (Daniel 6:5) What a testimony in behalf of the holy life of this foreign missionary!
So they prepared an edict, and through the cunning device of flattery deceived the king. He signed that decree which stated that no one should pray to any god or man for thirty days, except to the king. "Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." (Daniel 6:10)
When this was reported, the king "was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel." (Daniel 6:14) But the decree was according to the Medes and Persians, which could not be altered. While he was helpless to change it, he did believe in Daniel's God. So when Daniel was brought and cast into the den of hungry lions, the king was there and "said to Daniel, May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!'" (Daniel 6:16) What a declaration of faith from a once-heathen king! Did it not pay Daniel to let God have his life and to be a witness for Him in a foreign land (what today we call a "missionary")?
After the king had spent the night in fasting and prayer, he was off in the early morning to the lion's den. With real faith the king called out:
"Daniel, servant of the living God, has you God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?"
Daniel answered, . . . My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me.'
The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God." -- Daniel 6:19-23
But not only was this king won over to the true God, but he also desired that his subjects should know Him:
"Then King Darius wrote unto all peoples, nations, and men of every language throughout the land:
May you prosper greatly!
I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
For he is the living God, and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.'
So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian." --Daniel 6:25-28
What a record! Does not giving priority to holiness and to missions pay?
In the last chapter of Daniel and almost the last verse, we have the promise of a holiness revival connected with missionary outreach that will occur just before Jesus returns to earth again. "Many will be purified, made spotless and refined." (Daniel 12:10) Oh, that all God's people in this century might cooperate so whole-heartedly with His plans that He shall not be disappointed when He comes! Years ago, A. T. Pierson wrote, "The Protestant churches have men and money to get the gospel to the whole world in the next generation." This should drive us to our knees, pleading for a world-wide revival, and that Nazarenes may do their part in this new generation upon which we are now entering.
Joel and Jonah might be termed "the Twins," for Joel's message was on holiness, while Jonah's was distinctly a foreign missionary message. Joel was a prophet in the southern Kingdom of Judah. The scope of his prophecy extended to the end-time of that age, the time of the Gentiles, the re-gathering of Israel, and of kingdom blessing. In the first part of the prophecy an immediate need of a holiness revival among God's people was emphasized. The people were all called to fasting and prayer. God's message to His prophet was: "Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy a fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly." (Joel 2:15) This was followed by the promise that God would hear their prayers and send "abundant showers." Then there would be a time of great rejoicing -- which a real heaven-sent revival always brings, especially when many have been sanctified. Best of all was the assurance, "Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God." (Joel 2:27) Such a revival is a necessity in every generation. The prophecy of Pentecost follows:
"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days." -- Joel 2:28-29
Thus provision was made for God's people in this present age to be filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:16-18). Holiness revivals are sure--ly in divine order.
Jonah was probably the earliest of what we call the Minor Prophets. Dated around B.C. 862, the prophecy contains a very important missionary lesson about the insistence of God that the heathen should have opportunity to know Him as a God of mercy and love.
The prophecy begins with the prophet's first commission, which was a definite foreign missionary call, "Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the Son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me." [ E-book on Jonah ] Unfortunately, this prophet was neither missionary-minded nor missionary-hearted. He certainly didn't think of Nineveh as an attractive mission field. It was not only a great city with 600,000 persons of tender age, but was one of the most wealthy and lawless cities of the great Assyrian empire, which at that point in time was at the height of its power.
Jonah probably knew of the Ninevites' custom of impaling offenders on the roofs of buildings which had been studded with long, sharp spikes. There the offenders were left to die a lingering death. Jonah's reluctance to go on this mission may be attributed to the "fear of man [which] will prove to be a snare," (Proverbs 29:25). Or Jonah may have felt that his reputation as a prophet was at stake, for he knew God to be a God of mercy. In any case, he needed to have been in Joel's revival.
Jonah's story is well known, including his attempted flight from Jehovah and the storm during which he confessed that he was the likely cause, and requested to be cast overboard so that the lives of others might be spared.
Fortunately, God had prepared a living submarine, and had it standing by. It took Jonah aboard at once after which they submerged, as Jonah says, to the "roots of the mountains," where he was interned for three days and nights. While there, Jonah learned how tragic it can be to disobey God. He fasted and prayed, promising God to obey Him. Jonah even got blessed:
"Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: 'In my distress I called to the Lord,and he answered me . . . When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. . . . I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.'" -- Jonah 2:1-2, 7,9
After Jonah thus prayed through, the submarine rose to the surface and headed for shore. The door opened, and Jonah stepped out on dry land.
Jonah then heard the word of the Lord the second time, saying, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." and he obeyed. (Jonah 3:2)
The sermon was short, or perhaps that was only the text, but he stuck to it. Jonah was not like the preacher of whom it was said that his sermons always had three divisions: First, the preacher took his text; second, he wandered from it; and third, he never returned to it again.
The prophet Jonah's sermon may have been short, but it was effective because it was God's message. The people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest of them even to the least of them. When God saw that they turned from their evil ways and cried mightily to Him, He had mercy on them and spared them.
God has not changed. His heart is still yearning over the multitudes under the power and dominion of sin and Satan. Let us pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth more laborers unto the great waiting harvest field of earth.
As we pass from the dawning light in what some have called the dispensation of the Father in the Old Testament into the full noonday, in the dispensation of the Son, recorded in the Gospels, we learn that the Old Testament was but an introduction to the New.
The very first verse of the New Testament calls our attention back to the Old: "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham." -- Matthew 1:1
This Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham in the Old Testament Great Commission: "All peoples on earth will be blessed through you." -- Genesis 12:3
"The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say and to seeds,' meaning many people, but and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Christ" (Galatians 3:16).
The four Gospels do not record a full biography of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. They do vividly portray a Personality, so that like Moses we are made to feel that we are on holy ground and must tread softly. This may also suggest that it is far more important that we come to know Him, than that we simply know about Him.
The Gospels, though incomplete as biography or life story, are perfect as a revelation of Jesus Christ and His mission as God's Anointed One. The one Jesus is King in Matthew, Servant in Mark, Man in Luke, and God in John. All four Gospels bear a united testimony.
Under divine inspiration, The Apostle Paul, the greatest holiness and missionary representative of the Master, beautifully describes the Messiah to the Hebrews in the beginning of that epistle:"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven." (Hebrews 1:1-3)
Early in His ministry Christ preached the wonderful Sermon on the Mount. Among the "Blesseds" is Jesus' declaration: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." He also gave a lesson on divine love with a striking exhortation at the close, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:8, 48). So, there's no doubt that holiness is a priority in the teaching and preaching ministry of Jesus.
The closing verses of the last chapter of Matthew has the New Testament Great Commission. This is also recorded in substance in the other three Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles.
Jesus gave His Great Commission in the aftermath of the Resurrection. He had already been to the cross where He lay down His life so that a lost world might be saved. Laid in a borrowed tomb, He came forth on the third day as He had promised, and hurried away to a great camp meeting on a mountain in Galilee, for which He had planned before going to the cross.
That meeting in Galilee was the greatest camp meeting ever held. The risen Lord was the special evangelist. The disciples were there, and probably the five hundred brethren mentioned in Corinthians as having seen Him at one time (as this is the only record of a public service by Jesus after His resurrection).
What was the theme of Jesus' message that day? What burden on His heart did it represent? Here's how Matthew records what Jesus was asking the people he had called to be holy to do:"Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
In the first chapter of Luke, Zacharias the priest, being filled with the Holy Ghost, in a prophecy announced that God had promised, and made provision back in the beginning, that His people should be holy: "The oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days." -- Luke 1:73-75
And in the tenth verse of the second chapter, we have the angel's message, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." (more on Luke 2:10)
In Luke 10:2, we read about Jesus sending out workers with this instruction: "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
Luke 11 contains what is called The Lord's Prayer. It is really a prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, when, after hearing Him pray, they asked Him to teach them to pray. This is the prayer we teach to our children. It is not only a prayer; it is also a type of creed which is taught to believers in every land before they are baptized and received into church membership. Yet, I fear many have failed to note the missionary significance of this prayer.
It begins "Our Father," recognizing all of God's children as a part of His family. Then there is a pause for worship, coming in reverence to the great God of the universe, who is also now our Father: "Hallowed be your name." The first petition as Matthew gives it, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," clearly refers to world evangelism. Our Father is a King, this old world is His by right. He created it, and placed man here. "The God of the whole earth shall he be called." After this we may pray for our every need, not forgetting to give Him the glory.
In Luke 11 then follows a parable to emphasize importunate prayer. A man goes at midnight to a neighbor's house to obtain bread for one in need, knocking and calling until the bread is given. Others! Others!
Have we neglected to make every effort possible to reach them? Let us pray in holy desperation and in faith, as an old man in the British West Indies did. When he discovered a deadly coral snake close to his bare feet, he knew that its bite meant death in thirty minutes. He could not think of words to say so he cried out, "Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen." God interpreted the prayer and delivered him.
Jesus continues by assuring his listeners that God is a loving Father who will answer their prayers. If earthly parents love to give good gifts to their children, "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." He thus links the coming of the Kingdom in all the world with the gift of the Holy Spirit. We cannot be all the Lord wants us to be, or do our best for Him, without the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In His sanctifying power, He not only making our hearts pure, He also fills us with His holy Presence.
Almost the last ministry act of Jesus on earth -- which is recorded in the last chapter of Luke -- was to open the understanding of the disciples that they might comprehend the Scriptures:"He said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.' Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.'" (Luke 24:44-49)
The Redeemer was again stressing a linkage of holiness and missions as God's program for this needy old world.
The Apostle John begins his Gospel with a clear declaration of the deity of Jesus Christ:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men." -- John 1:1-4
In this same chapter John the Baptist introduces Jesus to the multitudes down by the River Jordan. Officials from Jerusalem had been sent to John to ask if he were the promised Messiah. John emphatically denied that he was the Messiah, saying, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, Make straight the way for the Lord.'" (John 1:23) The next day John saw Jesus coming and announced:"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! . . . Then John gave this testimony: I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God." (John 1:29, 32-34)
The verse we often call the "heart" of our Bible is found in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
There is also a 1 John 3:16 which reminds us of our part in this great world program, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
Our lives are to be laid down in sacrificial service that the world may know that a Savior has been provided.
The fourth chapter of John's Gospel contains a great missionary lesson. Jesus, on His way to Jerusalem, was passing through Samaria, which was largely heathen at that time. During the lunch hour while the disciples were away to secure food, Jesus, wearied with the journey, sat on a well-curb to rest. Presently, a Samaritan woman came with her water pot to draw water.
After asking the woman to give him a drink of the cool, refreshing water, Jesus began to tell her of the "living water" that He could give her, and that there could be in her "a spring of water welling up to eternal life." -- John 4:14
At first, the woman did not understand, but a new desire had been awakened in her heart. That awakening was followed by conviction for the sins in her past life. Soon, she exclaimed, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet." -- John 4:19
After explaining to her about spiritual worship, Jesus declared He was not simply a prophet, but the promised Messiah. She was ready to accept Him and, forgetting her water pot, she hurried back to the city, inviting people to come and see this wonderful man that she believed to be the Christ.
In the meantime, the disciples had returned. They were astonished that He had talked with a woman of Samaria, for the Jews looked upon the Samaritans as "dogs."
But the disciples were now to have an important foreign missionary lesson. The Master reproved them for despising the Samaritans by saying, "Do you not say, Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together." -- John 4:35-36
What a marvelous lesson! The harvest of golden grain in Samaria was yet four months away; but He was telling them of a precious harvest of immortal souls that was now ripe and ready to gather. He was sowing the seed, they might reap, and in eternity they might share in His rejoicing.
The account closes with the wonderful declaration, "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony . . . And because of his words many more became believers." -- John 4:39, 41
A beautiful lesson on holiness is found in John 7:37-39. Jesus was teaching in the temple where a large crowd had gathered to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, Many of the people had believed on Him. Some questioned, while others were angry and wanted to destroy Him. They had now come to the last day, "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.'"
This was a call extended to all, the remainder of the message being especially for believers, regarding the Holy Spirit:"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not been been glorified.)"
In the previous reference, in the fourth chapter, Jesus taught that our conversion meant having in us a well of living water, while here he speaks of holiness meaning that rivers would flow out of us.
This can be strikingly illustrated by an irrigation system I had the privilege of inspecting while on the Arizona District helping in holiness and missionary conventions.
Our party had been driving since early morning over arid desert in a valley below sea level. In the late afternoon we arrived at what appeared to be an oasis in that vast desert. It was the home of a splendid Nazarene family where we were to be entertained for the night.
In remarking about the great change, our hostess invited us to visit their irrigation plant about a mile from the house. Bordering the highway was a great irrigation ditch that was almost like a river. The water was rushing on to supply other smaller ditches over the great ranch. As far as the eye could reach, there were fresh, green fields which had once been dry, barren desert. Arriving at the plant, we were taken first to a great well, which was pouring out an enormous stream of water. Our hostess told us the well had been expensive. They had gone down and down until they tapped a large vein of water. It was a real artesian well which never failed, summer or winter. It was the most wonderful well I had ever seen and as I thought about the well of "living water," my soul was blessed.
We were then taken to a shed where a large electric motor was sheltered; this was connected by a huge belt with the pumping system, causing the vast stream of water to flow down through that great river out over the desert lands, transforming the desert into fruitful fields. The supply was not only sufficient for their own need, but supplied their neighbors for miles around. Asking about the harvest, I was told that they raised not one or two, but five crops a year! We returned to the home refreshed in soul and body, having visualized anew the meaning of the well and rivers in the Gospel of John. All the way back to the house I was rejoicing in Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit for His people, the rivers of "living water" that would flow out, and the abundant harvest which would follow.
The story of the Good Shepherd is in the tenth chapter of this extraordinary Gospel of John. The "Good Shepherd" willingly lays down His life for the sheep. He becomes "the gate" so that "whoever enters through me will be saved." In the sixteenth verse Jesus again calls their attention to the importance of missions: "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen [Jewish]. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."
What a blessed privilege is ours to help the Savior gather in the "other sheep!" Yet I fear that not only the Jews, but many of God's dear children down through the centuries neglected these "other sheep." It is only a little more than two hundred years ago that the modern missionary revival began, and the Church began to take a real heart interest in the salvation of the heathen.
The Moravians were the first to recognize the responsibility of helping the Master bring these into the fold. They were a band of holy people, and they planned that every one of their churches having one hundred members should not only support a pastor in the homeland, but also a missionary in a foreign country. They have more members today in foreign lands than in their own homeland, and the good work still goes on.
It was from the Moravians that John Wesley learned about holiness as a second work of grace, and thus sought and obtained the blessing. He became convinced that holiness was the great need of the Church if it was to bring in the waiting multitudes. In a sermon, Wesley said that he had rather God would use him to get ten men sanctified wholly than to get one hundred converted, After the service he was reproved by a good brother who said he had thought Wesley was an evangelist and interested in revivals. Wesley replied that he was, for he believed that the ten sanctified ones should each get one hundred converted. That would multiply his effort in evangelism ten times. [ more on Wesley ]
It is so easy to forget these "other sheep" that Jesus says He must bring; who pray to gods that cannot answer, and offer costly sacrifices to gods that cannot help in their need, or satisfy the hunger of their souls. Jesus says, "They will listen to my voice," but it must be through human messengers. Let us hasten to get more God-called, Spirit-filled, laborers out into the great harvest field.
When Salvation Army founder William Booth was on his death bed, he was visited by one of the managers of the telegraph system of London. The man asked Booth if he had a last message he would like to send to his Salvation Army officers around the world. He said, "If you have, whether it is long or short, we shall be glad to send it free of charge."
Looking up, the General smiled his thanks and said just one word: "Others." That message was wired around the world where Salvation Army soldiers were out seeking for the lost other sheep.
Oh, that God may lay a greater burden on all our hearts for these "others" so long neglected by those who have heard and who claim to know and love the blessed Redeemer.
In John 14, 15, 16 and 17 we find the Master comforting the hearts of His disciples by telling them more about the coming of the Holy Spirit, emphasized as the Comforter, and revealed as a Divine Person.
In chapter 14, we read:"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17)
Witnessing is stressed in the following chapter: "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me; but you must also testify, for you have been with me from the beginning." -- John 15:26-27
In the next reference in the 15th chapter, He declares the threefold work of the Spirit toward the world; and the necessity of His going.
Jesus had finished His part of the mission for which He came, having made adequate provision for the salvation of a lost world. Now the Third Person, the executive of the Godhead, was to come and carry on the great missionary enterprise through faithful witnesses:"But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment." (John 16:7-8)
How important that all of God's children should not only know Him, but have Him abiding within and working through them in carrying out God's plan for calling out a holy people from all nations.
We approach the John 17 with bated breath. We listen with reverence and awe to the heart breathings of our Lord in His High Priestly Prayer. He was pouring out His heart to the Father for the last time before going out into the Garden of Gethsemane and on to the cross to lay down His life that a lost and ruined race might have life eternal. He left this comforting thought: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."
The great burden of Jesus' prayer was for His followers. Jesus Christ was God's love-gift to the world and believers are the Father's love-gift to Jesus. Seven times in John 17 Jesus speaks of believers as given to Him by the Father. He prayed for their safety from the world and from the Evil One. He declared, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." He told the Father that they had received His words and had believed that He was the promised Messiah sent from heaven and because of this the world had hated them. He said, "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: . . . and now come I to thee."
He then prayed for their sanctification. The grace they now had would not be sufficient to enable them to carry on after He had left them, He had tried to make them understand the trying ordeal that was just before them, and they had all promised to be true. Peter even asserted that he would go with Him even to death; but they failed to realize the depravity of their nature that would betray them in the hour of trial. Jesus knew and prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
Then, as He visualized a lost world, He added, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." But this was to be but the beginning of world evangelism! There was as yet but a very small company, and, looking forward to the coming centuries and the multitudes that would need to be told the "Glad Tidings," He prayed for all believers. He prayed for us! "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their word." He prayed that a spirit of unity and fellowship might pervade all believers -- fellowship with their God and with one another -- the blessed Holy Spirit dwelling in all hearts. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." The objective being, "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
He prayed for a world revival! And not only that, but also for the sanctification of all believers! "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
One more petition -- the culmination of all the other blessed requests -- and the High Priestly Prayer comes to an end. "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou loved me before the foundation of the world."
This prayer of intercession could not go unanswered. More than one-fourth of the world's present population professes some kid of allegiance to and claims to bow before the cross of Calvary. If all were living members of Christ, and had tarried for their Pentecost and had gone forth at His command, how different world conditions would be today! Nevertheless, the faithful are still pressing on, and God is working miracles.
In his Acts of the Apostles, Luke, "the beloved physician," continues the account of Christianity which he had begun in the Gospel bearing his name. Dr. Luke and the Apostle Paul have been credited as the writers of fifteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books. Luke is called the historian of New Testament times and Paul the interpreter. The particular book by Luke (Acts) has sometimes been called the Acts of the Holy Ghost, and the Gospel of the Holy Ghost Power. In any case, it is certainly evident that the Holy Spirit fills the scene.
In the introduction to Acts, the universality of the gospel is suggested: This book was written by a Greek to a Roman about a Jew. Prayer is especially prominent, being mentioned 27 times in the 28 chapters.
The first chapter records the last words of Jesus before returning to the Father's house. His last message, recorded in Acts 1:8-9, was to His people. The subject was holiness and missions: "'But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' After [Jesus] said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight."
Two angels then appeared and encouraged the disciples' hearts with the promise that Jesus would return in the same manner as they had seen Him go. The little company then returned to Jerusalem and tarried, continuing in prayer with others until the Holy Ghost came, and they were all filled with the blessed Holy Spirit. The prophecy of Joel was fulfilled (Acts 2:16-18). The promise in the Jesus' last message was verified, and, at the first public service held, the universal significance of what happened on Pentecost day was demonstrated.
Here's what happened: A cosmopolitan crowd had gathered with people from more than fifteen nations present, representing practically all the then-known world. A miracle was wrought, for as Peter preached and the other apostles and disciples gave witness, each person gathered in Jerusalem heard the gospel in his or her own language. Three thousand people were converted that day.
On that Day of Pentecost, the church's foreign missionary enterprise was launched. The Holy Spirit had come to lead the Spirit-filled ones on victoriously. Soon we read of five thousand converted in a single service. Although the believers suffered persecution, the account declares: "With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all," (Acts 4:33) and "those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." (Acts 8:4) Oh, for more Pentecostal seasons in our time! The skies are full of potential Pentecost days. Will we not pray them down?
Whenever I think of Pentecost, I remember the little girl in the Welsh Revival who had been to the altar and had been beautifully saved. A few days later, hearing a sermon on holiness which emphasized that Christians might have the Holy Spirit who would purify the heart and fill it to overflowing with God's love so that rivers of love would flow out to others, this young lady came again to the altar. The little girl was heard to pray this simple prayer: "O God, I thank you for saving me. I am so happy, but I also want the Holy Spirit to come and fill my heart. You know, Lord, I am only a little girl, and I can't hold much, but I could overflow an awful lot." The hearts of these early Christians were overflowing, and because of that we next read about a revival in Samaria.
"Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed Christ there" (Acts 8:5). The people heeded the message, believed the Word, accepted the Savior, and were baptized both men and women, "and there was great joy in that city." -- Acts 8:8
When news of this revival reached the church in Jerusalem, they sent Peter and John to Samaria :
"When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit." -- Acts 8:15-17
They were faithfully carrying out God's plan of holiness and missions.
Acts 10 introduces a Gentile named Cornelius. From the way scripture describes Cornelius, it sounds like he was an outstanding believer: "He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly." He not only prayed, but he was "fasting and praying" at his regular prayer hour. He was evidently seeking for light and was hungry for holiness -- something that is natural for one anyone who spends time fasting and praying to God. The Lord was so pleased with Cornelius' prayer that He sent an angel to instruct Cornelius to send for a certain holiness preacher named Peter. The angel assured Cornelius that Peter would tell Cornelius what he ought to do. Cornelius obeyed the directions and sent messengers to find Peter in Joppa.
While these messengers were on their journey, God was preparing Peter to co-operate with His plan. Peter was a bigoted Jew who needed a world vision. Peter did not yet seem fully convinced that the provision made at the cross had indeed been for all the world. So, one day while he was praying, Peter had a vision that made it plain that "God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." (Acts 10:34-35) How wondrously God works if His people fast and pray!
When the men sent by Cornelius arrived at Simon's house, they made an unusual request: "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say." The men were invited in for the night and on the morrow Peter and other brethren returned with them to Caesarea.
In the meantime Cornelius had been busy organizing a holiness convention, so that when Peter and the six brethren arrived they found many that were come together.
Peter was invited to give them God's message and in the midst of the sermon, "The Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. . . . They asked Peter to stay with them for a few days." (Acts 10:44-45, 48) When Peter next visited the mother church in Jerusalem, he was reproved for having gone to the Gentiles. He protested that he had done so under God's direct leading and was thus vindicated. The church broadened its vision and was blessed.
Then followed more prayer victories. While the church prayed earnestly, Peter was miraculously delivered from prison on the very eve before his decreed execution and appeared before the astonished company.
In chapter 13, while the entire church fasted and prayed, the Holy Spirit called Barnabas and Saul, the church's two best evangelists, to go forth to definite foreign missionary service. This splendid Antioch church did not murmur nor object, but they had another season of fasting and prayer. Then, they laid their hands on the two men and sent them out. "The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus." -- Acts 13:4
This was the beginning of the foreign missionary journeys of Paul, that great apostle to the Gentiles. On his first missionary journey, he constantly met opposition from Satan. At Derbe, after a man was healed, the Christian missionaries were acclaimed as gods. Because of that, they could scarcely restrain the people from offering sacrifices to them. At Lystra, Paul was stoned and left for dead. "But after the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city." (Acts 14:20) They then returned to the cities visited, appointed elders, prayed and fasted, and returned to Antioch to give their report.
On Paul's second missionary journey he was clearly directed by the Holy Spirit to carry the gospel into Europe. Arriving at Philippi, the chief city of that part of Macedonia, he attended a prayer meeting by the riverside. A woman named Lydia was his first convert. Then quickly followed the conversion of the jailer and his family after the missionaries Paul and Silas had been miraculously delivered from the inner prison where their feet had been held fast in the stocks.
Paul the missionary, then being urged to depart, journeyed on to other European cities: Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth and Ephesus. At each place more or less severe persecution awaited them. But the proclamation of God's Word bore fruit, multitudes believed, and missionary churches were established.
When Paul arrived at Ephesus, he found certain disciples whom he questioned relative to their experience of holiness: "'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' They answered, No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.'" --Acts 19:2
These were no doubt converts of the eloquent Apollos, who had been "instructed in the way of the Lord, and . . . taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John." (Acts 18:25) The converts in Ephesus, when questioned about baptism, replied that they had been baptized unto John's baptism.
This baptism, according to the account given in Luke 1:77, meant they had received a "knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins." So these converts were eligible for the blessing of holiness. "When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them." -- Acts 19:6
These formed the nucleus for the splendid church. Paul remained there for more than two years. "So that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul . . . The word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power." -- Acts 19:10-11, 20
The Epistles are missionary letters, written by missionaries to missionary churches. Almost every one of them emphasize both holiness and missions. St. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, uses his letter writing to interpret the gospel to missionary churches.
The theme of the Epistle to the Romans is: "The Gospel of God, not for Jews only, but also for Gentiles." Paul notes that universal salvation has been provided and ought therefore to be accessible to all at the earliest moment. He clearly sees it as the responsibility of the whole church to get the news to the whole world. Robert E. Speer echoes the message of Romans by saying, "The great need in the church today is to realize the world's need of Christ, and Christ's adequacy to meet that need."
In the first chapter of Romans the apostle declares his debt as a believer to get to the gospel to the whole world:
"I am obligated both to the Greeks and to the non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile" (Romans 1:14-16).
The first two verses of chapter 5 have the gospel in a nutshell: "Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
In the remainder of the chapter, five "much mores" definitely explain the two works of grace while also declaring "where sin increased, grace increased all the more." -- Romans 5:20
Romans 10:11-15 is a missionary message. It asks some very pertinent questions:
"As the scripture says, Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile -- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?"
These are questions every church member should ponder well, asking God to show them if they are doing their best in His world-wide program. In the beginning of chapter 12 Paul pleads with believers to make an entire consecration; to become a living sacrifice, to not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed, that they may prove God's good, acceptable and perfect will (which is definitely stated in Thessalonians to be sanctification). (I Thessalonians 4:3) In Romans 14:17, Paul declares, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."
In 1 Corinthians the apostle refers to his Corinthian readers as "babes in Christ." This missionary says to them: "In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me." (1 Corinthians 3:15-16) The thirteenth chapter reveals to them their privilege and the absolute necessity for them to be made perfect in love.
The Epistle to the Ephesians has been called the Bride's Book. It is written to the saints, the true Church, which is "his body." In chapter one Paul declares God's call to be holy: "God . . . has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." -- Ephesians 1:3-4
In the third chapter, Paul mentions God's global family:
"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." -- Ephesians 3:14-19
In the fifth chapter Paul comes back to the emphasis on being filled with the Spirit, exhorting his readers: "Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." -- Ephesians 5:18-20
He also reminds them that abundant provision has been made for the church to be holy: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" -- Ephesians 5:25-27
It is evident that the apostle was teaching second blessing holiness to these missionary churches. In the last chapter he reminded them they were Christ's soldiers. They must "be strong in the Lord," have on the "full armor of God," and carry weapons with which to fight the enemy and win trophies for their King (Ephesians 6:10-17). World missions was the God-given task of this church which was called to be holy.
In Thessalonica there was such a fine working church that the apostle declares: "We always thank God for all of you . . . We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love . . . You became imitators of us and of the Lord . . . so you became a model to all the believers Macedonia and Achaia." -- I Thessalonians 1:2-7
Notwithstanding this great comfort, Paul told the Thessalonians he was burdened that they might be sanctified: "Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith . . . so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God." -- I Thessalonians 3:10, 13
In the fourth chapter he follows up on that thought by exhorting his readers to go on to holiness:
"We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. You know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God's will that you should be holy. . . . For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." -- I Thessalonians 4:1-3, 7
He prays again for his readers at the close of this first Epistle: "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
To Timothy, his son in the gospel, Paul writes about the twin themes of holiness and missions:
"The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. . . and for this we labor and strive, that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. . . You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presences of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Jesus Christ." - - 1 Timothy 1:5; 4:10; 2 Timothy 2:1-3
The Epistle to the Hebrews begins with the graphic description of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The keyword of that epistle is "better." The Son of God was better than the prophets and better than the angels. He was and is an ever-living High Priest. The writer of Hebrews is seeking to confirm Jewish Christians by showing that Judaism had come to an end through the fulfillment by Christ of the whole purpose of the law. We now have a better covenant with better promises, and a better tabernacle. The second veil has been rent and we may now enter and abide within the "holiest of all."
Hebrews 10 says,
"Here I am, I have come to do your will.' . . . And by that will we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. . . because by one sacrifice he had made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. . . . Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:9-10, 14, 19-22
Then follows the great faith-- chapter with its list of illustrious heroes who through unwavering faith in this great High Priest achieved mighty victories.
In the twelfth chapter we have the exhortation, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men, and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14) The closing chapter has one of the most beautiful benedictions in the New Testament:
"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." -- Hebrews 13:20-21
The Epistles of Peter are addressed "to God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." (1 Peter 1:1) Peter had not forgotten the vision on the housetop recorded in Acts. As he writes this letter, no doubt he had in mind not only the scattered Jews, but also Gentile believers. In the first chapter of his first letter he exhorts believers to holiness: "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy'." -- 1 Peter 1:14-16
The First Epistle of John is a family letter from the Father to His "dear children" who are in the world. The letter stresses the privilege of having sweet personal fellowship with God the Father and with the Son. It urges believers to walk in the light, that their joy may be "complete." -- 1 John 1:4
"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light . . . we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin, . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." -- 1 John 1:5-7, 9; 3:1-3
The Third Epistle of John is a personal letter to a missionary-minded member of a local church. From what John writes, it sounds like that church was dominated by a carnally proud non-missionary leader. The beloved Gaius is commended for caring for missionaries because "for the sake of the Name they went out, receiving no help from the pagans" (3 John 7) and he helped them to continue their journey "in a manner worth of God." (3 John 6) And the Lord was so pleased with Gaius' loving interest and sacrificial service that the letter was placed in the Bible and has been preserved for our instruction down through the ages. Among the lessons to be learned from Third John is that it pays to cooperate with God-given plans.
Jesus Christ and the glorious consummation of His missionary enterprise is the central theme of John's Revelation. The first three verses of the book give its title, the description of the writer, and a blessing upon on the readers:
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it know by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw--that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." -- Revelation 1:1-3
In 1:4-8, there's a salutation to the "seven churches of Asia." This salutation includes the fundamental principles upon which the Church of Christ is built:
In the book of Revelation, there are seven major visions. Each vision contains a striking missionary element as well as a clear sense of God's righteousness and holiness.
In the first three chapters, the venerable Apostle John describes the first vision he had while banished to the Isle of Patmos:
"I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and testimony of Jesus. On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.'" -- Revelation 1:9-11).
As John turned to see the one speaking, he saw seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of these "someone like a son of man,' dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet . . . In his right hand he held seven stars . . . When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!'" -- Revelation 1:13, 16, 17-18
Seven is a symbolic number. Denoting completeness, the number seven is used frequently in this final book of the New Testament. The golden candlesticks typify God's true Church. A glorified Christ in the hearts of His people is the prerequisite to the coming of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying power, lighting the candles from which must shine the light of His love and grace to a dark world. In the vision John saw of the End Times, God is seen as emphasizing holiness and missions.
Then follow the special messages sent to the churches in Asia. Some Bible students interpret these as dispensational, and thus see them as describing various periods of the entire Church age. Whether this interpretation is true or not, these words from Revelation were not just for these particular churches. The words are for the ear of the church in all ages.
The church at Ephesus is commended for its works and patience: "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent." -- Revelation 2:4-5
History tells us that, in addition to the evangelism and church planting that went on in Europe and Asia, nearly a thousand churches were planted in northern Africa during the first and second centuries. In losing their love for Christ, as had the church at Ephesus, these north African churches failed to pass on the "good news" and became extinct.
The last part of the First Century was a period of great persecution. So, the church in Smyrna is comforted in its poverty and tribulation with the promise: "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10) Believers in Pergamos and Thyatira had failed to keep themselves separate from the world. They were accused of dwelling "where Satan has his throne." (Revelation 2:13) Holding the doctrine of Balaam (worldliness), they had drifted into idolatry and were urged to repent.
Those who look at this passage through dispensational eyes see the condition of the church at Sardis has been suggested as being emblematic of the period of the Reformation, "You have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy." -- Revelation 3:4
The words directed to the church in Philadelphia have been understood as depicting the modern missionary revival: "These are the words of him who is holy and true. . . . What he opens, no one can shut . . . I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. . . . I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown." -- Revelation 3:7, 8, 11
In our day we seem to have reached the condition of the last church, Laodicea: "I know your deed, that you are neither cold nor hot. . . . You say, I am rich . . . and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" -- Revelation 3:15, 17.
In the message to this last church, the attitude of Christ at the end of the Church age is revealed. It is a world message: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me." -- Revelation 3:20
In verse 21 is what has been called the tallest promise in the Bible, "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." -- Revelation 3:21
How comforting and assuring are some of the closing scenes in this prophecy. In this vision there was encouragement given to each church for those who were faithful.
In his second vision, the apostle John seems to have been translated to the highest court of heaven:
"After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.' At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne." -- Revelation 4:1-3
The hosts of heaven were giving thanks because of creation:
"You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being." -- Revelation 4:11
Next, a book with seven seals is presented. John says he wept because no one was found who could open and read the book. The slain Lamb, the Redeemer, is announced as the "Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. . . . He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat upon the throne." -- Revelation 5:5, 7
This moment is followed by a worship time. Golden vials full of odors, which can be seen as the prayers of the saints, were poured out.
"And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth." -- Revelation 5:9-10
When that missionary song was ended, the angel choir
of "ten thousand times ten thousand" took up the strain, singing in "a loud
voice . . . .
"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!'" -- Revelation 5:12
This triumphant song was now swelled to a mighty chorus of universal adoration:
"I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!'
The four living creatures said 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped." -- Revelation 5:13-14
The ultimate triumph had begun. This second vision probably had reference to the rapture described in First Thessalonians 4:14-17, With the opening of the seven seals, the apostle saw judgments poured out upon the world. He saw a period of great tribulation which was followed by a time of rejoicing:
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
''Salvation belongs to our God
who sits on the throne,
and unto the Lamb.' -- Revelation 7:9-10
These were joined by the heavenly hosts,
Praise and glory,
and wisdom, and thanks, and honor
and power and strength,
be to our God for ever and ever,
. . . These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple.'" -- Revelation 7:12, 14-15
The trumpet judgments meant more woes will be poured upon the world. Following this is recorded a vision of the Lamb with the one hundred and forty and four thousand, at which time another victory was celebrated. This was a special service of the Lamb with the one hundred and forty and four thousand. They sang a new song, which they alone could sing:
"And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne . . . No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. . . . They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as first-fruits to God and the Lamb." -- Revelation 14:2-4
Just the vials with the last seven plagues are poured out, there is another burst of praise and thanksgiving in the heavenlies:
"I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:
Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.
Who will not fear you, O Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.' -- Revelation 15:2-4
We are now reaching the climax. A "Hallelujah Chorus" precedes the announcement of the Marriage of the Lamb:
"After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for true and just are his judgments.' . . .
And again they shouted:
Hallelujah!' . . .
Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
'Praise our God, all you his servants,
you who fear him, both small and great.'
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing water and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.' (Note: fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Then the angel said to me, Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " -- Revelation 19:1, 3, 5-9
The apostle then saw the Second Coming of our Lord with His saints, the battle of Armageddon, and Satan bound for a thousand years. He also saw the first resurrection of the blessed and holy dead, who should be priests, and reign with Christ a thousand years. He saw the final doom of Satan, the last judgment, and the new kingdom age ushered in. There was a new heaven and a new earth, the New Jerusalem that needed no temple nor light, and a new Paradise with a pure river of water of life and a tree of life whose "leaves . . . were for the healing of the nations." -- Revelation 22:2
We now come to the last message of the Bible:
"'I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. . . . I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.'
"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. -- Revelation 22:13-14, 16-17
The last promise in the Bible is: "Yes, I am coming soon." The last prayer is: "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen." -- Revelation 22:20-21
Holiness and missions are central to God's plan for the ages. That plan will ultimately triumph.
More material on holiness: Tongues-speaking Why be a Nazarene? Is there still a niche for the Church of the Nazarene
10/40 Window explanation and map Seeking God's will? African's martyr's commitment Mission trip fund-raising Ten ways to ruin your mission trip
-- Howard Culbertson