E-book: Jonah, the reluctant missionary (part 5)

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This electronic book (e-book) is about the theology of missions. Its basis is an Old Testament character named Jonah, a man whose story is often used to teach obedience. These 10 short chapters reflect on what Jonah's story has to say about God's desire that the entire world be evangelized.

1. Are the heathen really lost?

Point four: Lost because they've rejected God's grace

     I've had students in missions' classes raise the question of the fate of people in unreached people groups. There are about 6,000-10,000 tribes or groups of people with little or no access to the gospel. They have no viable church sharing the gospel in their midst. What about those people who've never had a chance to hear about the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus? Are they lost?
     As Abraham pleaded with God for mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah, he asked: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). The answer is, of course, "yes." God will do right in all situations, including the cases of those who've never heard the full Gospel story. Still, God's love is seeking to draw all human beings to Him. That love shows itself in God's prevenient grace, as John Wesley and others have called it. It is divine grace that seeks all lost people, offering at least a glimmer of hope. This does not mean that the heathen are not really lost. They are. "All have sinned," Scripture declares (Romans 3:23).
     Some years ago Don Richardson went to Papua New Guinea as a missionary. He spent time learning the language and culture of an unreached tribe, but then months of fruitless effort made him think about giving up. Finally, during peace-making ceremonies between two warring tribes, Richardson saw a clear illustration of what God did for us through Jesus Christ. In a book about his experience, Richardson wrote that missionaries are tempted to use prepackaged gospel messages tied to their home cultures. Instead, he says, they should be searching their target cultures for gospel illustrations. He argues that there are things in every culture that open people's eyes to the gospel.
     It's a subject Richardson developed further in his later book, Eternity in Their Hearts. Richardson isn't using that title to say all people are already reconciled with God. He's reaffirming what the Apostle Paul said about God trying to reach all people (Romans 1:19).
     God has ways of making His grace known in all cultures. It appears that the heathen could respond in a way that would enable them to be reconciled with God. For, in the end, all people facing the Final Judgment will be "without excuse" (Romans 1:20). They have not been, therefore, arbitrarily or unfairly sentenced. . . . [ continue reading ]

Note: The word "heathen" in the title is not used in a pejorative or negative sense. This was the classic wording of questions about the eternal destiny of the unreached or unevangelized.

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Lost because God's people are asleep

Next chapterPart of the reason the "heathen" are lost is that God's people have gone to sleep on the job. . . [ read more ]

SNU missions course materials and syllabi

Cultural Anthropology    Introduction to Missions    Linguistics    Missions Strategies    Modern Missionary Movement (History of Missions)    Nazarene Missions    Church Growth and Christian Missions    Theology of Missions    Traditional Religions    World Religions
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Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132  |  Phone: 405-740-4149 - Fax: 405-491-6658
Copyright © 2002 - Last Updated: January 11, 2015 |  URL: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/jonah5.htm

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Article by Howard Culbertson. For more original content like this, visit: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert