Paul: Mission and Message
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #12
"Paul: Mission and Message"
September 19, 2015
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He came to reveal the Father, the essence of His character of Agape love, sacrificial and self denying, so that people would respond to the very principles of the Kingdom of Heaven, and return in repentance and faith from the ravages of sin, pride, selfishness, and rebellion against that incredible love.
Christ upon the cross - in this we have a message. As love is self sacrificing, the message is also the mission - self denying and self sacrificial love as we share that message. The story of love compels us to share in love, to share the truth that in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, followed by His ascension to Heaven, we have the story of salvation history and the truths of the righteousness of Christ which alone is our justification, and which, when received, produces in us the miracle of spiritual rebirth, and reunion with the heart of God.
Paul was able to draw upon the Old Testament prophetic message, Jewish history, and the life and teachings of Christ, as well as His own personal encounter with the revelation of Christ and the Gospel, in order that he could lift the gospel out from the complexity of Hebrew civil, ritual and moral practices of Jewish life and make it more accessible to a multicultural world.
Paul’s message was Christ and Him crucified, yet he applied that truth in practical counsel in every aspect of personal Christianity, moral living, relationships, worship, and all aspects of church life. Paul lived the Great Commission, in travelling far and wide to practically and personally share the Good News of the Gospel throughout the world. His love for people, based on His love for Christ, compelled Him to “go” and to make the message relevant and applicable in every cultural setting in which he found himself.
I and my wife have conducted evangelistic meetings, health programs, and missionary endeavors in six continents. In the process of these blessed experiences, we have had to learn the lesson, sometimes painfully, of applying the message within the culture in which we worked. For example, while in Mongolia, I learned that the key concept of their social society was the word “nedz”, which means “friend.” I adapted my crusade that I conducted there to make Jesus as the “friend” of the world the key concept. Paul faced such issues, needing to start from a different point in the Jewish world than in the Gentile world. Our goal is to lead people to Christ, but we must pray for divine wisdom as to how to do so. Today, we are not necessarily asked to go to different cultures and parts of the world, as the Gospel has largely spread to the known world. But we are still faced with a daunting task. Recently, I had the opportunity to go door to door with literature and prayer in Philadelphia. I work in a much small cosmopolitan setting in one of my churches, and in the other three, a largely rural, country or small environment. I tried to share with people the truth that while salvation is the key gift and goal of our work, God helps with practical aspects of life, based on that love, such as finances, health, job identification, freedom from drugs, etc. We must make the experience of Christianity practical and relevant to the horrible problems and issues people face today. We must also make real to people the essence of faith, prayer, and trust and patience in waiting for God to act.
Paul often used common references, such as soldiering, athletics, etc. He did so to express the response of faith, in loving obedience, and in the truth that Christianity is both a “battle and a march.” We fight the good fight of faith. The presentation of Christianity must include the honesty that believing the Good News will include a daily, life long struggle with the flesh, and seeking to maintain and grow in faith and grace. Character growth in the knowledge of God’s love and faithfulness extends throughout life. Ethnicity, nationality and social class do not matter when one experiences the reality of the Christian walk, and people from all avenues of life understand trials, difficulties, and the need to persevere.
The Gospel is God’s response to the sin problem, and Paul was clear in His work and writings that the faith response to Christ involves a cross to us, a denying of self, a walk of obedience as we allow Christ to live out His life in us, and thus, a changed life brought into harmony with the Law of God. Sin is the transgression of the Law I John 3:4 and Paul through various expressions impressed the mind with the call to holiness and the moral life of a converted heart. He occasionally presented those principles as ethical demands upon all, so that people from all walks of life understood the universal application of the moral code.
“It will be seen, therefore, that there can be no higher state than that of justification. It does everything that God can do for man short of making him immortal, which is done only at the resurrection....Faith and submission to God must be exercised continually, in order to retain the righteousness-in order to remain a doer of the law....That is, instead of breaking the law, and making it of no effect in our lives, we establish it in our hearts by faith. This is so because faith brings Christ into the heart, and the law of God is in the heart of Christ. And thus “as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” This one who obeys is the Lord Jesus Christ, and his obedience is done in the heart of everyone who believes. And as it is by his obedience alone that men are made doers of the law, so to him shall be the glory forever and ever.” Waggoner, Signs of the Times, May 1, 1893.
In presenting the Gospel, we often face the problem of false beliefs and other cultural practices that contradict Biblical truth. Many believe in spiritualism and the immortality of the soul. Against this belief, Paul often emphasized that only God has immortality, the gift of God is eternal life and immortality, and that death is thus a sleep until Christ returns, as we see in I Thess. 4:13-17 and I Cor. 15:51-55. We encounter this problem often largely in Christianity of other denominations, who have denied these wonderful truths. We need to share that the Gospel will result in people being awakened at the Second Coming to the voice of Christ and a eternal relationship with Him. This involves explaining the experience of glorification, which Phil. 3:20-21 and other verses makes plain occurs at the time of Christ’s return, and not immediately at death. I once participated in a crusade in Chiclayo, Peru, in which thousands were baptized as the result of nine jointly held meetings. Yet, sadly, a year later, many had left the church, due to experiences of “dead loved ones” appearing to them. They had failed to remember and apply the teachings shared regarded the truth of death and related issues. All aspects of the Gospel and related truths must be clearly understood, and reiterated in the discipleship program, so that people fully understand the entirety of the message.
Paul said that the “love of Christ constraineth him.” He was eternally motivated by this truth, for which He “labored and suffered reproach”, because He knew He served the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially those that believe. I Tim. 4:10. This love serves us well as we work together with others in the sharing of the Gospel. None of us is called to work alone. I had the opportunity once to substitute for Brad and Cathy Jolly in Mongolia for a time, while their small church consisted of 9 members. Pastors, volunteers, the Jollys in returning, and others followed, and in addition, several of the church members received further training at AIIAS in the Philippines, or at the Seminar at Andrews, and working together, they went throughout the country doing gospel work, and today that church in membership and others attending is over 2500 people. We must work together, we all are called to do our part, and God works the miracle of multiplication and discipleship building. As a part of this work we forgive those with whom we work, when we make mistakes or when our human nature becomes involved. We practice the response of the Gospel to others, because we ourselves are the “chief of sinners.” Paul’s message is and always will be the love of God, revealed in Christ, which alone melts the sinner’s heart. I pray that we all will allow that love to fully rule in our hearts and minds, so that we can be missionaries for Him.
~ Pastor Tom Cusack