"The Field Is The World"
In explaining the parable of the tares in Mt. 13:38 Jesus said, "The field is the world." Herein is evidently suggested the universal scope of God's grace and of man's necessity. The field, out of which the Lord came to redeem and gather a harvest, is not circumscribed by any geographical, cultural or racial limitation. These words are echoed again in the Lord's words, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). It is our purpose now to try to comprehend more fully the true significance of our Saviour's words so that we may be motivated to a more practical and fruitful application of his command that we "Go teach all nations" (Mt. 28:19).
First, "The field is the world" because "The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I Jn. 3:19). Until we see the true terribleness of sin we will hardly appreciate the significance of the atonement or the importance of preaching the gospel which is God's power to save ( Rom. 1:16). Yet it is impossible for us to fully comprehend the terribleness of sin. Our eyes have never seen all its terror and our ears have never heard all adequate description of it. Let us consider sin from three points of view, and trv to understand its significance. more completely than ever before.
1. Sin is so terrible because of its consequences. Adam and Eve were made without sin and walked and talked with God as one would with a very familiar friend as long is they remained pure and undefiled. In that sinless state they needed no Saviour for they were not lost. But then sin came into their lives (by their own voluntary action) and immediately they lost that blessed privilege of walking and talking with God in Eden's garden. Banished now from the presence of the tree of life they became indeed, not living people, but a dying race. God had made them to live and to live abundantly and completely without any of the attributes of death in their bodies, but sin cut them off from God's favor and immediately they began to progress toward the grave. Since then death has been the common lot of all (except for Enoch and Elijah), and "It is appointed unto men once to die . . ." ( Heb. 9:27.) Except for sin man would have lived, lived, lived, but because of sin we must die everyone! But most of all the consequences of sin are seen in that it alienates us from God. "The Lord's hand is not shortened that he callnot save; neither is his hand heavy that he cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you . . . (Isa. 59:1, 2). Paul comprehends this alienation when he says, "The wages of sin is death . . ." (Rom. 6:23). We are born (physically) with a relationship to God, for our spirits come from God (Ac. 17:28 ; Eccl. 12:7), but our own transgression of his will severs that relationship and makes us aliens in his sight (I Jn. 3:4; Isa. 59:1, 2). Terrible thought: alienated from God who made us, loves us and wants to save us!
2. But sin is also terrible because of its nature: (1 ) We cannot escape our guilt. You can run from the sheriff, the teacher or a parent, but you can't hide from God. There is no cave deep enough, no mountain high enough, no valley wide enough, no plain broad enough, no darkness black enough, no crowd large enough to hide us from God. (2) Neither can we undo our sin. If I steal $5.00 today, my sorrow may cause me to return it tomorrow two-fold but I am still guilty. Yes, even though penitence may cause me to work a lifetime and give my all to the one from whom I stole, I would die guilty! (3) Likewise, we cannot make up for our sins. We can't do enough good to erase the stain that blots our soul. We call wear ourselves out in service to humanity but that will not remove guilt.
Moses wrote: "Be sure your sins will find you out" (Num. 32:23). Paul wrote, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7). The writer of the Hebrew letter wrote: "Without shedding of blood is no remission." Truly sin is made more significant if we fully realize that we cannot run away from it, we cannot undo it and we cannot make up for it.
3. Finally, sin is so terrible because of its extent. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). The purest mother, the most godly father, the most noble son, the most virtuous daughter are all sinners (when they become responsible before God). No name, no position, no culture, no race is spared, for all become guilty because of transgression.
Contemplating the real terribleness of sin as only the infinite wisdom of God could know it, Jesus emphasized the need for the gospel of grace by saving, "The field is the world."
Second, the field is the world because Christ is Saviour of the world. (Jn. 4:42.) He died for all. Furthermore the price he paid with his own blood is adequate for remission of all sins. (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 1:7.) Some people fail to comprehend the true significance of God's grace because they fail to see the difference between the sacrifice he made and that which is made bv many fathers in giving their sons to die for some just cause. But there are at least two great differences: (1) Jesus was not an ordinary son-he was the sinless Son of God. Try to imagine, if you can, a full-grown man, 33 years old, normal in every way, who never had an evil thought, never said an ugly word and never did an evil deed. Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, "yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). He was possessed of every normal fleshly desire, yet, though he could have yielded, he did not sin, not because he could not sin, but because he would not sin. (2) The sacrifice of Jesus was not an ordinary sacrifice, for he did not die for his friends, as is the usual case, but he died for his enemies. Jesus said, before his death, that he was come "to seek and save that which was lost" (Lk. 19:10) and that "they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." (Mt. 9:12.) Sometimes we hear of a soldier who gives his life to save his buddies on a battlefield, but have you ever heard of one who gave his life to save the life of his enemies? Jesus did! We have heard of soldiers who threw themselves upon a hand grenade to save the life of friends, but we have not yet heard of a soldier who performed such heroism to save the enemy. But it was for God's enemies-sinners-that Jesus willingly went to the cross. There he said, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."
When we evaluate the full extent of God's love and of Christ's sacrifice, we can then more perfectly understand that the field is indeed the world-that God's love was great enough for all; that the ransom price was sufficient for everyone; that the purchased church is big enough to contain all who will come into Christ; and that the mansion Jesus now prepares will be more wonderful than we can even imagine now.
Third, the field is the world because one soul is worth more than all the world. Jesus said, 'What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?" (Mt. 16:26.) Recentlv I passed through Fort Knox, Ky. on a bus and I tried to imagine what it would be like if I could haul off all the gold there and have it for my own-to keep, to spend, to save, to give, as I might choose. Then I remembered that it would not be worth as much as my soul. All of earth's possessions would be given up gladly in Judgment day if it would then bring salvation. Perhaps one of our greatest weaknesses is that we cannot fully comprehend the value of one soul. We don't even think in terms of one soul very often. Try it. Think how much one soul is worth if that soul is your own-or if it is the soul of the very nearest one in this world to you by the ties of the flesh. How much would you give to guarantee salvation for that baby of yours? Think not just now of multitudes, think not of souls in the aggregate or in abstract numbers, but think of that one soul that is so precious to you. Then remember that God doesn't care which soul it is! Remember that though you might cry out for salvation for your soul or for one very dear to you, God loves every soul and he is just as much concerned with saving the most wretched creature on "Skid Row" as he is you, or your mother, or your baby! Remember that the most ignorant heathen, the most degraded reprobate, the blackest African or the most cruel and corrupt ruler is still an object of God's love, and that "God is no respector of persons" and God would have all men everywhere to be saved" (Ac. 10:34; 1 Tim. 2:4).
Remember that even if there is a soul that you can't love, God does love that one, and because one soul is so precious to him, and because the "world" which is comprehended in his expression is composed of souls who are all loved of God, indeed "the field is the world"!
Fourth the field is the world and opportunities to sow the good seed and to gather in the harvest of saved souls are great everywhere. In our own communities there are honest souls who do not know the pure gospel (its facts, commands and promises). Into the highways and byways, streets and avenues, boulevards and alleys of every community we must go with the gospel that saves sinners. Throughout America opportunities abound to reach into virgin territory and find those who will hear and obey. It is estimated that in the U.S.A. there is one true Christian for every 100 aliens and one gospel preacher for every 20,000 people. If every Christian would become a real worker, see how easily the figures could be changed-if each one would convert one other, it would then be one Christian for every 50 aliens, etc.
In other parts of the world the opportunity is even more staggering. On a world-wide basis it is estimated there is only one Christian for every 1,500 aliens and one gospel preacher for every 300,000 people, Excluding the U.S.A. altogether, there is one Christian for every 50,000 aliens and one gospel preacher for every ten million people. (At that rate, there would be only fifteen preachers in the U.S.A. -one for each three states.) In many foreign lands the name of Jesus is not even known as a curse word, and millions of souls have no conception of a living God. Yet in many places those ignorant people are very receptive to truth. Stories of great successes come from every continent as Christians go into remote places and seek out those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. In recent years hundreds have been converted from the old denominations in Europe; other hundreds have learned the truth and obeyed it in Japan, Korea and other places in the Far East; At least a few have been reached in South America, Central America and Australia; Africa with its beautiful modern cities in the south and with its uncivilized bush lands near the equator, is a most fertile field today and it is even estimated that there are now more members of the Lord's church in Nigeria alone than in all the rest of the world outside the U.S.A.
As we recognize the terribleness of sin, the greatness of grace, the value of a soul and the abundance of opportunities, let us join hands and hearts and go forward as a mighty army against all of Satan's devices to rescue some honest souls from the Devil's clutches. Let every child of God be a real light unto the world, and by word and by deed let us each contribute our part to the work of bringing the salvation story to all men everywhere. If the Lord's church is to accomplish its true mission to be indeed "the pillar and ground of the truth," it must be made up of godly, consecrated people who love the Lord and not the world, and who are determined to keep the church pure and true and undefiled by sectarianism and wordly ways and devices. As a pure unshackled, living body, guided and limited by the "perfect law of liberty," let us today, without delay, press the battle for truth and right and by every scriptural means sow and reap in the vineyard of the Lord, for "The field is the world" and "The harvest is great, but the laborers are few" (Lk. 10:2).
(The foregoing article is a condensed likeness of a speech delivered at the Florida Christian College lectureship, March, 1959.)
Truth Magazine III:8; pp. 22-24