He Said "Go"
After Jesus had died to purchase our redemption, and after his body had been resurrected from the grave in complete victory over death, but before he ascended to the throne in heaven, he gave orders to his disciples to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel" (Mk. 16:15). His orders, as recorded bv Matthew (28: 19, 20) also include the requirement that those who would be converted should be commissioned also to "Go." The first disciples were to teach the saved to observe the same things the first disciples had received of Jesus. So it is that it can be concluded that Christians today are ordered by the Lord, "Go preach the gospel."
The command is "Go" and this then requires us to go far and to go near. It demands that Christians be busy teaching and preaching the gospel at home and abroad. It sends us into homes, streets, offices, schools, factories and fields that are in our own community. Likewise it sends us into deserts, swamps, mansions, huts, and everywhere men live, even 10,000 miles from home. Jesus' word "Go" forbids that we withhold truth from our next door neighbor, and it also forbids that we deprive the people of Asia, Africa, Europe and other far away places of the knowledge of the gospel.
In keeping with the command of Christ, the gospel must be taken to the lands of peace and to those lands where war and turmoil prevail. Friendly lands and congenial people must be given opportunity to know the truth that can free them from bondage to sin, and the people in ignorance, darkness and superstition, dominated by unfriendly and anti-Christian powers, must hear if we can possibly reach them.
The disciples who work diligently to reach souls in their own community certainly are to be commended, but if they make no effort to reach those far away they fail miserably to obey the word of Jesus. Likewise those who expend every effort to teach the heathen of another land but do not utilize opportunities to evangelize their own vicinity, fail just as significantly to do God's bidding. Responsibilities with regard to going are limited only by our abilities! Each Christian must face God at last to give account of the deeds done in the body - not only to give account of the evil done, but also to be tested with regard to how we have used our time, our talent and our opportunities. Each church is being measured today by the Lord, not only with regard to how well it opposes false doctrine and sinful living, but also with regard to how it keeps its "first love" and whether or not it is "cold or hot." (See Rev. 2 and 3).
The Christian has a responsibility to the church and to the lost. Likewise the church has obligations to Christians and to alien sinners. The duty to preach the word far and near is a duty of both the Christian and the church. To a person (Timothy), Paul said, "Preach the word . . ." (2 Tim. 4:2). Regarding the obligation of the church in this respect, Paul said that it (the church) is the "pillar and ground of the truth." By way of example we find that Christians did go about preaching and teaching (Ac. 8:4) and that the church in Phillipi as well as other churches supported gospel preaching (Phil. 4:15, 16; 1 :5; 1 Cor. 11 :8).
First let us recognize that the collective action of the church does not in any way relieve each of us of our responsibility to "Go." If the church uses its every resource for evangelism everywhere, each member must still busily engage himself in whatever he can do to make known the glad tidings of good things. We cannot excuse ourselves by saying we are a part of a church that is zealous, for
each one must manifest zeal for souls. Furthermore, the church cannot support a preacher (or several preachers) to do our work for us, and when the church has done its best in supporting preachers of the word, individual responsibility has been diminished none at all. If a church provides the salary for a dozen of the best preachers in the world, if the sun never sets upon the lands where they preach the message of salvation, and if multitudes are annually won to the Lord by such work, the Christians who make up the church must still utilize their opportunities and discharge their responsibilities to the lost whom they can personally reach. Perhaps we can best emphasize this by stressing the fact that there are so man), who cannot be reached except bv such Christians. They may look upon preachers as a menace and upon preaching as foolishness, but they may be taught, convinced and persuaded by the life, words and action of a person whom they only know as a Christian.
Second, let us not forget the collective work a church can and must do to please God. Even if every member is zealous, active and faithful in teaching from house to house and in every other way, this does not relieve the church of its obligation to be, indeed, and not merely in word, "the pillar and support of the truth." Personal evangelism by its members does not replace collective evangelism which is accomplished when the church sends "once and again" unto the necessity of those who preach the word.
The commission is to every disciple. The highly skilled may be no more successful, sometimes, than others. Age is no barrier, whether it be much age or little. In one church with which I was acquainted, a High School girl who later worked in an office too, led more souls to obedience than all the rest of the church combined except for those who were baptized from families already in attendance at services there. Several months after this girl had gone away to college a man and wife were baptized who knew truth almost only as they had received it from her. In another case, an elderly sister died, and at her funeral someone said that she was the most successful preacher that had ever been in that community, though in reality she had never preached a sermon at all.
However, regardless of ability, eloquence or zeal, almost no one can succeed in leading souls to salvation without at least the following characteristics: ( I ) Sincerity. Perfect knowledge and eloquent tongue are vain and empty unless accompanied bv a friendly, humble, yet aggressive and courageous attitude. (2) Knowledge of the word. Too many Christians cannot convert people because they don't know enough about the Bible. Many times those who need to be converted actually know more Bible language than do the Christians. (One does not have to have a great deal of the Bible memorized, but he should be able to find the needed passages and read them accurately). (3) Holiness. Light is not reflected well by a rusty reflector or a dirty mirror. Neither is the light of gospel truth reflected to the world from a life of sin and by a body that is filled with worldliness. If sinners can't see Christ manifested in our lives they will hardly hear his words from our lips.
God has not promised that we will convert the world in any age or generation, and we do not suggest that any of the visionary plans of men would accomplish such world-wide successes. However, God has promised to be with us in teaching his word (Mt. 28:20) and he has commanded that we teach it everywhere to everybody. He wants all men to hear the truth, and he charged his people to proclaim it. What he expects us to do, with his help we can do! If the world does not hear the gospel in our generation, it won't be God's fault, will it? Then whose fault will it be? Will you, my preaching brother answer with me, and say that it is at least partly our fault? If the world is to hear, many, many more must quickly say, "Here am I Lord, send me." And, for all practical purposes, many must say, "Here am I, hrethren, send me."
But if the whole world is to hear of Christ, those Christians who cannot "go" far away must be willing to say, "Lord, send whom you will, but help me to pay my share of the expenses." Perhaps again it would be more practical to say, "Brethren (elders) send whom you will, but count on me to pay my share!"
Opportunity knocks today! Indeed "the call comes ringing" from every quarter of the globe. At home and abroad souls are eager for truth to make them free, and able, faithful men are willing to go, preaching. Let us arise and meet the opportunity while it is ours.
There was a door that stood ajar,
That one had left for me;
But I went seeking other doors,
To which I had no key.
And when at last I turned to seek
A refuge and a light,
A gust of wind had shut the door
And left me in the night. (anon).
Like a mighty army let us press the battle for truth and righteousness, for "Today is the day of salvation," and today's opportunity is the only one we may have to reach some. He (Jesus) said, "Go." Let us not fail!
Truth Magazine II:6, pp. 1, 23