Our Commission

A word to those who preach the Gospel at home and abroad

"Wist ye not that I must be about MY FATHER'S BUSINESS?" (Luke 2:49).
"Thus it is written, and thus it BEHOVED CHRIST TO SUFFER, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47).
"And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).

We must not make the mistake of dividing the work of the Lord into sections, or of thinking of what is done abroad and among the heathen as another work or a different kind of work from what is being done at home. The work of the Lord is one work, wherever it is being done, and there is no difference in the sight of our God between the proud white man who boasts in his liberty and progress, and the dark-skinned heathen in his degradation and superstition. One gospel only can meet the need of each and both. There is one Lord in the glory, the Master of all His servants, who directs them according to His sovereign will and wisdom, and one Holy Spirit on earth who is using the one gospel of our salvation with one great end in view. All who believe that gospel are brought into the one body of Christ — His assembly on earth which, when completed, will be presented to Him who gave Himself for it — His all-glorious bride, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Eph. 5:2). What an end that is to have in view! and every bit of the work of the Lord that is being done on earth by His faithful servants is contributing to that great end. Who would not rejoice to have a part in it, or be willing to be sent abroad or to abide at home as the Lord may direct, in order to gather some out of the world for the Lord for the fulfilment of this great purpose of God! It has been said that "there are vacancies in the heart of Christ and He has sent His evangelists into the world to find souls that will fill those vacancies." The thought is a sweet and true one; may it stir us up to diligently seek these souls out of every nation, kindred, people and tongue, for the joy of our Master and Lord.

Our Commission

If I were asked what right we have to preach the gospel and where we got our commission, I should say we got it from Luke 24. The commissions in Matthew's and Mark's Gospels have a Jewish character, they were given specially to "the eleven." The Matthew commission has yet to be fulfilled, and the Mark commission was fulfilled in apostolic days; but this in Luke's Gospel is ours and will continue until this gospel day is finished. It was given not to "the eleven" only, but to "them that were with them" also (v. 3), and we come in there. Luke's Gospel is the Gospel of unmeasured grace. In it the Lord is not presented as the King of the Jews, nor even as Jehovah's Servant to gather Israel, but as the Son of Man come to seek and to save the lost, whether they be Jew or Gentile. Indeed, I believe that I am right in saying that it was written by a Gentile to a Gentile, and so it is very specially our Gospel, and while we value Matthew's and Mark's inspired presentation of the Lord — for every view of Him is wonderful and indispensable — we ought specially to prize the Gospel of Luke.

The Father's Heart the Source

I want to show you the place that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have in the sending forth of the gospel to the lost. This gospel has come from the Father. It is significant that it is in this Gospel of Luke that the Lord's words as a boy of twelve are given, the first of His wonderful utterances: "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" And if we are in doubt as to what that business was, let us listen to the Lord's own account of it: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." You will notice that these were the Lord's first recorded words of public ministry in Luke's Gospel, as the others were His first recorded words in private. The Father sent Him, and the gospel that He brought into the world and that He has committed to us has come directly from the Father's heart. Yes, if you would find the source of it you must go past Calvary, past Bethlehem, up above all angels and spiritual principalities, to the very heart of the Father.

Nor must we forget that it is in this Gospel of Luke alone that the first words that broke from the suffering lips of Jesus on the cross were, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He knew well the ear and heart into which He poured that prayer. The Father makes merry and is glad over every soul that is won from the slavery of sin and brought back to Himself. We learn this from the fifteenth chapter of our Gospel, where the activities of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are shown to us in parable and story. As soon as the prodigal arose from the filth of the swine field, so soon did the father run to meet him. We are told that, "when he was a great way off his father saw him," for the eyes of love are very keen, and "he had compassion on him," for the heart of love is very tender, "and he ran," for the feet of love are very fleet; and before the prodigal could utter a word, he was kissed with the kiss of forgiveness, and the robe and ring and royal shoes were put upon him and the whole house feasted and was glad. It is a wonderful picture, painted for us by the Son of God. Is it over-coloured? Did Jesus exaggerate when He thus described the reception that is given to the repentant sinner by the rejoicing Father? Nay, that were not possible. He who is the truth could speak nothing but the truth, and thus He has described for us the way that God welcomes to His heart and home benighted, devil-oppressed, sin-laden sinners. What an indescribable privilege it must be to be the means of bringing about such joy as this, "Joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents"!

We have tasted the joy of such a reception, I trust, every one of us. We have felt the burden of our guilt, the misery of our sinful state, the hopelessness of our future, and we have turned — it was with great trepidation — to God, and He surprised us by the exceeding riches of His grace: —

"Trembling, we had hoped for mercy,

Some lone place within His door;

But the robe, the ring, the mansion,

All were ready long before."

We know the joy and relief of being kissed by the Father and made meet for His house. But do we know this other joy? "Let US eat and be merry," said the Father. Are we having our part in that? Are we among the "US"? Are we in communion with the heart of the Father in the outgoings of His grace? This is our privilege, and now is our opportunity. NOW — now!

The Sufferings of Christ the Cost

Our hearts are moved to gladness as we think of the Father's part in the outgoing of the gospel, but they will be solemnized, deeply solemnized, as we consider the cost. Hear the Lord's own words after He had opened the understandings of His disciples that they might understand the Scriptures: "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." My brethren, but for this the Father's love would never have been known; but for this sinners could never have been saved from death and darkness for life and glory; apart from this we should have had no gospel to preach, there could have been no way of repentance opened for men and no remission of sins for those who repented. "IT BEHOVED CHRIST TO SUFFER." Thus it was written. It was no after-thought of His. His cross was not an accident, something unforeseen, it was written that thus it must be. It was written in the volume of the book of God's counsels before the world was founded, but written also in the Holy Scriptures that men of faith in former times might read and hope, and the Scriptures cannot be broken. Some have tried to break them, some have tried to tear from the Scriptures the foretelling and the fact of the sufferings of Christ. They have only done it to their own destruction, for if Christ did not suffer, the Just One, for us the unjust, there is no way to God; and those who deny those sufferings and the reason of them, have no Saviour. It is intensely sad that a great number who profess to preach the Word are doing this very thing. It is bad enough that they should do it in this land, where the Bible itself is a sure witness against them, but how indescribably sad it is that many of this ilk should be going to the mission field carrying a gospel without the cross, a message in which there is no room for Christ who suffered for sinners and no redeeming blood! Thank God we believe the Scriptures, and nothing greater was written in them than this, "It behoved Christ to suffer." It was a necessity. Those hours of darkness on the cross, when He cried, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" were a necessity. He was delivered there for our offences. Divine, eternal justice demanded this if we were to be saved, and

"No victim of inferior worth
  Could ward the stroke that justice aimed,
For none but He in heaven and earth
  Could offer that which justice claimed."

You missionary brethren and all of us who serve the Lord in the gospel, need often to muse upon the cross. We need to consider the great price that has been paid before such a gospel as we have to preach could be committed to us. We need to feel deeply that the atoning blood is the very life of our message; to it we owe all our blessing, and it is the love that made our great Redeemer pay the price that should constrain us to proclaim the fact of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"And to rise from the dead the third day."
But there is more. He is risen.

In the Name of God I urge you to preach Jesus and the resurrection; proclaim a risen, triumphant Christ; tell the people that God has put His seal upon the great work of Calvary by raising the Workman from the dead; tell them that the price is paid and is enough; that Satan's power has been annulled; that death has been defeated. If you leave this out of your preaching it will be weak and ineffectual, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain: ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 1), but now is Christ raised from the dead and He was raised for our justification. Tell the whole truth of the gospel, for sinners need it all. Think of that solemn statement of Holy Scripture, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12). Every man lies under the sentence of death — it is a risen, living Saviour that all need. Would you not be glad to carry to a man lying under the sentence of death in the condemned cell the news that another had suffered the full penalty of the law in his stead? And if you could tell him that this one whose love for him was so great was alive again and was waiting to open his prison door and set him righteously free and wanting henceforward to be his friend and companion, would you not rejoice and make haste to tell him the good news? But such a thing could never be; but that which is impossible with men is God's gospel, and His gospel is much more than that, for those who are delivered from the power of death that lies upon them are set in Christ before God, and are for ever clear of all condemnation and stand instead in everlasting favour.

You have to preach this and preach it to men as they are. It is not education or civilization that the heathen need; we have both in this land, and the godlessness of it is increasing every day. It is this gospel of repentance and forgiveness and favour in Christ that they need and you may preach it to them freely, joyfully, and with confidence.

The gospel must be preached in His Name. You go out as representing Him, and this lays upon you a solemn obligation. So many who have taken up His service misrepresent Him by their tempers, their spirits, ways, manners, methods and associations. To go forth in His Name means to go forth as He would go, to bear His character, manifest His spirit, so that those to whom you speak not only hear of Christ, but see Him in you who speak. It is, as I have said, a solemn obligation that is laid upon you to carry the message in His Name, but it means also that He will support you in doing it. Indeed, the last sight of Jesus that His disciples had in this Gospel was with hands uplifted in benediction over them and in that blessing is all the grace and succour that is needed by every one of His servants on earth.

The Holy Spirit the Power

How deeply stirred the hearts of these disciples of the Lord must have been as they listened to His words and had their understandings opened to grasp the meaning of them. The two disciples earlier in the chapter confessed, "Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures," and at this later talk this must have increased one hundred fold. We can understand how eager they would be to tell what they had heard to others, but the Lord could not allow them to do that then. Their lips were to be sealed until they received power from on high. Until that happened they had to "tarry," and in this their obedience to Him and their knowledge of themselves would be greatly deepened. We have but to consider the gospel that they were to preach to see the necessity for this. It was planned in the heart of the Father. He is the source and fountain of it, and before it could reach sinful men in its redeeming blessedness Jesus had to suffer. It behoved Him to suffer, and His sufferings were infinite. He was God and Man. If He had not been Man He would have had no blood to shed; if He had not been God His blood would have been without avail. Now to give effect to this divine gospel in the hearts of men, divine power was necessary — a power commensurate with the Father's love and the sufferings and death and triumph of Jesus, and that power lies only in the Holy Spirit of God. The disciples had to wait until He came.

Do you not think that it is the most dreadful presumption on the part of any man to attempt to preach the gospel in his own wisdom and strength? Yet, alas, how often we have gone on with service with very little reference to the Holy Spirit. We have planned out our own work and asked God to bless it, and we have done it according to our own notions or in imitation of someone else and wondered why it was so fruitless. We need not to have wondered!

The Spirit of God is the great Servant. He is the One who is going into the streets and lanes of the city and into the highways and hedges to compel them to come in, that God's house may be filled (Luke 14), and it is our business to work with Him, to be so under the direction of our living Lord that we may be vessels meet for His use, in whom and through whom the Spirit can work. We are wasting time if this is not so; all our labour that is not in the power of the Holy Spirit is labour in vain, and worse, for powerless preaching means hardened hearers or probably empty pews. We are used to this kind of thing in these gospel-despising lands, but what a tragedy it must be when this sort of Holy Spirit-less service is done among the heathen, when the power of God is lacking in the gospel that is preached to them.

We seem to have largely lost the sense of the divine greatness of the gospel, and we seem to have gained (sad gain) an exaggerated sense of our own sufficiency. Hence the barren meetings, the lack of zeal, the decay of power. It is a matter that might well cause us to weep before the Lord.

Let us be assured that the Holy Spirit is still on earth and that His power has not abated one whit, and that He can and will still take up those who are obedient enough, and sufficiently emptied of self, and use them as He used the servants of the Lord of old. Consider them; day after day for ten days they waited and prayed. What obedient men they were! They knew that they were not sufficient for these things; they knew that their sufficiency was of God and they were not disappointed, for when they opened their mouths, "they so spake that many believed." So it is written, and it is written for our learning. May God Himself give to all His servants deep exercise of heart about this matter. Time is short. Our opportunity is NOW.