Ross W. Graham
Jesus said, "Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest" (John 4:35). "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Matt. 9:37-38).
He was signaling the dawn of a new age in redemptive history, the age of the harvest. As the book of Acts records this harvest growth, it always reminds us that God is in charge of it. "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). "And all who were appointed for eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48).
We can therefore be optimistic as we reach out with the gospel. We are the harvesters, and this is the age of the harvest. No rebellious, sin-hardened individual is beyond hope, because our sovereign Lord can, and often does, soften the hardest of hearts.
"Preach the Word," Paul said to Timothy. "Be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encouragewith great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2). He went on to tell Timothy, "Keep your head in all situations, endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry" (2 Tim. 4:5).
The importance of the Word of God in the work of evangelism and biblical outreach cannot be overemphasized. "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). The salvation harvest occurs only as people are confronted with the lordship and saving work of Jesus Christ.
But that requires hard work on the part of God's people. God uses our diligent efforts to bring in the harvest.
"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow" (1 Cor. 3:6). Paul concluded, "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow" (vs. 7). God from all eternity has purposed to save a multitude of people through the sacrifice of his Son and to assemble them into local expressions of his body called the church.
The importance of the Lord's initiative in biblical evangelism was confirmed when Jesus said to the confessing Peter, "I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). He did not say, "Men shall build my church," nor to Peter, "You shall build my church." What he did tell us is that the church is supernaturally generated by the triune God. Biblical evangelism is from beginning to end the work of God as he brings in the harvest.
Ross W. Graham is general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension of the OPC. This article was excerpted and slightly adapted from Planting an Orthodox Presbyterian Church, by the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Reprinted from New Horizons, May 2003.