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New Horizons

Into All the World

Mark T. Bube

"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.' Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:17-25).

In his Word, God tells us that it is his good pleasure, through the foolishness of the message preached, to save those who believe. So, as we follow his command and go into all the world, that's what we do: we preach the gospel of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the Savior's name. And we preach it so that God's glory might increase as, in each land, his covenant people are gathered, established, and built into a healthy, indigenous church that is firmly and fully committed to the whole counsel of his revealed will (the historic Reformed faith). Yes, for those who are perishing, the word of the cross is foolishness, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God.

Our Larger Catechism (Q. 155) describes the centrality of the preaching of the Word—together with the other means of grace—in the life and ministry of his church:

The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means—

  • of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners;
  • of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ;
  • of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will;
  • of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions;
  • of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

Look at the verbs—they're in italics—and observe the progression. Under the preaching of the Word, we (his people) come to see and to understand the claims of the gospel (enlightening), become convicted of its truth (convincing), and find our sinful pride shattered before Almighty God (humbling). As the Spirit plows our hearts with the message preached, we find that we are indeed driven out of ourselves (driving) and, most importantly, drawn to Christ (drawing). And that lifelong pilgrimage, in which we are being renewed in the whole man after the image of God (conforming) and broken to obey his will (subduing), is undertaken. As that Word is planted and watered by faithful preaching, so that our lives begin to bear fruit, we find ourselves becoming better equipped to endure temptation without being overtaken (strengthening). We are built up in God's grace (building), earnestly desiring to be holy, as our God is holy, and receiving, by his grace, that comfort through faith unto salvation (establishing).

Now, stop for a minute and ask yourself: Is this what I expect to result from the Holy Spirit's application of the preaching of the Word in my own heart? (Preachers, do you prepare your messages with this expectation?) Do I regularly prepare my heart before attending to the preaching of his Word with this in mind? When I receive the message preached, do I do so with faith and love and meekness and readiness of mind, as the Word of God? Do I meditate upon it, and hide it in my heart that I might bring forth the fruit of it in my life? Am I in the habit of upholding before the throne of the King the minister whom God has sent to preach that Word to my heart for these purposes?

But next, ask: Is this what I expect to result from the Holy Spirit's application of the preaching of the Word in the hearts of others? It is a real joy to report to you that, by his grace, the Word being preached by your missionaries has been—and, even to this day, is being—brought to bear by God in like manner upon the hearts of his people, who are presently scattered across the face of the earth to bring glory to himself. To help you appreciate this—and to help you praise God accordingly, in this month's issue of New Horizons we'll present you with a look from two different vantage points at your church's foreign missionary enterprise. In the first, Bill Kessler recounts the Lord's goodness to his people during the month he recently spent preaching the gospel in Ghinda, Eritrea. In the second, missionary Victor Atallah boldly writes on presenting the gospel to Muslims and challenges us to increased faithfulness in the service of our Master.

The force of the Holy Spirit's application of this preaching of the gospel upon the hearts of his covenant people was promised long before our Savior's death: "Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live" (Deut. 30:6). The conversion of even a single sinner is a wonderful thing—a supernatural thing—to behold. Our Savior declared, "I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).

On some fields, however—and here we must tread cautiously—we see indicators of the Holy Spirit's working in the lives of multitudes who were formerly in bondage to various forms of idolatry. At times we find ourselves to be almost speechless in awe of our Lord's goodness. For those who genuinely love God with all their hearts, there are few joys comparable to that of looking out over a veritable sea of faces upon which a fresh hunger for the things of the Lord has been written. And at times these faces even seem to provide windows into the very heart of other brothers and sisters in whom a powerful love for Jesus Christ has taken firm root.

Foolishness! According to the wisdom of this age, that's what the gospel is: foolishness. But then, through its own so-called wisdom, the sinful world has not—and will not—come to know God. In its sinful rebellion against the sovereign Creator, the world is blind to the truth and races along the highway to its own final judgment and everlasting destruction. It has always been especially scornful of God's Anointed One, who, at the cross, accomplished the triune God's eternal plan to bring glory to himself through the salvation of people of his own choosing.

The apostle presents his own calling in this way: Christ sent me to preach the gospel in order that what he accomplished on the cross should not be made void. So, too, we go into all the world.

Mr. Bube is the general secretary for the Committee on Foreign Missions. He quotes the NASB. Reprinted from New Horizons, May 1996.

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