We are considering the issue of someone who has a deep desire and conviction of being a missionary to another culture, and wants to learn their culture and language in order to get the gospel into their culture.
A missions commitment is like a pastor’s or elder’s commitment to becoming a teacher or local church leader – pastor-teacher-elder. It starts with a desire and grows into a conviction and commitment and is confirmed by the external call of a local church ordaining them to start a church in a new area or by a local church calling them to become their pastor.
1 Timothy 3:1 says, “If any man aspires to the office of an overseer, it is a fine work that he desires to do.” An overseer (?????????? = episcopais or “bishop”) is the same office as an elder (Greek: presbuteros – ??????????? ) Each local church should have a plurality or college of elders or council of elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-7), and the Bible teaches that all elders should be able to teach the word. ( 1 Timothy 3:2) and the elders do the work of shepherding/pastoring (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7, 1:9; 1 Peter 5:1-5 – “I exhort the elders . . . shepherd (pastor) the flock of God – shepherding means feeding the sheep spiritual food, praying for them, discipling, counseling, and administering church life and church discipline if necessary. (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5, Titus 3:10)
A missionary/ evangelist also starts with an internal desire and conviction the same way the pastoral ministry does.
There is a godly ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ is named. (Romans 15:20-21)
It is our conviction at Propempo that the sign-miracle-revelation gifts ceased with the apostolic age, and the closing of the New Testament canon, which happened when the last book of the NT was written, whether it was the book of Revelation or the little book of Jude. Jude 3 says that we are to earnestly contend for and defend “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”, so that verse may be a hint at the closing of the canon. But that does not mean that God doesn’t do miracles or heal anymore; He certainly does, sometimes; and He uses our prayers. The office of apostle ceased with the death of John, but a “sent one” as a missionary-evangelist-church planter continues. The gift of prophesy also ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture, but it is possible to see an application of that gifting today as preaching that is powerful and takes the written word and preaches it with conviction, speaking forth the word of God clearly, rebuking sin. The gift of tongues in Acts 2 and I Cor. 14 seem to be real languages in different people groups in the apostolic age.
Could it be that when Paul speaks of “earnestly desiring the greater gifts” in 1 Cor. 12:31 and 14:1, that he is alluding to the teaching gifts of preaching and teaching in extending the gospel into new territories? Since the sign-revelational-miracle gifts have ceased, the teaching and preaching and church planting gifts in evangelism and teaching seem to be the greater gifts that lay foundations in new areas and build up the church. The application for today to be “zealous for the greater gifts”, since apostles and prophets have ceased, is for believers today to honor and be zealous for the written word of God to be read, studied, meditated on, honored, preached, and interpreted properly and lived out in holiness and godliness. The greater gifts are in that context in the list, first apostles, then prophets, then teachers; so they all point to the honoring of the written word and teaching that word with integrity.
At the same time, James 3:1 says, “Let not many of become teachers, for you know that you will incur stricter judgement.” So there is a balancing principle that weeds out people who delude themselves or don’t have the perseverance to stick out the hard work of ministry in missions, evangelism, pastoral work, church planting, and counseling and church discipline. It is very hard work and taxing on the emotions; it is heavy in dealing with spiritual issues and men and women’s souls and eternal issues of heaven and hell.
The inner heart – conviction is a subjective thing. Any one can be deluded to thinking they should be a missionary and “save the world”. So, it needs the external call of the local church to test and confirm the inner calling. (Acts 13:1-4)
Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” – I Cor. 9:16 Usually, someone who is really “called” by God to be a missionary, will have such a strong conviction and commitment to going that they will do all they can to get there – they will seek the Lord, seek to live holy so as to not become disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27) and be submissive to their local church leadership along the way and persevere in the time it takes to actually get to the mission field.
If you are interested in exploring the issue of the miracle sign gifts controversy and debate between Christians, there are 2 on line debates that are very helpful.
Both of these debates provide the arguments for both sides of this issue. In our opinion, Dr. Waldon and Pastor Hamilton do an excellent job of articulating the right position on the miracle-sign-revelational gifts.