Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.
Thanks for listening to Episode 146 of Missions on Point. This is number five in a series on the centrality of the local church in missions. In this episode, we're going to talk about the overall picture of the New Testament and how that reinforces our concept that the local church is central in missions.
Let's take a step back and look at the entire New Testament, the authors, the recipients, and the purpose of the Holy Spirit in inspiring this tapestry woven of men and relationships and churches to reinforce this principle that not only is the local church central in missions, but the local church is central in God's whole program, his plan.
Think about it. Matthew was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the Book of Matthew, we know as the Gospel of Matthew, and Matthew went perhaps urged by persecution in Jerusalem to Persia and Ethiopia by tradition. He wrote what we know best as the Great Commission, and he obeyed it by going and bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to other lands. By extension and history, we know that churches were planted there probably by the influence at least of Matthew.
Mark is a very interesting character. He's not an apostle, but he had close association with Peter. In fact, Peter mentions him in First Peter Chapter 5 as being his protege or helper. We also know that he went on the first missionary journey with Saul, who later became known as Paul and Barnabas. Although he deserted, later he became sort of the focus of attention of a dispute between Paul and Barnabas as to whether he should accompany them on a second missionary journey. Apparently, he stayed with Barnabas, the son of encouragement, and Paul chose Silas and went their separate ways. Much later, Paul remarks that Mark was useful to him and desired to have him come visit in Rome. Again, from tradition, we believe that Mark accompanied Peter to Rome and spent much time with him before Peter was martyred there around the same years that Paul was also in Rome. The point is Mark was involved in church planting ministry as a result of his relationship with Barnabas and his obedience to Christ.
Luke is also an interesting character. We don't know that much about Luke except that he seemed to have had medical training of some kind and is often referred to as Dr. Luke in the commentaries. Luke was a protege of Paul. He came into Paul's circle somewhere around the time of the second missionary journey in the visit to Troas as just before they went over to Europe and began ministry in Philippi. Luke is the chronicler of the Book of Acts, which is the church history book of the first century. You can tell when he is in the group when he uses the personal pronoun us or we versus they or them. So Luke had the inside scoop on all of Paul's work and ministry and all of the people that he related to. He faithfully records this in the Book of Acts for our understanding and edification. Luke was very definitely involved on Paul's missionary team in church planting and leadership development.
We know quite a bit about John and John's gospel. We also know that he wrote later epistles and the Book of Revelation, so he had a longstanding ministry of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and seeing churches established. In fact, those Seven Churches of Revelation John would've had personal connection with from the northern edge of the city of Ephesus. We see from church history and his writings, particularly the epistles and that first part of the Book of Revelation, how dear local churches were to John's heart. As we come to Acts, of course we see how the local church is developed and planted in all of these cities around the eastern half of the Mediterranean. It's pretty well understood that Luke's record of Acts 1:8 is actually like an outline for the Book of Acts. The church and the gospel go forth from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth.
Now, we get into the letters of the New Testament, which we call epistles, and most of them were written by the Apostle Paul, who is a missionary church planter. The first one in our list through the cannon of the New Testament is the book of Romans. Romans is the first key to understand that every single book that Paul wrote in the inspired scripture was written to churches or church leaders. In fact, this is true of all the epistles in a more general sense, and I'll talk about that when we get to them, but just look at them one at a time.
Romans was written so that people in Rome, in those churches that were planted there, perhaps in part reinforced by Peter's ministry while he was in Rome, would understand the gospel with great clarity and its place in history as well as the inner workings of the dynamics of the church. We see, for example in Romans 12, so many commands that are one another kinds of commands, which are just a illustration of all of the one another commands throughout all the epistles of Paul and the other letters in the New Testament.
I make a point of saying that you cannot obey the one another commands without having a mutually committed body of Christ. You don't do all these one anothers with people that you don't know. We know from the closing chapters of the Book of Acts that as Paul went to Rome, he traversed through and had connection with several churches that helped him on his way from the port to the actual capitol city of Rome. And in Romans chapter 16, he uses this phrase to say to them, "All the churches of Christ greet you." There's three specific churches mentioned, something like 30 people by name that Paul named before he ever went to Rome, and then he also at the very end has eight fellow workers of his named. So Romans 16 is full of names and full of churches.
We'll pick up the pace here and walk through some of these other epistles. First and Second Corinthians, a church that had some severe problems that Paul addresses, and yet he has great affection for the church and for its leaders and encourages them to hold fast to the teaching that he gave them about how the church should operate with regard to order in its worship, with regard to communion and so forth. So he's talking about very specific church life things to this church.
The Book of Galatians, written to a group of churches, we believe, in the area of Galatia that we're struggling with understanding the gospel clearly, the priority of the gospel, especially not adding something to the gospel.
Then we come to the Book of Ephesians, which is majestic in so many ways, mentions the church a lot. We'll come back to this in Paul's personal testimony in Ephesians Chapter 3. It's very rich and deep. We'll get there.
The Book of Philippians, which is interesting in that it's the only one that mentions both elders and deacons in the early greetings of the book. Clearly, this was a church that was dear to Paul and had a part in his financial support over a long period of time.
Then the Book of Colossians, which is sort of the twin epistle of Ephesians, also very rich in its description of the church and the church's effective ministry in reaching out to take the gospel beyond them to other places.
The very early books in Paul's writings of First and Second Thessalonians are clear with regard to matters of the church in the church's life.
Then we come to what is referred to as the pastoral epistles, First and Second Timothy and Titus. These were specific instructions to proteges of Paul that had been in ministry with him for a long period of time and received training, discipleship, mentoring from Paul to do church work. Timothy was considered to be the younger pastor of the Church of Ephesus, which is a very influential church. And Titus was asked to do the hard work of setting the churches in order on the island of Crete.
Philemon is also a church leader. Paul writes him with regard to a personal request, but there's a lot of warmth there and indication that this is in connection with the church and the brotherhood.
Now, the general epistles, this is Hebrews, James, First and Second Peter, First and Second and Third John, and Jude. Hebrews and James specifically mention church issues in their letters, although they're written, it seems primarily to Jewish believers that were scattered around. Still, it focuses in on the church and church issues, things like not neglecting the fellowship together in worship services, attending worship services together, things like honoring and respecting your elders in the church, things like not showing favoritism or bias to different kinds of people coming into your church worship service, and for those who are sick, to call for the elders to pray for them.
Peter gives specific instruction and qualifications for church leaders in his letters. John talks more generally about who to understand to be a believer, and I would extend that to mean like becoming a member, someone who is genuinely converted. But in Third John, he's specifically addressing a church leader with respect to a couple of issues, one of which is the key issue of support and sending out of missionaries. Jude addresses church leaders to deal with people who have crept in with false teaching, so there's leadership involved, there's membership involved, and then there are steps toward correcting this and not allowing false teaching to cause division in the church.
Of course, we've already taken a glance at the Book of Revelation and those first three chapters that mention very specific things about local churches and Christ's love and protection for them. They are so dear to our Lord Jesus Christ that He gives some specific instruction about making corrections to how they function as a church.
You've probably heard the truism many times before, it's hard to see the forest for the trees. That means sometimes we get so focused on just what's in front of us that we don't see the big picture, and I am advocating the forest view today. Take a look at the New Testament. All of the New Testament was written by church planters to churches and believers scattered all over the place. They loved the local church. They saw this amazing creation of God in Christ through the gospel, assemblies of believers in local places, everywhere they went, so that they demonstrated Christ, proclaimed Christ, showed Christ in their interaction together, grew together in Christ as a body.
It's about the local church and for us in missions, the local church is the focus of missions from beginning to end. We should love the local church because Christ loved the local church. The apostles loved the local church. The writers of the New Testament loved the local church. The cannon of the New Testament itself displays this truth hidden in plain sight that all the epistles were written to local churches or leaders of local churches and intended to be obeyed by their readers in the context of local churches. Once you see this big picture, it's hard to unsee it. I trust that today you have seen the centrality of the local church in missions in the New Testament.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at propempo.com and missioserve.org. We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
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