Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo Perspective on Church and Missions. Hello, this is episode 42 of Missions on Point. We're in the last of three of a little series I'm calling Three Central Truths. These three central truths will challenge you to radically refocus your understanding of and commitment to biblical Christian life and ministry. I would encourage you to subscribe or follow in your podcast app so that you can catch all of these.
The first one is the centrality of the local church in God's purposes today. The second one is the centrality of missions in local church ministry, and the third one, this episode, is the centrality of the gospel in missions. As you can see, these three are interwoven together, and someone may make a case to say maybe you've taken them backwards, start with a gospel and then missions and then the local church. That would be valid, but I've chosen this sequence that I trust will be informational and challenging to all of us.
I've had a dear pastor friend tell me that once you understand the biblical basis for the centrality of the local church in God's purposes, you can't unsee it anymore in scripture. It just shows itself all over the New Testament. So we begin by understanding the church is the central means of God in the world today. Missions is the central mission or purpose of the church, and the gospel is the central message of missions.
We need to take a step back and talk about the gospel. Throughout the centuries, people have tried to add things to the gospel. The gospel is very simple. It is the good news that God as creator and God sets the standard for how men should behave in relationship to him. But we break that standard continuously wanting our own independence and shaking our fist at His rightful and righteous authority. Yet God provided a way in the person of Jesus Christ living a perfect life to pay the penalty for our sin if we would simply repent and believe in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection, which assured us that God accepted that payment on our behalf and to continue to live and grow in Him. God is just and He is righteous, and He has made a way to pay the penalty for our sin through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It's just that simple.
Right here, I need to say something about the exclusivity and uniqueness of the gospel. I remember hearing Pastor Miguel Nunez say, "A lot of people think that all roads lead to God." They actually do, but not in the way that they think. Everyone will stand before God, but those who don't have Jesus Christ as their lord and savior will stand in judgment. They won't be on the road to heaven, but to hell. It is very common for people to think or imagine that those who have lived away from the gospel, maybe for generations in another country or deep in the jungle or high in the mountains, or far away from people in the desert, somehow if they haven't heard the gospel and haven't had "the opportunity" to accept Jesus Christ, then those people will get a free pass to heaven. They won't be held accountable for their sin, and they will somehow make it in heaven.
Biblically, nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible says very clearly that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. Listen, Acts 4:12, Peter, in one of the first messages of the church says, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Romans chapter one makes it very clear through the whole chapter that those who have not received Christ continue in their rebellion and sin against God, even against the law of their own conscience. He says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Paul makes it very clear that the gospel is the soul message of salvation. There is no other way. Hebrews 10:10 says that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross is the once for all payment for sin of those who repent and believe on Him as lord and savior.
The whole argument of the book of Hebrews is that Christ is the unique, incomparable, solely sufficient, effective, and ultimate savior of men. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
So what about those people that have never heard or never had the opportunity to hear? I think the Bible makes it very, very clear that those people are heading for a destiny in hell forever. There is no other message. There is an urgency to sharing this message in missions through the church to see that everyone does have that opportunity as far as we can be responsible. We are responsible to sharing the message of the gospel with everyone who will hear it. Then it's God's responsibility as to who actually receives, accept, embraces, repents and believes in Jesus Christ for salvation and walks with Him through heaven's gates.
The Bible also gives us warnings about adding to the message or subtracting from the message or somehow augmenting or changing the simplicity of the message of the gospel. But even today in our world, people want to add so many other things. Well, what about this cause or that thing that we would like to see happen in our society? Frankly, those can be results of men and women now made holy growing in holiness, fighting for truth and justice and equality and a better way of life for humankind. But those things are not the gospel. In fact, the Apostle Paul addressed it very clearly in the book of Galatians, and particularly in Galatians 1, people that add or subtract things from the gospel are anathema. Adding or subtracting works, however good they may be, or results of the gospel as equal to the gospel are anathema to the Apostle Paul and they should be to us.
The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. Christ is the key. His cross work and resurrection is essential. A good pastor friend says any discussion about change transformation, reformation begins at the cross. I would venture to say the only lasting and genuine human transformation that takes place is because of spiritual salvation, not because of human effort. Only new life in Christ from the gospel is transforming to the human soul. 2 Corinthians 5:17 and following says this. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come. All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." Verse 21 says, "For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God. Man doesn't become righteous because of His own work. It's only because of the work of Christ on the cross." That is the gospel.
Romans 10 makes it clear that this gospel is understood by proclaiming it, that is saying it, stating it, reading it, seeing it in media, but it is the content of the gospel from the word of God that people believe. It says, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes and is justified and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?" And finally in verse 17, it says, so faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.
Historically, even well-meaning Christians have tended to go off the rails of the basic definition of the gospel and want to add to it or interpret it with the common trends of concerns in the world. The gospel is not improving fallen man's wellbeing on earth. The gospel is not economic relief or recovery or reparations or reform. The gospel is not rescue from slavery and human trafficking. The gospel is not social justice or political and legal transformation. The gospel is not providing clean water or improved shelter, clothing and diet. It is not access to medical care or insurance. The gospel is not freedom from ethnic, socioeconomic class or nationality distinctions. All of those things are worthy and valuable to humankind, but they are not the gospel. Some would argue that these are at least the result of Christians who have understood the gospel doing their part to provide relief and improvement of society. And I would say, "Sure, I don't have a problem with that," but let's not confuse the two. The gospel is this message of spiritual salvation and transformation and forgiveness of sin by God's grace and mercy through faith. It is transforming grace.
It is adoption into God's family, which is absolutely incredible. Regardless of individual identity. It is the basis of believers having an impact on their sinful world. Yes, working for fairness and justice and humanitarian care and development, working to rescue and relief from human tragedy and disaster brought about by both human and natural causes. It is those things, but it is a result or an after effect of the good works of believers doing what they can in their society. It does provide hope for individuals and societies influenced by the grace of God through believers exhibiting and proclaiming this radically life-changing message of salvation in Jesus Christ in the gospel. It starts with Jesus Christ. It starts at the cross. Nothing else added.
Apart from the gospel, people don't really have a chance for long-term change in themselves and in their society. So you want to make a real change in society? Win people to saving faith in Jesus Christ through the gospel one at a time. One of the coolest things about the gospel is that it is God's inspired, empowered means of salvation. This is the means that God has ordained to change people from the inside out.
Our ministry, both as individuals and as churches, and as missionaries must not fall short of proclaiming the gospel. We may have all sorts of approaches and means and methodologies to befriend and build relationships and help folks, but if it falls short of actually preaching, teaching, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, it falls short. If the Westminster catechism is correct, and I believe it, is in saying that the whole purpose of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, the glorifying God takes place through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the glory of God come in the flesh to bring the gospel to fruition. We have a way to restore our relationship with God and fellowship with Him. The gospel provides hope both now and for eternity.
Now, the ministry of the local church and the Ministry of missions is a lot more than the gospel, but the gospel is certainly the starting point and the central message of missions working out the application of the gospel in real Christian life is hard work, rooting out sin, growing in holiness and godliness, walking with the Lord, equipping others and ourselves in ministry. All of the ongoing ministry of Christian life and church life and missions is only possible because of the gospel at the beginning.
I'm amazed when I run into missionaries on the field who don't really know how to clearly articulate the gospel and distinguish between the gospel and what it is not. So it's easy for them to go off the rails in chasing other results and other messages rather than the gospel. We need to pray for them that they would understand the gospel clearly, be able to articulate it frequently, and have the fruit of results of God's work in people's lives coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
So this is the Missions on Point Podcast. I must say it's time for you to evaluate your missionaries and those that you support. Do they understand the gospel? Do they articulate the gospel? Do they have opportunities to proclaim the gospel? Do they make opportunities to proclaim the gospel? Is the gospel central in their life and ministry? It is okay for you to ask your missionaries in what ways does their ministry on the field promote the proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers?
The same kinds of questions could be asked of your local church. Are there ways in which your local church is seeking to stretch, to proclaim the gospel? Is the gospel explained clearly enough that visitors would be able to hear it and understand? Are your church members able to give a two-minute gospel presentation to a friend who asks? It is the central message of missions, and missions is the central ministry of the church, and the church is the central means of God's purposes on earth. Let's get that right.
Thanks for listening to this series on Three Central Truths. I trust that you will subscribe or follow in whatever podcast app you use to catch more of Missions on Point. We have lots of interesting series that are done and more yet to come. So please stay with us and hear things that will help you in your local church and missions. It would be a big encouragement to us if you would recommend or share Missions on Point with your friends.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo Perspective on Church and Missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, propempo.com. Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever, amen.
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