The Believer’s Responsibility in Regard to the Spread of the Gospel
E W Rogers, Oxford
The four leprous men were right. To withhold glad tidings from a starving people would be the extreme of heartlessness. To know there was plenty available for a people who were starving and to say nothing of it would be indescribable callousness. To allow people to die when we know they can live—words fail to express what one feels. Yet this is precisely what many believers do. They have "bread enough and to spare" but their fellows "perish with hunger" and they remain unmoved. How can it be?
The man who had been delivered by the Lord Jesus from the power of Satan and the thraldom of darkness was enjoined to "return" to his "house and declare how great things God had done for" him. That man's mistakes in going to the "city" instead of his "house" and speaking of "Jesus" instead of "God" (for evidently he did not discern Jesus was God) may both be pardoned on the ground of his very reasonable enthusiasm that others should know "what a wonderful Saviour is Jesus"; see Luke 8. 39.
It is of prime importance that the good news supported by personal experience should be declared at home first. The sounding of the glad tidings in our hearts should result in its echo being heard from us by others (see 1 Thess. 1. 8), and the home should hear that echo first.
Not that it should be confined to that small sphere. The Lord is still on the lookout for Philips who are willing to leave home and go either to the wilderness and speak to one, or to the town and speak to many. His command is still in force, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation". Manifestly the eleven men to whom the command was first given could not fully accomplish such a task; the most they could do was to make a contribution toward that end. The mileage was so vast: the population so great; and the time so short. Beside which, one generation passeth away and another cometh and the command is to us of this day in respect of our own generation. Do we really believe the terms of Mark 16. 16? especially the second item? Is the possibility of the unbelieving sinner's condemnation a powerful impetus driving us to preach ? How can we be silent?
Our little island has, of late, been very much like Palestine was in the early days of Christianity wherein folks of diverse lineage and skin have dwelt. At that time there were found people from all branches of the human race. The eunuch from the line of Ham; Saul of Tarsus from the line of Shem; and Cornelius from the line of Japheth. Then, too, the Lord found men who were ready to "go and tell" these people the good news of Christ who died for the ungodly and who had been raised from the dead. Philip, Ananias and Peter were all available for that purpose: their hearts were in such close touch with the Lord that they received their marching orders from Him and followed them with instant and glad obedience. What happy results followed in each case.
The lesson is plain. It is for writer and reader to look well to the state of the soul and to permit nothing to come between ourselves and the Lord. Then we shall "know his will" and then we shall be "willing to do" it.
Some may be told by the Lord to "go home" and tell their friends: some may be bidden to go a few miles to a Caesarea not far off: others may be - as Paul was - sent to another continent. The sending of the servant is the prerogative of the Lord: He will choose the time and place, but He only chooses those who have been ready to "begin at Jerusalem" or to "serve at Antioch". To run unsent is to court disappointment to ourselves and worse, displeasure to Him. To choose our own sphere is to usurp His prerogative.
"Whom shall I send?" demonstrates that He elects His workmen: "who will go for us?" indicates that He restricts Himself to those who are ready to respond to His call. May we all be ready to say, irrespective of what He may thereafter direct, "Lord, here am I - send me". To be chosen of Him is itself a great honour, and to labour just where He directs is a great joy.