There are some who say that few can be converted today. That people are just not listening to God because they are just too narrow-minded, self-centered, and hardhearted. That people are just too caught up with the "love of money," lovers of folly and fun, living from one party to the next, "lovers of their own selves," and "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God" who never think nor care what is right or wrong. Thus, it is said that we have an overwhelming amount of opposition today that the early church did not have. Further, they state that the early church grew so rapidly because it had so much going in its favor.
Preparation for Pressing the Gospel Into Foreign Lands
The world was specially prepared for the coming of Christ and for the spread of Christianity. Paul tells us, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law" (Galatians 4:4). God had worked through the Romans, the Greeks and the Jews to prepare the world for the coming of Christ. The Romans had provided the world with a universal political order that allowed the intermixture of all races and the free exchange of thought. They also built and maintained a universal highway system which made travel from one colony to another possible, quick and easy. The Jewish Dispersion took the Jewish religion throughout the known world. Synagogues were built everywhere which provided a ready place to be heard. Wherever ten adult Jewish males were found in a town, a synagogue was formed. In Acts 15:21, James speaks of synagogues "in every city." At one time there were more than 400 synagogues in Jerusalem alone. The Greeks gave to early Christianity a world united in language and culture. The Old Testament had been translated into Greek more than 200 years before the coming of Christ, and became a potent ally of the gospel. All these things contributed greatly to the spread of Christianity.
Do we not have all these things today and more? Do we not still live in the era of the "fulness of time"? For the most part, we have world peace. English has become a universal language. We have the most sophisticated modes of travel of all time which make travel from one country to another or from one continent to another easier than ever before. Communication is more sophisticated than ever before with the telephone, modern postal system, and electronic mail on our high tech computers. The U.S. dollar is accepted universally and Americans are welcomed with opened arms in almost all countries. The Bible has been translated into hundreds and hundreds of languages. There are more than six billion people in the world today. Truly, more so today than ever before, the fields are white unto harvest.
On the other hand, the same negatives that some use as excuses today not to spread the gospel were there in the first century. The fact is they had more negatives to contend with than we do today. For example, ancient society embodied itself in slavery. It is estimated that there were 60,000,000 slaves in the Graeco-Roman world. Among the Romans, gladiatorial displays were immensely popular. Every excess of cruelty was tried. Man against man and man against beasts until all sense of shame or disgust was lost. The status of women in Greece was one of great degradation. Abortion was widespread and both Plato and Aristotle recommended it. Immorality was rampant and infidelity in married life was common. Seneca, the Roman philosophical writer who was a contemporary with Christ and the apostle Paul and tutor to Nero, adds this about those perilous times, "The world is full of crimes and vices. More are committed than can be cured by force. Crimes are no longer hidden, but open before the eyes. Innocence is not only rare, but nowhere." Sound vaguely familiar? The apostle Paul confirms Seneca's sarcasm and shows us the further depths of sin to which man had degraded himself in Romans 1:16-32.
Does this mean that the early disciples could not spread the gospel under such adverse and depraved conditions? We know that to be false since they converted no less than 6,000,000 precious souls by the close of the first century. What it means is that the preparation of the coming of Christ and the spread of Christianity was both positive and negative. It was positive in what it supplied in conditions and facilities for the accomplishment of the spread of Christianity, and negative in what was so desperately needed socially, morally and spiritually. Brethren, is it not the same today? God has prepared the soil and given the seed. The fields are truly white unto harvest throughout the world.
The Pressing Need for Propagators of the Gospel
Brethren, seed does not get sown without a sower. The gospel of Jesus Christ will not be propagated without propagators. More preachers today must realize that when Jesus said, "Go ye" he meant "Go me." Only then will the great commission be fulfilled. Only then will the seed be sown. I preach in South Africa and I can name six bordering countries where we have no preachers. If my memory serves me correctly, the liberals had about 650 full time foreign workers in 1969. With the ideas of serving the needs of the community, serving the heart felt needs of the congregation by building more kitchens, so-called fellowship halls, recreation centers, etc. and serving self, that number had dropped to around 250 by 1989. The truth is that this social gospel and self love syndrome has made the liberals drop in numbers just like the Disciples of Christ began dropping in number while the Conservative Christian Church grew. If my figures are correct, liberal congregations numbered more than 12,000 in the late sixties and only a little more than 10,000 by 1990. Their Membership was at just more than 1,500,000 and now it is down to just more than 1,000,000. Let us not make that same mistake nor ever be guilty of holding back the gospel or portions of it from any nation or people. Preachers remember the words of Isaiah, "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me" (Isaiah 6:8). We need more brave and sound gospel preachers who will follow this example.
Militantly Pressing the Gospel into Foreign Lands
When Paul pressed the gospel into foreign lands, did he say, "Well, we do not want to call names, step on toes or hurt anyone's feelings. We need to take a careful backdoor approach. So, since the Roman wars have left behind so many orphans, widows, invalids, and more than 60,000,000 slaves, let the church operate universally to set up orphan homes, convalescent homes, hospitals, clinics, secular schools, human rights organizations and psychological counseling centers. Then everyone will flock to our doors." I do not find any such thing in the New Testament. Yet our liberal brethren do it. If ignorance is bliss, then they are blistered! Yes, many will flock to your doors for a free handout. Jesus said in John 6:26, "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." I have seen the big food projects of the liberals here in Africa. There were many who came for the food and when it ran out, they ran out. It created friction among brethren because some were upset that non-Christians received food and they did not. Also, it created friction between the American and African workers because they fought over who would get the vehicles and other goodies left behind by the sponsoring church.
In my years in Africa, I have witnessed the utter failure of this back door approach used by many of the liberals. They laud their secular schools in Africa saying that by starting with these young people, they can best propagate the gospel. For one thing, no one listens to young people in the African culture. For another, when a survey was done in one African country, it was found that only 15 percent of the students remained faithful after finishing the church sponsored and supported high schools. There is also the extended family in African culture. When independence came in one African country in 1964, they shut down all the so-called orphan homes. One of those homes was run by our liberal brethren. The truth is that government officials found relatives for every orphan to live with, thus restoring the orphans to a family with a father and mother. Strange when non-Christians know more about God's pattern than some Christians. Show me an orphan and, rather than showing you an institution to throw him in, I will show you dozens of faithful brethren ready to give him a proper home just as the pattern teaches.
"Oh, we do not have a set pattern in evangelism," some say. If there is no pattern, then we would have the same chaos and hopelessness as the denominations. When all else fails, read the directions, the pattern. When one reads the New Testament without blinders on, he finds that it does give us the pattern in evangelism as in all things that we need to do to be saved, to stay saved, and to save others. One does not evangelize with the back door approach of institutionalism. One evangelizes by preaching and practicing the pure gospel of Jesus Christ and not the social gospel of numbers, nickels, and noise. The gospel is God's drawing power, not gimmicks (see John 6:44-45).
Many of these same brethren and, sadly, some of our own are saying that we should not preach using strong words of warning, bold words, or by mentioning names of people or denominations. Further they say, preach love by never rebuking, debating, or by mentioning hell with heaven, sin or sinners with salvation, discipline with fellowship, etc. Again, read the pattern and follow it.
"And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him" (Acts 9:29). Paul spoke boldly and "disputed." Dispute means to reason together, to discuss with or to debate. Paul preached "warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Colossians 1:28). His warning did not cease but continued "night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31). Paul preached "all the counsel of God" to all the people (Acts 20:27). Whether standing in the presence of commoners or kings, he did not dilute, hesitate or hold anything back. Surely he knew how corrupt government officials were and how they always looked for bribes just as many do today. Rather than taking a back door approach or paying the bribe so he could go free, he "reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come" when standing before Governor Felix (Acts 24:25-26). He knew that a watered down and weakened gospel produces watered down and weak Christians.
Some of our brethren seem to be ashamed of the gospel, but Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Thus, we could never imagine Paul preaching like this: "Unless you repent, in a measure, and are baptized, by some mode, in order to be saved, so to speak, you are in danger of being lost, at least to some extent." Many brethren here and in other foreign lands who have been associated with the liberals, are tired of their weak and watered down, social and self-centered gospel. We cannot afford to go down that same path of destruction.
While our liberal brethren continue down the path of the Doctor Feelgood, social, and self-centered gospel, which is not the gospel (see Galatians 1:6-9), Paul exhorts us to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). If we do not tell people that "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), they will not think it necessary to "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Unless we preach the "danger" and "damnation of hell," people would see little or no need of heaven (Matthew 5:22; 23:33; Luke 12:5). Unless we preach the truth on such passages as Matthew 19:9, Acts 8:18-24, Romans 14, Matthew 16:18-19, Mark 16:16, et al, we will end up in the same pathetic shape as the Disciples of Christ and as our liberal brethren and lose our souls in the process. Therefore, we must militantly continue to "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:2).
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