The Manner of Jesus, the Servant of God
The manner in which His mission was carried out was that of gentleness, humility, compassion, and love. “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). He taught: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29). He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). While He was capable of being forthright and aggressive when the situation demanded it (Matt. 12:12-13; 23:13 ff.), this does not seem to have been His customary approach.
The Means of Jesus, the Servant of God
What were the means by which His mission was carried out? Even His enemies confessed, “He trusted in God” (Matt. 27:43). This statement is indicative of Jesus’ own words and actions: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16). “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
Another “servant” of God (Israel) had a mission to fulfill. Despite the apathetic and ethnocentric nation she became, Israel’s initial purpose was to be God’s “witnesses” (Isa. 43:10-12; 44:8) to the nations (Psa. 145:12), so “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God” (1 Kings 8:60). In light of the fact that all the earth belongs to Jehovah, the children of Israel were meant to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6), serving as God’s intermediary.
The Manner of Israel, the Servant of God
The manner in which this mission was “carried out,” unfortunately, was exemplified by reluctance, rebellion, and resentment (Jonah 1:3; 4:1 ff.). Peter’s statement to Cornelius seems to represent the typical Jewish attitude: “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation” (Acts 10:28). The people of Israel were characterized by prejudice, hatred, ignorance, fear, and unconcern.
The Means of Israel, the Servant of God
The means of carrying out this mission, which Israel had at her disposal, were not utilized. They had God’s written law, but it was neglected and disobeyed (2 Kings 22:13). They had God’s prophets living among them, yet they persecuted and murdered them (Matt. 23:29-37). They made the commandment of God of no effect by their human traditions and ordinances (Matt. 15:3-9). Essentially, Israel failed in her mission.
God’s “servant” (the church) has also been given a mission. We have been divinely commissioned to go into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature, and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49). This is the responsibility of the entire church collectively, as well as each member individually. As physical Israel was to be “a kingdom of priests,” even so all members of Christ’s kingdom belong to “a holy priesthood” for the intended purpose of proclaiming “the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:5-10). Everyone who has been reconciled to God through Jesus has been given “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:17-18). Is our response to this mandate an imitation of Christ or of ancient Israel?
The Manner of the Church, the Servant of God
The manner in which this mission is to be carried out should emulate Christ’s manner. “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). While there may be occasions when a more confrontational approach is called for (2 Cor. 10:2), this should be the exception rather than the rule. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:5-6).
The power of the truth is often weakened when it is applied with too much ferocity. A surgeon must be delicate and gentle with his scalpel lest his treatment causes more harm than good.1 If people cannot see the love of Christ in our words and actions, our labors will most likely be in vain (John 13:35; 2 Cor. 5:14).
The Means of the Church, the Servant of God
The means of accomplishing this mission are beyond human capabilities. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). If we rely solely on our own wisdom, resources, and might, we are destined to fail. “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:5-7).
Our faith “should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Thess. 5:17), “that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified” (2 Thess. 3:1). God’s power, which enables us to fulfill our mission, is made available through His inspired word (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12). We have been “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thess. 2:4); He “has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). Thus, the reason more souls throughout the world have not been reconciled to God is not because the word lacks power, but because most in the church have been negligent in “holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:16).
Will our mission be fulfilled? In what manner and by which means will it be undertaken? If we are like the Jews of old, our mission will be approached with reluctance, discrimination, and indifference, and the means at our disposal will be neglected and discarded. Seventy-six countries are still without missionaries of the churches of Christ, and those which have them desperately need more. The world’s population has surpassed seven billion, the vast majority of whom have never heard the unadulterated gospel. Thomas Carlisle wrote: “And Jonah stalked to his shaded seat and waited for God to come around to his way of thinking. And God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs in their comfortable houses to come around to his way of loving.”2
If we are Christ-like, our mission will be pursued with obedient zeal, in a loving, humble, and compassionate manner, utilizing the powerful means of prayer and God’s word to accomplish this noble task. May God help us to “follow His steps” and to “walk just as He walked” (1 Pet. 2:21; 1 John 2:6).
--Kevin L. Moore
1 This comparison was borrowed from Walter L. Porter.
2 As quoted by Johannes Verkuyl, “The Biblical Foundation of the Worldwide Mission Mandate,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, eds. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1981): 44.
*Published in B. J. Clarke, ed., Major Lessons from the Major Prophets: Power Lectures (Pulaski, TN: Sain Publications, 1995): 255-67.
Related Posts: Part 1, Part 2, Psalm 14: Proclaiming God's Existence to the World
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