Hans Bouwman, Japan - Conclusion - Scriptural Principles

Conclusion - Scriptural Principles
The Bible is a book of authority. It is the living Word of the living God. Christians all over the world from whatever cultural influence need to be guided by the authority of God’s Word. In all circumstances of life the Bible is the Christian’s Guide Book.
The authority of Scripture should also be recognized in view of the Lord’s work. The principles of God’s Word are applied in local assemblies, but sometimes when it comes to the Lord’s work abroad a more lenient attitude is adopted and Scriptural principles seem to be irrelevant. Following the example of the apostle Paul, we indeed rejoice wherever Christ is preached (Phil.1:18). However, this does not mean that we should be actively involved with all kinds of Missions simply because Christ is preached. When the disciples approached the Lord Jesus with a question concerning a work done by an ‘outsider’, the Lord rebuked them with the words, “Forbid him not; for he that is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50). The Lord did not say however: “Leave me and join this man in what he is doing”. The disciples realized a further truth—that of valuing the tremendous privilege of following the Lord and enjoying His presence. “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be” (John 12:26).
The Lord’s Call
What does Scripture teach us concerning missionary work? The beginning of missionary endeavour is recorded in Acts 13:1-4. We discover there a marvellous work done by the Holy Spirit, who is in the picture from beginning to end. The persons whom the Lord wanted to use were believers, equipped with spiritual gifts and completely dedicated to the Lord. Being among the five prophets and teachers ministering in the church at Antioch, Saul and Barnabas were already actively involved in
the Lord’s work. However, from that point on there was a further call to go to distant places to proclaim the blessed Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This resulted not only in the salvation of precious souls, but also in the establishment of assemblies. It is the fulfilment of God’s great command to preach, to baptize and to teach (Matt.28:19-20).
Considering God’s plan of missionary endeavour described in
the first verses of Acts 13 we discover some important facts. We
see that the Holy Spirit did His work in:
1. setting out the plan (Acts 13:2)
2. selecting the persons (Acts 13:2)
3. sending out His servants (Acts 13:4)
Responsibility of the Assembly
Acts 13 indicates that missionary work involves not only individual persons called to serve the Lord, but also the entire local assembly. It was a great responsibility on the part of the assembly at Antioch to separate two of their valuable brethren for the work of the Lord (Acts 13:2). Probably the voice of the Spirit was heard by way of one of the prophets. Like the gift of apostle’ the gift of ‘prophet’ belongs to the transitional period, and therefore the two gifts are usually mentioned together. In this connection the verse in Eph.2:20 shows clearly that these gifts were used to lay the foundation: “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets”. At the time of the church in Antioch the New Testament had not yet been written. In those days the gift of ‘prophet’ was needed to pass on the oracles of God, needed for action in that particular situation.
The church at Antioch acted upon hearing the voice of the
Spirit in a fourfold way:
1. they fasted—they turned away from worldly things;
2. they prayed—they turned to God;
3. they laid hands on them—they identified themselves with the servants, who were called by the Lord;
4. they sent them away—they let them go.
It is valuable to notice that the leading of the Holy Spirit in the church at Antioch was never meant to ordain, but to commend their brethren to the grace of God for the work they were called to do. In the whole of the Scriptures there is no foundation for ordaining someone to fulfil an office, as is practised in
‘as from the Lord’. The apostle Paul gave credit to the assembly at Philippi “for their fellowship in the Gospel from the first day till now” (Phil.1:5). This fellowship was shown in their prayers of intercession and in material help rendered. What a tremendous evaluation the Spirit of God expresses of the saints in Philippi: “Not because I desire a gift, but I desire fruit that may abound t our account. The things which were sent from you, are an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God” (Phil.4:17-18). Paul did not so much ‘thank’ the Philippian believers, but he described what the gift meant to them as donors. All that we do for the Lord is recorded in Heaven. What condescension, that the Lord deigns to use human vessels for the salvation of the lost! “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shalll they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, EXCEPT THEY BE SENT? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14-15).
To review the endeavour of missionary work, according to
the principles of Scriptures, there are two essential things:
1. a call from the Lord,
2. commendation from an assembly.
The exercised believer should be careful not to go out:
—without a call from the Lord;
—without commendation of an assembly;
—without having the right motivation;
—relying upon personal impressions or emotional feelings.
Although we are not living in apostolic times, it must still be a work of the Holy Spirit from beginning to end. What is needed for the continuation of His work here on earth is not so much the introduction of new methods, but the need for young Christians called by the Lord to go out and preach the Gospel.
Heaven’s Reward
What a perfect and most wonderful mosaic will be manifested in Heaven in a future day! The life of preach redeemed soul, whatever its length while here on earth, will perfectly fit into this pattern. The review before the Judgment Seat of Christ will not be for success, but for faithfulness. In using the word
‘HOW’ the apostle Paul puts the emphasis on the quality of our life and work:
HOW ye ought to walk and to please God” (1 Thess.4:1); But let every man take heed HOW he buildeth on it” (1
Looking back over forty years of service for the Lord and in all the guidance received—in times of joy and sorrow, prosperity and poverty, strength and weakness, victory and defeat—the Lord has proved His unchangeable faithfulness, so that we marvel at His abundant grace.
How I praise Thee, precious Saviour!
That Thy love laid hold on me;
Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me, That I might Thy channel be.
Just a channel, full of blessing,
To the thirsty hearts around;
To tell out Thy full salvation,
All Thy loving message sound.
Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
A clean vessel in Thine hand;
With no power but as Thou givest
Graciously with each command.
Witnessing Thy power to save me,
Setting free from self and sin,
Thou hast bought me to possess me,
In Thy fulness, Lord, come in.
Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous power
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.
(Believers Hymn Book—no.393)