Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Are you fulfilling your ministry?

"Rescue the perishing", "compel the diners to come in", "decisions for Christ"... there are lots of images of the work of evangelism. I was reminded of a little mentioned one just this morning reading in the final chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah 66:20. It speaks of a great mission and outreach to the Gentiles and a great ingathering that will follow. They will go to 'Tarshish, Pul, Lud, Tubal and Javan, and to 'the isles afar off'. Isaiah 66:19. As a resident of one of those 'far off isles' I love this passage of scripture! But those who come, come not as 'seekers to a Saviour' or 'diners to a wedding feast' but as 'an offering to the LORD out of all nations'. I wonder how often we recognise this motivation in evangelism. This is not so much a 'passion for the lost' as a desire for God to have what is rightfully his. Of course the sinner will benefit but the focus is God's glory in that the Son might have the Gentiles as his inheritance. Psalm 2:8

Those who are brought as such an 'offering' are just like the 'sons of Israel', they are 'an offering in a clean vessel'. The notion of the Gentiles being an acceptable and clean offering was one that Peter had difficulty getting his head around. Acts 10:13-16. That the Jews could be brought to repentance and receive cleansing was part of his traditional mind-set but 'Gentile sinners'? Gal 2:15 ...that was several bridges 'too far'. But the truth is there in Isaiah, the priestly work of the evangelist is not primarily to bring 'sinners to Christ' but to bring an acceptable offering to God; coming to Christ is the means not the object. An old gospel hymn hit just this note;
'Come to the Father,

through Jesus the Son

and give Him the glory

Great things he has done'

...And what does God do with this clean and acceptable offering? Well he transforms them into priests and levites so that they too can share in the work of this priestly evangelism. Isaiah 66:21 and so the whole cycle takes one more turn.

It is not a dominant theme in the scripture but it was a dominant theme in the life of one man in particular who described his God-given mission in exactly these terms. He described himself as a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Rom 15:16.

And what happened to that 'acceptable offering'? Well they became priestly evangelists, in their turn, and reached further and further out, until they reached even this 'far off isle'.The priesthood of all believers makes evangelists of us all, priestly evangelists. It is a role that each one of us is called to fulfil. 2Tim 4:5

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