Message – Biblical mission

23 Aug 2019

In Acts 4:4 we read ‘many who heard the message believed’. It was this personal response to the message of the gospel that was crucial in conversion. The saying, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary” is erroneously attributed to St. Francis of Assisi – founder of the Franciscan Order. None of his followers, writings or biographers ever mention it. This saying creates a dangerous division between action and words. Francis was a man of action, but also a passionate preacher because it is impossible to convey the message without words. In biblical mission, action and words belong together. We live out the love of God in a thousand ways, but biblical mission is always about speaking the message.

What message?

A Global Message

Jesus heals a 40-year-old cripple through the faith and words of Peter and John. He was lame from birth and now runs through the temple jumping and praising God. This amazing healing is followed by Peter preaching Jesus. He says that this is not just a local miracle, but it has global implications. The purpose of God’s call to their father Abraham was ‘through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed’ (Acts 3:25). God is universal and He rules the world. All peoples must hear the gospel – so God sends us on mission to the world.

A Saving Message

Peter proclaims the message is about salvation – the rescue of lost people (Acts 4:12a). He moves from this local healing to universal salvation, from one man to all people. He sees in this physical healing a picture of the salvation offered to all in Christ. In His death, Jesus suffered the penalty our sins deserved. The word ‘salvation’ sure provokes smiles, frowns and ridicule today. Some find salvation language embarrassing, amusing, arrogant, or meaningless jargon. But Christianity is the faith-way of salvation.

A Unique Message

‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). Today, this idea seems intolerant and arrogant. But this is the very heart of the biblical message! We need to feel the force of this unique universal claim in our pluralistic age. There is no other name in Australia, or China, or the USA, or Somalia or France or any of the world’s nations in which salvation is found. ‘Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name’ (Acts 10:43).

A Confronting Message

‘”What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.’ Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus’ (Acts 4:13-17). Peter does not tip-toe around the offensiveness of the message. It is a confronting message for these leaders who are caught between a rock and a hard place – ‘there was nothing they could say’ (Acts 4:14). In every generation, the message is offensive as people face their sin and helplessness.

A Compelling Message

The Jewish leaders rejected the message commanding the disciples to stop preaching. Peter and John give an amazing answer, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:19,20). If we understand the message of Jesus, we are compelled to speak.

The message of mission is a global, saving, unique, confronting and compelling message. Let us understand it deeply and proclaim it clearly with humility, courage and boldness for God’s glory.

– David Price.

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