Basis and motive for evangelism

December 2020

Although the gospel of John does not contain the word evangel or evangelise, the idea of the world-wide mission of our Saviour and his love for the lost is found in nearly every chapter. It is the universal gospel of Him who is the Light of the world, the Bread of life, the only Way, the only Truth, the only Light of humanity, the redeeming Good Shepherd. On the black marble slab in Westminster Abbey which marks the grave of David Livingstone is this text: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd – John 10:16.”

No text could have been more appropriately selected to the memory of the greatest missionary who laid down his life in Africa. And in these words of our Lord we have the basis, the motive, the promise, and the goal of world-wide evangelism: “I have”, “I must”; “they shall” and there “shall be one fold.” Here is a fourfold imperative that arrests attention and is worthy of meditation.

After Christ had spoken of Himself as the good Shepherd (verse 14) He speaks of laying down His life for the sheep and, immediately after, because His death suggests the wide extent of its value and result, He exclaims, “Other sheep I have…..”

1. The basis of the World Mission of the Church, “other sheep I have.”

Humanity is God’s possession by His work of creation and redemption (John 3:16). His eternal redemptive purpose was to make Israel the channel for a world-wide mission of salvation. If we believe the solidarity of the race, then all are Christ’s lost sheep. The genealogy of every man goes back to Luke 3:38: “The son of Adam which was the Son of God.”

The universal Fatherhood of God does not deny election or adoption but is the basis of both. Here we have the universality of the Gospel. There is no super-race. All of humanity, sinful and fallen, belongs to the Good Shepherd. When we preach the Gospel we have no right to narrow its application by false limits of our own. The Evangel is for all men. The great Commission is world-wide in scope. He died for all who died for us.

2. The motive of the World Mission is also Christ – “I must bring.”

The Greek text is emphatic. It is not a physical but a moral necessity. The full idea of this is brought out in the verb which is translated “I must.” It is an impersonal form which alone remains to express that sort of moral necessity which men everywhere felt as impelling them to an action. It is as though the necessity of the action arose in the decree of God by which unalterable laws of the universe are governed. “It is necessary,” thus recognising a law outside of ourselves to which we must be obedient. The moral necessity which Jesus felt concerning the “sheep of both folds” was binding upon Him as the degrees of God which govern the universe, and which he realises relate to the salvation of the world through his own death and His shepherding care.

His must becomes our ought. This is the real motive of evangelism. We have it in Paul’s, “The love of Christ constrains me” and “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” Zinzendorf’s one passion; David Livingstone’s long journeys; Hudson Taylor’s program for all China had the one Shepherd motive of “Seeing the multitudes ….. As sheep having no shepherd.”

When Jesus spoke these words, “other sheep,” then, as at the Lord’s Supper and in his high-priestly prayer, He sees the farthest horizon. “My blood shed for you and for many.” “Neither pray I for these alone but for them also which believe on me through their word.” The Gospel message today everywhere meets with response. “A hireling will they not follow,” but “My sheep hear my voice.” There is abundant proof in every land.

As Adoniram Judson said from his prison in Burma, “The prospects are as bright as the promises of God.” Here is a great promise “They shall hear my voice.” He had come to his own sheep and they heard him not – everyone turned to his own way. He tried to gather his lambs. “How oft ……. But ye would not.” Now Christ looks to the future. He foresaw what we in our day experience, the triumphs of the gospel wherever it is proclaimed in all the world.

3. These words concerning the “other sheep” also point to the goal of all evangelism: “There shall be one flock and one shepherd,” said the Saviour.

No one could gaze further into the future than our Lord Jesus Christ. What the seers and prophets saw dimly, he saw already accomplished. In Him there would finally be a restoration of the unity of the race. As in Adam all died, so in Christ should all be made alive. “One flock” (not one fold); there may be many sheep-folds, but it is one flock, because we all know the voice of the one Shepherd. Many are the folds in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. But all are one flock in Him.

Who will hear His voice and catch the vision and the spirit of the Great Shepherd. He has made us His under-shepherds and not hirelings, we must bring them back. “Although the road be rough and steep, I go to the desert to find my sheep.”

James Gilmour in Mongolia, David Livingstone in Central Africa, Grenfell in the Congo, Keith Falconer in Arabia, Dr. Rijnhart and Annie Taylor in Tibet, Chalmers in New Guinea, Morrison in China, Henry Martyn in Persia had the passion to call that country their own which was most in need of the Gospel. In this passion all other passions died; before this vision all other visions faded; this call drowned all other voices. They were the pioneers of the Kingdom, the forelopers of God, eager to cross the borders and discover the sheep that were lost. The world needs such evangelists today.

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