by Floyd Chappelear
Stand, October 15, 1993
If one were to ask what the purpose of Jesus' coming to the earth was, what might we answer? One might say it was to establish the church and that answer would be acceptable because Jesus did come in fulfillment of prophecy; which included the establishment of the body of Christ (see; Luke 24:24-44). In fact, He prophecied such Himself during his personal ministry (Matthew 16:18; Mark 9:1).
One might argue that He came to give us a pattern of living that would be pleasing to God. Again, He did show us how to walk so that our conversation might be satisfying to Him who will judge the world (I Peter 2:21-22; I Corinthians 11:1; I John 1:7). Giving this answer, then, would not miss the mark.
These answers, however, may miss the primary focus of the ministry of Jesus Christ. His purpose was to take away sins! When He had accomplished this on the cross He said, "it is finished" and gave up the ghost in death (John 19:30). At the beginning of His life, it was stated that He had come to the earth to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 ). Now, get that straight: His primary purpose was to effect salvation for a world convicted of sin and separated from God! This is what leads us to preach Christ; the message of salvation to a dying world.
When He gave the great commission, He shined the spotlight of truth on the fact that the primary work of gospel preaching is to lead men to salvation. He told the apostles to "go into all the world" to teach all nations, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:18-20). The point is further clarified in the gospel of Mark when it is added, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). We make a mistake when we focus on other matters as the primary work before us rather than the product of the principal function. Thus, we need more than ever to reassess our priorities and ask ourselves if we are doing enough to satisfy the demands of Christ's principal purpose in coming to the earth.
But People Won't Listen Today
Thirty years ago when I began preaching the word I heard people say, "But people just won't listen to the gospel today," or words to that effect. I have found that is simply not the case. Many people will listen. We have to find them.
The beloved apostle was told, "I have much people in this city," concerning the pagan city of Corinth (Acts 18:10). The record had named Aquilla and Priscilla, Justus and Crispus, and some few other Corinthians who had obeyed the gospel. Others, apparently, were recognized by God to have the kind of hearts which would receive the word and refuse to allow hurt to come to the apostle. Those people needed to be reached with the gospel that they might be saved. (As an aside, anyone who is "almost persuaded," Acts 26:28, is totally lost. Such "brethren in prospect" as one errorist used to call them, have no right to fellowship in Christ and no reason to believe they will go to Heaven at the final return of Christ.) There can be no doubt that even today the Lord has "much people" in the communities where we live today. Again, we need to get out and teach them.
What Will Be the Result?
The first thing to remember is that although we have an obligation to preach the word to every person who will hear, the ultimate responsibility for the salvation of the lost rests with God! "God gives the increase" (I Corinthians 3:6). Additionally, we note that the power of God to salvation is in the gospel, not the proclaimer (Romans 1:16). Isaiah declared that the word of God would accomplish the work for which it was designed and would not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11). Nevertheless, we are burdened with the responsibility of teaching every man, woman, and child who will give an audience. Where there is no response to the gospel, it is likely that there is little preaching of the gospel.
Frankly, this can be understandable in some cases. When an enthusiastic proclaimer of the gospel is rebuffed repeatedly it is very easy to become discouraged in well-doing. Yea, weary to the point of fewer opportunities being sought to preach the gospel (Galatians 6:9; II Thessalonians. 3:13). This is tragic.
The correct response, however, is not in doing less but in seeking to abound in the work of the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58). In other words, seek more and more opportunities to allow God to effect His purpose; the salvation of souls.
Worse than drawing back into less work, is to seek excuses for doing less. One apparently disinterested preacher (uninterested in trying to preach the gospel to the lost) recently fled to Noah for refuge in his telephone conversation with me. Since Noah "saved his house" by the building of the ark -- with nobody else being saved at all -- then perhaps we can be satisfied today if we affect the saving of only our houses, as well seemed to be the message he was advancing (Hebrews 11:7). While there can be no doubt that Noah ably taught his family that they might believe in God, it was in the building of the ark that he is declared to be the one who saved his house. His preaching was not limited to them. This preacher of righteousness labored for better than a hundred years to win others as well (I Peter 2:5). In other words, he didn't save his house through preaching and then quit! On the contrary, he preached, and preached, and ... You've got the point. Besides, it can be said that at one point in time, every person in the world believed in God because of the work of Noah. Can any of us say that today?
None of this is to be interpreted as an indictment of faithful brethren who see others reject the gospel. Good men will continually be discouraged by the response of others. However, let us see the point of this: We should not be discouraged by the failure of those who reject the good news of Christ. When one rejects the truth ably and lovingly presented, it should not be regarded as a personal affront. It is God being rejected and His word being denied.
Brethren, let us keep at the primary work of the church which reflects the primary purpose of Christ. Let us not be weary in well-doing, nor encouraged to accept inactivity or substitutionary activity while the principle work is being neglected.
There are souls out there who want to be saved. We need to find them and not merely preach to the saved on Sundays and during meetings. Noah is not our refuge, he was the refuge of those who lived centuries ago.