From the Editor’s Notebook: A Biblical Challenge for Today, part 1

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

A Special Note

On December 26th the editor left for almost a month’s ministry in the State of Kerala, India. In view of this, I thought it would be appropriate to reprint an article I wrote last year for the Gospel Missions of India “Newsletter.” Since my article is of considerable length, Part 2 will appear in the next issue, followed by a summary of the highlights of my trip.

A Biblical Challenge For Today
(Part 1)

William Carey (1761-1834) , missionary to India, has generally been acclaimed as “the Father of Modern Missions.” In 1793 he arrived in India. At first he was virtually destitute in Calcutta, but quickly mastered the language and soon went to work translating the Bible into Bengali, in addition to his business, evangelistic, and pastoral labors. He established schools and medical work and in 1800 moved to the Danish colony of Serampore, which was his base for the remaining 34 years of his many-sided missionary labors. In 1805 Carey, along with Joshua Marshman and William Word, drew up ‘The Serampore Covenant”—named for the location of their work. The terms of the covenant could well serve as an inspiration and challenge to present-day believers. While no Scriptures were given in the eleven points of the covenant, I have taken the liberty of adding pertinent texts, as well as commentary.

Beginning with the words “We agree,” their first point was:

1. To Set an Infinite Value on Men’s Souls

The Lord Jesus Christ taught: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Mark 8:36-37). Obviously, from these words one soul is worth more than the wealth of the whole world. As a warning to the Pharisees, Christ said further: ‘Take heed, and beware of coventousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).

How much love do we really have for the souls of men and women, and Just what value do we place on them?

While ministering some time ago at Lakefield, Ontario, I read in the “Peterborough Examiner” newspaper (10/27/87) of an Australian prospector who has been “scratching away for years” with a pick and shovel and has found a vein of almost pure gold worth the equivalent of almost one million in Canadian dollars. Ray Hall, 62, struck gold near Tenant Creek, about 1,000 kilometers south of Darwin, in an area worked by Chinese goldminers in the last century. I am glad for Mr. Hall and his wife, and their legitimate find, especially after so many, many years of hard work, and wish them well. Yet, I wonder if it has ever occurred to either of them that the soul of each of them in God’s sight is worth more than the riches of the entire world.

The second point of the covenant was:

2. To Acquaint Ourselves With the Snares Which Hold the Mines of People

God’s people need to be aware of what is taking place in the world today and at least be armed with some knowledge of Satan’s wiles (Ephesians 6:11), and of false teachers and teachings which are increasing so rapidly in these “last days.”

The Lord Jesus anticipated the rise of false religions, cults, heresies, and all pseudo-Christian systems in Matthew 13:2430 and 36-43. In these verses our Lord revealed the source of all false teachings—Satan (13:25, 28 & 39; see also Matthew 24:11; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 1 John 2:18). Satan’s subtlety is also revealed (13:25; see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15), coupled with the confirmation of his measure of success (13:38), and the ultimate sequel to it all (13:28-30, 39-43).

The covenant’s third point was:

3. To Abstain From Whatever Deepens India’s Prejudice Against the Gospel

How vital it is that we who have believed the Gospel seek also to behave the Gospel! It was the Apostle Paul who said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake”(1 Corinthians 9:22b, 23a; see Romans 14:7-8, 22-15:3; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33).

It is extremely important for every missionary to be familiar with the culture of the country in which he or she is serving Christ, lest by some innocent mannerism or conduct we lend offence to the very people we are seeking to reach with the Gospel.

A case in point is Saudi Arabia. Although no missionaries, per se, are permitted to work in that nation, I understand that to sit in public, say on a platform, with one’s legs crossed is an affront to the citizens of that land.

The fourth point was:

4. To Watch For Every Chance of Doing People Good

In Galatians 6:10 Paul exhorted, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith”(see Ephesians 2:8-10). The Apostle Peter tells us that Christ has left us an example “that ye should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21), while Dr. Luke summed up much of our Lord’s life and ministry in the words from Peter’s sermon in the house of Cornelius: “Who went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

Dr. Donald K. Campbell, the current President of Dallas Theological Seminary, has rightly said: “Christians have a measure of responsibility to all people to do good, when the occasions arise. When Jesus fed the 5,000, both saved and unsaved participated. So the benevolence of Christians should not be restricted, except that believers are to have the priority. As in a home, family needs are met first, then those of the neighbours.

“This passage then speaks clearly about Christian social responsibility, but it should be noted that it is addressed to individual believers. The church is not an agency for social work, though individual Christians are charged to minister in this way as they are able and have opportunity (cf. Rom. 12:17- 21)” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament edition, p. 610).

Point five of the covenant was:

5. To Preach “Christ Crucified” as the Grand Means of Conversion

When the Apostle Paul went to Corinth he said, “For I have determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). This should also be our determination wherever we go (see John 1:29, 35 & 36; Acts 8:5, 35; 9:20).

Christ does not save men by His life,
Though that was holy, sinless, pure;
Nor even by His tender love,
Though that forever shall endure.

He does not save them by His words,
Though they shall never pass away;
Nor by His vast creative power,
That holds the elements in sway.

He does not save them by His works,
Though He was ever doing good;
The awful need was greater still,
It took His DEATH,

—Author Unknown

(To be continued, D. V.)