From the Editor's Notebook: A Biblical Challenge For Today, part 2

A Biblical Challenge For Today
Part 2

W. Ross Rainey

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 connection with the eleven points of the covenant, I have taken the liberty of adding pertinent texts.

In Part 1 of our consideration of the eleven points of the covenant, we looked at the first live, the covenant beginning with the words “We agree”:

1. To set an infinite value on men’s souls.

2. To acquaint ourselves with the snares which hold the minds of people.

3. To abstain from whatever deepens India’s prejudice against the gospel.

4. To watch for every chance of doing people good.

5. To preach “Christ crucified” as the grand means of conversion.

6. We come now to the sixth point of the covenant:

7. To esteem and treat Indians always as our equals.

While we recognize that there are social distinctions among Christians, we are told in Galatians 3:28 that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” This text teaches us that spiritually we all have the same position and privileges in our Lord. This is something we need to keep continually before us, lest we fall into the snare of showing respect of persons to some believers over others [see James 2:1-13].

The motto of the Keswick Convention in Great Britain is: “All One in Christ Jesus.” In Acts 4:31-33 we have a classic and practical illustration of this blessed truth, noting that oneness in the early days of the church was as a direct result of prayers: “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”

The seventh part of the covenant was:

7. To guard and build up “the hosts that may be gathered.”

It is the sacred and privileged responsibility of gifted elders or overseers to teach, guide, and guard God’s flock. In connection with this we are especially reminded of the Apostle Paul’s specific charge to the Ephesian elders who, at his request, had gathered with him at Miletus. It is one of the most touching scenes in Scripture, Paul having warned and exhorted them as follows: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” [Acts 20:28-32].

Other important Scriptures bearing upon elders or under-shepherds of God’s flock as to their character and responsibilities are 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Peter 5:1-4.

The covenant’s eighth point was:

8. To cultivate their spiritual gifts, ever pressing upon them their missionary obligation—since Indians only can win India for Christ.

This point moves in the realm of Ephesians 4:11-16, along with such personal reminders of Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:14, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee…,” and 2 Timothy 1:6, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee…”

Every true believer has some spiritual gift or gifts from the Lord. What is a spiritual gift? Simply put, “a spiritual gift is a God-given ability for service.” Every possible means should be utilized to encourage the saints, younger and older, to discover, develop and direct their gift or gifts, and this, for the glory of the Lord and the edifying of the Body of Christ.

Perhaps you are asking the question, “But how can I know my spiritual gift?” A few major keys to that end are as follows:

1. Dedicate your life totally to the Lord as a “living sacrifice” [Rom. 12:1-2].

2. Study the Scriptures that center on spiritual gifts [Rom. 12:38; 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 27-31: Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 4:10-11].

3. Ask the Lord to show you what your spiritual gift is [James 1:5].

4. Involve yourself in as many different kinds of Christian service as you have opportunity.

5. Ask godly, older Christians what they may think your spiritual gift is [particularly elders in your local assembly who have known you for an extended period of time].

6. Weigh carefully your own reactions.

The ninth point of the covenant was:

9. To labor unceasingly in Biblical translation.

Most Christians will not be faced with this task as was William Carey and his friends in their day, or others like members of Wycliffe Bible Translators today. Nevertheless, in application, every child of God has a very crucial task of translation. Now and again the question arises, “Which is the best Bible translation?” A good answer is that the best translation of the Bible is a man or woman living a godly life in obedience to God’s Word.

Someone has written:

You are writing a Gospel, a chapter each day,
By the deeds that you do, by the words that you say;
Men read what you write, whether faithful or true—
Say, what is the Gospel, according to you?

The covenant’s tenth point was:

10. To be instant in the nature of personal religion.

This is just another way of saying that we need always to immediately obey God’s Word as His Holy Spirit instructs us through the Scriptures [see John 13:17; Phil. 4:9; James 1:22; 1 Pet. 1:22; see also Josh. 1:8].

In connection with this the chorus of John H. Sammis’ classic hymn, “Trust and Obey,” is fitting:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.

The eleventh and last point of the covenant was:

11. To give ourselves without reserve to the cause, “not counting even the clothes we wear our own.”

Here is an expression of true discipleship, reminding us of such passages as our Lord’s words in Matthew 16:24, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

Are you truly Christ’s disciple? Can we say and sing with the hymnist, James G. Small [1817- 1888], the following?

Naught that I have my own I call,
I hold it for the Giver:
My heart, my strength, my life, my all
Are His, and His forever.

For over 30 years the Salvation Army and William Booth in particular were subject to some of the most vile persecution Christians have suffered in modern times. But the general lived to see the day his army would be honored around the world. His own King Edward VII invited him to Buckingham Palace in 1904. All the persecution and trials of the previous decades must have seemed insignificant to Booth as he heard King Edward say, “You are doing a good work—a great work, General Booth.”

When the king asked Booth to write in his autograph album, the old gentleman—now 75—bent forward, took the pen, and summed up his life work:

Your Majesty,
Some men’s ambition is art,
Some men’s ambition is fame,
Some men’s ambition is gold,
My ambition is the souls of men.