As the Father has sent Me, so send I you [Jn.20:21]
WHOM DOES GOD SEND?
The work of the gospel is a work of transformation into the image of Christ. The Lord Jesus is the Pattern for both the one proclaiming and the one receiving the message of Life. Conformity to Christ, in character, doctrine, and in method, is required if one will be sent.
It is why laborers continue to be few though harvests are great [Mt.9:36-38]. God does not; no, rather, He cannot send forth workers into His harvest who neither are moved with the compassion of Christ for downtrodden sheep, nor capable of expounding the gospel of the kingdom.
Small boys are unfit to do a manâ€™s work. God is no fool. He does not entrust the eternal well-being of undying souls into the hands of those who are unlike His Son. The whole purpose of the sending forth of the gospel is that men might gain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ [2 Thess.2:14].
How then could God conceivably send forth someone with His approval who is unlike the Lord Jesus Christ in character, doctrine, and method of ministry? A laborer who is lacking in any of these three essentials, could not possibly be fit to serve the purposes of the God of heaven.
Many have gone forth, few have been sent. The necessity to pray to the Lord of the harvest for suitable laborers is still quite relevant. Ripened harvests lacking suitable laborers spoil and rot with all as loss.
The following will focus upon four who were sent by the God of heaven. The apostolic period served as a transition from the visible and physical presence of Christ with His people, to being wholly cast upon the invisible presence of Christ by the Spirit. Four major phases of that transition took place through Peter, Stephen, Paul and John.
Keys of the kingdom [Mt.16:19] were placed in his hands by the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter was the initiator, a pioneer, who accessed several new gateways into fresh spiritual realms for the saints of God to follow thereafter.
Pentecost found him unlocking the stiff rusty gate of tradition unto the flooding light of salvation and a New Covenant for the Jew. Three thousand gladly rushed through the opened passageway to eternal life, accessed by the Key of the Gospel in his hand [Acts 2:14-42].
Through him doors of mercy swung wide unto the afflicted and sorrowing. Miracles were first introduced through the church to a suffering world at the Templeâ€™s Beautiful Gate [Acts 3:1-10], and Peter held that Key of Compassion.
It was Peter who first passed through the door of persecution, imprisonment, and stripes for the sake of the Name [Acts 4&5]. The Key of No-compromise gained admittance to that prison cell of suffering in behalf of Christ.
Reluctantly, a key was withdrawn from an Israeliteâ€™s robe to extend salvationâ€™s blessing beyond the borders of Judea unto the remotest part of the earth. Peterâ€™s narrow thinking required arresting by repeated visions before that key would be inserted to unlock blessing to the â€œuncleanâ€? Gentiles [Acts 10:9-16].
Yet he yielded to the message from heaven. Peter arose without misgivings and threw open the barred door to the heathen in Corneliusâ€™ house [Acts 11:1-18]. Thereafter, every tribe, people, tongue, and nation have thankfully streamed through it to the glory of God.
This final Key pulled from Peterâ€™s robe, was the golden one of Obedience; Peterâ€™s own obedience, which led to the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His nameâ€™s sake [Rom.1:5].
Stephen is the link between Jerusalem and the uttermost parts of the earth. In him the church moved from being merely another Jewish sect to becoming the universal body of Christ. Stephenâ€™s teaching and death was Peterâ€™s forerunner leading the way out of a narrow Judaism unto reaching even the Gentiles.
That same doctrine and self-sacrifice were the goads that pricked the conscience of Saul of Tarsus. Stephenâ€™s prayer was heard by the risen Christ [Acts 7:60] and eventually Saul became Paul, the Apostle to the nations. What Peter began in the house of Cornelius, Paul continued to the regions beyond, and Stephen was their common host to both.
How did he do this? It was by his deep insight into the truth of Jn.4:21-24 coupled with his death to self for the sake of Christ and the gospel.
In answering his accusersâ€™ charges [Acts 6:10-15], he showed that the God of glory is not restricted to any one people or â€œholyâ€? place [Acts 7:1-8]. He demonstrated that though they possessed the Law, the Jews had never kept it from the moment it was given [Acts 7:38-41].
What had they ever done but reject and kill the servants of the God they claimed to serve? [Acts 7:51-53]. Finally, the very Christ of God was despised, rejected, and slain in their wicked malice.
His martyrdom was truly as a grain of wheat falling to the ground, dying, that brought forth much fruit. It was the seed sown of an eventual vast host of Greeks who then indeed would see Jesus [Jn.12:20-26] at long last.
Stop and think: Stephen was the first Christian martyr [a witness who died for his faith]. Tertullian of Africa [c. 200 AD] said, â€œThe blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.â€? What did he mean by that and how can this be seen in Stephen? [Acts 8:4; 9:1-6; 11:19-26].