The Works of the Church: Evangelism, Part 2
The Marks and Works of the Church
This morning we are diving into part two of the Work of Evangelism, the final Work of the church. Last week we discussed personal evangelism, and this week and next week will be discussing missions. This week will cover missions from an OT perspective. Next week we will cover missions from a NT perspective.
My time in seminary was exhilarating. While you might hear stories from some people about how seminary “killed their faith,” this was not my experience. On the contrary, my time at Dallas Seminary was transformational. I am thankful that God gave me this opportunity. I regret nothing of it.
During my time in Dallas, there were several moments where I specifically remember God expanding my understanding. Moments where I began to see Scripture in a new and more refined way. Times where I felt that God released me from a former, improper way of thinking and showed me a better way to think about him and his creation.
One of these moments was in a “Theology of Missions” class. The professor was a wonderful man. He went to my church in Dallas, and he had a son who I was friends with. The professor is now dead. He died as a middle-aged man. Pancreatic cancer took him at a young age. As a
church, we watched him die a slow and painful death. He was faithful to the end, though. A true model of Christian perseverance.
During one class, we discussed the OT understanding of missions. Prior to this class, I labored with the false understanding that the idea of missions was solely a NT idea, that the OT had little to nothing to say about the church’s endeavor to share the gospel all over the world. This class changed that for me. Through my professor’s influence and a particular book I read, I came to see that God’s purposes in the world had always been for the whole wide world. That God has, from the very beginning, always had the purpose to reach the whole world—every tribe, tongue, nations, and peoples—with the gospel.
And there was one biblical passage in particular that opened my eyes to this reality. That passage was Isa 66:18–21. Go ahead and turn with me to that passage. This will be the main text we focus upon this morning. The passage reads,
For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD.
There are three principles from this passage that I want to draw out this morning. And by discussing these three principles, my hope is that I can provide you a similar encounter with God that I had while in seminary.
God’s Salvation is for All Peoples
Isa 66:18, 19, 20
The first principle that we see from this passage is the God’s salvation is for all peoples. We see this principle at play strongly in this passage. Look at verse 18. God says, through Isaiah, that a “time is coming to gather all nations and tongues.”
Next, v. 19 mentions God sending “survivors to the nations.” The nations as specified with the locations mentioned in verse 19—“Tarshish, Paul, Lud, Tubal, and Javan.” It is unclear, exactly, where these locations refer to. The specifics are not important. What is important is that we see
that God’s purposes are for the whole world. This can be seen in this last phrase “to the coastlands far away.” This expression is used to refer to even those places beyond these specific locales. From the perspective of Isaiah, Pierre, SD, is one of these “coastlands far away.”
Lastly, look at verse 21. As a sign of God’s redemption, God will take from the Gentile peoples and make them “priests and Levites.” Not only will God save the Gentiles, he will enlist Gentiles to lead God’s people—both Jews and Greeks. If not even the cultic service of YWHW can be
denied to a Gentile, then nothing can be excluded from a Gentile. In a day that was future from Isaiah’s perspective, Gentile pagans would be fully grafted into God’s covenant with Israel. God’s purposes are for all peoples. God’s dealings with Israel would one day explode all around
This idea is an ancient idea in the OT. There are hundreds of OT verses that mention this. For maybe the most important, turn with me to Gen 12:1. We’ll read through verse 3. The passage reads,
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
This is one of the most important passages in Scripture. This story features God’s covenant with Abraham. In this foundational covenant, look what God says to Abraham in verse 13. Does he say that “only Jewish families with be blessed in you or by you?” No. God says that “all the families of the earth” shall be blessed in or by Abraham. Abraham is the means by which God’s blessing of salvation will come to the whole world. The whole world is in view here. All peoples. All nations, tongues, and tribes.
What our passage in Isaiah does is it builds upon this blessing to Abraham. Isaiah tells us how God’s blessing with come to all the families of the earth. The blessing comes through the missionary endeavor. The families of earth, the nations, peoples, tribes, and tongues, don’t know
about God’s blessing to Abraham. From Isaiah’s perspective, it will be the privilege and responsibility to go to the corners of the earth and share what it is that God has revealed to Abraham. God’s saving purposes are for all peoples.
The Missionary Impetus is the Glory of God
Isa 66:18, 19
The second principle we learn from this passage concerns the driving force of the missionary message. Isaiah prophecies that what will drive the missionary endeavor is the glory of God. This is seen in three ways. The first way it is seen is by observing what it is that the nations lack.
What is it that God wants them to see? Look at verse 18. He shall gather the nations, they shall come, and they shall see his glory. They lack this vision. This vision of God. They do not know that YHWH is God. Look in verse 19. Missionaries will go out, who are specified as “survivors,”
to the places where people “have not heard of YHWH’s fame or seen his glory.”
The second way we see that the glory if God is the impetus for the missionary endeavor in Isa 66 is the message that YHWH’s missionaries take to the nations. What do these missionaries say to the nations? Look at the end of v. 19. “And they shall declare my glory among the nations.” The message that they take is that God is great, that God is glorious, that God is worth forsaking every sin for.
This idea of the glory of God we have dealt with in the Work of Exaltation. This notion of exaltation is the primary impulse for all that we do—missions included. It is the glory of God that ought to be our deepest desire. And it is the idea that God is not glorified that should be our greatest burden. God isn’t worshipped in places in this world. That should grieve us deeply. Yes, we are attuned to human suffering. Yes, we care about poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and all forms of human need. But ultimately our heart is grieved that God is not recognized as God.
Definition of “Glory of God”
Scripture nowhere defines what the “glory of God” is. It is, therefore, difficult to define it. Nevertheless, this is a good definition. The “glory of God” is manifestation of his fullness to creation. It is an overflowing of God’s goodness, love, grace, beauty, power, justice, and excellencies to his creation. It is the display of God as God. It is the highest vision, the loftiest idea. It is the term we use to describe the reality of God pulling back the curtain and showing us who he is.
2 Cor 4:5–6
To put some more flesh on this definition, turn to 2 Cor 4:5. We know more of the glory of God than did Isaiah. Because of where we stand in the history of redemption, we know certain things that Isaiah did not know. 2 Corinthians 4:5 tells us one of those things. We’ll read through verse 6. Paul says this,
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
What I want you to see here is that the means by which the glory of God comes to us. Paul states, which is reminiscent of his Damascus Road experience, that God’s glory shines in the face of Jesus Christ. I take this to be literal. To behold Christ with our eyes will be to behold to glory of
God. His face, if you were to see it or when you see it when you die, will emanate the glory of God. All fears, concerns, desires, and needs will melt away when we see his face. Theologically, however, what Paul is saying here is that in the new covenant, in this era that has occurred since Isaiah, the glory of God is uniquely linked to Jesus Christ.
Paul specifies for us what was not clear from Isaiah’s vantage point. Isaiah could see that the glory of God would be the impetus for missions. They nations do not know God, so God appoints missionaries to go and proclaim his glory to the nations. Isaiah did not know that this
glory would be uniquely revealed in the person of Christ—specifically, as Paul says, in his face. Paul teaches us that it is through Christ that the glory of God is revealed. We proclaim Christ because he in a saving way shines forth God’s glory.
This Passage is Partially Fulfilled in the Current Era
The third point from this passage is this: This passage is partially fulfilled in the current era.
This text is a prophetic passage, a text that foretells some future activity. Prophetic texts are difficult to interpret. One reason why they are difficult is because sometimes there is a split prediction involved. The prophets sometimes compress multiple salvific events into a single passage without indication that there is more than one event involved. To illustrate what I mean by this, turn to Zech 9:9. We’ll read through verse 10. This passage states,
Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your king is coming to you: he is legitimate and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey on a young donkey, the foal of a female donkey. I will remove the chariot from Ephraim and the warhorse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be removed. Then he will announce peace to the nations. His dominion will be from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.
In this passage, the prophet Zachariah smashed together Jesus’ first and second coming without the indication that there are two events involved in the fulfillment of this prophecy. Verse 9 speaks of Jesus’ first coming. This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming. As we know, this prophecy is applied by the apostles to Jesus as he enters Jerusalem the week of the Passover. “Hosanna!” “Hosanna!” the crowd cried out as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.
Look at verse ten, though. This verse speaks of the Messiah’s reign of peace through his conquering of his enemies. Here the Messiah speaks in the first person. Jesus says, through Zechariah, that he will “cut off” the military equipment used by God’s enemies to suppress God’s people. What will happen? The Messiah will institute global peace. His reign shall be a reign of peace. Verse ten has not happened yet. This prophecy will be fulfilled in the Millennial kingdom, as described in Rev 20.
What we have in this Zechariah passage is a split prophecy. Verse 9 prophecies Christ’s first coming. Verse 10 prophecies Christ’s second coming. Zachariah gives no indication that this is a gap of thousands of years between verses 9 and 10. He gives no indication that there are two
events here and yet there are.
This same principle of a split prophecy is at work in our Isaiah passage. There is two-fold fulfillment of this prophecy. Ultimately, I think this prophecy will be fulfilled in the future. I think we await much of this prophecy’s fulfillment. Look at verse 20.
And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD.
This difficult aspect of this verse is interpreting the “they” and the “your brothers” at the beginning of the verse. Is the “they” the Gentiles who are brought to Jerusalem? Or is it Jews? Is the “your brothers” Jews? Or Gentiles who become the “brothers” of Jews? I don’t know. They
text is not clear here. If they “they” is Gentiles and the “your brothers” are Jews, the Prophet sees the full engrafting of the Jews who are dispersed throughout the world, now being brought back to the promised land through the efforts of the Gentiles. Gentiles bring Jews to Christ. Such an interpretation fits with this passage and fits with dispensational eschatology. I see something like that at work here. Like what Paul says in Rom 11:26 that “all Israel will be saved.”
Nevertheless, there is some present fulfillment here, too. This can be seen in two ways. First, the missionary task has begun. The OT looks forward to the missionary task. Jews were not commanded to do missionary work in the OT. Christians have been commanded to do this. In the post-Pentecost era, one of the main tasks of the church that Jesus established was to take the gospel to all the nations. This is specified in Matt 28, the passage which we will address next week. We have this obligation to obey this passage in Isa 66 based upon what Jesus tells us in Matt 28. Jesus in Matt 28 commands us to obey what it is that Isaiah foresees in Isa 66. Second, Paul himself sees his ministry as a fulfillment of Isa 66. Turn to Rom 15:15. We will read through verse 16.
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Many commentators see Isa 66:20 as the background to what Paul says in Rom 15:16. Notice that Paul sees his apostolic work as that of a “priestly service.” In the Isaiah passage, the Prophet depicts the missionary task as that of a priestly duty. Look back at Isa 66:20. It says that the nations will be an offering to the Lord. Offerings are offered by priests. Paul sees himself as a priest. Paul also, in accord with Isa 66:20, sees the specific offering that he offers to God as that of the Gentiles. At the end of verse 16, “so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable. That phrase, “offering of the Gentiles,” should be understood to mean that the Gentiles are the offering. They are what Paul presents to God. They are the sacrifice, the thing Paul toiled over to
present to God. There are significant literary links between this Romans passage and our Isa passage. This indicates that Paul saw his ministry as somewhat of a fulfillment of this passage.
What this Isaiah passage is teaching is that right now, in the very speaking of these words, this prophecy is being fulfilled. The message of God’s glory has reached the farthest coastlands. It has reached Pierre, SD. Here, this morning, you have a Gentile, myself, proclaiming to the
Gentiles, the glory of God. That is exactly what this passage is talking about. From Isaiah’s vantage point, this is what he foresaw. This morning’s service is a fulfilment of this prophecy. Praise the Lord!
I will conclude with this thought. I firmly believe with all my heart that in order to fulfill the missionary task—in order to count our lives cheap for the sake of the global proclamation of the gospel—we must be first stand in awe of God. Great sacrifice for Christ, which missions
requires, requires grand theology. The only way you can survive doing hard things for Christ is if you have deep, rich, profound theology. Without out robust theology, missions will never go forth.
This sermon is an attempt to mediate that theology to you. This purpose of this morning’s sermon was to mediate to you a similar encounter that I had while in my seminary class on a “Theology of Missions.” I’ve wanted to show you how great God is, how precious his word is, and how he is fulfilling his promises to us right now. God is at work in the world right now, fulfilling through us this passage in Isaiah.
God wants this church to be involved in the global proclamation of his glory. To do so, we must see God and his word for what it is. My hope and burden is that you would see God rightly, and that that knowledge of God would transform your life so that you would obey the missionary task.
Great God of heaven, we earnestly pray this morning that you would appear in your glory and manifest your compassion to the world by an abundant manifestation of your Holy Spirit on all the churches and upon the whole earth, to revive true religion in all parts of Christianity and to
deliver all tribes, tongues, nations, and peoples from their great and manifold spiritual calamities and miseries, and to bless them with the unspeakable benefits and riches of the kingdom of our
glorious redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.