5-3 The Light Of The World
We are the light of the world, Jesus said. And it was no accident that He used exactly the same phrase with which He described Himself: " I am the light of the world" . He is the light of the world here and now, not just in the first century. The fact that both He and us have the same title would imply that He is the light of the world through His manifestation in us. Thus Christ would meditate concerning us: " As thou (God) hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world" (Jn. 17:18; v.20 implies that Christ's prayer here was not just for the twelve, but for all believers). He was not just the light of Israel, and He is not just the light of the Anglo-Saxon peoples. Yet we can darken that light, if we do not properly reflect it. God complained that Job had darkened His word (Job 38:2 NIV); the truths which Job should have taught to his friends he relayed very imperfectly, through the prism and distortion of clinging on to his own traditions and preconceptions of God.
Christ means 'Messiah', the anointed one. He was anointed in order " to preach the Gospel" (Lk. 4:18); and we too have been anointed insofar as we are in Christ, the anointed one (2 Cor. 1:21). Therefore as He was ordained a preacher of the Gospel to the world, we too share that honour (as we do all His honours, to some extent). He was anointed (‘oiled’) by God in order to give the oil of joy to His people; He shared His experience of anointing with us, and we must go out and do likewise (Is. 61:1,2 cp. Lk. 4:18). Isaiah’s description of the beauty of Christ’s preaching in Is. 52:7 is quoted by Paul concerning every preacher of the Gospel (Rom. 10:15); the “he” of Is. 52 is changed to “them” in Rom. 10. And Paul is quoting this Old Testament prophecy about Jesus to prove that we are all “sent” to preach the Gospel. The validity of our commission to preach is quite simply that Jesus Himself preached; in this way we are all personally “sent” to preach, simply because He was sent to preach. As the Father sent Him, so He sends us.
The Lord Jesus quoted a prophecy about Himself, as the light of the Gentiles, as being relevant to those who preach Him (Acts 13:47). All those who preach Him are like a city that cannot be hidden (Mt. 5:14); just as He likewise “could not be hid” in His preaching (Lk. 7:24). When the Ephesians learnt their first principles from the mouth of Paul and other preachers, they " heard Him (Christ), and (were) taught by Him" (Eph. 4:20,21); the preacher of Christ closely manifests his Lord. This is all neatly summarised by Christ's instruction to His recent converts not to spread the Gospel in an unseemly way, because it was written about Him personally that " he shall not strive nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets" (Mt. 12:16,19). In other words, the true preacher of Christ is solidly identified with Him by the very act of preaching. Truly " we are ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20) in our witnessing. As Christ appeals to all nations, so should we. The prophecies which Christ interpreted as referring to the church spreading the Gospel world-wide are specifically described as prophecies about Christ personally (Lk. 24:44,47: " All things which were written in the prophets and in the psalms, concerning me ... that repentance and remission of sins should be preached..." ). Thus the preachers of the Gospel would personally manifest Christ; which accounts for the special sense of His presence which they experience as they do this work (Mt. 28:20). Paul preached to the men of Iconium; but he made the point that " through this man (the risen Lord) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins" (Acts 13:38). Paul saw his work of preaching as directly uniting him with the Lord whose ambassador he was.
" God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself...and hath committed unto us the word (Gospel) of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech (men) by us...we then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted...behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 5:19-6:2). We are the means by which God is appealing to mankind; and we must do this while there is the opportunity for salvation. As Moses delivered God’s people “with the hand of the angel”, we likewise are working in co-operation with huge Angelic forces (Acts 7:35 RV). According to 2 Cor.5, in prospect, God reconciled the whole world to Himself on the cross, the devil was destroyed, all sin was overcome then, in prospect. In this sense Christ is the propitiation for our sins as much as He is for those of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2). On the cross, He bore away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). So now we must spread this good news to the whole world, for all men’s' sins were conquered on the cross. It can be inferred from Jn. 12:23 that the Lord perceived that His hour had come to lay down His life when He was told that there were Gentiles who wanted to “see” [Johanine language for ‘believe’] Him. It was as if this were the cue for Him to voluntarily lay down His life. The conversion of the whole world was a major reason for the Lord’s death; and thus there is the inevitable connection between His death, and the need to take the knowledge and power of that death to the whole planet.
God is eager that none should perish, but all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:8); and seeing that we preach “the Gospel of God” (1 Thess. 2:2), the God who is “the saviour of all men”, we likewise must offer this Gospel to as many as possible. Again, the motivation for world-wide preaching did not change at the end of the first century. To limit our preaching is to limit God; and limit Him we can, seeing that His purpose works in harmony with human freewill decisions. The urgency which shines through Paul's thinking here is just as true today, if not more so. " The day of salvation" was not just in the first century; it is now as well. God Himself has an urgency for human salvation; the Lord drew a parallel between the man who rushed out to save his animal on the Sabbath, and His waiving of the Sabbath in order to save others. Indeed, the way He did His miracles on the Sabbath rather than waiting shows His sense of urgency; not a day could be wasted for the sake of human scruples.
“With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Is. 12:3) is applied by the Lord to the present experience of the believer in Him (Jn. 4:14; 7:38). But Isaiah 12 continues to explain how the joy of that experience will lead to men saying: “The Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation [as He was for Israel at the Red Sea, cp. our baptism experience]...Praise the Lord, proclaim his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted”. As noted in The Imperative Of The Gospel, the exaltation of the Yahweh Name, the wonder of it, the sheer height of who Yahweh is, these things and our personal part in them is an unending imperative to witness these things world-wide. Men did not confess Jesus to others, despite nominally believing in Him, because they did not love the concept of the glory of God (Jn. 12:43 RV). To perceive His glory, the wonder of it all, leads to inevitable witness to others.
" Go out quickly "
The parable of the great supper chronicles the preaching of the Gospel over time. There were three stages of appeal: " To them that were bidden" (the Jews in Israel), to those in the streets and lanes of the city (the Jewish Diaspora), and finally, in a spirit of urgency, the preachers are commanded: " Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Lk. 14:16-23; the same spirit of urgency in witness is to be found in the Lord’s command to His preachers to cut the courtesy of prolonged greetings). Once the required number are in God's spiritual house, the feast will begin- and that feast represents eating bread in the Kingdom, at the second coming (Lk. 14:15). The language of 'going out' should be connected to the command to 'go and teach all nations'. The parable concerns the master of the house (God) commanding His servant (Christ); yet the connection with the preaching commission indicates that the commission given to Christ He fulfils through us, as demonstrated earlier in this study. The ever increasing sense of urgency in the appeal to 'come in' ought to be reflected in our preaching in these last days.
" All nations"
Clearly enough, God’s ideal intention even in Old Testament times was for the Gentiles to respond to the Hope of Israel. The aim of God’s judgments upon Moab were so that they might be ashamed of their idols, and that their “flavour” might be changed to be more pleasing to Israel’s God; they were intended to hide themselves in the rocks in repentance (Jer. 48:11,13,28 cp. Is. 2:19-21). And the way the King of Syria found his servants returning to him their master with stories of the amazing grace of the God of their enemy Israel was surely to try to bring him to conversion too (2 Kings 6:23; 5:1). Israel were to be the light to the Gentile world around them, the righteous servant who showed light to the Gentiles. But they sadly failed. Note too how the prophets pointed out to Gentile nations their sins and failed responsibilities before the God of Israel (Am. 2; 9:7; Is. 10:5; Jer. 46; Ez. 27,29). As always, closer analysis reveals God's will even more powerfully. The parallel record to the preaching commissions of Mk. 16 and Mt. 28 is found in Lk. 24:45-47. There we read how Christ explained to the disciples that their preaching of the Gospel " among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" was foretold in the Psalms and prophets. So the Bible student asks: Where in the Psalms and prophets? The Lord spoke as if the prophecies about this were copious. There do not seem to be any specific prophecies which speak of the twelve spreading the Gospel from Jerusalem in the first century. Instead we read of the Gospel being spread from Jerusalem in the Kingdom, and often the phrase " all nations" occurs in a Kingdom context, describing how " all nations" will come to worship Christ at Jerusalem (Ps. 22:27; 67:2; 72:11,17; 82:8; 86:9; 117:1; Is. 2:2; 66:18,20; Jer. 3:17; Dan. 7:14; Hag. 2:7; Zech. 8:23). This selection of " Psalms and prophets" is impressive. Yet the Lord Jesus clearly interpreted these future Kingdom passages as having relevance to the world-wide spreading of the Gospel. " All nations" also occurs in many passages exhorting us to praise Yahweh among all the nations of this world. The reason for this is that God's glory is so great it should be declared as far as possible by us. 1 Chron. 16:24,25 is typical of many such verses: " Declare his glory among the heathen; his marvellous works among all nations. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised...for all the gods of the people are idols" . World-wide preaching is therefore an aspect of our praise of Yahweh, and as such it is a spiritual work which is timeless.
Because the Kingdom is to spread world-wide, we should therefore spread the Good News of this coming Kingdom world-wide. In prospect- and no more than that, let it be noted- the Kingdom has been established in that Christ has all power in Heaven and earth (Mt. 28:18). This is the language of Dan. 7:14 concerning the future Kingdom. The believer must live the Kingdom life now, as far as possible (Rom. 13:12,13). In the Kingdom, we will be spreading the Gospel throughout this planet. In this life too we should live in the spirit of the Kingdom in this regard.
The preaching of the Gospel was prophesied as beginning at Jerusalem, Jesus said. If this world-wide preaching abruptly finished at the end of the first century, to begin again at Jerusalem in the Kingdom, surely this would be prophesied in the Old Testament? The impression one gets from the Old Testament passages listed above is that the Gospel would begin to spread from Jerusalem, and would go on spreading until the full establishment of the Kingdom. This explains why Christ's command to get up and go world-wide with the Gospel stands for all time. The command to preach to " all nations" would ring bells in Jewish minds with the promises to Abraham, concerning the blessing of forgiveness to come upon " all nations" through Messiah (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4). Therefore God's people are to preach the Gospel of forgiveness in Christ to " all nations" . The offer of sharing in that blessing did not close at the end of the first century. Putting the " all nations" of the Abrahamic promises together with Christ's preaching commission leads to a simple conclusion: The Hope of Israel now applies to all nations; so go and tell this good news to all nations.