Why Should Anyone Hear the Gospel Twice before Everyone has Heard it Once?
Dr Oswald Smith
By Dr Oswald Smith
LET US turn to the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter nine, verses thirty-five to thirty-eight : "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages. . . ." Note, if you will, that He went about all the cities and villages. He did not settle down in any one community. Jesus never became a pastor. He was continually on the go. "Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. "But — when he saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion. . . ."
What about us? What happens when we see the multitudes? Are we, too, moved with compassion ? "He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." "Then saith He unto His disciples, the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few."
This, then, is the problem. And the problem of His day is the problem of our day — a plenteous harvest, few labourers. More heathen babies are being born than ever before. Now for the solution to the problem: "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest."
Could I stay in Canada?
Years ago I went through the Bible to see if I could stay in Canada and still obey God. Would it be possible, I asked myself, for me to enjoy a comfortable pastorate; never cross the boundaries of my country and still carry out my Lord's commands? Would God be satisfied? And as I studied the Bible I found such expressions as these: "All nations; all the world; every creature; every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; the uttermost part of the earth."
In other words, the Gospel, I discovered, was to be given to the entire world. Every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, must hear it, When I saw that, this then was the question I asked: Do all nations live in Canada? If they do, and if there are no nations living beyond the boundaries of the Dominion, then I can stay in my own country, preach the Gospel here and never once cross the borders; but, — if one nation lives beyond the boundaries of Canada, then I am in duty bound to leave my country, cross the boundaries and go to that nation. And if I cannot, then I must find substitutes and send them as my representatives. And if I do neither, I will be a missing Christian in the day of rewards.
My friend, what about you? You know that the Gospel must be given to all nations, to all the world, to every kindred and tongue and people, to the uttermost part of the earth. What are you doing about it? What are you going to do? Either you must go yourself or else you must send someone in your place, and woebetide you if you do nothing. God's orders must be obeyed, His commands carried out, and there is no way to evade the issue.
The next towns
A little while ago, I read in your hearing the story of how Jesus went to all the cities and villages. Do you remember the time He disappeared, after having ministered in a certain town; and do you recall how the disciples went in search of Him, in the early hours of the morning, and how at last they found Him on the top of a mountain engaged in prayer?
"Master," they cried, "the people are waiting for you. There are many more sick to be healed. Come back and finish your work. There are still others in the town in which you ministered yesterday, who want to hear you."
Yes, and I can imagine the Master replying, as with a faraway look in His eyes He gazed out over the valleys and the mountains in the distance, in these words: "I must preach in the next towns for therefore am I sent." He was thinking, as He always did, of the next towns, and the next, and the next. He was thinking of those towns in which He had never yet ministered; and He wanted to get to them that they, too, might hear the Gospel. He was ever mindful of "the other sheep."
Paul had the same vision. He talked about "the regions beyond," the unoccupied areas. He said he wanted to go to Spain and to Rome. He, too, realized that the Gospel had to be taken to "all the world."
Do you know that the whole of North Africa was at one time evangelized and that hundreds of Christian churches dotted the landscape? Do you realize that some of our greatest theologians came from North Africa in the early centuries of the Christian era? But what happened?
The religious leaders and theologians in North Africa got into controversy one with another and instead of preaching the Gospel and evangelizing, they started theological discussions and argued with each other over Christian doctrine. What should they have done? They should have gone to the next towns south and then the next towns south of those. And what would have happened? Within a very short time they would have reached Capetown, and the whole of Africa would have been evangelized hundreds of years ago. Africa might have been sending missionaries to Europe and even to America.
There are churches today in the United States and Canada as well as in Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand — hundreds of them — that have become mere social clubs, and if the Church of Jesus Christ does not awaken and give the Gospel to the whole world, what happened to Africa will happen here. "The light that shines farthest, shines brightest nearest home."
The Field is the World
"But," you ask, "why go before all have been saved here? There is so much to be done at home. Why not complete the work in the homeland before going to the foreign field?" Everywhere I go that question is asked. Let me answer it by asking three or four others:
FIRST.-Why did David Livingstone leave Scotland and go to Africa before everyone in Scotland had become a Christian? Why? There are still thousands in Scotland who have not even yet decided for Christ. And yet, years ago, Livingstone left his own land and went to dark, benighted Africa. I ask you — why?
SECOND.-Why did William Carey leave England and go to India before everyone in England had been Christianized?
The Back Rows
Do you remember when the Lord Jesus Christ fed the five thousand ? Do you recall how He had them sit down, row upon row, on the green grass? Then do you remember how He took the loaves and fishes and blessed them and then broke them and gave them to His disciples? And do you remember how the disciples started at one end of the front row and went right along that front row giving everyone a helping? Then do you recall how they turned right around and started back along that front row again, asking everyone to take a second helping? Do you remember?
No! — a thousand times — no! Had they done that, those in the back rows would have been rising up and protesting most vigorously. "Here," they would have been saying, "come back here. Give us a helping. We have not had any yet. We are starving: it isn't right; it isn't fair. Why should those people in the front rows have a second helping before we have had a first?" And they would have been right.
We talk about the second blessing. They haven't had the first blessing yet. We talk about the second coming of Christ. They haven't heard about the first coming yet. It just isn't fair. "Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?" You know as well as I do, that not one individual in that entire company of five thousand men, besides women and children, got a second helping until everyone had had a first helping.
I have never known a minister to have any trouble with the back rows. All his trouble comes from the front rows. Those in the front rows are over-fed and they develop spiritual indigestion. They tell him how much to feed them; when to feed them; when to stop feeding them; how long to feed them; what kind of food to give them, etc. etc., and if he doesn't do it, they complain and find fault. If a minister had any sense, he would leave the front rows for a while and let them get hungry for once in their lives and go to the back rows, and then when he returned they would be ready to accept his ministry and there would be no murmuring or complaining.
My friends, I have been with the back rows. I have seen the countless millions in those back rows famishing for the Bread of Life. Is it right? Should we be concentrating on the front rows? Ought we not rather to be training the front rows to share what they have with the back rows, and thus reach them with the Gospel, those for whom nothing has been prepared?
Do you know that the greatest thing a church can do for itself is to send its Pastor to one of the foreign mission fields of earth? There is no vacation like it. He will come back a new man; for no one can see the need with his own eyes and ever be the same again. It will do something to him. He will have something to talk about. He will be worth infinitely more to the Church than he ever was before. I suggest it because I know what it did for me, and I would recommend that Churches everywhere realize its importance and do it. Let him see the back rows. Let him see them for himself. Let him see them waiting in darkness and midnight gloom for the Gospel.
This is an abridged excerpt from Dr Oswald Smith’s book, The Passion For Souls.