“Advance Christ:” Paul’s Missionary Vision
September 5, 2021
William Carey has come to be well-known for his work in missions, but he started in relative obscurity. When he first sought ordination from the Baptist church in Olney, he was rejected by them in 1785, before being ordained the following year and taking the pastorate of the church in Moulton. He and his wife Dorothy had a daughter Ann in the first years of marriage, but Ann soon died. Those early years were also lean years financially, so that Carey had to work as pastor, village teacher, and shoe cobbler to support the family.
Yet in those years, Carey began to have a passion for taking the gospel to the nations; in his cobbler’s workshop he made a homemade map of the world and began collecting data on the world’s population which he incorporated into his 87-page book, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of Heathens, in which the religious state of the different nations of the world, the success of former undertakings, and the practicability of further undertakings, are considered. This “‘little piece,’ as Carey called it, would become the manifesto of the modern missionary movement.” [George, 21-2.] His passion for the salvation of the lost is seen throughout the document, but perhaps most boldly in his statement, “I question whether all are justified in staying here, while so many are perishing without means of grace in other lands.”
The book was published in 1792 and later that year Carey spoke to an association of pastors from 24 churches. In that sermon he coined a phrase which became the driving influence of his missionary venture: “expect great things; attempt great things.” The day after that message, the group was about to disperse without having acted on Carey’s petition about evangelism and missions. So Carey, gripped with sorrow over unregenerate men going to Hell without the gospel rose and asked the moderator, “Is there nothing again going to be done, sir?” Because of this last query the pastors agreed to form a society “for propagating the gospel among the heathen.” By November, they received a request from John Thomas in India for someone to minister with him there, and the society naturally chose Carey.
Seven months later, in June of 1793, Carey left England with his wife and children, her sister, and John Thomas and his family. But it was no easy transition. None of them would ever see England again. All died in India, Carey after almost 41 years of labor there. He buried three of his children; his wife Dorothy plunged into “insanity” after the death of their third child and never recovered. His second wife was also buried by Carey. And he spent nearly 20 years translating the Bible into Hindi and it was destroyed in a fire one night and he had to start the work over from the beginning — 20 years of work completely lost.
What compels a William Carey to take the gospel to India and endure amidst such hardship? Or Jack and Susie to Cambodia? Or David and Kerry to PNG? Or our friends who have taken the gospel to build churches in Lebanon and the Middle East? Those aren’t all safe places — they and their families may be in harm’s way and will likely suffer. Why? Because they have a vision for the gospel to go to the nations — a missionary vision that is akin to the apostle Paul’s vision.
For three Sundays, we are thinking with Paul about missions. As Paul prepares to go to Spain — and as he prepares to come to Rome and ask for support to help him get to Spain — in vv. 17-21 he reveals the message he preaches: Christ; in vv. 30-33 he will talk about the power for missions, and in vv. 22-29 (which we consider today) he reveals his vision for missions — what is his goal and strategy for evangelizing the nations? We might summarize his teaching this way:
The goal of every believer and every church is to always plan for the next missionary venture.
In these verses Paul establishes four principles for advancing the gospel message of Christ in missions:
- Trust God with Your Missions Plans (vv. 22-23)
- Look to Help the International Church Financially (v. 24)
- Care for Churches Already Entrusted to You (vv. 25-27)
- Be Ready to Go and Bless (vv. 28-29)
- Some are sent and some send, but all participate
- Some give and some receive, but all participate
- Some plans “work” and some plans “fail,” but God always accomplishes His purposes
Download the rest of this sermon on Romans 15:22-29.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.
[Photo in the public domain.]