Rarely does an autobiography admit to the author’s blatant violence in the past; likewise, one does not expect to find humility about his divine calling. But that is the way Paul related his life in the reading from Galatians.
He proceeds with three divisions. The first is the grace that met him at Damascus. Paul said he was “called by His grace.” That grace was the Lord’s judgment towards Paul’s previous life. Paul violently tried to destroy the church of God, showing determined zeal for the traditions of his fathers. His attacks on the church were persecutions against the Lord Himself. Yet even then did the Son of God extend forgiveness and grace to this “chief of sinners.”
Second, Paul acknowledges that he was “set apart from birth” for his new calling to the nations. Why Paul? Because the mystery of God’s providence anticipated the reluctance of the twelve apostles to grasp the universal offer of salvation. Martyrs all and in distant lands, yet were they slow to break out of the boundaries of Judaism. God designated Paul to come forth as the Apostle to the Nations. Paul’s every step—his sphere of study, his living places and friends—were under the direction of the Almighty. All was designed to prepare this man for a full understanding of the Gospel and for expounding it for all time and all places.
Third, this was “revelation from God.” As the Twelve Apostles had three years with the Lord, so Paul had three years of direct tutoring and study under the Holy Spirit. What was so extraordinary? Paul knew the answer was simple: The mystery of the Gospel now fully revealed was the inclusion of all nations. This was the message of Paul’s life, the dual commission to take this to the church and to establish churches among the Gentiles.
Paul may have termed this as Good News, but the message was met with hostility among most Jews. Could the Jewish God who sent a Jewish Savior for the Jewish people also love and extend His kingdom to non-Jews? “Yes,” as Paul would write later. “Is He not the God of the nations, too (Romans 3:29).” Not until Paul met with Peter and James, the brother of the Lord, and the Jerusalem leaders was this mandate finally accepted. That was not until the year 48.
We must recognize that this resistance is genetic, that we today exhibit the very same resistance and reluctance to go beyond. The very attitude we see in the Jewish mind, we can trace through all the history of the church. We, too, demonstrate the tilt towards ourselves and the power of the boundaries to stay inside. The mission trend today begs for a reversal like that of Paul’s after Damascus.
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World Christian Trends
Missionspeak often uses phrases like “the unreached world,” and “the 10/40 Window.” Is there really a sizeable unreached population? Do the facts support the claim that the church omits large swaths of land and ethnic groups? Do we prefer the boundaries of the church? I will let figures give the answer.
What follows are comparisons of mission to people beyond churches and those with churches. The different topics diversify the measurements of disparity. The term “the evangelized” represents people who have heard the Gospel. Of these, at least 33% are also members of a church.
First, the Bible in their language. We will measure two different publications.
For copies of portions, 25 pages or less:
The least evangelized receive 27,000
The evangelized receive 10,592,000
For full editions of the Bible, at least 1,300 pages:
The least evangelized receive 192,000
The evangelized receive 156,933,000
Christian books, books that promote all aspects of the Christian life:
The least evangelized 19,000
The evangelized 172,584,000
Mission agencies that recruit, send, resource, advocate, or in some other means, support
The least evangelized 57,000
The evangelized 4,958,000
Prayer walks, campaigns, and other ways of preparing and presenting the Gospel
The least evangelized 400,000
The evangelized 39,600,000
Home mission workers who live where they work:
The least evangelized 41,000
The evangelized 17,313,000
Foreign mission workers:
The least evangelized 168,000 or 4%
The evangelized 14,616,000, or 96%
Of course, the critical figures are the population of “the least evangelized,” and their proportion of the world’s population. After all, if they represent about 4% of the world, where would the inequity be? But if their number is above 10%, the claim of the unreached should reach our ears and hearts.
The number of those people who have not heard of Jesus Christ is approximately 1,700,000,000, or just under 28% of the world.
The church’s unfinished task shows the need for the church’s reversal. Otherwise these unevangelized people will never know the forgiving grace that Paul received. Reversing will require recognition of the tilt, prayer, fresh Bible study, learning, and Holy Spirit guidance for moving further. With love and prayer we will find these least evangelized people to be most eager for the Good News.