A PCA church in Lake Suzy, Florida

God Gives the Growth

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Yesterday we began our sojourn in Acts 16-17 for our Mission Festival – “Where in the World?” I thought it appropriate to begin with the pressing question of the hour, a question that we should continually be asking – Why missions?

As we saw, there is a two-fold aspect to the answer. The first comes in the Great Commission – Jesus commands us to go. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

Now, that doesn’t mean that we do missions begrudgingly. “Well, I don’t want to go do this, but I guess I have to.” There is a greater motivation at work in the life of the believer. As Paul reminds us in speaking of this ministry of reconciliation given to the church, “For the love of Christ controls us…” (2 Cor. 5:14). When one is born anew by the Holy Spirit, justified before a holy God through the finished work of Christ, the sanctifying work of the Spirit begins.

That work of sanctification consists in two aspects, what theologians call mortification and vivification. The first involves putting to death the wickedness that remains in us, the old self, a work that won’t be completed until we breath our last. It means hating what God hates – sin! Vivification is learning to walk in the Spirit, putting on the new self, learning to love what God loves!

What we know is that God the Son loved the lost, for that is who he came to save. So, if God loves the lost, we, too, should have a love for the lost. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

This is exactly what we see in this passage in Isaiah. In Luke 4, we read of Jesus returning to Galilee, going into the synagogue, picking up the scroll and reading this passage from Isaiah 61. This would have been quite ordinary, and I’m sure that those who heard it were encouraged by the word. After he was finished reading, he sat down. Again, nothing out of the ordinary, though there was clearly something extraordinary about this reader. After he sat down, we read, “And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him” (Luke 4:20).

But what came next was truly extraordinary. “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” Jesus said (Luke 4:21). For 700 years that prophecy had sat unfulfilled. But on that Saturday morning, it was fulfilled. Jesus is saying that he is the one of whom it speaks. He is the one anointed to bring good news, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captives.

In many evangelical circles today, there is much talk about “anointing.” This is seen as something above what the “ordinary” Christian receives. But anointing in the Scriptures is far removed from this idea. Anointing refers to oil, and this was a sign of the Holy Spirit’s work. In the Old Testament, this was reserved for the prophets, priests, and kings. But each of these was a type, pointing us to the true Prophet, Priest and King, the Lord Jesus Christ. And in the New Testament, something remarkable occurs. God the Father and God the Son send forth the Holy Spirit into all believers, pouring Him out upon the church.

Jesus is the Anointed One. Every Christian has subsequently been anointed by the Holy Spirit, that we might be “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son” (Rom. 8:29). The work of missions is Jesus’ work. He came proclaiming the Good News that is found in him alone. And so we take up that banner and go into all the world and proclaim him. “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

So let us look to Jesus in the work of mission, relying on the Holy Spirit to accomplish the work, as we plant and water the seed of the gospel wherever we go, knowing that “God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7).