December 16, 2017

Baptists and World-Wide Missions

J. Whitcomb Brougher, D. D.
Pastor, Temple Baptist Church, Los Angeles, Calif.

Editorial note: We are in the midst of a series of posts from the messages delivered at the Pre-Convention Conference of the Northern Baptist Convention, 1920. From the Conference the Fundamental Fellowship was formed which is today known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. The messages from the conference were published in a book called Baptist Fundamentals. The book has been digitized by Maranatha Baptist University and is available as part of the Roger Williams Heritage Archives collection in Logos format, available here. Links to previous posts will appear at the end of this post.

This message concludes the series.

The mission of the Baptists is defined by Scripture. I wish to base what I have to say on two texts: Phil. 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ,” and Acts 16:9, 10, “A vision appeared to Paul in the night: There was a man of Macedonia standing, beseeching him, and saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And when he had seen the vision, straightway we sought to go forth into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel unto them.”

The motto of Paul’s life was enunciated in the words to the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ.” It was around this principle that every thought, word, and action in the apostle’s life revolved. Wherever he was, he was living the Christ life. This motto should be the center of every Christian’s life. It should be the principle around which the life of the denomination revolves. It is Paul’s definition of life. Some people have said, “Join me and money, and that will be life.” Others have said, “Join me and pleasure, and that will be life.” Still others have said, “Join me and fame, and that will be life.” But Paul defines life as that mysterious union between the believer and Christ himself. Being united with Christ wherever he went, whether to Jerusalem, Macedonia, or Rome, he testified by word of mouth and manner of life for Jesus Christ. The world-wide mission of Baptists is for the members to live Christ and preach Christ to every creature in the whole world. In our Baptist churches there are enough members, if consecrated to the service, to evangelize the world in a few years. There is money enough in our membership, if it were dedicated to the service of Christ, to finance this world program. There is divine power enough promised through Christ to enable us to perform this great task. Jesus said: “All authority (which implies power) is given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go, make disciples of the nations; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the age.” Equipped thus, with members, money, and power, the church of Christ cannot be true to her Lord and undertake anything less than the evangelization of the whole world. The door is open for the progress of the gospel in every land in the world. The simple question is, How are we going to gear up the spiritual forces of our denomination to the great task of preaching Christ to the world?

At the present time, our denomination is bearing witness along four great lines: Our missionaries are preaching Christ; they are conducting educational work with a view to building Christ character; they have their ministry of healing that they may introduce Christ to the sick and distressed; they have their industrial work through which they are seeking to establish the principles of Jesus Christ in the industrial life of the people of all nations. Out of all these combined efforts, the one great objective of evangelizing the world and hastening the coming of the kingdom of God is to be found. In order that we may inspire our people to an enthusiastic undertaking of our great mission, I wish to suggest three V’s: The Vision; The Voice; The Volition.

I. The Vision

1. The Vision of Christ. Paul says (2 Cor. 3:18), “We all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.” We do not have the privilege of beholding the Lord with our physical eyes. We may get a fresh revelation of him, however, through the medium of the New Testament record of his words and actual achievements of his life and the consummate beauty of his character. These are the mirrors in which we may behold our Lord. Jesus said, “Ye search the Scriptures because ye think that in them ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.” Words are a reflection of a man’s character. I meet a stranger; we speak to each other; the special accent of his voice and the words he uses tell me that he is an Englishman. I meet another, and his language reveals that he is a Scotchman. I meet another; the intonation, the special mellow accent of his voice tell me that he is from the South. Words reflect a man’s life. They reveal his education, or lack of it. They reveal his purposes and his ideals. No man can read the New Testament and meditate upon the words of him who spake as never man spake, and not feel the transforming power of those words and get a new vision of Christ’s purposes for a lost world. I received a letter the other day from my wife. Two of my children were graduating, a daughter from college and a son from high school. Another son is preaching the gospel of Christ as a young theological student. Still another daughter is honorably married and living in a happy home. The words of that letter were expressions of gratitude and love. My wife was thanking God for the four children that were making their parents’ lives so happy by their love for their parents and obedience to their will. That letter was a revelation of that mother’s heart. Read the New Testament through the eyes of love, and there will be revealed to you the vision of Christ’s heart and his purpose to redeem a sin-cursed world.

We get a still further revelation of his wonderful purpose for humanity through the actual deeds he performed. “Go with him to the wedding, learn there his thoughtful consideration for the housewife in an embarrassing circumstance. Follow him to the side of the sick, and see his compassion as he heals them. Kneel with him as he washes the disciples’ feet, and behold his wonderful forgiveness. Most of us would be willing to wash our enemies’ feet if we could use boiling water. Stand beside the cross and see him die, and as he is dying hear him say: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” When we behold the marvelous character of Jesus Christ revealed in his words and his acts, when we meditate upon the spirit animating his life and prompting his words and deeds, our hearts burn within us, we are inspired with a new determination to do his will and to carry out the mission he has given to us.

The contemplation of Jesus Christ transforms our own character and gives unto us the power of revealing him through our words and actions to men and women who have rebelled against God and rejected his love. A boy of eighteen, an only son, ran away from home. He left a message for his father and mother in which he told them that he had gone to make his own way in the world. He declined to accept their help any more and refused to go to college. A few days after he had gone, the father called me up on the phone and asked me to help him find the boy. He thought he might be in my Sunday-night congregation. I announced on Sunday night that I would be glad to see the young man who had left home that week to give him a message from his parents. No response came, but a few days later I had a letter from him in San Francisco. He asked me to cheer up his father and mother, tell them that he was all right, but that he was not coming home. I told the parents, and they asked me to go to San Francisco and have a talk with him. After a few days, I made arrangements to go. Before I went, though, I looked into the face of my own son just eighteen and graduating from high school. I wanted to put myself in that father’s place. I thought on the feelings I would have if my son had run away. I took the train at night and reached San Francisco the next morning. By noon I had gotten in touch with the young man I was seeking. I prayed earnestly that I might reveal to that boy by word and act the love of his own mother and father. After an hour’s earnest conversation I asked him to kneel and let us pray together, and we did. In the middle of the prayer he began to sob, and when we stood to our feet, he put out his hand and grasped mine and said, “I will go home.” I wired the father and mother to meet us the next morning at the station. When the train rolled in I saw this son fall into the arms of his mother and be welcomed home by his parents. He was fully forgiven, and went to college, and is today living an upright, honorable, successful, happy life. When Christians become so thoroughly imbued with the Spirit of Jesus Christ that their conduct reveals his love and forgiveness, we shall have power to win a runaway world back to Jesus Christ.

2. In the second place, we need a vision of the world. We need to get a conception of the world such as Christ had. Our task is a world-wide one, starting at Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the world. Not merely my home, my church, my city, my State, or my country, but the whole world. I must be as interested in the boy and girl, the man and the woman of China, Japan, India, Africa, and the Islands of the Sea as I am in the boy or man in my own city. Yes, I must be as interested in the boys and girls, men and women of all the world as I am in the boy or the girl of my own home. I have in connection with my church a Newsboys’ Club. Once in a while those boys get into trouble. Six of them were arrested recently for manipulating a slot-machine and running the gum all out. In response to the call for help, I went to the police station and conferred with them and their parents. As those little fellows gathered around me and looked into my face, I felt the same love for them that I would have felt for my own boys. In response to my kind and earnest solicitation, those little fellows promised never to steal again. What I would do for my own boy, I must be willing to do for the other man’s boy. What I would do for my own daughter, I must be willing to do for the other man’s daughter. Hardly a week goes by that I am not in jail — for the sake of somebody’s boy and somebody’s girl.

I have visited many of the wonder spots of the world. I have seen the great gorge of the Grand Canyon, the wonderful mountains of the Pacific Coast, including Alaska. I have traveled through Yellowstone Park, God’s wonderland of the world. I have been to Yosemite Valley and seen its great cliffs. I have visited the great trees in the Mariposa forests; but, my friends, I have never seen anything that can interest me for one moment as can a boy or a girl, a man or a woman. No doubt Jesus Christ loved the beauties of nature, but beyond all other love, beyond all other interest, beyond all other consideration, he was concerned about the welfare of humanity. I want to see mankind through the eyes of Jesus Christ. I want to love them with the same love that he had; I want to have the same interest in my fellow man that he had; I want to touch humanity in every part of the world with the same sympathy and loving service that he gave to the world. It is only as the church of Christ gets the same vision of the world that Jesus had that it will perform the same mission that Christ had to the world.

II. The Voice

There are two voices to which I wish to call special attention:

1. The voice of humanity’s need. Some one has said that all babies cry in the same language; it does not make any difference whether it is a Chinese, Japanese, Indian; or an American baby, they all have the same cry. There is likewise a universal cry of humanity. The world longs for forgiveness from sin. The world longs for perfection. It longs for the power to master temptation. There has never been given to humanity the power to redeem itself nor to live a perfect life. The only name under heaven given among men whereby men may be saved is the name of Jesus Christ. God through Christ does forgive sin; if he did not, there would be no deliverance from it. No man can live a perfect life; if he could begin now to live a perfect life, he could not live more than a perfect life and thereby make amends for past sins. The only possible way whereby the past can be satisfied is through the forgiveness of God. Jesus Christ met the demands of the law and died on Calvary that God might be just and still forgive men.

But the world needs more than forgiveness, it needs regeneration. To be forgiven, and then have no power to conquer the sin that has once mastered you would be useless. But Jesus Christ enters the heart of the believer and by his Spirit gives to him a new nature. The believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. This regeneration is not effected by reform or education. A little tow-headed boy had his head shaved. When he came home, his old baldheaded grandfather said, “Charlie, you are as baldheaded as I am.” The little fellow looked up at his grandfather and said, “Yes, but I have got the roots left.” Reform is cutting off evil habits on the outside, but the roots are left. Regeneration is rooting up the sin. Regeneration is radical. It drives out unselfishness. It implants the Christ spirit and makes possible the development of a Christ man.

Education is not the fundamental need of the world. Regeneration is fundamental. The owner of a wild animal circus told me his experience with a trained panther. The young lady had trained the panther from the time it was a little kitten. She led it around on the street at the end of a chain. She was warned not to do it. She declared that the young panther had been so trained from the time it was a little kitten and had been educated in domestic lines, that it had lost its brutish nature and could be trusted. One day coming down the sawdust trail in the circus, a big ostrich put its head out through the railing of its pen to look at the panther; quick as a flash, the panther grabbed it and bit off the head of the ostrich. The young lady knew then that her panther was not a kitten. The brute nature in man is not to be changed by education. Jesus knew that the fundamental need of human nature is regeneration. He said to Nicodemus, a man of high moral character and thorough education, “Ye must be born again.” Baptists believe in a regenerated church-membership. We believe that the world’s greatest need is a regenerated spirit. The cry of humanity for forgiveness and regeneration must be answered with the gospel of Christ. The world’s discord and confusion will never be allayed until Jesus Christ calms the souls of men as he calmed the Sea of Galilee. Henry Watterson, the great Southern editor, has declared that the world has only one hope, and that is Jesus Christ and him crucified. The souls of men will never be satisfied outside of Christ. Jesus Christ, and he alone, is the solution of every problem known to human experience. An old German in Portland, Oregon, in the financial panic of 1903 went to the bank to get his money. He was handed a clearing-house certificate. He refused to take that — he wanted real money. The president of the bank explained to him the process by which clearing-house certificates took the place of gold or silver and could be used for the same purpose. The banker asked him if he did not understand. The old German replied: “I think I understand, but it don’t give me much satisfaction. It seems to me it is this way: You and your wife put the baby to bed, and in the middle of the night it wake up and cry for milk; you get up and give it a milk-ticket.” The world today is crying for the sincere milk of the world. Some of our higher critics are giving it a milk-ticket. Nothing can take the place of Jesus Christ and his gospel in meeting the fundamental needs of humanity.

2. In the second place, we may hear the voice of Christ saying, “Go, and make disciples of all the nations.” Back of all voices, truer than all other voices, expressing absolute authority is the voice of Jesus Christ. Jesus declared that he was the good Shepherd and that his sheep recognized his voice. To me there is no other supreme authority. There ought to be no higher authority for any Christian than the word of Jesus Christ. When he speaks, his word should be final. It makes very little difference what any preacher or theological professor, or any other man or woman may say or think, but it makes a vast difference to the Christian what Jesus Christ says.

My son was greatly disturbed by one of his theological professors. When he wrote to me about the matter, I told him to listen respectfully to anything his professors had to say, but if their word was in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus Christ, for him to take Christ in preference to the professors. During the war when I was in Europe, I asked for the privilege of going from Coblenz to Paris by way of Cologne and Brussels. The Y. M. C. A. authorities could not give me that privilege. I went to General Liggett, whom I knew, and through his kindness and the courtesy of Colonel Nutt of the Railroad Transportation Department, I was given passes to go by that route. When I started on my trip, I was stopped at various times by army officers. Under ordinary circumstances they would have had the authority to direct my coming and going, but with the passes in my pocket, signed by both Colonel Nutt and General Liggett, I walked past all other officers and recognized no other authority except that of the commanding officer in chief of the army. Joseph Smith, with his Mormon Bible, Mohammed with the Koran, Mrs. Eddy with her so-called Science and Health, philosophers, scientists, and higher critics receive no attention from me if their utterances are in conflict with the simple, plain teaching of Jesus Christ. Baptists have always stood on the fundamental fact that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and his word and his authority supreme authority. No Baptist can be loyal to Jesus Christ and not respond to his command to preach the gospel to every creature in all the world.

III. The Volition

In answer to the vision and the voice, Paul responded immediately with his life. He dedicated all his talents and his powers to performing the mission that God gave him. There is nothing else for the Christian to do if he is a Christian. God blessed Abraham that he should be a blessing. God has never bestowed a blessing upon any individual without expecting that that individual would pass the blessing on. We have been given the gospel and enjoy today the blessings of living in a land of light and liberty and gospel truth. If we perform our sacred duty, we will pass those blessings on to those who have them not. When I went to Europe a friend gave me five hundred dollars just to use in helping the soldiers. If I had spent that money on myself, I should have been recreant to my trust and should have been unfaithful to my benefactor. The greatest joy of my work overseas was the pleasure I had in using that money to minister individually to American soldiers who needed something of cheer to comfort and help them. And God has given to us the unspeakable gift of his Son. He has revealed to us the good news of salvation. How can we be faithful to our trust, how can we enjoy even our Christianity, if we fail to use the blessings God has given us for the distinct purpose of redeeming a lost world?

I knew a preacher twenty-five years ago who received money from the president of his seminary in order to complete his education. After his graduation, he located at a good church. He never made any effort to pay the money back. After a couple of years, the president of the institution wrote him about the matter. The preacher did not answer the letter. The president wrote him again, but no reply. Finally, I received a letter asking me to interview the man and see why he ignored the matter entirely. I discovered that he thought the denomination owed him an education and felt under no obligation even to respond in the case. He was a contemptible ingrate. We all agree that his attitude was unpardonable. Yet I know of thousands of Baptists who have received all the blessings of God’s grace, and to his request that we carry the message of salvation to our fellow men everywhere they make absolutely no response. Paul responded and responded immediately. We read that “straightway” he went. He did not hesitate. A colored porter was once asked if the train stopped at a certain station. He replied, “No, sir, she don’t even hesitate.” In answer to the voice of the world’s need and the supreme voice of Jesus Christ, his people should not even hesitate in carrying out the Great Commission.

When Dewey at the opening of the Spanish-American War received from President McKinley a message which read, “Capture or destroy the Spanish fleet,” he did not hesitate a moment. With the vessels under his command, he sailed away to Manila. He arrived early in the morning of May 1. Before breakfast he had performed his duty and sent back the thrilling word, “I have performed my duty and destroyed the Spanish fleet.” In this hour of the world’s greatest need, in this time when humanity is seeking for some solution of the great problems in every sphere of life, the church of Christ should answer that need by preaching Christ everywhere. In answer to the command of Jesus there ought to come an immediate response: “We have obeyed our orders and have taken Christ to all the world.”

Link to Baptist Fundamentals and other works available in Logos format as part of the Roger Williams Heritage Archives, produced by Maranatha Baptist University.

Baptist Fundamentals series:


Baptist Fundamentals: Opening Address

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals: Opening Address

Historic Baptist Principles? … or the seed of defeat in the soil of revival

Baptist Fundamentals: Fidelity to Our Baptist Heritage (1)

Baptist Fundamentals: Fidelity to Our Baptist Heritage (2)

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals: Fidelity to Our Baptist Heritage

Baptist Fundamentals: The Divine Unity of Holy Scripture

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals: The Divine Unity of Holy Scripture

Baptist Fundamentals – The Significance of the Ordinances

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals – The Significance of the Ordinances

Northern Baptists and the Deity of Christ

Comments on Northern Baptists and the Deity of Christ

An Unexpected Message

Comments on An Unexpected Message

The Bible at the Center of the Modern University (1)

The Bible at the Center of the Modern University (2)

Comments on The Bible at the Center of the Modern University

The Baptist Program of Evangelism

Comments on The Baptist Program of Evangelism

Things Not Shaken

Comments on Things Not Shaken

Modernism in Baptist Schools (Part 1)

Modernism in Baptist Schools (Part 2)

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.