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It is so important for Christians to pray for the unsaved.

The great Baptist preacher and Englishman from the 19th century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, posed an interesting question on the subject:

It is also important to pray for missionaries, whether at home or abroad, as they follow Matthew 28:16-20, The Great Commission:

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I have known Christians who object to missionaries, calling them busybodies, but those men and women are at the forefront of doing the Lord’s work, often at great risk to themselves and their families.

Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 16:10-11

10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

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Last week’s entry was about Paul’s travel plans: staying in Ephesus until Pentecost, then going to Macedonia and, if the Lord willed it, a considerable stay in Corinth afterwards.

Paul was sending Timothy to Corinth to do the Lord’s work; Paul instructed the congregation to put Timothy at ease (verse 10).

Timothy was young and fresh faced. Paul wanted him to be his emissary, giving hard truths to the Corinthians, who were likely to be a tough audience as they were already divided by various teachers, some of whom were false.

Matthew Henry’s commentary lays out what Timothy faced (emphases mine):

Timothy was sent by the apostle to correct the abuses which had crept in among them; and not only to direct, but to blame, and censure, and reprove, those who were culpable. They were all in factions, and no doubt the mutual strife and hatred ran very high among them. There were some very rich, as it is probable; and many very proud, upon account both of their outward wealth and spiritual gifts. Proud spirits cannot easily bear reproof. It was reasonable therefore to think young Timothy might be roughly used; hence the apostle warns them against using him ill. Not but that he was prepared for the worst; but, whatever his firmness and prudence might be, it was their duty to behave themselves well towards him, and not discourage and dishearten him in his Lord’s work. They should not fly out into resentment at his reproof. Note, Christians should bear faithful reproofs from their ministers, and not terrify and discourage them from doing their duty.

Paul entreats the Corinthians not to despise Timothy but to ‘help him on his way in peace’, because Paul is expecting his return as were others (verse 11).

Henry says that Paul wants to point out that, even though Timothy is junior in rank to him, he was invested with the same authority to do the same work of the Lord:

He did not come on Paul’s errand among them, nor to do his work, but the work of the Lord. Though he was not an apostle, he was assistant to one, and was sent upon this very business by a divine commission. And therefore to vex his spirit would be to grieve the Holy Spirit; to despise him would be to despise him that sent him, not Paul, but Paul’s Lord and theirs. Note, Those who work the work of the Lord should be neither terrified nor despised, but treated with all tenderness and respect. Such are all the faithful ministers of the word, though not all in the same rank and degree. Pastors and teachers, as well as apostles and evangelists, while they are doing their duty, are to be treated with honour and respect.

Henry says that Paul was expecting a full account of the Corinthians from Timothy upon his return:

Conduct him forth in peace, that he may come to me, for I look for him with the brethren (1 Corinthians 16:11; 1 Corinthians 16:11); or I with the brethren look for him (the original will bear either), ekdechomai gar auton meta ton adelphon“I am expecting his return, and his report concerning you; and shall judge by your conduct towards him what your regard and respect for me will be. Look to it that you send him back with no evil report.” Paul might expect from the Corinthians, that a messenger from him, upon such an errand, should be regarded, and well treated. His services and success among them, his authority with them as an apostle, would challenge this at their hands. They would hardly dare to send back Timothy with a report that would grieve or provoke the apostle. “I and the brethren expect his return, wait for the report he is to make; and therefore do not use him ill, but respect him, regard his message, and let him return in peace.”

John MacArthur’s sermon has another British missionary story from the 19th century. It is about a Scot, John Gibson Paton (1824-1907), a devout Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter) who ministered to the cannibals of the New Hebrides:

Paton was a Bible student – a Bible college student in London. God called him to go to the New Hebrides Islands where there were man-eating cannibals. You know, that would be a hard thing for a young Bible college student to say yes to, wouldn’t it? I know what I’d have said. I would have said, “Lord, you’ve got the wrong guy. Are you sure my gifts are fit for that?” Or I would have said, “Look, I graduated Lord. I can make it in the ministry. No sense in me being somebody’s lunch. All this effort?” I would have said, “Look, Lord, I’ve got a great idea. I know a Bible college dropout who’ll never make it in the ministry. Send him there; they’ll eat him, and who will know.” The guy will be a hero. Right? Leave me alone will you? I can cut it.

But John Paton didn’t argue with God. The Lord said go, so he went. Took his little wife, a ship let them off, they paddled to shore in a little rowboat. They were there on an island inhabited by man-eating cannibals whose language they did not speak. And they had no way to contact them. They set up a little hut at the beach and the Lord marvelously preserved them. Later on when the chief of the tribe in that area was converted to Christ, he asked John who that army was that surrounded his hut every night. God’s holy angels protected him. After a matter of weeks there, his wife gave birth to a baby, and the baby and the wife both died. He was all alone and he says in his biography that he slept on the graves to keep the natives from digging up the bodies and eating them. And he decided he’d stay.

The challenge was great, the adversaries were many and that was where God wanted him, so he stayed. How do you do that by yourself? You do that by being totally depending on God. Accept the challenge, because it’s in the challenge where your resources run out and you depend on God and it’s where you depend on God that His power flows to victories that you never dreamed possible. It’s to the one who really labors for the Lord and does the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way, has a vision for the future, a sense of flexibility, a thoroughness, not superficial, has a commitment to present service, and accepts opposition as an opportunity or a challenge.

Paton’s Wikipedia entry has more.

The inhabitants of Tanna, where the Patons had settled in 1858, were fierce. Yet, Paton survived many attacks on his life. There was one time when he was in a near-death situation, but, providentially, a ship arrived at the island just in time to rescue him and, from the other side of Tanna, two other missionaries, Mr and Mrs Mathieson. The ship took them to another island in the New Hebrides, Aneityum.

From Aneityum, Paton went to Australia then returned to Scotland to recruit new missionaries and to raise funds for evangelising in the New Hebrides. Some of the money went towards building a ship. Later on, he was able to have a steamship built for the missionaries.

In 1864, while he was in Scotland, he remarried. Margaret (Maggie) Whitecross accompanied her husband to the New Hebrides. They settled on Aniwa, the island closest to Tanna. Paton wrote that the inhabitants were just as cruel as those on Tanna.

Incredibly, Maggie bore ten children, four of whom died at very young ages. One of their sons became a missionary in the New Hebrides.

John Paton learned the language of Aniwa and put it into writing, enabling him to translate the New Testament for the islanders. It was printed in 1899. By then, he had enabled the establishment of missionaries on 25 of the 30 islands in the New Hebrides.

Maggie taught the women and girls to weave hats and sew. She also taught them the tenets of Christianity.

As Paton had some medical training, he and his wife were able to minister to the sick, dispensing medicines daily.

Paton held a service every Sunday. He also taught the men how to use modern tools.

By the end of his ministry on Aniwa, he and his wife had trained local teachers to preach the Gospel. By the time they left for Australia, the whole island professed the Christian faith.

The Patons retired in Victoria State, where Melbourne is located. Maggie died in Kew in 1905 at the age of 64. John died in Canterbury in 1907. He was 82, which is an amazing age, considering he had ministered to cannibals and had to contend with all sorts of tropical diseases.

The Patons’ ministry was a Pauline one involving a deep, guiding faith as well as perseverance against all adversity. It is an amazing story.

Returning to today’s reading, next week’s post details Paul’s final instructions to the Corinthians. As ever in his closing chapters, the Apostle names several people doing the Lord’s work and his satisfaction with them.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 16:12-18

Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 16:5-9

Plans for Travel

5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

——————————————————————————————

Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians to contribute generously to the fund he was collecting for the poverty-stricken church in Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 16 is the closing chapter to his first letter to the church in Corinth. As such, Paul wraps up with practical details.

Today’s passage could be subtitled: ‘Doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way’.

When I studied the Book of Acts, one of the memorable chapters was Acts 16, specifically Acts 16:6-10, when Paul received two divine messages telling him he had to leave Asia Minor and travel westward to Macedonia (emphases mine):

The Macedonian Call

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul[a] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Paul prayed often to do the Lord’s bidding in His way. He made plans but changed them when necessary.

Interestingly, we have a mention of Macedonia in today’s verses. Paul says that he will visit Corinth after his intended trip there (verse 5).

John MacArthur explains that Paul was in Ephesus at this time:

First Corinthians was written by Paul at the end of a three year stay in the city of Ephesus. Paul took 1 Corinthians after he’d written it, handed it to Timothy, and sent Timothy with it. Now, originally, according to 2 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 15 and 16, originally Paul had planned to follow Timothy – just a little while after Timothy left, Paul was going to leave and he was going to come along right to Corinth, then to Macedonia, then back to Corinth. He had a plan.

But now as he writes here – of course in 2 Corinthians, he’s reflecting way back to his original plan – and here he says, I’ve changed my plan. “I will come to you when I have passed through Macedonia.” So instead of Corinth, Macedonia, Corinth; it’s going to be straight to Macedonia then to Corinth, and then I’m going to go back to Jerusalem. So, he had this plan working out. And it had to change now and then, but basically he had made a plan for the future.

Paul says that he would like an extended stay with the Corinthians, perhaps through the winter, so that they can help him on his journey (verse 6).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that the help Paul desires is practical and moral support:

It is plain that he hoped for some good effect, because he says he intended to stay, that they might bring him on his journey whithersoever he went (1 Corinthians 16:6; 1 Corinthians 16:6); not that they might accompany him a little way on the road, but expedite and furnish him for his journey, help and encourage him to it, and provide him for it.

Paul reiterates his hope of an extended stay in Corinth rather than a brief visit, ‘if the Lord permits’ (verse 7). He was ever conscious of the Lord’s will in his ministry.

Anyone who is a student of 1 Corinthians or has read my series on the book knows that they were in a bad way with some of their habits and conduct. MacArthur reminds us:

the Corinthian church is in a hot spot of paganism. The Corinthian church has got problems all over the place. The Corinthian church is in a desperate situation. And Paul says, look, I’ve got to come to be with you. And I’m going to have to do that in the future and I’m even planning – look at verse 6 – to spend the winter with you and have you give me some supplies so that wherever I go from there my needs will be met. I’m going to stay. You’ve got some needs.

For the time being, Paul is staying in Ephesus until Pentecost (verse 8). The city is providing a productive ministry for him — ‘a wide door for effective work’ — even amidst his adversaries (verse 9).

Henry offers this analysis:

A great door and effectual was opened to him; many were prepared to receive the gospel at Ephesus, and God gave him great success among them; he had brought over many to Christ, and he had great hope of bringing over many more. For this reason he determined to stay awhile at Ephesus. Note, Success, and a fair prospect of more, was a just reason to determine an apostle to stay and labour in a particular place. And there were many adversaries, because a great door, and an effectual, was opened. Note, Great success in the work of the gospel commonly creates many enemies. The devil opposes those most, and makes them most trouble, who most heartily and successfully set themselves to destroy his kingdom. There were many adversaries; and therefore the apostle determined to stay.

Henry offers a note from the Roman world on Paul’s use of ‘wide door’, relating it to his adversaries:

Some think he alludes in this passage to the custom of the Roman Circus, and the doors of it, at which the charioteers were to enter, as their antagonists did at the opposite doors. True courage is whetted by opposition; and it is no wonder that the Christian courage of the apostle should be animated by the zeal of his adversaries. They were bent to ruin him, and prevent the effect of his ministry at Ephesus; and should he at this time desert his station, and disgrace his character and doctrine? No, the opposition of adversaries only animated his zeal.

MacArthur’s sermon, which he preached in 1977, has fascinating anecdotes pertaining to seminary, pastoral work and missionary dreams.

He speaks of his own ministry at Grace Church and watching the building work expand. He relates this to doing things properly, according to plans and the right codes:

Now I remember when all the buildings around Grace Church were going up. When I first came here, was that one little education building and the chapel. And since then all these other buildings have gone up. And I’ve learned a lot about building – I didn’t know anything about it – but just by watching. And I learned at least some basic things, and this was the key thing in relation to what I want to say to you this morning. That you have to build according to plans, according to code, and you’ve got to pass the inspection. In other words, you’ve got some plans; it’s got to be like that. And then, it’s got to be like the code that city requires and then the inspector’s got to make sure it’s all right. And you know something, when you’re doing the work of the Lord, you’ve got to do it according to the plan that the Spirit of God lays out, according to the code of service which God has established, and you’ve got allow it to be exposed to the divine inspector who’ll tell you whether it does any good or not.

He says that some seminarians expect the perfect job to fall into their laps after graduation. That is not the way the ministry works. A seminarian needs to have a vision of and a plan for ministry:

I’m afraid that there are some people even in seminary, some young people in seminary, they’re just going through the motions of seminary trying to get the grades done. They’re not involved in an effective dynamic ministry now, so they’re not proving themselves faithful for a future one. And they’re not strategizing for anything in the future and then when they come out of school, they really don’t have anything to, because they haven’t prepared themselves to do anything by the route of faithfulness, and they haven’t planned to do anything by virtue of evaluating the need and setting a strategy. You’ve got to be ready. You think God’s going to buy a pig in a poke and throw you out and hold His fingers? No. When God wants somebody to do a job, God wants somebody to do it who’s ready to do it, proven ready, and has a plan to do it.

You know all the time I was working for Talbot Seminary – just to give you a personal illustration – all the time that I was involved in preaching all over the country, I was planning how I would pastor a church when God gave me the opportunity. So that by the time the Lord opened the opportunity at Grace, I knew just exactly what God wanted me to do here. Now there’s been some changes and some growing and development, but those were the years that I was framing the thing that I was going to do, so that when the door opened I was ready to do it. You see, training for service is not just a matter of learning some Bible facts and hanging around waiting for God to drop you like a big guru from heaven into the perfect situation and say, “Go.” See? It’s a matter of you being faithful in the present, of you working hard in the present, of you being involved in the Lord’s work in the present, and of you laying out a plan so that when the day comes and the door opens you are ready to go …

Let’s look at the second point. The one who does the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way not only has a vision for the future – I love this – he has a sense of flexibility. You know what? The future may not all come together like you thought it would. So you’ve got to be flexible. This is so good. You get some people that say, well, I know exactly what God wants me to do. I have the gift of A, and I have the so forth of B, and I obviously have the talents of C. Therefore, that equals that I do this. And until that comes along, I’m certainly not going to go over to that place and do that. That’s just not exactly what fits me. Oh, boo on that. That’s bad. See? Well you get yourself all convinced in your own mind that you will do this. You’ve just eliminated one very great element of Christian service: Doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way demands a sense of flexibility.

He tells stories of two British missionaries, who, against all the odds, ending up in faraway foreign lands winning souls for the Lord.

One was William Carey (1761-1834) from England, a Particular (Calvinist) Baptist, the father of modern missions:

William Carey, the great pioneer of modern missions, cobbled shoes in England. But you know what he did while he cobbled shoes? Right in front of his face, every day, was a map of the world. And he wept over it, and he prayed over it, and he planned over it, and he strategized over it. And one day God hit the launch button and said you’re gone from the shoe business, William Carey. And he landed in India, and he opened India to the gospel for every missionary who’s gone there since. And God used a man who was a faithful man in the present who proved himself a capable man, and it was a man who had a vision for the future. And he planned and when the time came, he was ready – vital.

The second was David Livingstone (1813-1873), a Scottish physician and Congregationalist, best known in popular culture for meeting Henry Stanley in Africa. Stanley famously asked, ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’

Of him, MacArthur says:

Did you know that all his life David Livingstone had his heart set on going as a missionary to China? Did you know that? David Livingstone all his life wanted to go to China. David Livingstone was disappointed all his life because he never got there, but one day God punched the button on his life and he wound up where? In Africa. And David Livingstone did for Africa what William Carey did f[or] India. He opened it to the missionaries who’ve been there ever since. Flexibility. You see the need and the door is open and you’re a prepared heart and you’ve got a plan, God may launch you in an area you never dreamed possible.

According to Wikipedia, Livingstone’s primary goal was to eradicate the slave trade in Africa:

Livingstone advocated the establishment of trade and religious missions in central Africa, but abolition of the African slave trade, as carried out by the Portuguese of Tete and the Arab Swahili of Kilwa, became his primary goal. His motto—now inscribed on his statue at Victoria Falls—was “Christianity, Commerce and Civilization“, a combination that he hoped would form an alternative to the slave trade, and impart dignity to the Africans in the eyes of Europeans.[17] He believed that the key to achieving these goals was the navigation of the Zambezi River as a Christian commercial highway into the interior.[18] He returned to Britain to garner support for his ideas, and to publish a book on his travels which brought him fame as one of the leading explorers of the age.

Livingstone believed that he had a spiritual calling for exploration to find routes for commercial trade which would displace slave trade routes, rather than for preaching. He was encouraged by the response in Britain to his discoveries and support for future expeditions, so he resigned from the London Missionary Society in 1857.

Livingstone left a convert of his to evangelise in southern Africa, Sechele, who was the chief of the Kwena people in Botswana:

After Livingstone left the Kwena tribe, Sechele remained faithful to Christianity and led missionaries to surrounding tribes as well as converting nearly his entire Kwena people. In the estimation of Neil Parsons of the University of Botswana, Sechele “did more to propagate Christianity in 19th-century southern Africa than virtually any single European missionary”.

Livingstone left a good name for himself in Africa, according to Alvyn Austin, who wrote an article about the explorer in 1997:

at a time when countries are being renamed and statues are being toppled, Livingstone has not fallen. Despite modern Africans’ animosity toward other Europeans, such as Cecil Rhodes, Livingstone endures as a heroic legend. Rhodesia has long since purged its name, but the cities of Livingstone (Zambia) and Livingstonia (Malawi) keep the explorer’s appellation with pride.

But I digress.

In closing, MacArthur advises us to plan, do the Lord’s work and be ready for the future:

… if you’re going to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way, that means you’re going to have a vision for the future. You’re going to have a sense of flexibility. You’re going to have a work that’s not superficial, and you’re going to have a commitment to a present service, a present ministry that’s fruitful and effective. And then, when the time comes for God to punch your launch button into that future, you’re going to be ready, you’re going to be proven, and you’ll have worked through the principles that’ll work in that new dimension of ministry. People, let’s us be always abounding in the work of the Lord, and let’s do it so it’s not in vain but so it’s to His glory. That means every one of us, whatever our gifts and abilities and callings are.

Next week, Paul gives the Corinthians advice on how to treat Timothy.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 16:10-11

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