TODAY’S READING: 1 Corinthians 15–16
Paul wrote to the Gentile Greek Christians in Corinth, “I am not worthy to be a missionary, but by the grace of God I am what I am, laboring by God’s grace so that the gospel is preached among the nations” (see 1 Cor. 15:9–11). Corinthians is a missionary letter with a missionary message, a message that centers on the deity of Jesus and the age to come (vv. 17, 19). Over and again the missionary Paul pointed to the looming wrath of God, the merciful love of God, and the coming eternal reign of God that will be inclusive of all peoples.
Our missionary Bible ever directs our attention to the age to come, that great and glorious day of the Lord when King Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, to destroy all evil, and to set up His glorious kingdom. We are not to fixate on this shadowy life with all its flaws and wickedness; instead, we fix our eyes on the soon coming King and strain our ears for the trumpet blast. We are not to worry about death, for the dead do indeed rise to life eternal. We will rise incorruptible, powerful, and honorable, and we shall bear the image of the heavenly Man (vv. 42, 49). We will all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (vv. 41–42). The missionary message we declare across this broken world to every broken culture is that the awful realities of this life need not despair us, that the partial beauty of now cannot satisfy, that we were made for the world to come.
If we will preach this missionary message of eternal life with authority, if we with authenticity will ask, “O Death, where is your sting?”, then we must live with a certain estrangement from this world and a great anticipation of heaven. A necessary condition of the missionary heart is a beatific longing for heaven. If we shake with the glad desire for Jesus to come that we might live forever in His glorious presence, our message is authenticated. If we are to preach repentance with power, we must also hold out the hope of heaven with palpable joy. What makes us steadfast and immovable is that, even with the constant instability here on earth, nothing changes regarding God’s promise of eternal life in His glorious heaven.
Missionary Paul let the Corinthians know he might pass by but not stay, for his eyes were always on the open doors despite the many adversaries. In a few breathes, Paul mentioned Galatia, Ephesus, Achaia, and Asia. The gospel must ever go forth to the uttermost peoples and places. It was the ambition of Paul—why? So that we can all go home and be with Jesus. The missionary heart has no time for banal pleasantries as its focus is on paradise for all willing to repent. The missionary heart ever pursues the next unreached people and place because it longs for its heavenly home.