By Norman Manzon
With our last Shofar, we completed an extensive exposition of the We Believe statement of The Association of Messianic Congregations. Nevertheless, the author has recognized a need to back up and fill in some blanks, which he has begun to do in this edition.
In Shofars 13 and 14 respectively, we addressed two faces of the body of Messiah: The Universal Body of Messiah and The Local Congregation; but there is one more face that needs to be examined which, in other circles, would comfortably be called the missionary band, but which will here be called the ambassadorial band in deference to those for whom the first title may stir up unpleasant cultural memories.
This is our forty-seventh study in a series that provides scriptural underpinnings for each of the points in our AMC doctrinal statement. Links to all studies composed thus far may be found in our Library.
Yours in Yeshua,
As always, we will lay a foundation by considering relevant sections of the We Believe statement of The Association of Messianic Congregations.
It is the call of the body of Messiah as a whole to Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), but it is the pronounced call of particular evangelists (Acts 8:5; 26-35) and the ambassadorial band as a whole to do the actual taking of the gospel to regions it had never touched before. As Paul said to the Romans,
And to the Corinthians: to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another (2 Corinthians 10:16).
Within the limitations of holiness, Paul strove to accommodate to every culture and individual to establish common ground for communication.
In Colossians 4:6, he wrote, Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person; and in Acts 17:22-23, we see Paul walking out that exhortation as he used the Athenians' altar with the inscription, "To the unknown god" as a springboard for communicating the gospel to them.
Paul and his band preached the gospel, established churches, appointed elders and trained new believers to carry on and multiply the Word and the work of the Lord in all of its aspects (2 Timothy 2:2). They preached in hostile areas as readily as safer ones, not hesitating because of what may befall them (Acts 4:19-20, 23-29; 2 Corinthians 11:21-33). The Lord changed their plans in mid-stream (Acts 16:7-9) and they had strong disagreements among themselves (Acts 11:2; 15:36-40; Galatians 2:12-14); yet, the urgency of their mission superceded all resistance and human shortcoming, and they persevered, trusting that God would do His work through them; and He did. As Yeshua promised, so He performed: I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it (Matthew 16:18).
Paulís band had a clear understanding of their mission: It was the mission of their leader, to be an apostle to the Gentiles. It is noteworthy that although God called Peter to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7), yet, wherever the apostle to the Gentiles went he always preached to the Jew first (Romans 1:16) because it was necessary (Acts 13:46) for the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham: in you all the families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). As God used the Jews to bring forth the Law of Moses and the Messiah; as He used them to establish and lay the foundation for the body of Messiah (Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:10) and bless the world with the writings of the New Covenant; as He will yet use them to complete the evangelization of the world (Revelation 7:1-9); so God desires for individual Jews to receive the gospel first in every locale so that they may have the privilege of being the first to share with others. This is not to say that we are to ignore others until we have first shared with every Jew in a particular locale, but it is to say that it is biblical to focus on them first. It is consistent with God's promise to Abraham. A careful reading of the Book of Acts will affirm that Paul always preached to the Jew first. Even when he returned to a place in which he had previously ministered he again preached to the Jew first (Acts 18:19; 19:1-8). To the Jew first is a principle that has never been rescinded, and if the apostle to the Gentiles' practice and proclamation mean anything, it is still necessary for the gospel to be brought to the Jew first in every outreach in every locale where there are Jews.
The local congregation and the
ambassadorial band each recognized the other
as an authorized and specialized form of the Lordís work. They
recognized each other as equals in authority and responsibility, and
served each other. When the Holy Spirit
said, Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I
have called them, the leaders of the congregation at Antioch
sent them out with fasting, prayer and the laying on of hands (Acts
13:1-3). When Paulís journey was diverted by the Lord from Bithynia
to Macedonia, he
immediately. . . sought to go
into Macedonia (Acts
16:7-10), not requiring the permission of either the Antioch or Jerusalem elders.
And [Paul] was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:41).
He settled [in Corinth] a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them (Acts 18:9-11).
To the Ephesian elders, he wrote, night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears (Acts 20:31).
To Titus, he wrote, For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city (Titus 1:5.)
Also, Acts 20:28-32; Romans 16:17-19; Philippians 3:15-16; 1 Corinthians 5; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22.
Paul also ministered to local congregations by means of letters, and he and his band assisted in meeting the practical needs of congregations, as well. When the saints in Jerusalem needed practical assistance, members of his band received donations from local congregations for that purpose (Acts 11:29-30; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
Times have changed, and modern ministries have arisen: Bible translation ministries, mercy ministries, modern evangelistic organizations and the like. In addition, we can now spread the Word through means of communication that would seem inconceivable to Paul and his company. These are well and good; yet, according to the Joshua Project of the U.S. Center for World Mission (joshuaproject.net, 2017), the world is still forty-two per cent unevangelized, and ambassadorial companies akin to Paulís are still needed.
What Yeshua said two thousand years ago still applies: The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).
May God raise up
strong, bold, wise and gifted
men and women to perpetuate the
ambassadorial band and send it to
regions beyond. Let us be open
to a call beyond the people and
places that are closest and most
familiar to us, even as Paul
reached far beyond his own Jewish
Norman Manzon is a Bible teacher in Hawaii
and may be reached