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To the ends of the earth


In his grace God has provided all kinds of opportunities to carry this message to the ends of the earth. Social media can be a wonderful tool to touch the lives of people all over the world just as easily as across the back fences of our neighborhoods. My daughter-in-law is one of 40,000 American teaching English to 250,000 Chinese children every day via skype in the comfort of her own home. We have more opportunities now than ever before to share the gospel “to the ends of the earth!”



“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”


“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:

“Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days

that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’”

As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

“ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,

that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.


Dear Friends,


What do you think of when you hear the phrase “to the ends of the earth?” Maybe you think of a new Star Wars movie … but wait that would be to a galaxy far, far away. To people who never leave home, the “ends of the earth” might be traveling all the way to South Carolina. Paul and Barnabas are in the ancient city of Pisidian Antioch. At the time it was a busy Roman provincial capital in Galatia – modern day Turkey. This might have seemed like “the ends of the earth” to John Mark who abandoned Paul and Barnabas while they traveled through the mountainous terrain from Perga to Antioch. Paul and Barnabas would not stop moving forward though because God had commanded them to bring salvation to the ends of the earth and that included Antioch of Pisidia.


In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This is the mission of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and the mission of our church body - the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Today we want to focus on the mission Jesus has given us. Our mission is to

Bring Salvation to the Ends of the Earth.

  1. By proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through Jesus.

  2. By speaking the word of the Lord to the world.

When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Antioch, they had been invited to speak “a word of exhortation” in the synagogue (13:15). Paul began by reviewing the history of God’s salvation carried on through the Jews from their stay in Egypt to the time of David. He then moves the conversation to the execution of Jesus at the hands of his own Jewish people. He told them about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Then our text begins with the wonderful results of Jesus’ saving work. It is a personal appeal from Paul for them to believe what Jesus has done for you! “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (vs 38).


The forgiveness of sins is an impossibility if it were dependent on mankind to achieve. Following the law of Moses cannot save you. Your best efforts to hit a home run in “good deed doing” cannot save you. Listen: “Through him (Jesus) everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (vs 39).

The Law of Moses caused nothing but heartache for the Jews. No matter how hard they tried to live the right way, they failed.


They knew that God required perfect obedience from his people. But sadly, they had to admit that no one is perfect. Many people still rely on doing something to earn eternal life. It is ingrained in natural man to think that he can do something to please God. Islam with its 5 Pillars, Buddhism with its Eightfold Path, and Hinduism with it hundreds of millions of gods and tens of millions of reincarnations are all religions that teach people to depend on their own works for salvation. Even many nominally Christian churches teach people to rely on their own works rather than trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.


But it is only through Jesus that we have the complete certainty that we are free from sin, justified before God! People only need Jesus! It is our goal to bring his salvation to the ends of the earth. So, we preach that message here at Prince of Peace. There are no strings attached to the forgiveness of sins. You don’t have to do something for God or the church to make sure you are going to heaven. Jesus forgave your sins when he rose from the dead. You are safe. A friend of mine who used to serve as a pastor in Huntsville, Alabama now is a missionary in Africa. He writes that the children in the bush country know that when water is poured on the heads of babies in the name of the Triune God, those babies have the forgiveness of sins. He writes that the children watch their parents receive unleavened bread and wine in communion and the children know that their parents are receiving the forgiveness of sins. Proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through Jesus is going out to the ends of the earth!


Paul quotes Isaiah 49:6 where God the Father says to his Son, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” Paul, however, inspired by the Holy Spirit, before quoting those words says, “For this is what the Lord has commanded us.” There is no contradiction. Jesus is “the light of the world,” but Jesus also calls believers “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). We illuminate the world by shining with the reflected light of Jesus Christ.


Bring salvation to the ends of the earth by speaking the word of the Lord to the world. Paul and Barnabas were “invited” to speak further at the synagogue on the next Sabbath (13:32). In fact, some translations say they were “begged” to tell them more about Jesus. And when they spoke the word of God, we are told that “almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” Somehow God always gives us an audience. He opens doors for us to share his word with other people. We don’t convert anyone. The law convicts us of our sin and the gospel calls sinners to repentance.


In his grace God has provided all kinds of opportunities to carry this message to the ends of the earth. Social media can be a wonderful tool to touch the lives of people all over the world just as easily as across the back fences of our neighborhoods. My daughter-in-law is one of 40,000 American teaching English to 250,000 Chinese children every day via skype in the comfort of her own home. We have more opportunities now than ever before to share the gospel “to the ends of the earth!”


Here are examples of our church body bringing salvation to the ends of the earth. This is a letter from the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam addressed to the WELS. “We thank you for the WELS training for the past three years. Now, we believe that we have salvation. Without that, today we would still be living in the darkness of Satan. We believe that God already answered our prayers through the WELS.” https://wels.net/the-lord-blesses-hmong-outreach-in-vietnam/. A generation ago we were fighting a war in Vietnam! Now we have brothers and sister in Christ there! Such opportunities to share the gospel are a gift from God who routinely does more than we can ask or imagine.


More than a decade ago our church body was forced to make drastic cuts in world missions, including cutting a traveling seminary that was training future pastors all over Latin America. Today millions of Latin Americans connect to Facebook via their smartphones. More than a million Latins connect to Academia Cristo’s Facebook page. They come from nearly every country in Central and South America. Some 4,000 are requesting to participate in online classes in order to learn more of what God’s Word reveals to us. One of the goals of the Latin America mission team is to identify those who have the ability and the desire to be educated as evangelists and pastors to start new churches in countries we ourselves cannot go.


The Joint Mission Council of the WELS is supporting outreach efforts to Hmong, Hispanic, South Asian, Sudanese, Liberian, Vietnamese, and Chinese people living in the U.S. In many cases, these immigrants go back home and share the gospel hope they now possess with relatives and friends in the countries from which they emigrated. “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” Sure, there was opposition and hardships along the way. But the word of God spread and “All who were appointed for eternal life believed.”


Not everyone can personally carry the good news of forgiveness to the ends of the earth. Not everyone can teach a Bible study in Nepal; instruct a seminary student in Russia; teach in a school in Peridot, Arizona. Don’t forget that “to the ends of the earth” includes everyone we work and live near too – from the doubting cynic in the next cubicle to the family that just moved in down the street from you. “To the ends of the earth” came here to us somehow. Now it is our message to share in our pulpits. Pray that God will set our hearts on fire to share the word of God with everyone we meet. Pitch in and invite your friends to come to church with you to hear more about Jesus.


At first glance, the command the Lord has given us, to bring salvation to the ends of earth, seems staggering, impossible. However, a quick glance at wels.net reveals that God is already enabling our church body to go to the ends of the earth. The God who made his Son a light for the Gentiles has called us to bring the light of his salvation to the ends of the earth. With the gospel of forgiveness and the power of his Spirit, he is equipping his followers in congregations just like ours to do just that.


In Antioch people were “glad and honored the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:48). I hope you have that same joy and desire to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”


Amen.


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Pastor:  Jonathan Neumann

706-860-1600

Email: pastorjonathanneumann@gmail.com

Preschool Director: Jeanne Thomas

706-860-1655

Email: princeofpeacepreschoolga@gmail.com

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