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Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert do an excellent job in their book titled: What Is The Mission of the Church. They examine the pull of the culture and how the Bible intersects with that. At the end of the book I noted a quote by J. Gresham Machen as they summarized their work. Here is part of their summary that includes that quote.

We must never forget that if any are to enjoy cosmic re-creation, they must first experience personal salvation.  Romans 8 must be read more carefully.  Paul does not say individuals will be redeemed as the whole universe is redeemed.  He says the opposite.  Creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God, and creation will be set free from its bondage to corruption only as it is carried along in the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom. 8:19, 21).

Universal shalom will come, but personal redemption comes first—first in temporal sequence, first in theological causality, and first in missions priority.  God will make all things new, but our job in the world is to help all peoples find a new relationship with God.  We are not called to bring a broken planet back to its created glory.  But we are to call broken people back to their Creator.


Our Responsibility


In 1933—in the depths of the Great Depression and in the heyday of theological liberalism—J. Gresham Machen tried to answer the pressing question: What is the church’s responsibility in this new age?  His answer was spot-on back then, and it is no less true three-quarters of a century later:


"The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age.  It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life—no, all the length of human history—is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious, holy, loving God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself to us in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth—no, all the wonders of the starry heavens—are as the dust of the street.

An unpopular message it is—an impractical message, we are told.  But it is the message of the Christian church.  Neglect it, and you will have destruction; heed it, and you will have life."(1)


It is not the church’s responsibility to right every wrong or to meet every need, though we have biblical motivation to do some of both.  It is our responsibility, however—our unique mission and plain priority—that this unpopular, impractical gospel message gets told, that neighbors and nations may know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, they may have life in his name.

[1] J. Gresham Machen, “The Responsibility of the Church in Our New Age,” in J. Gresham Machen: Selected Shorter Writings, ed. D. G. Hart (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2004), 376.

the above from the book What is the Mission of the Church? Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, pp. 248-249


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