“And the Reaching of the Nations”: The 4 Canons (A Review)

Among the many brilliant things that Charles Spurgeon said, the following deserves special attention:

It is the whole business of the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world.

And I have a simple question about this statement: Do you believe that to be true? Do you believe that it is the whole business of the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world?

At our church, we have used the language of “the reaching of the nations,” but Spurgeon’s sentiment is what we mean by that: It is the whole business of the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world. 

I believe Spurgeon’s statement is true. And I believe a lot hinges on whether or not we all think it is true. And I would like for us to all walk out of here believing it is true and living out of the truth of it.

Why is it the whole business of the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world?

It is the whole business of the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world because the whole world is under the power of the devil without the gospel.

Have you ever thought of it in these terms? Our failure to take the gospel to the nations is a functional abandonment of the nations to the power of the devil himself. And that is true whether we are speaking of our neighbors here on our streets or our neighbors in Australia or Siberia or France or Libya or anywhere else in the world. How so? Because only the gospel of Jesus Christ can penetrate the darkness and break the devil’s power as it brings human beings into a living encounter with Jesus Christ.

Outside of Christ, the world languishes under the tyranny of the devil.

In 1 John 5, John writes:

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

The universality of sin (i.e., “For all have sinned…” Romans 3:23) points to the universality of lost mankind’s bondage to the devil. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

Paul agrees with John. In Ephesians 2, Paul writes:

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience

The world is under the power of Satan and only the gospel, the great treasure of the church, can break that power! This worldwide Satanic bondage is stated plainly by John in Revelation 12.

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

“The deceiver of the whole world”! Is not the devil’s worldwide deceit illustrated even in Matthew 4, in the temptations of Jesus? Consider:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

Notably, Jesus does not dispute that the devil had “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” under his dominion. But in saying this, was the devil saying more than he knew? Or no? Was he not acknowledging that Jesus was indeed the true Lord of the nations? H. Cornell Goerner makes a very interesting point in his article, “Jesus and the Gentiles.” He writes:

As we have already seen, the vision of a universal kingdom was integral to the plan of Jesus from the very beginning of his ministry. The fact that one of the wilderness temptations involved “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matt 4:8) is conclusive. Jesus did aspire to world dominion. His ambition to rule over the nations was not wrong. The temptation was to take a shortcut to that noble goal: to adopt the methods of the devil.[1]

I think that is heading in the right direction. Jesus is truly Lord of the nations. Satan had become the deceiver the nations and, in that sense, held them under his sway. But the devil knew who Jesus was and was tempting Jesus to, in Goerner’s words, a diabolical shortcut that would have compromised Jesus’ integrity.

Church: The focus of our mission is the whole world! The nations are our neighborhood!

If you discovered the location of a loved one of yours who was being held captive by some sadistic torturer in some dingy basement of some house of horrors, you would not pause or sleep until you had crashed through the door to liberate them. Correct? But what of the nations who do not know Christ? What of the world enslaved to the devil? What of the lost peoples of the earth, held in the dingy basement of sin by the deceiver?

We must come to see the gospel as liberation, Jesus as the great liberator, and the church as the herald of the good news of liberation! We must charge, forcefully, into the darkness with good news of hope and life!

It is the whole business of the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world because we are explicitly commanded to do so by our King.

We must come to see the church’s evangelistic engagement with the world as both a calling and a privilege. The church is the primary way that the gospel gets to lost people. Jesus makes this abundantly clear! For instance, in Mark 16, we read:

15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

Go! The church is to go! The church is to be a going, engaging, heralding, proclaiming, demonstrating body of believers. In Matthew 28, we get a fuller expression of these words of commission.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in 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.”

Again, go! Make disciples! Baptize! Teach! This is the responsibility and calling of the body of Christ…and, if you are a believer, we are the body of Christ!

In Matthew 24, Jesus presents worldwide gospel proclamation as a necessary aspect of His return.

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The gospel.

Will be.


Throughout the whole world.

To all nations.

Then the end will come!

None of this is pictured as optional, as tangential. Evangelization, taking the gospel to the nations, is at the very heart of the church!

In 1974, at the call of Billy Graham, evangelical leaders from all over the world met in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the historic First International Congress on World Evangelization. Out of that meeting came the Lausanne Covenant which sought to call the church to evangelistic and missional engagement with the world. Section 6 of the covenant reads, in part:

We affirm that Christ sends his redeemed people into the world as the Father sent him, and that this calls for a similar deep and costly penetration of the world. We need to break out of our ecclesiastical ghettos and permeate non-Christian society. In the Church’s mission of sacrificial service, evangelism is primary. World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world. The Church is at the very centre of God’s cosmic purpose and is his appointed means of spreading the gospel.

And, again, in section 9, we read:

More than 2,700 million people, which is more than two-thirds of all humanity, have yet to be evangelized. We are ashamed that so many have been neglected; it is a standing rebuke to us and to the whole Church. There is now, however, in many parts of the world, an unprecedented receptivity to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are convinced that this is the time for churches and para-church agencies to pray earnestly for the salvation of the unreached and to launch new efforts to achieve world evangelization.[2]

My goodness! How true! The reality of human beings who have never heard the gospel “is a standing rebuke to us and to the whole Church.” And, yes, we do indeed “need to break out of our ecclesiastical ghettos and permeate non-Christian society.”

When the church becomes inwardly focused and selfish, the church abandons its high calling to missional engagement with the world.

The church is how Jesus gets His message to the world…for the church is Jesus’ body!

It is the whole business of the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world because the cross is wide enough for the whole world.

The main reason why the church must reach the nations with the gospel is because of the love of God. The cross of Jesus Christ is wide enough for the whole world. Whosoever will may come, but they cannot come if they do not know to come!

In 1 John 2, John writes:

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Jesus is the propitiation for “the sins of the whole world.” Theologian James Leo Garrett defines propitiation as essentially “the removal of wrath and the manifestation of love.”[3] Jesus’ cross offers sufficient satisfaction for the world before God, but we must receive Jesus in faith to come under this satisfaction. And the church is how the world learns of this need to come to Jesus! It is the job of the church to pronounce to the nations: You can flee the wrath to come! The loving arms of Jesus are wide open to you!

Whoever in the world comes to Jesus will be saved and their lives will be transformed. In Colossians 1, Paul writes of the spread of the gospel:

5b …Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth

We must get the gospel to the nations so that it can bring forth fruit of salvation and transformation! Why? Because:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

This verse is so well-known…and so neglected! If God loved the world enough to give, why do we not love the world enough to go?

Church, there simply is not other option, and we simply should want nothing less than to go!

The mission leader Patrick Johnstone was correct we he wrote that “for the mission of the Church, there can be:

  • no valley too isolated
  • no island too distant
  • no forest too dense
  • no mountain too inaccessible
  • no city too fortified
  • no desert too hostile[4]

We must go! The lostness is too devastating and the gospel is too beautiful for us to sit, hoarding it, refusing to share it with the nations.

The arms of the cross stretch wide! Do ours?

The love of God is deep! Is ours?

Christ has come! Will we go?


[1] Goerner, H. Cornell. “Jesus and the Gentiles.” Perspectives. Fourth Edition (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), p.115.

[2] https://lausanne.org/statement/lausanne-covenant#cov

[3] Garrett, James Leo, Jr. Systematic Theology. Volume 2, Second Edition. (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1990), Logos Edition.

[4] Johnstone, Patrick. “Covering the Globe.” Perspectives. Fourth Edition (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), p.547.

One thought on ““And the Reaching of the Nations”: The 4 Canons (A Review)

  1. Praise YE the Lord; thank you so much for this message and it “wrecked” my whole world-view when me came to view the “global mission” by each church; it was devestating at the time since me grew up in “another” kind of nominal church; it was Operation World book that Mr. Johnstone put together that reduced me to nothing…… me got real small, real fast. The FOUR Canons is a most sobering & right way to view mission, Thank You! Dr. Richardson & CBCNLR 🙂 johnboy

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