C.F.W. Walther, from the Epistel Postille ON THE DAY OF THE EPIPHANY OF CHRIST
Lord Jesus, You will that all men be helped and come to know the truth. Thus, You have not only called out in a friendly way to coax them: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, and you will find rest for your souls"; You have also not only given the precious promise: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw them all to myself"; You have also proven all this with action. You have indeed Yourself become a man to save all men, offered Yourself upon the cross, and, after the completion of Your universal redemption, given Your disciples the command: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creatures." But, with Your command, You have also revealed that You wish to call the lost of the world who sit in darkness and the shadow of death to Yourself, through men, through Your disciples, through the faithful, through us as well. Therefore, we accordingly ask You, O give to us in our hearts still today the burning, longing desire for the salvation of all men, which You have [for them]. Take away from us all indifference toward the desperate need of the soul in which countless millions today still unknowingly lie and kindle in us the ardent fire of the love that seeks all men, which You Yourself have. Accordingly, bless Your Word also in this solemn hour for the sake of that eternal saving love. Amen.
Isaiah 60:1-6 (ESV)
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.  And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.  Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far,
and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.  Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.  A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
The mission or, what is the same, the work of the conversion of the heathen, has, my dear ones, now and again experienced much opposition...
Yet, my dear ones, if only it could be true that only hundreds of years ago and among Jews and heathens mission work had received enmity! But [unfortunately] there is, nonetheless, enmity toward missions still today (God bewails it!), even in the mist of Christianity itself. The apostate Christians of our own day clearly call out when they see how much is set apart for missions and how much poor-as-a-church-mouse Christians offer for them, clearly, I say, they call out: "What kind of garbage is that? Wouldn't this money be better spent if it were given to the poor?" So they in this way speak like Judas, only more hypocritically, because far from presenting what was set apart for the poor, these apostate Christians desire to devote this money rather to the indulgence of the desire of their flesh. It is not mercy toward the poor that makes one an enemy of missions, but rather their enmity toward Christ, for up to His throne they cry out: "We do not want this One to rule over us!"
Yet, my dear ones, to be a true Christian and nonetheless be no friend, yes indeed even an enemy, of mission work, is impossible. Our text, among other texts as well, demonstrates this to us today. Since we now celebrate the annual, universal mission festival of the Christian Church today, let me accordingly address you on the basis of our text:
About the joy of the true believer in mission work;
We ponder two things in regard to this:
1. how the joy of mission work lives in the hear of each true believer, and
2. how this joy is expressed by the true believer through action.
I. "Arise, shine!" With these words, Isaiah in our text addresses the believing Zion of his
time. In this way, he demands for them to be at peace. For with the call, "Arise, shine!" he wants
to say nothing other than this: "Up, Zion, cheer yourself, cheer yourself!" For as darkness is a symbol of sadness, light is a symbol of peace. For the time of the prophet Isaiah appeared highly troubling for the church of the old covenant. We learn this already from the first chapter of the prophesies of Isaiah, where the prophet himself bemoans: "And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah."
What, then, is it, my dear ones, by which Isaiah now seeks to kindle in the hearts of the disheartened believers of his time the light of peace? It is the proclamation, made in advance, that soon a time will come in which great multitudes of the heathen would convert; it is also, in a word, mission work.
According to our text, joy in mission work lives in the heart of each true believer.
Isaiah also, at the same time, indicates the reason for this joy of the believer, when he continues in our text to say as well: "For your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you." The precise reason why the believer rejoices in mission work according to our text is therefore this: "they themselves have already personally experienced the saving power of the gospel."
And so it is, my dear ones. A man who does not yet have the true faith is self-seeking; he rejoices only over the good that befalls his own person. He does not concern himself with the his neighbor, least of all, concerning the health of his neighbor's soul. At best, the faithless man rejoices over the fact that he himself should be saved; whether another is saved is an indifferent matter for him. A faithless man speaks like Cain: "Am I my brother's keeper?" As soon as a man comes to truth faith, however, a great change then comes over him. From this moment on the reign of self-seeking is broken and love for his neighbor is kindled in him; accordingly, he now carries the desire in his heart that still all men might become such blessed people as he has become through faith. As, for example, when David had come, through true faith, to the certainty of the forgiveness of his sins and therefore said to God, "Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you." In the first chapter of the Gospel of John we read further: As Andrew found the Savior and received Him in faith, he then sought likewise to bring his brother Simon, who after this was given the name Peter by Christ, to Christ; and as Philip had recognized Jesus as the Messiah, then also likewise led his friend Nathaniel to Him. Whoever has come to true faith of the heart can in no possible way keep the great treasure he has found for himself alone, but rather thinks, as the hymn says:
If only all men knew, Jesus, how friendly you are, And [how] the condition of a true Christian
Inexpressibly blessed is!
A true believer must associate with one who is not yet standing in the faith, in this way to plead with him accordingly, to enter into religious conversation to rouse him to the care of his soul, and to allure him to Christ; or if he feels too weak for that, then to seek to at least move him to go with him to church, in that way to experience how he can be saved. He also will indeed plot to place a Bible or some other salutary and rousing literature into the hand of the poor man stuck in unbelief. Before everything else, indeed, those who have come to the true faith will seek to bring those close to them to Christ: the believing man his unbelieving wife and vice versa, the believing parents their unbelieving child, the sibling their sibling, the relative their relative, the friend their friend, the master and mistress of the house their servants, maid, and worker, the boss the apprentice, the roommate the roommate, the neighbor. A Christian who has truly come to the faith also does not merely remain concerned with his individual neighbor, but also desires that his entire city, his entire land, yes indeed, the entire world be brought to Christ. For this reason, he also gladly reads such periodicals through which he comes to know what is happening in the kingdom of God [lit. experiences what time it is in the kingdom of God], for he takes to heart in every part what happens in the kingdom of God. The chance of those who have come to the true faith becoming indifferent toward those who still live without God that it is indeed more easy and likely for the newly converted to fall into an entirely unhealthy missionary zeal, by which they fail to appreciate [lit. forget] their own salvation. In short, the entire Christian Church is not only a community [organized] by men, but also a great mission society founded by God Himself; each individual congregation is indeed, so to speak, mission society branch established by God Himself, and each believing Christian is a missionary in his own [social] circle [or sphere of influence].
For as Peter says about all believing Christians: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." Thus we also observe that as often as the church is shedding blood a zealous mission is set in motion, and as often as the church falls into decadence, there also a zeal for this holy work becomes cold, and the work endures only through the few remaining private mission societies, as, for example, is the case in our day in Germany.
But what now is the matter over which the truly believing friends of missions rejoice so very much? Isaiah shows us in our text with the words: "And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah."
See, the matter that gives such great joy to believing with regard to mission work is this, that through this work so many lost souls, created by God for eternal life and redeemed at such a great cost through Christ, are indeed saved from damnation and thus made blessed ones, like the believing themselves are, also that the kingdom of God expands further and all lands continue to become always more full of His glory.
Now then, my dear ones, how does it stand for you in connection with this? Do you perhaps still remain cold when you here that there are still innumerable millions of heathen sitting in darkness and the shadow of death? Do you not beat yourself up over the fact that even in this adopted fatherland of ours there are yet thousands and thousands dying heathen in darkness without God, without a Savior, without hope? Does your heart remain unmoved when you hear that hundreds of thousands of the poor darkened of our land who have indeed been freed from bodily slavery still for the most part live in a very much more terrifying slavery, namely, slavery to the devil? Are you not troubled that many of our immigrants who share our faith arrive without a church and spiritual school, and thus either become plunder for an enthusiast [schwaermerisch] sect or sink back into open unbelief [heathenism] along with their children? Oh, if you are still indifferent in spite of these things, then you yourself still lie in spiritual death as well, without the true faith, still ruled by self-seeking. Then you are still like those who, while their brother calls for help in a burning house, stay still as he perishes miserably in the flames, or like those who, while their brother wrestles with death in the high waters of a stream, lends no saving hand, feasting away joyfully on the beach and heartlessly watching the fatally
misfortunate one being swallowed by the deep. Lament overcome you in eternity if you persist so horrifyingly without love in such circumstances!
Yet, my dear ones, the joy living in the heart of true believers for mission work is shown by them also in action. And concerning that, let me now speak to you about the second part.
II. Our text closes with the words: "All those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold
and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord." There are two parts to this, whereby those who have become believers at once demonstrate their joy in the work of missions through action: the first is through offerings for the necessary resources and the other is through prayer and intercession.
God has thus wonderfully arranged it so that for the preservation and expansion of the spiritual kingdom of the church, this kingdom of heaven upon earth, certain earthly resources are necessary. As God can preserve and extend humanity in the kingdom of the earth immediately [without means], so also He could indeed also preserve and extend the church immediately; as, however, He God only preserves humanity by means of food and drink according to His wise and loving design, so also He wants to preserve and extend the kingdom of His church upon the earth through certain earthly means, which men must provide. He wants individual Christian congregations to exist [continue], so they must have preachers and teachers called, which costs much, so they engage in and support the establishing of seminaries and the building of churches and schools; and He wants the church to set the entire mission in motion, so it must have missionaries trained and support them, often at no insignificant cost. And God has so ordained it in His great wisdom and love; of course, not because He needs men or their gold and silver (God indeed Himself says: "Mine is both silver and gold"), but because God wants to allow those who have become believers to take part in the magnificent work of the saving of a world of sinners; and also not to place a difficult burden on those who have become believers, but so that He in so doing might make them into His helpers to show them the greatest and highest honor a poor mortal and sinful man can be shown.
Therefore, all true believers view this, not as a burden, which one wants to afflict them with, but as an honor, which is shown them and should be shown to none of the unbelieving people of the world, if they were invited, as is said in our text: to offer "gold and frankincense." for the holy work of missions And since they cannot all themselves go out as missionaries to call back the lost sheep of Christ, they bring offerings of money with all the more joy, so that others in their place may, by means of it, carry out the work in their stead.
At this point it also is to be noted that God wants to reward this honorable offering with a great reward [gratuity] in eternity. For all the heathen converted through mission work will one day walk before the Judgment seat of God on the day of reward, and they all will give witness to those who have contributed the work of their conversion and salvation with their earthly possessions. Then the Word of the Lord will be fulfilled most wonderfully: "Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings." Then the tiniest mite which was offered in faith will itself become flawless and sparkling pearls and jewels which the believing, free-giving friend of missions will then wear.
Nonetheless, my dear ones, as important and necessary as earthly resources are to the carrying out of the holy work of missions, they are still not the chief way in which the true believers show their joy in missions through action. The chief way is and remains prayer. An unbelieving man can also throw money into missions, with no heart for the holy mission at all; but he cannot pray for it. That only a true believer can do, and this he indeed does. As often as he prays the Our Father, he sighs in the second and third petition: "Hallowed by Thy name," and "Thy kingdom come!" also for the poor heathen, so that the pure Word and saving kingdom of the grace of God comes to them also. As often as He gives a gift for mission work, he groans: "Lord, bless them." He bears the missionary and the entire mission upon his praying heart and is sometimes moved by the Holy Ghost to bend his knee in the silence of his closet, to invoke God and to be before His face: "praise to proclaim."
How does it now stand, my dear ones, regarding your gifts for missions, more importantly than anything else, regarding your intercessions for missions? Does it perhaps still not even strike you to pray for the conversion of others, as things appear sorrowful in your own soul, as you yourself first need a missionary? But if you have indeed already experienced that from time to time, you must scold your sadness, now then, let yourself therefore be cheered. "Arise, shine!" This word applies not only to the believers of the old covenant, but also to us New Testament Christians; for God Himself opens more doors for His pure Word in these troubled times. The Lord has already done great things and even blessed our trifling mission work beyond our prayers and understanding. For this, let us rejoice today and, on that account, praise and worship the name of the Lord. But God also further requires the work of our hands; indeed, He wants to demand the work of our hands. Amen.
This sermon was found HERE.