An Assembly’s Responsibility for Its Community: “Go…”

Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us” (2Ki 7:9).[1] A hard-hitting challenge about assembly responsibility with the gospel for our communities was not what I expected when I was starting my morning Old Testament reading in 2 Kings. However, that was exactly what the Lord recently had in store for my cold, hard heart.

A small company of men had just come into great blessing. Lepers and outcasts, they had witnessed first-hand the glorious salvation accomplished by the Lord Himself without any human contribution. These men had literally cast their lives into the hands of God and discovered, to their amazement, that the Lord had won a miraculous victory. The enemy had been defeated, full and free salvation had been accomplished, and an immeasurable supply of blessing had been provided for them to enjoy. What a wonderful picture of our gospel blessings! Through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, full salvation has been provided and we are blessed with every spiritual blessing.

It is no wonder the four lepers initially settled down to enjoy all that had come to them. It wasn’t long, though, until at least one was struck with their responsibility to share the blessing with the hungry and dying souls still left in the city. Without knowledge of God’s wonderful work, those residents remained pitiful and starving, destined for further desperation and ultimate death. It forms a vivid picture of the lost world around us. Held in the captivity of sin and Satan, without the knowledge of the great salvation provided by the Lord Jesus, our friends, family, neighbours and work colleagues languish in captivity and face the certainty of eternal judgment. Yet we, like the delivered and blessed lepers, have the message and means to tell them of all that Christ has done and the wonderful blessings available to them.

A grave danger remained for the lepers – and for us too. They could so easily have become engrossed in the analysis and enjoyment of all that the Lord had done and have overlooked their responsibility to share the good news with others. They could have formed their own “blessing enjoyment association,” endlessly discussing the means and the methods of God’s provision (all very profitable subjects, without doubt). In doing so, though, they would turn a blind eye to the plight of those who still needed salvation. Thankfully, they recognized that danger: “We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace.” Hear those powerful words again: “We do not well … we hold our peace.”

Two matters struck me with great force as I read this passage. First, they felt a corporate responsibility to carry the good news (note the emphasis on “we”). Individual witnessing is modelled for us in the New Testament as an essential element of healthy Christian living. However, so too is witnessing together. Corporate gospel effort seems to be especially commended by the Lord and often results in special blessing. It is easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that gospel outreach is the domain of a few gifted individuals or preachers, yet it is clear that it is one of the primary responsibilities of a local assembly to the community where they live or gather (cf. 1Th 1:8-9). It is easy to form our own little  “blessing appreciation clubs” with endless analyses of all that we enjoy as believers, losing sight of the solemn responsibility we all have to carry the good news of salvation to the perishing folks with whom we rub shoulders every day. “We do not well … we hold our peace.” Could it be that many testimonies have failed in their responsibility and dwindled to extinction by a skewed balance that neglects the need for outreach with the good news? Is it time for us to recover corporate responsibility and launch into gospel action toward our neighbours? Many around us have serious physical and other needs, which should touch us and move us to action, but their greatest need is to hear the gospel. Many programs of social help are worthy of our attention, but only inasmuch as they facilitate our primary responsibility to our neighbours for gospel communication.

Second, the lepers went to those in need rather than waiting for the city residents to come to them. It’s a small word, but the direction of the “to” is vital. There may have been a temptation to just enjoy their blessings and say, “Well, we were bold enough to step out and find out what the Lord had done; if others don’t do the same, that’s their fault.” A cursory reading of the NT shows that we must GO with the gospel (Mat 28:19; Mar 16:15; Act 1:8 – all very familiar verses, often quoted and analyzed yet often neglected in practice). It is too common for us to form our little “gospel clubs” and say, “If they want to hear the gospel they can come to us; the door is open – let them come if they are interested.” But the NT practice is to go to where the needy people are located. We must not wait. We must go now! It is not enough to issue invitations and expect unbelievers to make the first move. We must take the initiative; we must go among the people. It will cost time, energy and finances, but we must move out with the gospel now.

The time has come, brothers and sisters, for us to wake up and realize, like those lepers in 2 Kings 7, that the responsibility is ours to corporately reach out with the gospel. It is time for us to reach into the dark and needy communities of our dying neighbourhoods. It is time to cast our lives into God’s hands, band together, and make a united effort as an assembly of the Lord’s people to reach those nearest to us with the gospel. There are times for us as believers to discuss and enjoy together all our blessings in Christ, but surely not to the neglect of our solemn and urgent responsibilities in the spread of the gospel. Methodology for such activity must be scriptural, while not bound by tradition and legality – but that is a subject for another day.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.