Summary: Paul’s ambition was, "to preach the gospel, where Christ was not known." That was his call and his passion. We now need pioneer missionaries to take the Gospel to the truly frontier people groups.
Missions: To Where Christ Is Not Known
In 1998 there was a celebration in, India. It was the occasion of the twenty-five year, silver anniversary, of the Mission hospital. The president of the Mission Board came as the keynote speaker. There was also an array of guests related to the history of the Hospital who came for the occasion. One of those who came was W. John. He was the pioneer missionary who actually purchased the land for the hospital to begin the ministry.
There is just something about the pioneer types. W. John was staying at the guest quarters at the hospital during the preparations for the celebration. It just so happened that a cobra snake made the mistake of slithering over the compound wall from the granite quarry behind the hospital. W. John in True Pioneer spirit killed the Cobra with a stick!
Actually, the pioneer missionary spirit is not really about killing Cobra snakes. It is about preaching Christ where He is not known. I asked W. John how the missionary work began and progressed in India. His answer was in the form of an analogy. He said the work began like a river. A river flows where the resistance is less. If the river encounters a rock or some
resistance the river flows around that place. Soon a channel is cut and the river is flowing.
This method makes sense to me. Why stop at a hard resistant place when there are easy flow channels right next to the hard place? I thought it was right to do the ministry in India like a river, flowing where the openness was found. But, at that time, I also thought that we do not need to continue to flow exclusively down the same river cut decade ago. It is right to cut new rivers now!
In Romans Chapter 15:19-21 Paul used a different analogy for his work. Instead of a river, Paul uses the analogy of laying a foundation. He laid new foundations. Paul cut new rivers. He preached Christ where Christ was not known.
Read Romans 15:19-21
19 - by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written:
Vs 21 “They who were not told of him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”
I) Paul’s Pioneer Journeys
Verse 19b So from Jerusalem all the way around Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.
When Paul wrote these words he was about to complete his third missionary journey and visit Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-27). By the time he wrote these words he had traveled extensively. There was still more traveling for him to do, but much of his missionary career was complete. He was speaking as a veteran.
There are many people who travel extensively in our day. I travel often and I have silver frequent flyer status on two airlines.
I see these same tags commonly affixed to the bags of those rushing about in the airports. Some travelers even have the gold tags. These gold tags tell me that, as much as I have traveled, many others have traveled much more. If there was a first century frequent traveler gold card, I am sure Paul would have earned them for several major ship carriers.
Let’s check out some biblical background on how Paul traveled extensively to build new foundations. Our focus verse gives only a brief reference and we have just a hint here of how Paul journeyed all across Asia and into Europe. After Paul’s Damascus road experience he spent several days in Damascus. At once he began to preach that Jesus is the Son of God. Paul was proving that Jesus is the Christ. This did not go on for long when a plan was hatched to kill Paul. Day and night men lay in wait at the city gates to kill Paul. To escape the situation Paul was let down through the opening in the wall in a basket.
Paul mentioned only in Galatians that he traveled to Arabia before he ever went to meet the disciples in Jerusalem (Gal 1:17).
Paul’s First Missionary Journey (Acts 13:4-14:28)
For Paul it was not uncommon for persecution to arise and for him to be expelled from the region. In Iconium after a great number believed and a plot to stone him arose and Paul fled. At his next destination they caught up with Paul and did stone him and left him for dead. Paul recovered and left there the next day, but then returned there strengthening disciples. In between Paul’s first and second missionary Journey he was sent from Antioch to Jerusalem regarding a dispute and from Jerusalem back to Antioch with a reply.