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Summary: The life of Patrick, evangelist to the Irish, exemplifies the impact of obedience to Christ's call to evangelise. Christians are charged to carry the message of life to all mankind.

“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [1]

Cities dye their rivers green in his honour; political dignitaries and athletes march in parades named for him and people drink beer dyed green in honour of him. Around the world, countries celebrate this day set aside in his name. All this in honor of a man whose real story few people actually know. As a Christian, you should know his story.

Imagine that you were credited with 120,000 conversions and the planting of three hundred churches. How would you begin your memoirs? Here’s how Patrick began his memoir: “I Patrick, a sinner, the rudest and the least of all the faithful, and an object of the greatest contempt to many…” In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I commend a reading of his “Confession.” [2] Anyone doing so will undoubtedly be astounded by what they find, especially will you be astounded by his genuine humility as an instrument of God’s grace.

Patrick died on March 17, around the year AD 461. Here is a brief summary of the remarkable story his “Confession” tells. He was born in Britain, but he was kidnapped when he was fifteen years old and sold as a slave in Ireland. For six years, he served as a shepherd before he was able to escape and returned home to his family.

When Patrick was around forty years old, he had a dream, much like Paul's Macedonian vision recorded in ACTS 16. He wrote, “There I saw in a vision of the night a man whose name was Victoricus, coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, one of which he handed to me.” [3] Just then, he heard the voice of a multitude “as if with one voice, ‘We entreat thee, holy youth, to come and walk still among us.’” [4]

Responding to this vision, Patrick returned to the land where he had been enslaved, this time going to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Frequently risking his life, he spent the next thirty years seeking to lead the Irish to Jesus. As one historian put it, Patrick “found Ireland all heathen and left it all Christian.” [5]

There is an important addendum to the story. In the next century, Irish Christians who were spiritual descendants of Patrick's ministry sailed back to Britain, where they evangelised the heathen who had overrun the country. They established monasteries and copied books being destroyed elsewhere. According to Thomas Cahill's “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” these godly men “single-handedly re-founded European civilization throughout the continent.” [6]

You could make a pretty strong argument that St. Patrick deserves to be on everyone's top-ten list of all-time most influential Christians; but you'd have a hard time getting Patrick to agree. Patrick closed his memoirs by explaining the secret to his history-changing ministry: “Do you judge, and let it be most firmly believed, that it was the gift of God. And this is my Confession, before I shall die.” [7]

CHRIST’S LAST COMMAND — You will not have attended a Baptist church for very long until you hear about “the Great Commission.” This is the final charge Jesus gave to His people before He ascended into the heavens. The best-known iteration of that commission is found as the concluding words of the first Gospel. “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” [MATTHEW 28:19-20].

I sometimes wonder if we haven’t focused on the promises the Saviour provided His people rather than recognising the commission He issued. Indeed, the Risen Son of God is with us, and shall be with us to the end of the age. We are not alone. He promised, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” [JOHN 14:18-19]. Undoubtedly, these are precious and comforting promises.

Nevertheless, we who follow the Christ did receive a charge, a charge that is iterated throughout the Gospels. In the parable of the ten minas, Jesus portrays the nobleman as giving his servants a specific command, “Engage in business until I come” [see LUKE 19:13]. So, it should not be a great surprise that the Saviour expects His people to be busily engaged in His work until He comes.

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