Calvary Road Baptist Church

“JESUS WAS A MISSIONARY”

Hebrews 3.1

 Our church’s annual missions conference wrapped up last Sunday night with a very fine banquet, that was well attended, that featured a wonderful message from God’s Word, and that culminated with a time of decision for those who attended. The decision, of course, had to do with, and has to do with, individuals choosing to involve themselves in our church’s missions ministry and the support of our various missionaries.

This morning, I want to tie off that thread of thought by focusing your attention on the theme of our missions conference this year, Jesus was a missionary. Though our missions theme for this year’s conference is only four words, I considered two of those words at great length, the word was (versus is) and the word missionary (versus apostle). Though the Lord Jesus Christ is still very much a missionary, since someone who is truly dispatched as a missionary never really ceases being a missionary no matter where he happens to be at present, I chose the word was to throw the focus of your attention to the Savior’s past saving work on the cross of Calvary. His incarnation by means of the virgin birth, substitutionary death on the cross for our sins, bodily resurrection from the dead, and ascension back to His heavenly Father’s right hand, is the crowning achievement of His redemptive activities. As well, there is this word missionary. It is not a Bible word. While the word missionary does convey a very Biblical concept, confusion is possible without some background information as the basis for our understanding of Jesus as a missionary.

Hebrews 3.1 is where we begin a progression of thought that will form the basis for this morning’s message: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” This verse is the only place in the New Testament where the Greek word apostoloV is used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ, yet the reality of Christ’s apostleship is seen throughout even when the actual term is not used to describe Him.[1] The Lord Jesus Christ is properly seen as a missionary as a result of two interlocking considerations:

First, there is this word apostle. We normally think of the twelve apostles when this word is used, but the writer of Hebrews unmistakably applies the word to the Savior in the same sentence in which He is referred to as the “High Priest of our profession.” Clearly, then, it is important to us that Jesus Christ is the Apostle of our profession. The question is what is an apostle? There are four forms of the basic word. Apostellw is the verb form of the word and its basic meaning is “to send forth.”[2] It was a commonly used word among the Greeks and is found in the LXX and among the Greek speaking Jewish people as a technical term for the sending of a messenger with a special task.[3] This verb form of the word is found about 135 times in the New Testament. Of special interest is the way the Lord Jesus Christ uses the verb apostellw to ground His authority in that of God as the One who is responsible for His words and works and who guarantees their right and truth. John 17.21 illustrates this in Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Related to the verb apostellw is the noun apostolos. If apostellw refers to sending forth, apostolos, apostle, the word used in our text, refers to the person who is sent forth, the envoy, the messenger.[4] Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ was sent by His Father as an envoy, as a delegate, to both convey a message and to accomplish a mission. The other two Greek words are apostolh, which is used only four times in the New Testament and means the office of an apostle[5], and apostolikos, which is not found in the Bible but was used by early Christians and refers to that which is apostolic.[6] It becomes clear that the Lord Jesus Christ is an apostle in the sense that He was dispatched by God the Father as an envoy to perform a mission and to carry a message. The twelve apostles named in Matthew 10.2-4 were selected and dispatched as envoys by the Lord Jesus Christ, and will be referred to forevermore as apostles of Jesus Christ. Let me point out something in Ephesians 4.11-12:

 11     And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12     For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

 In this passage, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ gave apostles as spiritual gifts to congregations. However, these apostles are not limited to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, but include other apostles, such as those found in Second Corinthians 8.23: “Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.” This verse is frequently overlooked because here the word apostolos is translated by our English word messenger, but could just as easily have been transliterated apostle. Thus, we have one kind of apostle, Jesus Christ, who was sent by God the Father. Another kind of apostle are those selected and sent by the Lord Jesus Christ, the twelve and the Apostle Paul. Second Corinthians 8.23 reveals yet a third kind of apostle, those who are sent by churches, who we typically refer to as missionaries.

Excuse me in advance if you think I am being disrespectful (though I am not), but God-called, God- equipped, and local church sent, missionaries are just as surely apostles as were the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ and as is the Lord Jesus Christ the apostle of God the Father. As to their apostleship, the various kinds of apostles differ only in who has most immediately dispatched them, God, Jesus, or a church. The Lord Jesus Christ was dispatched by His heavenly Father. The Apostles Peter, Paul, and those we most commonly think of as apostles were dispatched as ambassadors plenipotentiary by the Lord Jesus Christ. However, those apostles referred to in Ephesians 4.11 certainly include those mentioned in Second Corinthians 8.23, apostles of the churches, or missionaries. If you read Acts chapter 13 carefully, you will see that not only was the Apostle Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ (we see this in Acts chapter 9), but he was also dispatched along with Barnabas by the church in Antioch. So you see, an apostle is a missionary and a missionary is an apostle.

Though we use the term missionary, our missionaries are apostles. All God-called and church-sent church planters are apostles. Call them pastors or missionaries if you want to, in the Bible they are identified as apostles. That said; let us turn our attention back to the Lord Jesus Christ and our missions conference theme. I have shown you that Jesus is “the Apostle . . . of our profession,” Hebrews 3.1. Further, I have explained to you the basis of my claim that Jesus was a missionary . . . and that He still is. Once a missionary always a missionary. He was dispatched to accomplish a mission and to convey a message.

This morning’s sermon is a summary of our Lord Jesus Christ’s mission and message:

First, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST’S MISSION

Luke 19.10 is likely the most concise statement the Savior ever made concerning His mission: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

From this declaration made by Jesus Christ is seen the predicament of men. They are lost. You are lost. What does it mean to be lost? Our English word lost is defined by the Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary as ruined or destroyed, as missing or not to be found, as no longer held or possessed or parted with, as no longer seen or heard or known, as not gained or won and attended with defeat, as having wandered from the way, as bewildered or perplexed, as not spent profitably or usefully but wasted, and finally as spent away from one’s place of work.[7] That is a terrible state for anyone to be in. Yet that is the state you are in if you have not been converted to Christ. However, the Greek word translated by our English word lost is even starker. It is the word apollumi, and it refers to experiencing destruction or ruin, such as when someone is killed or put to death.[8] It would be a mistake to take the word as referring to anything like annihilation, since that concept is foreign to scripture. In context, our Lord is here referring to spiritual damnation and the certainty of eternal punishment for those He refers to. So, who is lost? Whom is Jesus describing here? Everyone. Lost is the condition of every sinner who comes into the world. Lost is the cloud every human being lives under. Lost speaks of the eternity everyone faces. Lost is a word that aptly describes your situation if you do not know Jesus Christ.

To remedy the spiritual catastrophe of each person, to rescue the perishing, the Lord Jesus Christ described Himself as the Son of Man who came to seek and to save that which was lost. He did not indicate that He came to help those who were lost, but to save them, to rescue them, to deliver them from the danger they are in. To this end the Lord Jesus Christ stepped away from His throne and left heaven’s glory, condescended to becoming a man by means of the virgin birth, lived among vile sinners for more than thirty years, took upon Himself men’s sins and suffered on their behalf on the cruel cross of Calvary, and died a substitutionary death, shedding His precious blood for the remission of sins. His lifeless body was then taken from the cross and placed in a rich man’s tomb until God raised Him from the dead three days later in a display that showed His approval of Christ’s sacrifice. As you consider what Jesus Christ did to provide for your salvation, ask yourself what you had to do with any of it. As well, consider what Jonah cried from the belly of the great fish, upon realizing that his predicament was both helpless and hopeless: “Salvation is of the LORD.”[9] No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done” in one epistle, and “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” in another. Using a poor illustration to argue from lesser to greater, just as a lifeguard does not want the help of a drowning swimmer, does not need the help of a drowning sinner, and will not accept the help of a drowning sinner, so the Lord Jesus Christ, the omnipotent God clothed in human flesh, is fully capable of saving sinners Himself, thank you. He does not need, want, or allow your help in saving you, but He demands your trust.

Then, THERE IS THE LORD JESUS CHRIST’S MESSAGE

Many things the Lord Jesus Christ said over the course of His earthly ministry are not found in God’s Word. There were even a number of such occasions following His resurrection, when He appeared several times to His followers before His final ascension to His Father’s right hand. John 21.25 explains why we have no record in God’s Word of everything Jesus said and did: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”

That understood, we do have a concise summation of Christ’s message, from His own lips. We find it in John 19.30. Let me set the stage for what He says: Jesus has been illegally tried by Jews and Romans in unauthorized tribunals. In those illegal trials, He has been falsely accused by bribed witnesses. He has been betrayed and even denied by His own disciples. Beaten half to death, stripped naked before everyone, weighed down by the sins of all mankind, He now hangs from a cross. He has already told one of the thieves crucified with Him, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”[10] Darkness enveloped the earth in the middle of the afternoon, so He and the Father could say their good-byes. The sun now shines again. All that He came to do He has done. His suffering is complete. He now cries out in anticipation of what He has accomplished, “It is finished.” He then bowed His head, and gave up the ghost. That is my Lord Jesus Christ’s message to you today: “It is finished.” That is the distilled essence of the gospel message, the good news. “It is finished.”

It was left to others to elaborate. Apostles Peter, Paul, John, and others explained both the mission and the message of Jesus Christ to us in the New Testament, completing what the prophets had written about our Lord’s mission and message in the Hebrew Scriptures.

If you do not know Jesus Christ, you are in great danger. Every minute that passes increases your exposure to sin and multiplies the punishment that will be meted out to you of God’s wrath. Your salvation, your deliverance from the wrath of God for your sins, has been provided by Jesus Christ’s doing and dying on your behalf. That was His mission. His message is that He did it, He did it all, and there is nothing for you to do. “It is finished.”

Your response to the message, faith in Christ, is the means He employs to apply His salvation to you. Do nothing and you perish. Try to do something to save yourself, as though His saving work was not complete or sufficient, and you still perish. However, believe in Jesus and He will save you from your sins.

Jesus was a missionary. He was sent to accomplish a mission, which He did. He was also sent to convey a message, which He did. It has been left to you to respond. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” Acts 16.31.



[1] Gerhard Kittel, Editor, Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, Vol I, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964) page 443.

[2] Ibid., page 398.

[3] Ibid., page 400.

[4] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 122.

[5] Ibid., page 121.

[6] Ibid., pages 121-122.

[7] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1069.

[8] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 115-116.

[9] Jonah 2.9

[10] Luke 23.43



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org