How did they “preach the gospel to “every creature”?
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom…” (Mt. 9:35). All? How many were there? In His final instructions to His own, the Lord expressed His desire that the Good News be disseminated as widely and comprehensively as possible. Matthew records His instructions as follows: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations (ethnos)…” (Mt 28:19). Mark’s account makes it more inclusive, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). Luke records the Lord as speaking of earth’s furthest extremity: “and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part (eschatos) of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Away with the dishonoring idea that the Lord loves only a select few! Reach out to every ethnic group, He says, to every creature, and in order to find them, go to the furthest extremity, the last settlement on the most remote island, for these are souls for whom Christ died. “Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof” (Isa 42:10).
But how were they to reach every creature? I’m afraid that the concept of the Great Commission has shrivelled in the minds of many today. Many assemblies think that their collective responsibility is to make an occasional effort to reach a few folk in the immediate area of their chapel or hall, to arrange an event in their building to which neighbors are invited. Is this what the Lord Jesus asked us to do? See how the early believers understood Him.
In the verse at the beginning of this article, you will notice how the Lord worked in Israel. He “went about all the cities and villages.” And of Paul’s work in Turkey, we read that he “went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order” (Acts 18:23).
If a cruise ship caught fire, the captain would not instruct his crew to run around shouting, “Fire!” Each crew member would be given a deck, and be expected to knock on each door. Only in that way would they be sure that everyone had been sufficiently warned. Notice the methodical approach indicated by the Lord’s words: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the uttermost part of the earth. This is how we must begin to think again.
How many cities, towns and villages are there in North America? The answer might surprise you. In the whole United States there are 10,016 cities, 4,431 towns, and 3,770 villages, for a total of 18,218 cities, towns and villages in the 50 states (U.S. Census 2000 Gazetteer Files). There would be about ten percent of that number in Canada. Ontario, with 39% of the Canadian population, has about 500 cities, towns and villages; BC has about 130.
In his book “It Can Be Done,” William Williams tells of the way a handful of missionaries preached the gospel in every city, town and village in Venezuela. If we began to think again that every person is either a missionary or a mission field, and lifted up our eyes to look at the fields around us, and gave ourselves again to the reason we have been left here—not to advance our careers, or stuff our bank accounts or live the American dream—but to fulfill our Lord’s parting instruction to share the most wonderful news in history to the people in every city, town and village in this broken-hearted world, yes, it could be done.