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God’s ‘big picture’ encompasses all believers, IMB’s Gilbert says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Jesus Christ is the central person in God’s plan and deserves to be worshiped by all the people of the earth, Al Gilbert said April 12.

“He is the one worthy to take the scroll and break the seals,” said Gilbert, who preached from Revelation 5:4-9. “Why? Because he purchased for God with his blood those from every tribe and tongue and nation and people.”

Gilbert, special assistant to the president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, spoke at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as part of the seminary’s first Great Commission Week. Other featured chapel speakers during the week included D. James Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Kevin Cosby, pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.

In addition to the chapel services, representatives from the IMB and North American Mission Board were on hand to consult with students about ministering on the mission field.

Also part of the April 12 chapel service with Gilbert was a live telephone interview with a Southern Seminary student* who is a church planter in Senegal working with the Wolof people.

“Here there is no biblical understanding of who God is, what sin is, who Christ is and what repentance is,” he said. “Although the Wolof are a very religious people, they know nothing about the true nature of God.”

Thus, he attempts to reach the Wolof people by telling them stories from the Bible.

“Step by step, brick by brick, the foundation is laid for an understanding of the gospel,” he said.

Another guest during the chapel service was Fred Deegbe, president of the Ghana Baptist Convention and pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Accra, Ghana. Southern Seminary is planning to participate in a mission partnership with Ghana, and the seminary community took the opportunity to recognize Deegbe for his work there.

“We are excited at what God is doing and the wonderful opportunity we have to partner with this great seminary to aim at theologically educating our people,” Deegbe said. “So, even as we lead them to Christ, we mature them into discipleship, that we will multiply the ministry of Christ until he comes. We thank you for your prayers, your partnership. We look forward for a great future working for the master.”

Gilbert began his message by asking, “What is the most important part of a jigsaw puzzle?” then answering, “The most important part is the box top — it’s the picture.”

Without the box top the puzzle is just a mixture of strange colors and pieces that are difficult to understand and to put together, Gilbert said.

“Most Christians I meet have never seen the box top of the purposes of God,” he said. “They’ve never seen that God has a global and eternal plan.”

The focal figure in that plan is Jesus Christ, Gilbert said.

“The central person, the Lord Jesus, deserves to be worshiped by all the peoples of the world,” he said. “Jesus always has been and always will be the central person in the plan of God.”

Part of the problem with understanding God’s global purposes may lie in a misunderstanding of language, Gilbert said. He admitted that he used to think of the word “nation” in the Bible as merely a political entity on a map.

He pointed out, however, that in New Testament Greek the word for “nation” is “ethnos,” which is really a people group and not just a geographical area.

Such an understanding opens people’s eyes to see the big picture, Gilbert said, that God is concerned about the souls of every person in the world.

Many of those people God blesses, Gilbert said, so they may be a blessing to others in the world.

“He never blesses us so that we can sit around and be blessed,” he said. “He’s blessed us to bring those worshipers with us to the throne.”

Gilbert also said God works through the church, and the “big picture” — that the Great Commission was given to every believer and every church — should prompt Christians to ask God what they should do to be a part of his plan.

Even though God hasn’t called all Christians to be vocational missionaries, pastors and church leaders have a special responsibility to lead their congregations to be part of God’s plan, Gilbert said, adding, “I challenge you, don’t give up the passion for the Great Commission simply to those who go and live there.”

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  • Brett Champion