Matthew 28:16-20 - “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
William Carey’s impact as a missionary is almost impossible to measure. He is known as “the father of the modern missions movement. He was born in 1761, and he left England in 1793 as a missionary to India. He never returned home, dying in 1834 among the people he had committed his life to serve.
Timothy George, Dean of the Beeson Divinity School, described Carey as a “lone little man. His resume would have read: education – minimal. Degrees – none. Savings – depleted. Political influence – nil. References – a band of country preachers half a world away. What were Carey’s resources? Weapon – love. Desire – to bring the light of God into the darkness. Strategy – to proclaim by life, lips, and letters the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Timothy George, Faithful Witness, 93).
Carey published his now famous An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. He wrote some piercing words for the church today that still ring true. Commenting on the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20, Carey wrote:
This commission was as extensive as possible, and laid them under obligation to disperse themselves into every country to the habitable globe, and preach to all the inhabitants, without exception, or limitation. They accordingly went forth in obedience to the command, and the power of God evidently wrought with them. Many attempts of the same kind have been made since their day, and which have been attended with various success; but the work has not been taken up, or prosecuted of late years (except by a few individuals) with that zeal and perseverance with which the primitive Christians went about it. It seems as if many thought the commission was sufficiently put in execution by what the apostles and others have done; that we have enough to do to attend to the salvation of our own countrymen; and that, if God intends the salvation of the heathen, he will some way or other bring them to the gospel, or the gospel to them. It is thus tat multitudes sit at ease, and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry (Sec. 1).
Carey would later add, “I question whether all are justified in staying here, while so many are perishing without means of grace in other lands.” (Sec. 50)
The word sin Matthew 28:16-20 were Jesus’ last words in this gospel. They are intended to be lasting words and the final marching orders for all of Christ’s followers until He returns. Adrian Rogers said of the Great Commission, that here we find “the heartbeat of the Son of God. We are all to bring men by all means to Jesus by any cost.”
On Carey’s 70th birthday, 3 years before his death, Carey gave an evaluation of his life. It reads –
I am this day seventy years old, a monument of Divine mercy and goodness, though on a review of my life I find much, very much, for which I ought to be humbled I the dust, my direct and positive sins are innumerable, my negligence in the Lord’s work has been great, I have not promoted his cause, nor sought his glory and honor as I ought, notwithstanding all this, I am spared till now, and am still retained in his work, and I trust I am received into the divine favor through him. I wish to be more entirely devoted to his service, more completely sanctified and more habitually exercising all the Christian graces, and bringing forth the fruits of righteousness to the praise and honor of that Savior who gave His life a sacrifice for me.
After his death on June 9, 1834, these simple words would be inscribed on the tone slab that marked his grave in Serampore, India: “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, on they kind arms I fall.”
Oh that we might follow the example of William Carey in the gospel. The world needs them. Jesus deserves them. Our churches should provide them.
(This devotional is based on Chapter One of Five Who Changed the World by Daniel L. Akin)
(Quotations from Carey’s journal come from The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey, edited by Terry G. Carter)