Let's start this discussion by asking, "Does the world need to be won?"
Another way of putting it would be, "Do we believe in the lostness of men?"
The universalist will tell you that there is no need to win that which is already won. He will tell you that Christ died for all and therefore all are saved. He will talk about the "Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men." He sees no need for going into all the world to preach the gospel other than to awaken men to the fact that they are already the children of God.
Now let's not get all bent out of shape by the universalist. They believe their error, and what they do is determined by what they believe. But what about us? Is what we do determined by what we believe? We say we believe that the lost are lost. But do we? And if we do, how lost is lost? There is a difference between a child who is lost a block from home and a child who is about to be lost by drowning. Is lostness an unawareness ... a loss of privilege ... or is it a matter of eternal life or death?
You can see what I mean by asking the question, "Does the world need to be won?"
If the matter is not urgent, there are other things to do that are more to our liking. But if it is a matter of life and death, then we're going to have to set aside some important things for the more important.
Let's start, then, on this premise: The world will be eternally lost if it is not won to Christ.
The next question we need to answer is, "Does God will that the whole world be won?"
The Calvinist... the extreme Calvinist, that is ... will tell you that God has predetermined who will be won and who will be lost. What this means is that God arbitrarily chooses the "won" ones apart from man's will... that it is not God's will that all be saved. Wow! It's hard to believe that anyone could hold to such a doctrine in the light of the Scriptures that definitely state that it is not His will that any should perish, and that He wills that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. It intrigues me that it is always the "elect" who promote this poppycock. The "non-elect" don't seem to be at all elated by the doctrine!
We do not buy the Calvinist teaching. We take the stand that God wills that the world ... all the world ... be won. We believe that the "called" are all who call. The "whosoever" of the gospel puts the onus on man to accept what God has provided. This makes missions imperative!
Now we are ready for the third question. "Is it possible to win the world?" We know that the world is lost, and we know that it is God's will to win it. But can it be won? Is it in the realm of possibility that more than four billion people can be turned to Christ?
We believe that it is possible. God would not ask us to do something that cannot be done.
Okay ... so it is possible. But is it probable? Ah, that is another question that demands our serious attention. Here is where the rubber hits the mission road.
We need to learn from Brother Schuyler. If we look at the birth rate that is exceeding the church growth rate ... if we look at people's preoccupation with pleasure ... if we allow ourselves to be discouraged by resistant cultures ... then we will be talking "probability" instead of "possibility." We will be approaching the winnable world with a negative attitude ... without faith. We must let the Holy Spirit do the work He was sent to do ... we must allow Him to endue us with power from on high that will enable us to do the impossible. Remember ... with God all things are possible ... not probable!
Speaking of all things being possible ...
I'm interested in the passages that speak of possibility. Several of them are significant.
In Mark 14:36 Jesus spoke of the possibility of bypassing the cross. Obviously, it was a possibility. However, it was an impossibility to win the world without the cross. Suffering is a part of possibility thinking. The possibility of winning the world necessitated the death of Jesus.
In Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27, and Luke 18:27 the same incident is recorded about the rich young man who wanted to do something to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to give away his riches. The young man declined "because he was rich." Jesus then stated that it is as hard for a rich man to get into heaven as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The disciples were astounded and asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus answered, "With men it is impossible ... with God all things are possible."
Good news! It is possible for rich men to get into heaven. Had the rich man been willing to let go of his wealth, it would have been possible to have eternal life. But inasmuch as he figured "with men" instead of "with God" his riches became an impossible barrier! Sacrifice is a part of possibility thinking!
"If it be thy will" is the basis for possibility thinking. Inasmuch as we know that it is not God's will that any should perish, and inasmuch as Jesus died that "whosoever will" might be saved, we can, with utmost confidence, promote the possibility that the world can be won for Christ.
Possibility thinking says that it is possible for church growth to exceed the birth rate.
Possibility thinking says that four billion people can be reached for Christ.
Possibility thinking says there can be conversions despite resistant religions and cultures.
And the above are distinct possibilities if...
... we submit our wills to our Father's will (suffering).
... we become channels through which God's blessings can flow (sacrifice).
Let's do a little more "possibility thinking."
Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Collectively, temples are the Church. We accept Christ's promise of invincibility. God will bless our united effort, and no devil in hell can stop us. Only our own unwillingness to suffer and sacrifice can stop the Church in its Great Commission. If we try to bypass the cross ... if we opt for ease ... if we live selfishly and are unwilling to sacrifice ... then we can thwart the will of God. But no outside force can frustrate its fulfillment. Only temples can.
But think what we can do if we deny ourselves and obey His command. Think of the possibilities Christ Ambassadors present who will say, "Here am I, send me!" Think of the possibilities businessmen offer who will sacrifice and say, "Lord, my business is yours ... I don't want wealth for myself... I want wealth for You and Your kingdom ... I want to win the world for Christ." Think of the possibilities there are in bands of intercessors who sacrifice time and strength to blend their wills with the will of God that all men be saved. Think of the possibility of Bible students who will say, "I'm ready to suffer ... give me a mountain ... give me an opportunity ... I'm ready to be a soldier for Christ."
Ah, what possibilities there are if we are willing to suffer and sacrifice. Possibility thinking that God endorses concentrates on the Great Commission ... on winning the winnable world!
When Jesus promised to build His Church upon Peter's confession, He declared that He would give the keys for the implementation of His building program to confessors ... i.e., to temples!
It is an awesome responsibility ... and it sets squarely on the shoulders of believers. The world is lost. It is God's will that it be won. The way it is to be won is through temples. Christ uses the Church to build the Church.
There is a phrase that Jesus used in telling the story of the good Samaritan.
When the Samaritan left two pence with the innkeeper he said, "Take care of him, and WHATSOEVER THOU SPENDEST MORE I will repay when I come again."
What a vivid picture of the ascending Christ who commissioned His disciples to go into all the world to preach the gospel. It tells the whole story of missions. Winning the world will require personal suffering and involvement. Winning the world for Christ will require sacrifice. Winning the world for Christ will require spending more. More effort... more time ... more love ... more money ... more sacrifice ... more suffering. More than the average believer is willing to do ... more than the ordinary church requires ... more than the law demands ... more ... more ... more. That is the theme of missions, and that is the possibility attitude that will win the world.
And what a promise goes with the "spend more" attitude! "Whatsoever thou spendest more I will repay when I come again." Repayment isn't for those who do the minimum. Repayment isn't for those who stop with what the law requires. Repayment isn't for those who measure what they do by what others do. No! No! No! Repayment when He comes again is for those who go beyond the call of duty. Repayment when He comes again is for those who do not serve by measure. Repayment when He comes again is for those who look at the need rather than the resources. These are the ones to whom the Lord says, "Whatsoever thou spendest more, I will repay when I come again!
With temples like that... the world is winnable!