According to tradition, the apostle Thomas came to South India in 52 AD bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Isl–m, however, came to Sindh in what is now in Pakistan (following the 1947 Partition with India) several centuries later beginning in 711 AD. Are there now more Christians or Musl__ms in India? Surprisingly, Johnstone’s 1995 edition of Operation World approximates the number of Christians in India as only 4% while Musl__ms are 12% of the population. (Hinduism, of course, claims the great majority of India’s one billion people.)
At a 2007 meeting in India I asked the pastors if they thought the body of Christ in India was close to fulfilling the Great Commission. Many raised their hands to affirm that yes, the Church in India had almost completed her work. Knowing the above statistics as well the multitude of unreached Hindu and Musl__m villages in India, I told them bluntly that they were deceived.
Some Christians have been taught to deny reality in some ways. They deceive themselves. They have been taught that “by faith,” it is done.
Often as I teach believers in undeveloped countries, I ask them which is easier: to pray for the sick, or to heal the sick as Jesus did. A surprisingly large number of them, even servants of God, will answer that it is easier to heal the sick. When I press the issue and ask if they have opened the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf as Jesus did, some persist in claiming that they indeed have.
Further investigation usually shows the thinking behind such claims. It is taken from Mark 11.
Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
They simply believe that the infirm people they minister to are all healed, whether or not they are in fact actually healed. By “claiming” it, they believe they have it in reality. Therefore “by faith” they have opened the eyes of the blind; in fact, everyone they minister to are “healed” in this way.
Perhaps this is the kind of “faith” that has led some pastors to assert that the body of Christ in India has nearly completed Christ’s Commission to make disciples of all the people groups in India. The “faith” that results in such a self-congratulatory attitude is a self-defeating one. It keeps us locked up in the prison of self-deception, complacency and unfruitfulness. Genuine faith must bear the fruit of visible results.
Jesus made a particular series of statements in the Bible that are worthy of investigation.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Jesus made two assertions: that he was the only way to the Father, and that anyone who had seen him had in fact seen the invisible Almighty God in heaven. What would be the proof of such assertions that even His own disciples had difficulty understanding and accepting? The proof was the miracles that Jesus performed, great miracles that only God Himself could do. Then Jesus went on to add that believers would do these same miracles to prove His divine identity to the lost.
These miracles would be actual supernatural events like miraculous healings that the lost could see with their own eyes and thus help convince them that Jesus Christ is in fact the only way to the Father and that He is indeed the Son of God. The kind of “miracles” that are done “by faith” as described earlier would obviously not be effective in drawing the lost to Jesus Christ.
What is the reason for the poor performance of the Indian Church in discipling the people groups in India in comparison to the relative success of Isl–m, not to mention that of Hinduism? One reason is that John 14:12 has not been fulfilled in the body of Christ. The Church lacks the ability to perform the miracles that Christ did to convince the lost that our Father is the only true God and that Jesus is the only way to Him. If the miracles recorded in the Book of Acts have been taking place in India since the Apostle Thomas landed there nearly two thousand years ago, no doubt the spiritual picture in India would be far different today.
Why is it that Jesus’ promise that we believers would be doing the miracles that He did has not come to pass? Is it the Lord’s sovereign doing? Or could it be the failure of the Church?
It is too convenient to ascribe the reason to God’s sovereignty. Even though Revelation 2 and 3 do speak of powerless and carnal churches, we cannot conclude that their condition is God’s perfect and sovereign will. God simply foreknows that man can and will fail.
Whatever the case, the Church should focus on the responsibility that the Lord has given us and not simply dismiss our present condition as God’s sovereign will. We should be intellectually and spiritually honest in acknowledging the possibility that we, not the Lord, have failed to fulfill John 14:12.
Everything that is needed to fulfill that promise of Jesus Christ can be found in Scripture. If we study Scripture carefully with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will learn how to heal the sick and cast out demons as Jesus taught His disciples.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
We learn from the Scriptures below that we can fail to perform the miracles that Jesus commanded His disciples to do because of our doubt and little faith, not because we lack authority or “the anointing.”
Matthew 10:1 He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.
Matthew 17:18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
If we do our best to handle the word of truth correctly—without doubt or fear of failure and fear of man—we can in fact obtain the faith to heal the sick and cast out demons as Jesus taught and commanded His disciples. (We are not referring to the kind of faith taught in Mark 11:24.) This will have great impact on the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
Promises in Scripture can fail to come to pass, and that failure should not always be attributed to God’s sovereign will. John 14:12 has failed to come to pass primarily because the Church lacks faith. (Not once did Jesus rebuke His disciples for not having enough “anointing.” In contrast, He rebuked them on different occasions for lacking faith, for being afraid, and for having doubt.)
The Israelites in the Old Testament failed to enter the Promised Land under Moses because of unbelief which in turn led to rebellion against God. Similarly the Church has not fulfilled the Great Commission for the past two thousand years primarily because of her lack of faith and lack of obedience.
From where can the Church get this faith?
Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
If we go back to the Word of God and study it earnestly, we will obtain the faith to obey the commands of God and also the faith that we must have in order to move mountains.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.