The Great Commission
by Robert Breaker III
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"The great commission" as Baptists have termed it, and as we know it, is to go forth into all the world and preach the gospel. This is the heart of missions, and indeed is what Christians should be doing. Sadly, many are not. The word "commission" is made up of two words: "Co" and "missions." Missions is not necessarily a one man job. Christians should work together to preach the gospel throughout the world.
There are go-missionaries, and co-missionaries. We need to realize this, and work together to win souls for Christ. However, it's a task to say the least to get most Christians to do so separately. Most Christians forget the Great Commission altogether. So, it's my desire in this article to show you the Great Commission in the four gospels. And, hopefully you'll understand the need for preaching the glorious gospel of Christ!
The first time the "Great Commission" appears is in Matthew 28:19,20. It states:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
From these verses we see the Purpose of missions. It is that the gospel is to be taught! Two times in this passage, Jesus uses the words "teach." What could be the reason for this? Because a person needs to learn the truth that is able to save his soul from Hell. Preaching and teaching go hand and hand. Several verses for this would be Acts 28:31, and Col. 1:28. Preaching is showing them hell, and their sins. Teaching is showing them how to be saved from them, and how to accept Christ as their Saviour. Teaching also is what a person needs after they are saved. They need to learn the word of God and grow as a Christian.
Also notice in the last two verses in Matthew that it's a personal command. The first two words are "go ye." This is what most Christians overlook. They need to apply this to themselves. They personally need to win souls to Christ. Oh how miserable a Christian will be if he approaches the Judgment Seat of Christ, and has no souls there that he helped to win! What a wretched existence and what a shame to his Saviour, that he didn't love him enough to try to bring others to him! Would to God, that Christians would realize the promise of verse 20, that says that Christ is with them always, even unto the end of the world! He will help and guide them, if only they would yield themselves to tell others the good news. But, so many have forgotten the commandment, ignored the promise, and shunned the task of going and teaching. Dear reader, will you not forget? Remember what Christ did for you, and tells others the same.
When we come to the second Gospel, we find the Preaching of missions. Mark 16:15 says:
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
This is what God has called all Christians to do. Paul told Timothy to "Preach the word" in 2 Timothy 4:2. And in Romans, Paul said, "...it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Cor. 1:21). Yes preaching is an important part of missions. But, what is to be preached? Paul said it most definitely is not works (Eph. 2:8,9), nor is it one's self (2 Cor. 4:5), but it is indeed the gospel. But, what is the gospel? There can be only one for us today, and if you aren't preaching it, then you are accursed (Gal. 1:8). It is inequivocably the gospel of grace through faith (Acts 15:11) that Paul states so well in 1 Corinthians 15 verses 1-4. Salvation is by faith, (specifically faith in the blood as found in Romans 3:25), and this should be preached to the lost and dying world!
The word "preach" means to "stab" or "to thrust." Preaching is not meant to make one feel good about himself, but to make people feel bad about their sin. But, what is to be preached to bring a soul to Christ? I have found that two things work better than anything else when it comes to preaching that will lead a soul to want to be saved. That is preaching on the law and on Hell. In this day and age of which we live, when the ten commandments have been taken out of the schools, we need to preach the law. Not for salvation, but as a schoolmaster to bring one to Christ (Gal. 3:24). Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that a man must keep the law to be saved, but I am saying that a man needs to see that he has broken the law, and is in need of a Saviour. Too often we take for granted that a sinner knows that he or she is a sinner. But the truth is, there are people in America today that haven't even heard of Jesus Christ (except as a cuss word). They think they are good folks, and that they are "accepted." What they need to realize is that they are lawbreakers, and under the just condemnation of God for their sin (John 3:36).
Another subject of which to preach is on the subject of Hell. We live in a day and age of liberals, and modernists, and yea, even so-called preachers that don't believe in a literal fiery place of brimstone and torment as described by Jesus Himself. They are being taught "The Love Gospel," and about a false God that would "never sentence a man to Hell." But, sinners need to hear about a place called Hell, and be so frightened and afraid, that they long for salvation. This thin-skinned, effeminate society needs to be preached to about judgement, damnation, condemnation, and the wrath of God. Isn't this how the early church fathers and apostles preached. Isn't this what founded America. Men that weren't afraid to rear back and let 'er rip, and let the chips fall where they may? Yes, preaching is what brings a sinner to a decision, whether it be salvation, or eternal damnation. God, give us more preachers that aren't afraid to tell the truth!
As we come to the Gospel of Luke, we find the Proclamation of missions. In chapter twenty four and verse forty seven we read:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
We see that in preaching, a Christian should proclaim repentance and remission. What is Repentance? It has two definitions. It means "to turn from one thing to another," or "to feel sorry for something." And, in the Bible, it used used a lot. John the Baptist preached Repentance in Matt. 3:2. Christ preached it in Matthew 4:17. Peter preached it in Acts 2:38. And, Paul preached it Acts 17:30 and 26:20. So, you can't take it out of the Bible. But, oh how few churches preach it today.
What is meant by the word "Repent? Before I was saved, I heard the word used and I thought it meant you had to quit sinning to get saved. But, that would be a gospel of works! And, salvation is not of works lest any man should boast. But, according to the definition it means to turn from one thing to another. It must mean that you want to get saved more than you want your sin. It must be a turning from your way and your righteousness, to God's righteousness and trusting him. Paul describes it in 1 Thes. 1:9 as "a turning from idols to serve a true and living God."
Repentance also means "to feel sorry for something." A sinner that comes to Christ Jesus for salvation should feel sorry for his sins, and realize that it's his sins that put Christ on the cross. He should see Christ suffering on the cross as his vicarious substitute. And, by hearing preaching on the law and Hell, the Holy Spirit will move on the sinners heart and show him his need to Repent: to turn from trusting his righteousness and trust Christ's blood and righteousness for salvation. And, this preaching should be "in his name" as the verse says. For it's only through Jesus Christ that salvation is offered (John 14:6)!
Moving right along to the Gospel of John we stumble across the Power of missions. John 20:21-23 tells us:
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
The power of missions is undoubtedly the Holy Spirit of God. For it is the Holy Spirit that gives power to preach. Paul said that his preaching was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:4). Yes it is the Holy Spirit of God that bears witness to the truth. And that truth is the gospel of Christ. Romans 1:16 claims that the gospel is the "power of God unto salvation." That's some gospel! It has the power to regenerate a man's sinful nature, and make him a new creature, and give him the new birth, all at the same time! And, the power of the gospel is, without a doubt, the precious, cleansing blood of Jesus Christ! So, preach the Blood, the power of the Gospel. Preach the Gospel, the power of God! And, walk in the Spirit, the power of missions!
Finally, we come to the book of Acts in order to find the Places of missions. In Acts 1:8, Jesus says to his disciples:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
In this verse we find four places that the gospel is to be preached. They are Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. This is what Jesus said, and this was his desire; to eventually see everyone saved, and to have His gospel preached to the "uttermost part of the earth." But, has it gone there yet? Sadly, the answer is "No." But, according to the Bible, we need to preach the gospel as the disciples with authority and boldness. Dear Christian reader, will you join me in preaching the gospel to the lost and dying world? God knows they need to be saved, and it was for this reason that he died for them. Preach the word! Teach the masses! Proclaim the truth! For time is so very short!
Has the gospel been preached to the uttermost parts of the earth as Jesus commanded? The answer again sadly is, "No." The "Great Commission" as we call it has been ignored today by far too many a Christian. Yet God commanded us to do it. And, thank God there have been those that were faithful to the task and tried. As one reads through the book of Acts, he will find that Paul was one who obeyed the "Great Commission." And, there were others as well throughout history. But, oh how few were their number. And, oh how much more needs to be done.
I'd like to now show you how the apostles attempted to carry out "The Great Commission," and about one man in particular who actually did obey God, and his command. I hope you will follow his example and try to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all those you come in contact with.
Acts 1:8 was the last thing that Jesus said to his disciples as he rode his glorious taxi cloud to heaven. He asked them the seemingly impossible. To go over the known world and tell everyone about himself and the gift of eternal life. Jesus must have known that they would not do it, and even that they could not do it. He could have had the angels come down and try to convert man themselves and they probably would have done a better job than sinful man. But, God chose us. Maybe God asked us to do it, just to see if we would try, or if we loved him enough to obey his command. Our maybe God set it up so that our shame or our rewards in heaven are in proportion to how much we preach to others. But one thing is for sure, we need to obey God, and carry forth the torch light of the gospel to a dark and dying world.
When God said to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then the Uttermost parts of the earth, the apostles and disciples started out right. They went to Jerusalem to preach. This wasn't too hard because most of them were already there. But, in Acts chapter eight, the Jews rejected their Messiah for the third time. Under the preaching of Stephen, the Pharisees waged war on the newly termed "Christians," and much persecution began. The door in Jerusalem seemed to be creaking shut, and many disciples heeded the words of Jesus as they started going out of Jerusalem to evanglize. But, did the apostles forgotten the words of Jesus when he said, "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria...?
We read in Acts chapter 8 and verse one:
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Where were the apostles? They were in Jerusalem. Why didn't they go out as well? Shouldn't they have? Well at least someone did. Look at verse 4,
"Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word."
The disciples started to go out with the gospel to Judaea and Samaria, but where were the apostles? They were still in Jerusalem. And, it was there that Peter got into trouble, and began to go the way of the circumcision. But, God set him straight in Acts 15. But, let's focus in on a certain man named Philip in this time period. In Acts 8:5, 6 we read:
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
Phillip went to Samaria. Just like Jesus said. Then in vs 26 and 27 we find him somewhere else. It says:
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Here he is going Gaza. Where is Gaza? It's in Judaea. And, there he leads an Ethiopian man to the Lord! God will always bless a man that's following his commands. Look where we find him next. In verse 40 we read:
But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
What do you know? We find Philip in Azotus and he's been preaching in all the cities along the way there. Where is he going? He's headed out of Judaea and toward the uttermost parts of the earth. Now let's look at one more verse to see what happened to Philip. Acts 21:8 states:
And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
Where is Philip? He's in a place called Caesarea. Where is that? Well in his day it was pretty close to the uttermost parts of the earth. It seems to me that Philip believed God, and stepped out on faith and went and preached where God said – in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth!
Christian, you too need to follow God's command and do your part in carrying out "The Great Commission." Will you? Countless thousands die and go to Hell everyday. Will you try to reach them? Souls are depending on you. Will you not go? At least will you pray for others that are going and are preaching? The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are so few.