The Southern Methodist Church |
Wholly Committed to Christ’s Commission to His Church
I draw your attention to Christ’s commission to His church, what we commonly refer to as the “Great Commission,” “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16:15. And then I remind you of the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.”
Let me ask you, “Is the church of Jesus Christ today ashamed of the gospel?” Have we become so technologically advanced and so sophisticated in our thinking that we no longer believe that a simplistic message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus has the power to radically transform and redeem a believing soul from eternal destruction?
To whom was the Great Commission given? May I suggest to you, my friends, that it was not a command given only to the first disciples, but that it is the permanent commission of the Church! The Great Commission is the great end for which the church exists. There are various reasons which can be sited for zeal in missionary work. For our forefathers, it was mainly concern for the future state of the un-evangelized heathen. For the majority of people today it is perhaps pity for their present state of living and misery. Unfortunately, the motive that inspired our forefathers in the establishment of the modern mission movement has lost its power among us. Our hearts are no longer moved by the plight of the unbeliever, as if hell and eternal punishment are not realities. And beyond that, I am persuaded that the motive we do have for evangelistic outreach is inadequate. Yes, the future state of the unreached is important, but the Great Commission will continue to go unfilled if we depend upon that for motivation. I believe that there is a higher and more powerful reason. And that mightier inspiration is found in the call and command of Christ. That is the noble and sufficient reason for evangelistic outreach. Christ commands us: "Go into all the world." As Christians, we are a people who are subject to and therefore should be obedient to the commands of Christ, right? So how well have we, as the church of Jesus Christ, obeyed this command? How are we doing as a church when it comes to carrying out The Great Commission? How are you doing as an individual when it comes to sharing your faith? The command is a command for each and every child of God to be active in the business of sharing the “good news” of the Gospel of salvation! Have we done our part?
The very day Jesus Christ rose from the dead in glorious victory, He began the process of preparing His disciples for His departure. Jesus knew that He would be ascending back into Heaven, and He did, 40 days after He rose from the dead. Jesus also knew that when He left, His followers, His disciples, would be commissioned with the mission of continuing His work in the world. They would be given the task of carrying the message of salvation to the ends of the earth.
Notice, first of all, the confidence that Christ had in His disciples to carry out the commission He was giving them.
"Go ye," He said, "into all the Kosmos and preach the Gospel to the whole creation." Christ committed His cause and His Kingdom to the keeping of His disciples. He laid upon them the overwhelming task of evangelizing the world. What a tremendous task to be given the responsibility of fulfilling! Think about the kind of people they were—and remember that this commission was not given to the Apostles only, it was given to the whole body of His disciples. They were men and women, most of them, who had never been out of Palestine. The only knowledge they had of evangelistic work was gained within the limits of Palestine and maybe Galilee. They knew no language except their own Aramaic dialect and possibly some commercial Greek. And to these people, who knew absolutely nothing about the world outside of Palestine, Christ gave the commission, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation." With their meager, and as it seemed, hopelessly inadequate knowledge, they were to set out to achieve the gigantic task of evangelizing the world.
Not only were they untraveled men and women, but they were humble and socially insignificant as well. There was not a wealthy man, or a man of rank or learning among them. "Not many wise, not many noble, not many mighty were called." But God chose the weak things, and the base things, and the despised things of the world to do His work. Not exactly who we would have picked for such a tremendous undertaking. But Christ chose for His Ambassadors fishermen and publicans. To them He committed the task of preaching His Gospel. And His trust was not misplaced. These weak men went everywhere, they appeared before governors and kings, they turned the world upside down, they were able to do all things through Christ which strengthened them.
The news about Christ was not to be confined to Palestine; the whole world had a right to hear it. Every nook and corner of the world has a right to hear it. We do not have the right, my friends, to pick and choose who hears and who doesn’t! Some places are difficult. Some seem to be almost impossible to get into. But the Church of Jesus Christ must not neglect these places simply because of their difficulty. Some lands are dangerous. But danger must not deter us. And yes, I used the right word – US!
You see, this "Going into all the world" is not just the business of some us, but of all of us. This was not a commission given only to the Apostles but to the whole Church. We must all do our part. We must all bear our responsibility. It does not matter how poor and insignificant you may think you are you have a part to play. Whether it be by prayers, or gifts, or by personal service, we must ALL participate in this task. “The first business of the saved man is the salvation of souls,” says Andrew Murray. What we need to realize is that this is our first and chief concern! The very purpose of our existence is the spread of the Kingdom. Why? Because behind the command lies the Christian faith, that the news about Christ is the news the whole wide world needs; that the story of Christ, living, dying, rising again is a Gospel, good news, to all who hear it. Do you believe that? It is a faith which is confirmed by all the facts. When the Apostles first set out on their missionary journeys, it was a venture of faith. They undertook their missionary labours on nothing more than the bare word of their Master. But in our case, we know by actual experience, that the news about Christ is good news to all who hear it and receive it by faith; that wherever it is proclaimed it carries with it joy and peace and freedom; that it brings reconciliation and salvation to men when everything else has failed. There is a multitude which no man can number of all nations and kindreds and peoples and tongues, including you and me, my friends, who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The world needs Christ. He meets that need. He can save it from its sin. And no one else can. "Give us your Christ," said the people of Japan to Drummond as he sailed back to England. That is still the appeal of the world today. Does that appeal fall on deaf ears?
You see, if we are not careful, we can actually run the risk of ignoring the most pressing need of mankind. And that urgent need is for the gospel. That is not to say that the need for food and water, freedom, safety, and equality are not real needs, they are! But there is a much greater need that surpasses them all in urgency. Jesus knew the depth of people’s physical needs. He had spent time with the sick, sat with the dying, and served the impoverished. When He saw the crowds, “he had compassion for them,” we are told in Matthew 9:35,36. The original language portrays a profound physical longing to provide for people with “every disease and affliction.” Yet his last words to his disciples show an even higher priority over and above everything else. As great as people’s earthly needs were, their eternal need was far greater. And so he called and commissioned them to speak. David Platt said that “Gospel possession requires gospel proclamation.”
And so the disciples are told to “preach the Gospel.” They are to go into the world bearing the “good news” of salvation to all who will hear it. The word “Gospel” means “good news”, and that is exactly what the “Gospel” is. The disciples were given a message of “good news” for all people.
What was this Gospel that they were to preach? It was the news about Jesus Himself; the story of His life and death and resurrection. It is implied that in some way His life and death and resurrection would have an effect on the whole world of men. The tragedy of His death and the triumph of His resurrection both took place in Jerusalem. But it was not only Jerusalem and Palestine that would be effected. What happened in Jerusalem, had what theologians call "a cosmic significance." Distant lands were going to be effected, peoples and tribes that had never heard of Jesus before were going to be effected; generations yet unborn were going to be effected. What happened to Him in Jerusalem was of infinite significance to the universe. "Go," He said, "and preach this Gospel of My dying and rising again—go into all the Kosmos and preach it to the whole creation." It is also implied that what happened to Him in Jerusalem would be good news to all the world. The world's happiness and hope were bound up with the knowledge of what had happened to Him. In some wonderful way the story of His living, dying, and rising again would bring light and joy and comfort and peace to the manifold peoples of the earth.
All of this is more clearly articulated by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15:3-4. Paul even says in verse 1 that he is declaring unto the church at Corinth the gospel that he had preached unto them. Then he says in verse 3, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”
The Gospel that we are to preach, my brothers, is comprised of three essential components:
1. “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures...”
2. “That He was buried...”
3. “That he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
If you have believed that message, my friend, then you have been commissioned to share it with others.
The disciples were to take the “good news” into “all the world”. No place was off limits. No people group was left out. It did not matter how wicked the people were, where they lived, or what they looked like, they were to be given this message. Our mission field is still everywhere that there are people. The phrase “every creature” refers to every individual who bears the image of God. Every human being, regardless of their sinfulness, the color of their skin, or their religious background, is a candidate for the “good news”.
Whether we tell the “good news” across the ocean or across the street, we are to tell it. When we open our mouths and tell it to others, or when we send our dollars to missionaries so they can share it where they are, we are engaged in helping to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ to His church.
The command is “Go ye...and preach”. The phrase “go ye” is a command. It is not a suggestion for optional ministry. It is a call to action! We are not to debate whether or not we will share the Gospel, we are just to go and share it.
That phrase is interesting because it is written in a tense that suggests this “As you are going...” In other words, as we move through this life, we are to be in the business of telling the “good news” to others.
We are to tell it with our lips. That is clear from the word “preach”, which means “to act as a king’s herald”. So ladies, you are not off the hook here, you can preach this message as well! We are to take the message of our King to this world with authority and assurance. We are to tell them what we know about Him. We are to tell the message with the assurance that He will empower us to tell this world what He has done for us, (Acts 1:8.) The Gospel is a message designed to be communicated orally. God has chosen preaching as the method of giving His message to a lost world, (Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21.)
But we are also to tell the story with our lives. We are to live in such a way that the lost people living around us will see the difference in our lives and will know that God has done something in us, (Phil 1:27; Matt. 5:16.)
If we do indeed believe that the gospel is the greatest need of mankind, then the central mission of the church in the world is to proclaim the gospel among the peoples of the world.
Anthropologists have identified over 11,000 different people groups in the world. Our job is to proclaim the gospel to all of them. We are to “Make disciples of all nations,” is what it says in the commission given in Matthew 28:19,20. The Greek word for “nations” is ethne, or ethnolinguistic groups. You see, the Great Commission is not just a general command to make disciples among as many people as possible. It is a specific command to make disciples among every people group in the world.
So how are we doing on fulfilling the marching orders of the church? Of those 11,000 people groups of the world, missiologists tell us that more than 6,000 of them are still unreached. That represents a population of more than two billion people. The International Missions Board says that a people group is classified as “unreached” if less than 2 percent of the population is made up of Christians who confess the gospel and believe the Bible. Many of these people groups have no Christians or churches among them and no one is even attempting to get the gospel to them. What that means is that most of these people will die without ever hearing the gospel message. When will that become intolerable to the church? What will it take to stir our hearts for those men and women whose souls are heading straight into fires of hell without ever even hearing the message of salvation? If the gospel is true, and if our God is worthy of the praise of all people, then we must be involved and our churches must be mobilized to spread Christ’s love to all peoples all over the world. The Great Commission was not given as a good idea for consideration. It is a command to be obeyed.
A question that is often asked is are the heathen really lost? Will a God of mercy and love and grace condemn someone who has never heard the Gospel message to eternal punishment? I can answer that question with one word – YES!
The same Bible that tells us that God is a God of love also tells us that He is a God of justice that must punish sin. And that judgment is demonstrated throughout the Scriptures. In the Book of Genesis alone God judged
- Cain for killing his brother Able (Chapter 4)
- The entire world with a great flood in the days of Noah (Chapter 7)
- Man’s self-reliance and arrogance at the Tower of Babel (Chapter 11)
- Sodom and Gomorrah (Chapter 19)
God’s judgment is always true and always righteous.
Those who have never heard the gospel are not condemned because they have neglected or rejected Christ. They, like all of us, are “condemned already” because creation itself speaks of Him (John 3:18, Romans 1:20) and because our own conscience testifies of Him (Romans 2:15-16). There is no such thing as an innocent person. Romans 3:10 says, “There is none righteous, no, not one. That includes you and me! We are not condemned because we reject the claims of Christ. We are lost because we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (v. 23). Long before we ever had the opportunity to accept or reject Christ, we were without hope because we were born with a sinful nature passed down to us by Adam and Eve.
If it were possible for men and women to be saved by simply Not hearing about Jesus and His plan of salvation, then we’ve been doing it all wrong! The best thing we could do is close all churches, bring home every missionary, silence every preacher and teacher of God’s truth, and burn every Bible we can find. And then in just a few years everyone would be on their way to heaven. But that’s not what the Scriptures teach. Romans 10:14 says, “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” There are only two times in all of human history when the whole world knew of God’s plan of redemption. Adam and Eve knew, and Noah and his family knew. But somewhere along the way we have failed to take the gospel to all the peoples of the world who don’t yet know of Jesus and His offer of salvation. This is still our great commission from Christ!
So why did God allow His only Son to die on the cross? Love was of course His primary reason, but He was also demonstrating His justice. Sin cannot go unpunished. So He poured out His justice on Christ Who took our punishment and died in our place. He died in my place so that I could live His life. He took my sin so that I could be a partaker of His righteousness. And it is our response to His justice that determines our eternal destiny.
Robert Lewis Stevenson, best known for his adventure story Treasure Island, was in poor health during much of his childhood and youth. One night his nurse found him with his nose pressed against the frosty pane of his bedroom window. "Child, come away from there. You'll catch your death of cold," she fussed. But young Robert wouldn't budge. He sat, mesmerized, as he watched an old lamplighter slowly working his way through the black night, lighting each street lamp along his route. Pointing out of the window, Robert exclaimed, "See; look there; there's a man out there poking holes in the darkness."
That, my friends, is what we have been called to do. We are to be about poking holes in the darkness of this sin-saturated world of ours with the glorious light of the Gospel!
Our need, my friends, is not a greater understanding of the Gospel message. We know the Gospel! I haven’t told you anything you didn’t know. What we need is an application of the Gospel to our world. We must no longer ignore the clear command of Christ to His church with a self-righteous complacency that makes us content to wring our hands in pious concern, but with a self-sacrificing commitment to be whatever God calls us to be, go wherever God tells us to go, give whatever God compels us to give, and serve whomever God leads us to serve. Everything in our world today revolves around self- protect yourself, promote yourself, comfort yourself, care for yourself. But Jesus says, “Crucify yourself!” Put aside self-preservation in order to live for His glorification and the spread of His kingdom. The Gospel is the lifeblood of Christianity. May we not sin through silence. May we realize that not to speak is to speak. We must not stay silent with the Gospel message. God has placed us in this world at this very time for a reason. We don’t have to ask what the will of God is; He has made it very clear in His word. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Proclaim my gospel, the good news about me, to a lost and dying world. I am their only hope. I am their only salvation.
Someone once said, “God didn’t put me on His Judgement Committee…nor did He assign me to the Election Committee. He put me on the Nominating Committee.” My friends, every person with whom we share the gospel we are nominating for salvation. And as many of those who believe, God will accept into His family.
Go! Preach the gospel…to every creature!
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