The Great Commission
The Basic Concepts
Thy Kingdom Come page 3
From The Message of
Bread Upon The Waters Ministry
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When Jesus was about to leave this world and return to Heaven, He gave some final instructions to the Apostles. There are three different versions of these instructions, found in Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-18, and Acts 1:7-9. They all add up to saying essentially one thing. The passage in Matthew 28, though, is most complete and concise. It is the passage specifically called the Great Commision. Most Christians know what it is basically about. The Apostles were supposed to preach the Gospel to the whole world. But what He said goes far deeper than that.
Let us begin by taking a close look at the Great Commission:
came to them and said,
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
There is far more to this passage than immediately meets the eye. That is, Jesus was telling them some really awesome things. And this is not using the word "awesome" lightly. As was stated in the Introduction to "Strangers and Pilgrims on the Earth", you can take the Bible too literally but you cannot take it too seriously. Unfortunately, it appears that for a long time Christians have not taken this any where near seriously enough. And perhaps that is, at least in part, because they do not understand it.
The Authority To Do The Job
First, Jesus statement that... "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" ....tells us that in the spiritual realm, His authority in relation to this world is absolute. Nothing can happen of a spiritual nature, at least, relevant to this world unless He at least allows it. Anything He wants to happen will happen. Except inasmuch as it is opposed or supported by human will. The spiritual world is higher, and more powerful than the material. Inasmuch as He spiritually dominates the world, Jesus is able to dominate it materially too. We are in a sense gods, and we have latent spiritual power. Above all, each of us, in the moral sense, at least, has a free will. We can get in the way of His authority. We can do it more than the Devil can! (For example, unbelief on the part of the people of Nazareth limited Jesus' ability to work miracles there. See Matthew 13:54-58. But no demon could resist His authority.) But Jesus was telling the Apostles that in Him they (and thus we) at least potentially had the power to get the job He gave them (and us) done, an idea that is supported by His promise that... "surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." His power will always be available.
Now, looking at the job He gave the Apostles to do, we know that He told the Apostles to "make disciples of all nations". Or to put it differently, (Mark 16:15)
"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation".
Now, in our times, most Christians understand "make disciples of all nations" to mean, in practice, "make a few disciples here and a few there", which is the way Christian ministry tends to work out in practice. But that is not what Jesus meant at all! If you happen to read it in the Greek, you will find that, if translated dead literal, it reads, "disciple all the nations". Period! Not a few people here and a few there. Everybody. True fulfillment of obedience to this command would result in 100% conversions to the Christian Fatih.
We can see how this worked out in practice in the first Church in Jerusalem. As you also know, Jesus told the Apostles, in Acts 1:8... "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." It is enlightening to observe how they carried out this admonition. As stated in the "How God Works In History" page, the Apostles all stayed in Jerusalem until the persecution of Saul. A superficial reading of the Book of Acts might leave you with the impression that the persecution of Saul began only a few weeks after Pentecost. However, real students of Church History know that it didn't happen until at least three, and possibly as much as seven years later. This has been determined from chronological details that we know about Saul's later ministry as Paul.
Until Saul started his persecution, following the martyrdom of Stephen, almost all the Christians in the world were living in Jerusalem. There were not less than 5,000 Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns and villages. In fact, some estimates run as high as 25,000. But there were probably no more than a few hundred anywhere else. They would have consisted only of those Christians who had had to leave Jerusalem for reasons of family or business. None had left, that we know of, to spread the Gospel.
Although it was taking time, and had been met with opposition and non-lethal persecution, the Apostles' ministry in Jerusalem had been very effective. In fact, the Bible reports that many of the priests had become Christians (Acts 6:7). So effective was the Apostles' ministry that they obviously expected the whole city to eventually turn to Christ. They probably expected to move out from there once that was accomplished. To them, this would have been the logical, expected fulfillment of Jesus' admonition in Acts 1:8. God, of course, had other plans at the time (including the destruction of Jerusalem). But the idea of 100% conversion that they had was totally within the parameters of what Jesus told them to do in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8.
Today, we see 100% worldwide conversion, at best, as a lofty ideal, not expecting such a thing ever to happen. The truth is, there have been some local revivals in which that goal was approached locally. And the early centuries of the Church saw ministry outside of Jerusalem that was so effective that the Christian Faith took over the Roman Empire. And that in the face of widespread, deadly persecution.
But after Christianity became the state religion of Rome in the fourth century, the spread of Christianity came almost to a complete halt. Then, in the seventh century, the Islamic conquest virtually wiped out Christianity in populations that it had dominated. Although it has had some limited recovery, the Christian world has never been really united in fulfilling the Great Commission since. But we should be.
In the light of what Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 & 20, in theory, if not in practice, it should be possible to accomplish a Christian takeover of the world, spiritually at first, then culturally, as a natural consequence, and then, of course, politically. If the Christians were able to do it to the Roman Empire then, we should be able to do it to the whole world now. This is what Jesus really wanted. It would be the true fulfillment of the first main petition of the Lord's Prayer. But there are two further things that must be remembered concerning this.
Special Note: Please understand that what is proposed here is a spiritual takeover, accomplished non-violently by prayer, fasting, and the ministry of the Word. Please, let no one read even a hint of anything else into this. Nothing else is implied or intended.
The first is about Baptism. In both Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16, Jesus mentioned Baptism as a condition of salvation. When, in Acts 2:38, Peter was asked by the crowd what to do, he told them to repent and be baptised. Throughout the Book of Acts, it is shown that Baptism is an integral part of becoming a Christian. In Romans 6:3 & 4, Paul describes Baptism as a literal spiritual death and resurrection. He says, in so many words, that Baptism is the route to living a new life. Furthermore, the Bible plainly shows that Baptism is something that should happen as soon as possible after a person repents and believes, not months or even years later, as is the practice in most churches that do practice Baptism of converts.
Christians have gone off in two erroneous directions about Baptism. Catholics have overstated it to the point of believing that simply carrying out the physical act of Baptism, even on an infant, guarantees that the individual baptised will not go to hell. The Bible clearly says a person must repent and believe first. Otherwise, Baptism is meaningless at best, and very likely a presumptuous sin. Protestants have gone off in the opposite direction, in many cases reducing it, in concept, to a ritual that is no more than a testimony, or in extreme cases, not even believing in Water Baptism at all. Protestants often deny that Baptism is required for salvation. The Bible clearly says that it is. The Bible also, by statement and example, makes Water Baptism a prerequisite for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. And it says that a person who does not have the Holy Spirit is not a Christian.
Bluntly, if we are to have a prayer of really carrying out the Great Commission, and fulfilling the first petition of the Lord's Prayer, we will have to get our teaching and practice relevant to Baptism into line with the Scriptures. The same thing is true of what we teach and practice concerning the Holy Spirit.
Christians have made several mistakes concerning receiving the Holy Spirit; on one extreme saying that the Pentecostal experience ended with the deaths of the Apostles and/or the assembly of the Bible into one Book. Or, on the other hand, some say that we automatically receive the Spirit when we accept Christ. Another error demands the manifestation of sign gifts, especially "tongues", as evidence of receiving the Spirit, and in extreme cases says that anyone who doesn't "speak in tongues" is not saved. The Bible does not really support any of these positions.
The truly Biblical position is that becoming a Christian involves three distinct steps: Repentance, Baptism in water, and the receiving (the Baptism ) of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38). Again, Baptism is water is usually a prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit. And receiving the Holy Spirit is not necessarily automatic. It may require prayer, fasting, and the laying on of hands. See Acts 8:14-17. Yet Paul does say that... (Romans 8:9)
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in
if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
This leads us to the second point, that we must
teach "them to obey everything I have commanded you."
This is about strict obedience to the teachings of Scripture. It means, again, that we must take everything He, and everyone else in the Bible, taught about sin and righteousness seriously. As stated elsewhere, you can take the Bible too literally but you can't take it too seriously. We must make up our minds to learn what the Bible says about everything we think, say and do, and we must obey it! If Christians will not do so themselves, they cannot expect to be very successful in teaching others to do so.
The trouble is, there has been far too much of substituting the word of man for the Word of God. To much modern teaching and preaching is based on human philosophy, sociology and psychology, rather than the Bible. New Age thinking has crept into many churches. There also is too much apostasy, that is, even people who call themselves Born Again Christians not really believing in the power of God. The true carrying out of the Great Commission must be preceded by a radical return to the Scriptures on the part of Christians, and the Scriptures alone, as opposed to anything else, including all the current spate of "dreams and visions".
If even a dozen or so Christians were to unite in real obedience to these principles, we might take the world for Christ yet.
We will comment further on what we are supposed to do in the following page,
Our Collective Responsibility
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