And Jesus came and said to them, “ All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Last month I had the honor and privilege of speaking to the elders and leaders of my church and the topic that was assigned to me was “Why Cities Matter”. I took this as an opportunity for us to be reminded once again of the Great Commission of Jesus found in Matthew’s gospel.
I really believe that in order for our lives to truly glorify God one of the things that we must actively and fervently engage in is the call to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all nations. Preaching Jesus and witnessing the Holy Spirit bring dead people to life is a high honor that can only be experienced this side of heaven.
The self-denying and gracious endeavor to join our lives with others in loving service that is devoted to their growth in the faith should be an integral part of the life of every believer. It’s one of the answers to the great question, “Why are we here?” It is also a part of the legacy of Christ’s ministry on earth left to us.
So as I prayed and meditated on Matthew 28:18-20 I felt the Lord impress three words on my heart to give a better understanding and also a sense of urgency concerning what Jesus himself commanded us to do.
The gospel of Matthew records Jesus declaration that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him. This is a truth that I honestly believe few believers genuinely understand (at least in my limited estimation and perspective). We seem to have no qualms about Jesus the savior but when comes to Jesus the Lord I think we balk completely. Yes, Jesus is indeed our savior but he is also the creator of heaven and earth, he upholds of all things by the word of his power, he is king, judge, and ruler of the nations.
He is God.
So it is no accident that after Jesus declares his absolute authority to his disciples he issues a command to them. Remember that it is called the Great Commission not the Great Suggestion. During my active duty days in the Marine Corps whenever we received a promotion in rank it was a public event. During these promotion ceremonies there was a promotion warrant that was read aloud.
One of the things proclaimed (my favorite) was that every Marine of lesser grade was to render obedience to all lawful orders given by the Marine with higher rank. If the lawful orders were not obeyed it would normally result in a very unpleasant and punitive experience for the perpetrator.
So as I went about faithfully discharging my duties the idea of someone not obeying my orders was inconceivable. How much more honor, respect, and obedience is due to the Lord of glory? I mean Jesus said stuff like, “Don’t be afraid of people who can just kill your body, but rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both your body and your soul in hell.” He didn’t leave much wiggle room did he?
Our obedience in fulfilling the Great Commission is rooted in the reality that Jesus is Lord. He is Lord over people, over creation, over sin, over death, and over the devil.
The mission that he gave us is simple and complex at the same time. The simple part is connected to the “what” of the mission. We have been commanded, called, and empowered to proclaim the salvation of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ and faithfully lead and serve those whom the Lord saves. The complexity is connected to the “how”. Our principles should be grounded in the truth which does not change. However, our methods do change from time to time and rightfully so.
Our method of communicating the truth of God’s Word depends on who we are talking to a lot of the time. For instance, the apostle Paul preached one way to the Jews and another way to the Greeks but the substance of his message never changed. The Jewish people were confronted with the gospel in a way that offended some of them. The Greeks were confronted with the gospel in a way that they deemed foolish. Each culture had its particular idols and hangups.
We must be mindful of the context in which God has placed us and pray for God’s wisdom and grace to meet people right where they are without compromising the message.
As the disciples went about obeying Jesus’ command they were armed with the message of the gospel. Through the preaching of Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit would do his regenerative work in the hearts of men, women, and children. As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church he mentions that he didn’t feel very confident or able when he was with them. In spite of that, his preaching was with power and it was accompanied by the demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power. He wrote to the Roman Christians declaring the gospel to be the very power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. Paul had one message and he stuck to it.
We should make it our aim to be just as bold with the gospel. Saving people is not up to us and definitely not within the scope of our authority and ability. The task of preaching has been given to us but the act of saving lost sinners and bringing them from spiritual death to life is totally in the hands of God. Not everyone will receive our message. Some will even respond in a very negative manner. People’s responses are not the standard by which we are to measure our success as we boldly and humbly announce who Jesus is and what he has done to secure our eternal salvation.
No matter what, we must not give in to the pressure to water down the message of the gospel.
As we exalt our master, carry out his mission, and proclaim his message we will join the glorious legacy of those faithful witnesses who have gone before us and the prize that awaits us all is Christ himself.