The Lord willing, next Sunday night we will deal more directly with the questions raised in verse 18. In the mean time, how do YOU look at these commandments – this commission? In William Carey’s day it was common to think that these words belonged only to the Apostles. Perhaps it was merely neglect among the saints of God. Perhaps it was the effect of the kind of Calvinism that existed then. But as a general rule, few Christians were really interested in evangelism. Especially world evangelism – missions. But Carey saw that this scripture concluded with “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world – or age.” Here is a beautiful and wonderful promise – but to whom was it given? It can’t be to the Apostles alone, because they have all died. The apostles were not meant to live until the end of the world. It must be to either living saints, or the church of the living God. And if that PROMISE is to us, then so must be the commandment. When one day Carey dared to suggest this to a group of preachers, one of them replied – “Young man, sit down. When God wishes to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine.” Fortunately, Carey persisted in insisting that these words apply to God’s saints until the very end. The truth is, when God wishes to convert the heathen, He does it through the work of His saints. The lost must be taught that they are lost – and that comes through the preaching of Word. And saints must be taught that faith and repentance are evidences of regeneration. The lost must look for faith and repentance in themselves. And obviously, the lost are not going to believe on a Christ of whom they haven’t heard. And they aren’t going to repent before the wicked, idol gods of the heathen. They must be told of the holiness of God. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” – Romans 10:14. Sure we believe that only God can bring these truths home to the wicked heart, but Christians are the tools which the Holy Spirit uses.
Among the many things in this text are – Christ’s Claim, His Command and His Covenant.
Christ first claimed to have been given “All power in heaven and earth.”
What does that mean? The word “power,” as we ordinarily use it today doesn’t adequately convey all that Jesus meant. The Greek word is “exousia,” and it speaks of power through authority – not the power of muscle. I read of a government surveyor who was preparing for a new highway through the country-side. He brought his equipment up to farm house one day, asking for permission to enter a back field. When he saw that the farmer hesitated about allowing him to go into the designated area, he promptly pulled out several government papers which gave him authority to go anywhere he wanted. Reluctantly the farmer opened the big wooden gate for the surveyor pass through. Soon, at other end of the pasture, the equipment was set up and the man began making his charts. But, it wasn’t too long before that he saw the biggest, meanest-looking bull that he had ever seen in his life, coming straight toward. As he was running past the farmer, the old country boy shouted, “Show that bull your government papers; show him your papers.” There is a difference between power and authority. Jesus Christ, as God the Son and the Son of God has both “dunamis” and “exousia.”
And just think about that: He, whom the disciples thought of as “Jesus of Nazareth” – teacher and friend, was actually the sovereign King of the universe – with unlimited authority over it. Hadn’t seen that when Christ calmed the wind in the midst of the storm? Didn’t they see it over and over again, when He healed the sick, raised the dead and turned water into wine? The man who began life as the carpenter’s son, was the God/man who constructed the entire universe. God the Father had given to God the Son, executive powers over all creation.
On the other hand, He had submitted to the whims of the high priests. He, who could have turned the nails into rubber or chalk, permitted them to be drive through His flesh. He, who could have called ten thousand angels, gave himself to the cross. And He, who creates, created and sustains life, chose to die, and then to return to life again. For a while, the Son of God, gave up His authority, leaving it in the hands of His Father.
But here in this scripture, Christ seems to refer to a new specific transaction. “All power is given unto me” – “All authority has been given.” This takes us into some interesting and somewhat difficult theology. Jesus is the eternal Son, and always has had inherent rights and authority. But the scripture seems to teach that on coming to earth, He relinquished much of His “exousia.” In eternity past, the Father and the Son had made an arrangement – a covenant. Apparently, upon the obedient completion of the eternal plan (of which that was never in doubt); everything would once again be placed under the authority of the Son. “The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into his hand.” “The Father judgeth no man but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.”
Think about what this suggests: It means that Christ cannot be defeated; He is the Sovereign of all creation. Who can harm us if Lord doesn’t want us to be harmed? Who can separate us from his love? “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” How will God’s will ever be broken? It means that our every effort can be effectual and worthwhile. This also means that if we rebel against His command, he has all power and authority to judge us for our disobedience. This means that we can’t afford to neglect the command which He is giving us here.
And what is it that Jesus commanded? “Go ye therefore an teach all nations…”
Notice the word “therefore.” What is the “therefore” there for? The Lord says, because I have all authority to command you; because I am King and supreme… Because I have power to guarantee the success of your service. Because all power is mine, “Go and teach all nations…”
“Go” is the first of the four verbs in this commission. There are very few 5-year-olds who don’t understand that word “go.” There are a lot of dogs who understand the word. But why “go”? Because the lost world will not “come.” The world may beat a path to the door of the man who builds a better mouse trap… But by nature the lost man has less desire for the Gospel of Christ than he has for the electric chair. “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” It is absolutely necessary that those who possess the gospel – carry the gospel. I don’t see the people of Post Falls begging for admission into our building this evening. Elsewhere, Jesus has said, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” And how much was involved in the sending of the Saviour? How much “go” was there in His incarnation? I think it’s safe to say we have less involved in our “go” than Christ had in His. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” “Go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.”
Go and then teach them the principles of salvation – “disciple them.” I am told that of the four verbs we have in this verse only one is imperative. “Going,” “baptizing” and “teaching to observe,” are basically helping verbs – helping the first “teach.” “Teach all nations” is from the Greek word for “disciple” – and that is the primary verb. It involves teaching the child of disobedience the terrible plight of his sinfulness. It means that he must see how his righteousness is as filthy rags before God. It involves the revelation that men in the flesh cannot please God. The wages of sin is eternal death. After teaching these things then show them the redemption price – the blood of the Saviour. “He made him to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” And don’t forget that a mere knowledge of these facts is not sufficient to redeem a soul. The lost need to be discipled and taught to love Christ and to follow at His call.
We as Christians have a spiritual obligation to those who are outside of Christ. We are debtors to the Jews and also to the Greeks. We owe to them the gospel that we possess. We perhaps cannot be in every corner of world at once, so we may send representatives. But we can’t allow ourselves to think that this satisfies God’s commands to us. We live in a heathen city as wretched as Ninevah or Bagdad. Our command is to take the gospel to every city – including Post Falls. We have the privilege of assisting foreign missionaries, but what about our neighbors?
A preacher once said that when Jesus ascended to Heaven, a committee of angels asked – “Did you accomplish what you set out to do?” He replied, “Yes, it is finished.” “Well, has the whole world heard of your sacrifice for salvation?” “No.” “What is your plan for world evangelism?” “I’ve left eleven men and a few others to carry my message throughout the world.” The angelic messengers paused, looked each other and then asked: “What’s plan B?” Brethren, there is no Plan B.
When the Lord gives us a new-born soul, then we are under obligation to nurture it. Those people need to be baptized and taught to observe all the things that we’ve been taught. They need to be loved and cherished in the same way that parents love their new born child.
And lo, Christ’s covenant guarantees His presence until the end of the age.
Christ will be with whom? To whom was He speaking? Was it to Peter, James and John? Yes it was, but they are now dead and no longer serving the saints of this age, except through their writings. Was Jesus speaking to all the obedient saints of his day? I don’t believe that the promise makes any sense if it isn’t applied to the Lord’s church. Not only are the Apostles all dead and gone. But even if there were the 500 witnesses within earshot of this commission, they are gone as well. But if this commission was given to the Lord’s church, the perpetuity of the promise makes sense, because the Lord has promised the perpetuity of His “ecclesia” – His assembly – as well. The Great commission was given to the first church of Christ.
The great commission was given only to the churches of Christ. The only people on this earth with authority to evangelize the lost are those in Jesus’ scriptural churches. That means that the work of evangelizing Post Falls, rests on our shoulders. We must assume that ours is the only authorized church of God in this city. That might not be the case but that must be our outlook.
As a church of Christ, we assume that several important promises belong to us. We believe that our church possesses the Lord’s authority to baptize and to obey the Lord in other areas. But how can we demand church authority for some things, but then leave obedience to our commission to others who have no authority to obey? We are hypocrites if we demand church authority for baptism and the Lord’s Supper, if we are not involved in evangelism and missions. We have no authority to pick and choose the areas of our authority and responsibility.
“And lo, I am with you even unto the end of the world.” I’ve recently read an history of the Revolutionary War – “the War of Independence.” During the first year and more, things didn’t look very good for the American cause. But eventually the tide started to turn, and key to that difference was the presence of George Washington. There were many generals during that war, but none of them could excite the troops like the simple presence of the big man on the white horse. As the momentum of the war shifted, some battles were won because of the presence of their leader.
Likewise Christ has given us the encouragement that should drive us. “Lo, I am with you until the work is done.” We cannot be defeated unless we do nothing at all. The promise is ours. And so is the command.