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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016
The Great Commission
I don't know when it started or who started it, but at some point, we began to refer to Christ's command to the eleven remaining Apostles to go into all the world and make disciples as the Great Commission.

Between the reliable account in Matthew, and the account in Mark which does not exist in any of the early copies of Mark's Gospel, we understand that after His death, Jesus appeared to the eleven remaining Apostles in Galilee, and gave them a command to, "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."

I've struggled with the way this command ("The Great Commission") has been over-represented in both the pulpit and in print. 

It is the duty of every believer to honor Christ the Lord as holy in their heart and to be ready at any time to make a defense to anyone who asks them for the reason they have this hope within them (c.f. 1 Peter 3:15).  That is, we should all be ready to share our faith when opportunity (or rather providence) allows it.  Furthermore we certainly will do so, as the scriptures remind us, when the Lord makes us willing to do so -- "on the day of His power" (c.f. Psalm 110:3, Acts 1:8, Philippians 2:21-13 etc.). 

Yet that doesn't seem to be the thrust we hear when we read this passage of scripture concerning the Great Commission.  We hear entire sermons preached on the two words "go out" as though these words were spoken to the church in general.

Jesus wasn't speaking to a crowd when He said those words.  He was speaking to His Apostles - men he had chosen to represent Him in the world.   This wasn't the first time our Lord sent the Apostles out.  Recall how he sent them out the first time in Matthew 10:5-7
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans,  but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
The biggest difference between this commission, and what many Christians refer to as the great commission is not the radical call to share the good news - Christ had been there, and done that already with the twelve.  What was new was that what He had formerly restricted to Israel - was now for the Samaritans and Gentiles as well. 

In both cases, Jesus singled out the Apostles for the commission. 

Objection: Does that mean that believers are not required to share their faith?   I would answer that with a qualified Yes and No.  


(Yes) In Luke 9:57-62 our Lord commands a man in the crowd to follow Him (not unlike when our Lord commanded Matthew, a tax collector to follow Him), and the man asked to go and bury his father first, and Jesus replies to this man, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."  Our Lord understood that in "following Him" one was expected to proclaim the kingdom of God.    We ought also to expect the same today - anyone who is a follower of Christ, ought to follow in His ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom of God (i.e. not merely that it has come, but proclaiming the way into the kingdom through repentance and faith).  

(No) Yet the bible plainly makes a distinction between those who have been appointed Evangelists by Christ (by way of calling and gifting) and those who are neither gifted nor appointed to such an office.  In 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 we see that God has given Apostles, prophets, Evangelists, and Pastor/Teachers to the church.  These are offices appointed to men by God through gifting and providence.  When Paul tells Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist" - he is recognizing how God has appointed men to be Evangelists (i.e. modern day missionaries and church planters).  Paul tells Timothy Timothy (his young protégé and a new pastor in the church) to "do the work of an evangelist" (c.f. 2 Timothy 4:5).  in order for Timothy to fulfill his ministry, We understand Paul to mean that Timothy will need to do the work of a missionary right there in the (already established) church. 

A pastor/teacher must teach the scriptures, but he must also do the work of an Evangelist in his congregation - since there will be tares amongst the wheat.  Members of the body who are not Apostles, prophets, Evangelists or pastor/teachers must nevertheless be ready to give a defense of their faith when asked and ought to be praying earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (c.f. Luke 10:2), and proclaim the gospel within their circles of influence. 

The scriptures shows that God makes a distinction between those whom He is sending out to be missionaries/Evangelists and those whom God is not sending out (c.f. Acts 13:2).  Not everyone is called to be a missionary/Evangelist, and not everyone is an Apostle.


I believe we close to, if not actually in danger of, misrepresenting a command given to those whom God had appointed as Christ's envoys (the word Apostle means "envoy") as though these commands were given to the laity in general.

It's true that believers ought to be proclaiming the kingdom of God wherever and whenever they can do so - but not all believers are called to do the work of an Evangelist/Missionary.  In other words, if you put that yoke on people who have neither been called to, or gifted to, do the work of an Evangelist - you are trying to build the church in a way that God has not empowered or ordained.

That isn't to say that the laity is free from the call to proclaim the kingdom - they are not, every believer is expected to proclaim the kingdom of God - but not every believer is called to the mission field.  In the same way, not every believer is an Apostle.

My concern is that the commands given to the Apostles to make disciples of the Gentiles, has morphed into a sort of general commission to all believers everywhere for all time.  The command was given to the Apostles to start making Gentile converts also (as opposed to only Jewish converts) and to teach those Gentile converts to observe the same things that the Apostles were already teaching their Jewish converts to observe.

Did you notice that Jesus didn't give this command to the other 120 or so disciples?  Why not?  Because Jesus wasn't sending the other disciples to go and make disciples among the Gentiles, he was sending the Apostles.  They had the authority to take the gospel to the Gentiles prior to the writing of the New Testament - the other disciples didn't

Christians ought to be sharing their faith, they ought to be making disciples, but if we turn the "great commission" into anything more than a command for the Apostles to make disciples among the Gentile nations, we are probably over-representing the text.  How many Christians have come to doubt their own faith on the grounds that they are not personally evangelizing the lost every day?  To hear some preach the great commission, you'd think that anyone who isn't purposely turning every conversation into an altar call, isn't a *real* Christian.

Show me a believer who never shares the gospel, and I'll show you either a false convert, or an immature, biblically-starved believer.  Every normal, healthy believer will not only be given opportunities by God to share their faith - they will learn over time to do so naturally.  But show me a person who believes that every believer must be "doing the work of an evangelist", and I will show you a person who neither understands what the work of an evangelist is, nor whom the great commission was given to.

All believers are called to share their faith - but not all believers are Evangelists, prophets, Apostles, and pastor/teachers.  Those who hold these offices are called to a higher service, even as the Apostles were given a commission that the rest of the disciples were not called to.

I think calling the text of Matthew 28, The Great Commission - a little misleading.  It was a commission, and it was as great as anything the Lord had done or will do.  But it had more to do with the Apostles taking the gospel to the Gentiles than it had to do with Evangelism.  If ignore that while focusing on the idea of "going out" to "evangelize" - we are in danger of putting a spin on the text that was not intended at the time our Lord spoke it.

I hesitate to express this concern, since a reader might wrongly imagine that I am suggesting that normal Christians do not have to share their faith.  I'm not saying that at all.  What I am saying is that this commission is the same as the previous one to preach the gospel to the Jews only.  The only real difference is that the Gentiles are now allowed in the fold.  Making it say more than that is... in my opinion, taking injurious liberty with the text, and reading into it more than the author intended to say.


posted by Daniel @ 1:20 PM  
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