Monday, May 22, 2017

The Great Commission and Genesis Chapter 1

Do we understand how truly great the Great Commission is?

The Great Commission is not a new idea which springs up suddenly in the New Testament like spring flowers with shallow roots. No, the Great Commission has deep roots, strong roots.  These roots reach down through the prophets and the Psalms and God’s promises to the patriarchs all the way back to creation and Genesis chapter 1.

Way back in Genesis chapter 1, when God first creates people, He announces His plans and purposes for us. Those plans include these two elements:

1.  He wants people to be like Him, in His image.
2.  He wants people to fill up the whole earth.

Each of these elements is stressed through repetition of phrases with similar meanings in Genesis 1:26-28.

God Wants People to be Like Him

God repeats four times that it is His plan to create people in His image. God is emphasizing this truth.  What does it mean to be created in the image of God?

Being made in God’s image includes a lot! The immediate context indicates that being made in God’s image includes being designed to rule over parts of God’s creation under God’s own ultimate rule.  The broader context of the Bible indicates that being made in God’s image includes being like God in many ways (but not every way!). For our purposes I want to highlight one specific way in which we are supposed to be like God which is closely related to the Great Commission.

Being made in God’s image means that in our character He wants us to be just like Jesus.  God wants people to be as loving, as pure, as trustworthy, as giving, as gentle, as courageous, and as good as Jesus!  Of course, there is no difference in being like Jesus and being like God the Father when it comes to our character. That God wants us to be like Him in this way is seen in this passage:

NIV Ephesians 5:1 Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children
2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

You can also see this principle in these verses (scroll over them, and they should pop up):
Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:36; John 13:15; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 4:32; Philippians 2:3-5; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6; and 1 John 4:11.

What does this have to do with the Great Commission?  Everything, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s look at a second element of God’s plan for people as revealed in Genesis chapter 1.

God Wants People to Fill Up the Whole Earth

God repeats the same basic command using three different phrases:  “Be fruitful”, “increase in number”, and “fill the earth”.

God wants a planet full of people! It’s not saying He wants us to be uncomfortably crowded, but He does want there to be a lot of people all over the world.

Now when we put these two elements of God’s plan together, something beautiful emerges:

God wants a world full of people who are just like Jesus.  He wants a world where everyone you meet is as honest, trustworthy, humble, giving, and loving as Christ. Don’t you want to live in a world like that?! I do.

But the world we live in is not very much like that, is it?  What went wrong with God’s good plan?  The problem can be summed up in one word:

Our sin messed up God’s plan.  But God has not given up on His plan.  Far from it.  In fact, He knew we would sin and He already had a plan to reach His goal.  This plan includes:

*  Sending Jesus to die for our sins so that He can justly forgive all those who accept Christ and not have to destroy the very people He wants to redeem.

*  Teaching people to change and start living like Jesus again.

*  Spreading this Good News of Salvation to all nations all over the earth.

Now we can see how the Great Commission is God’s way of calling us and empowering us to work with Him to achieve His original plan of filling up the world with people who are just like Jesus:

Matthew 28: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

The part where Jesus directs us to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” is another way of saying we must “teach them to be like Jesus again”.

The part about going to “all nations” shows that God wants this to happen all over the world.


This means that when you are teaching your children how to live pleasing to God, you are helping to fulfill God’s original plan for mankind and the Great Commission.  The same is true when you set an example of Christ-like love by visiting a friend or when you teach a Bible class or whenever you use any gift God has given you to build up the Church.  That’s the depth of the Great Commission.

It also means that you are helping to fulfill God’s plan for creation and complete the Great Commission whenever you help spread this work all over the globe, to every nation and people group.  You can do this by going, by giving, by praying, and by encouraging and preparing others to go, give, and pray.

Will this Plan Work?

Hallelujah! Yes, it will.  God has already revealed the end of the story.  There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth (Revelation 21:1).  Those who refused to accept Christ and receive God’s Good News and become like Jesus won’t be there.  Who will be there?  People from every nation, from all over the earth (Revelation 7:9)!  And we will live forever with God and with Christ in a perfect world full of people who are as good and loving and holy as Jesus.

Doing our part to fulfill God’s plan is something worth living for and worth dying for. It gives our lives meaning!

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

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