Saturday, February 17, 2018

What’s so Great about the Great Commission?

We call it “The Great Commission”. I’ve been thinking about some of the reasons it really does deserve this name. Not only is the mission which Christ gave worthy of the adjective “great”, it is a worthy cause to give sacrificially to, takes risks and face dangers for, to pray fervently about, to suffer for, and to live and die for. Allow me to share some of my thoughts about why this is so.

The Great Commission Receives Great Emphasis

You probably remember only a tiny portion of the preaching you’ve heard. But imagine that one Friday morning you were watching your preacher cross the street and – wham! – he got ran over by a speeding dump truck. When you reached to him he was, beyond all doubt, dead. Your church quickly buries him. You show up Sunday morning with a heavy heart, wondering who will speak and what they might say. And then, to your surprise and wonder, your preacher, with the tread marks still visible, walks up to the pulpit. Whatever he spoke about that Sunday morning, you would never forget it.

Of course, this is similar to what the disciples experienced. And what does Jesus talk about in this very memorable circumstance? The Great Commission.

Not only does Jesus appear and deliver the Great Commission, He does so over and over again during the forty days after His death. Some of the most important events and teachings of Christ are recorded in all four gospels. The Great Commission is recorded in all four gospels plus the book of Acts (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-22; Acts 1:8). The same occasion is not recorded five times, but rather the gospels and Acts record versions of the Great Commission given at different times and places during the forty days before Christ ascends. This may be seen in the following chart:

It’s as if Jesus went on a kind of forty day post-resurrection victory speaking tour. And His main topic, forever gloriously burned into the hearts and minds of His disciples, was the Great Commission!

And while the Great Commission in its fullest form is not seen until the Gospels, the deep roots of the Great Commission reach all the way back to Genesis 1, and indeed back into the eternal wisdom and plans of our great God.

The Great Commission is Given with Great Authority

The Great Commission comes from the One with far more authority than any general, king, emperor, or even archangel. He is described as being far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come”(Eph 1:21 NIV).

Jesus explicitly invokes His ultimate authority when He gives the Great Commission:

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. . . (Matt. 28:18 NIV)

No human authority or government has the right to stop us from carrying out the Great Commission. Peter and the Apostles understood this,

Acts 5:27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them,
 28 saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us."
 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men.”

The Great Commission has Great Breadth

The Great Commission covers the whole world. Jesus commissions us to bring His love and truth to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19), “all the world” (Mark 16:15), “all nations” (Luke 24:47), and “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The gospel is meant for all people, speaking all languages, living in all parts of the world.

The Great Commission has Great Depth

What I mean by “great depth” is that the Great Commission involves a lifelong process of learning to obey all that Jesus commanded:

                “. . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

To grasp the depth of this commission consider the difference between teaching someone to merely know how Jesus taught us to treat our enemies and teaching people to actually obey this. Then think about learning to actually obey all the teachings of Jesus. When we think about this we realize that all of us are still learning even as we are teaching others. We also come to realize that many activities we don’t normally associate with the Great Commission are in fact encompassed by it:

* Parents teaching their children right from wrong.
* Being an example to others when we obey Jesus in any way.
* Teaching a Bible Study or Sunday School.
* Encouraging a friend to keep trusting God in hard times.

In fact, it’s hard to think of any part of a Christian’s life which is not related to teaching people to obey everything Jesus commanded!

The Great Commission has Great Consequences

We all have a God-given desire to rescue others. I think this is part of the reason that superhero movies are so popular. Well, God really has chosen to involve us in saving the world! It’s a life or death mission with eternal results.

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16, ESV)

By ourselves, we would never want such responsibility. But Jesus doesn’t ask us to carry out the Great Commission by ourselves!

The Greatest Person Accompanies Us as We Fulfill the Great Commission

As part of the Great Commission Jesus promises:

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:20 NIV)

Which also reminds us of the great duration of the Great Commission. It remains in effect until Jesus returns at the end of this age!

The Great Commission Comes with Great Power

Such a huge calling and task requires great power. God gives it to us:

“you will receive power” (Acts 1:8)

In conjunction with the Great Commission, Jesus promises us Holy Spirit power. This is why the Great Commission is unstoppable. Threats, dangers, murders, prisons, persecution, oceans, mountains, jungles, languages, hostile governments, and the devil and all his demons have proven completely inpotent at stopping the Great Commission. It can’t be stopped because the same power that created galaxies and raised up Jesus from the dead is now working through us to accomplish God’s great plan. The only question is to what degree we will avail this power and put it to its intended use.

The Great Commission Calls for Great Commitment and Sacrifice

Jesus is honest. He warns us that many people will be persecuted and some even killed as we do our part to carry out the Great Commission. The Apostles were beaten, jailed, and threatened, but they kept preaching the gospel. God has been giving His people supernatural courage and boldness ever since. All the sacrifice only serves as a shining light to prove God’s great love is true.

The Great Commission Results in Great Worship

John Piper famously said, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” What he was getting at is that God deserves to be worshipped in every language and by people all around the world. The purpose of the Great Commission is to spread God’s glory among all peoples.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14, NIV)

God is fulfilling this prophecy by spreading the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ all around the world and by transforming each person who believes as we learn to obey all that Jesus commanded.

Will this ambitious project succeed? Oh, yes! It will succeed gloriously. God graciously gave John a vision of the great success of the Great Commission:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9-10, NIV)

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

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