Editor: Here is a great article from biblestudy.org . I thought that it made some excellent points about the role of the average Christian in the work given the church to do.|
It was time for one last farewell before leaving to sit at the right hand of almighty God. Jesus, after more than three years of training a small, specially selected group of men, knew it was almost time they fully entered God’s work. Just before he ascended to heaven, he gathered his disciples together to tell them the work he wanted them to do. He gave what is called the Great Commission, found primary in Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-18 and Luke 24:47. What exactly is this Commission? Was it something meant ONLY for the apostles? Did Jesus intend the Gospel promulgated by a small set of believers who were ‘ordained?’ This article will cover some of the main aspects of the mission Christ gave.
Building on the labor of others
The Great Commission to spread the truth of God did not begin with Jesus or the apostles. Righteous men and women carried out the initial hard labor of introducing God’s word to the world, explaining it, distributing it and so on BEFORE the first century A.D. The mission received by the early church is a continuation of that which came before. Jesus made it clear to his followers that they would enter into the work started long before they were born.
‘Lift up your eyes and see the fields, for they are already white to harvest . . . 38. I sent you to reap that in which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.’ (John 4:35, 38)
Who were some of those who labored before the disciples were fully engaged in the Great Commission, who planted and watered in the world to enable the New Testament church to harvest believers for God’s Kingdom?
The all-inclusive message
The commission recorded in Matthew 28 catches the fullness of the task charged to the church. Christ told his inner circle of disciples the following just before he left them.
“ALL authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples in ALL nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; Teaching them to observe ALL things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you ALWAYS, even until the completion of the age.” (Matthew 28:18 – 20)
Did you catch how many times in three verses that Jesus used the word ‘all’ or ‘always?’ First, He uses them to establish his divine authority then uses these two words to lay the foundation of the next great part of God’s plan for mankind.
Go and preach the gospel
The very first thing Jesus tells his disciples in Mark’s version of the Great Commission is, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). However, what IS the gospel message?
In general, the Gospel or ‘good news’ is a message revealing why God created mankind back in the Garden of Eden. Man’s destiny, if he is willing to accept it, is to live forever and have a relationship with God as a member of his family, with the same perfect, sinless character as He possesses. The means of accomplishing this awesome goal is through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, who is mankind’s one and only Savior and the ONLY means by which humans can have a close relationship with the Father.
The Gospel contains not only information ABOUT Jesus but also concerns the great and wonderful message he brought regarding the coming Kingdom of God on earth. It includes a call to repent of sin, to accept Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of those sins, to go under the waters of baptism and receive God’s Spirit, and to live a life of obedience to God’s laws, ways and will. For further details regarding the Gospel message, please see our article on the ‘Basic Teachings of the Bible.’
Who should spread the Good News?
Was the Commission Jesus gave strictly and solely for those men he personally trained? If not, then were those who men would ‘ordain’ to be the ONLY means of dispersing God’s truth? A brief study of how the early New Testament church, begun on Pentecost in 30 A.D., interpreted Jesus’ words will give us our answer.