December 18, 2017

Renewing the Age-Old Commission

Charles J. Mellring

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matt. 28:18-20).

Faced with the mathematical reality of a modern world in which there are more unsaved an at any other time in history, why does our labor often seem so unproductive? Given the imminence of Christ’s return, where is our urgency? Rubbing elbows and crossing paths with hell-bound, hopeless sinners day after day, where is our burden?

The Word of God commissions our generation to be and to do everything possible to obey the orders of the Captain of our salvation. What is our commission?

The Commission Originates With Christ

Consider the authority of Deity. The word “power” in verse 18 is the word that denotes sovereign, ruling authority. He possesses all authority in every heavenly and earthly realm. Moreover, Jesus Christ is “the head over all things to the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23). As members of the body of which Christ is the head, we are to submit to His authority. The directions for our physical bodies proceed from the head, and the body obeys the head’s orders. But our spiritual head is the eternal Son of the eternal Father. How can we justify any disobedience to Him? How will we account for our insubordination when we are summoned to appear before Him?

Evangelist Fred Barlow told of a man in Illinois who bought what he thought was kerosene for his heating stove; he was mistakenly given gasoline instead. When the attendant realized the mistake, firemen, policemen, and volunteers sought to find the man before he used the gasoline. Radio announcements went out and doors were knocked on in the attempt to avert a tragedy. Finally, the man was reached just as he was preparing to refuel his stove! We need that sense of urgency as we seek people who, unless reached for Christ, will face an eternal fire.

Consider the apostolic demonstration. The record of Acts reveals disciples who were carrying out the commission everywhere they went. They were compulsive confessors, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). The sacred record of the early church unfolds Christ’s formula for fruit-bearing. A graphic illustration is the winning of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16. Paul and Silas obeyed the Lord’s orders; the result was fruit. Their methodology was simply to invite, urge, and persuade sinners to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and … be saved.”

The Commission Obligates the Church

The plan for reaching sinners who must trust in Christ is the sovereign plan of an omniscient and almighty God. He could have chosen some other way to reach lost men. He could have sent angels to alert and appeal to the sinner. He could have flung some blazing beacon across the sky to warn men and invite them to His Son.

But He chose to use saved sinners to reach lost sinners! This truth should have a life-altering impact upon us. Every believer is entrusted by Christ with the opportunity and obligation to seek and reach the lost.

The faithful carrying out of our commission requires two prerequisites: right motivation and proper procedure. The verdict at the Bema will be determined not by the quantity of our works but by their quality — not on what we did, but on why we did it (1 Cor. 3:13).

But the commission itself also dictates the proper procedure. An unbiblical methodology will undermine a Biblical message. It is disobedient to undertake to do God’s work in any other way than God’s way! As the great commission points out, there are three principle parts to be obeyed.

First, we are to evangelize the nations. To “teach” in verse 19 literally means to “make disciples.” Clearly we are to reach sinners and make disciples among all the nations. The essential ingredient is the Word of God.

Years ago an evangelist wrote about a meeting he attended while in the service during World War II. A service was held in Okinawa for the soldiers as well as the natives. The liberal chaplain was unable to speak the native tongue. As he preached a modernistic, non-Biblical message, he was interpreted by a native Christian girl. When the meeting ended, many native Okinawans streamed to the front of the room in tears, seeking salvation and peace. In considerable consternation, the chaplain turned away while the girl and others dealt with the seekers. When she was asked how such a tremendous response could come from such a weak sermon, the girl replied, “I did not speak the chaplain’s words at all; I simply gave them God’s Word.” Many a contemporary modernistic preacher could use such an interpreter.

We may — indeed, we must — plant and water, but ultimately only God can give the increase (1 Cor. 3:6-7), for “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me, draw him” (John 6:44, 65).

Second, we are to baptize those who believe. Why? There are three simple reasons for this: (1) it is commanded by Christ, and that alone should settle the matter; (2) it conveys a life-sized object lesson and testimony, showing openly and externally what has taken place in the heart of the convert; and (3) it is a public confession to the Lord, to the church, and to the world that we mean business.

Third, the proper procedure involves indoctrination. Too many fall short here. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” includes, among other things, the Scriptural teaching on the importance of organizing the believers into local churches. Too many well-intentioned but ill-informed missionary and soul-winning efforts fail to be obedient in establishing or introducing believers into local churches and thus discipling converts within the Scriptural framework of the church (Eph. 4:11-12 and 1 Pet. 5:1).

The Commission Includes a Covenant (Matt. 28:20b)

He who said “Go” also said “Lo”! He who commissioned us goes with us. Christ has not sent us out on our own. He goes before us, behind us, and beside us — always, and all the way to the “consummation of the age.” That is His solemn covenant, a promise that should infuse us with great boldness. He will never leave nor forsake His people, so that we may assert with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:6).

In these crucial days, which may well usher in that “consummation of the age,” let us rededicate ourselves to carry out Christ’s commission as our prime directive.

At the time of original publication, Charles J. Mellring was a retired Baptist pastor living in Guys Mills, Pennsylvania.

(Originally published in FrontLine • September/October 1999. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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