The Apostle’s are given the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-46; Luke 24:44-53; and Acts 1:8) which is to spread the gospel as witnesses of Jesus. This commission is given only to the Apostles, and they are uniquely qualified to complete this mission. Such evidence of this exists in Acts 1:21-22 where a man being selected to fill the shoes of the suicidal betrayer Judas had to meet particular qualifications associated with being a “witness”. Does that mean Christians are exempt from any sort of command to preach / share the gospel (evangelize)?
Let’s first clearly see that the Apostles did have this unique mission. They were selected personally by Jesus, even Matthias (Acts 1:24-26) and Paul (Acts 22:14-15). They were not just sharing gospel truth that Jesus was the Christ – they were personally testifying to the things that they saw and heard. In other words, as they were preaching they were both inspired (John 14:26; Acts 2:1-4) AND had personal experience (II Peter 1:16; I John 1:1-4; I Corinthians 15:1-8). I cannot “witness” like the Apostles witnessed, because I was not alive when Jesus walked the earth. Certainly God does not have the expectation of me to testify of things I never experienced. But I can preach, and share with people what I know – that gospel which the Apostles did deliver.
The part of the gospel that the Apostles were uniquely qualified for and uniquely commissioned to preach was that Jesus was real, He was the son of God (Matthew 16:16), and He was the worker of miracles (John 20:30-31), and that He was raised from the dead (John 20:27-29). This is what gives power to the gospel – the reality of Jesus. The “plan of salvation” without a real and true Savior (Jesus), is just another mythological fairy tale. So while the Apostles may have been uniquely qualified to carry out the great commission, their uniqueness only ends at their experience. Once they have shared those experiences, via preaching, then anyone can preach and teach those things. And so, we as Christians all have the responsibility of sharing the gospel, God’s plan of salvation, to our fellow man. Consider the following evidence of such:
First, let us consider Jesus. Jesus plainly stated that He came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). Was this only accomplished through His death on the cross? No, it wasn’t. It was also accomplished through spreading the gospel. Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), the Word shone in the darkness (John 1:5), and by the Word men can be saved from sin (John 1:4; 14). If Christ is our leader and ultimate example (Ephesians1:20-23), then has He not left us with a standard of evangelism?
Second, the Apostles were commanded to teach us all that the Lord commanded them (Matthew 28:20). Weren’t the Apostles taught to teach the lost? We cannot “witness” because we did not see or hear Jesus directly, but we can teach what we know – which is the gospel. God does not expect us to fulfill the Great Commission in being a witness – we do not have that ability (Matt. 25:14-15; II Cor. 8:11-12), but we do have the ability to share the plan of salvation and God’s will for our lives (Romans 1:16).
Third, we see the example of ordinary men and women preaching and teaching Jesus from the inception of the church in the book of Acts. If statements and examples are authoritative from scripture (and I believe they are - II Thessalonians 2:13-15; II Timothy 3:16) then these examples serve as God’s expectation for us as well. Consider these ten examples of Christians, who were NOT Apostles, that evangelized in the book of Acts: 7:2; 8:1-4; 8:5; 8:30-35; 8:40; 11:19-21; 11:22-26; 15:35; 18:24-28; 19:18-20.
Fourth, we know that at the very least, parents have the responsibility to teach the gospel to their children (Ephesians 6:4; I Tim. 3:4&12; Titus 1:6; 2:3-5). So we know God has not only NOT inhibited us from teaching, but encourages us to. Also note the example of Lois and Eunice in teaching the scriptures (II Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15). It is not as though gospel spreading is limited to the Apostles. It’s a work every Christian should be involved in according to their ability.
And finally, it will be a natural part of Christian living IF one is truly a Christian (I Peter 2:9). A gospel that teaches me to be saved, and then excuses me from sharing it with others, is a very selfish gospel indeed isn’t it? A gospel that only focuses the Christian towards themselves, their own personal growth, and own faithfulness is a very self-centered gospel as well; isn’t it? Instead of people trying to excuse themselves from the responsibility of evangelizing, they should embrace this wonderful work in Christ Jesus and commit to carrying it out as best they can. We should not hide the light under a lamp stand, but let it shine. (Matthew 5:14-16) I believe from scripture that this means more than just righteous and godly living (passive evangelism), and includes active evangelism as well. (Ps 51:10-13)
Yes the Apostles were uniquely qualified to carry out the Great Commission, but we are called to a mission of spreading the gospel ourselves (Romans 10:14); A mission, a responsibility, which lies at the feet of every Christian. We are all called to share the gospel. Let us not hide from it, but find ourselves in it… sharing it with a lost and dying world.
By David Osteen, Via Texas City Grace Gazzette, Feb. 20, 2011
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