The week of the crucifixion of Jesus was not only stressful for Him, but for His apostles. He had been arrested, tried by a fraudulent "court," delivered to the Romans, crucified, buried and then raised from the dead. As two of His followers were going to Emmaus, they were discussing the amazing events connected with His death. Jesus then appeared and talked with them, but they did not recognize Him because, "Their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him" (Lk. 24:16) But Jesus taught them from the Scriptures, and they marveled at Him, still not knowing Who He was. But then, "And it came to pass, when He had sat down with them to meat, He took the bread and blessed in; and breaking it He gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Was not our hearts burning within us, while He spake to us in the way, while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Lk. 24:30-32).
Those two men returned to Jerusalem to bring the good news to the apostles. While they were relating the remarkable things that had transpired, Jesus appeared in their midst and said, "Peace be unto you." They were all afraid, supposing that He was a spirit. The Scriptures had foretold His death and resurrection, and Jesus had also personally told the apostles that He would be killed by the Jews, and be raised the "third day" (Matt. 16:21). He had even told them that they were to be eyewitnesses of all this, but in their disturbed condition, it was difficult for them to realize that He was actually alive again. Jesus gave further evidence of His identity by having them look at His hands and feet and have them handle Him. He also ate some broiled fish in their presence. And He explained that all that had transpired concerning Him was a fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures.
The apostles could now understand as never before how Jesus fulfilled both the Law and the Prophets. To them it was an established fact that He was the risen Lord. They were eyewitnesses of these things. And it was then that Jesus gave them what we call "the great commission." Let us notice this commission in three different passages of Scripture. Jesus said:
"All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:18-20).
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be
saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mk. 16: 15,16).
"Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from
the dead the third day,; and that repentance and
remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things" (Lk. 24:46-48).
The Authority Of Jesus Christ: -- Notice again the reading in Matt. 28:18, when Jesus says, "All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth." On the Mount of Transfiguration, God said of Him, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him" (Matt. 17:5). Jesus was clothed with power and authority after God, "Raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and He put all things in subjection under His feet" (Eph. 1:20-22).
When Jesus was brought to Pilate, and charged by the Jews with usurping the place of Caesar, He answered, "My kingdom is not of this realm...Pilate therefore said to Him, So You are a king? Jesus answered, You say correctly that I am a king, For this I have been born" (Jno. 18:36,37). As Peter pointed out on Pentecost, David "A prophet, and knowing that god had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins He would set one upon his throne; he foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was He left unto Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses"(Acts 1:30-32). Because of His death and resurrection, Jesus is proclaimed to be "King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 6: 15).
The Commission To The Apostles: -- The apostles, to whom the Lord Jesus spoke the words of "the Great Commission," were to begin their work in Jerusalem: "He said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send forth the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high" (Lk. 24:46-49). This "power" of which of which Jesus spoke was the Holy Spirit. He told the apostles, "John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence...ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you" (Acts 1:5,8).
The Holy Spirit was to empower and qualify the apostles for the work of speaking the Word of God, as Christ had promised them: "He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you...He shall guide you into all the truth" (Jno. 14:26; 16:13). These Spirit-guided men were to preach the gospel to all the nations and reveal God's truth to all the world. We have this truth in the Bible.
The Commission To Us Today: -- The apostle Paul wrote that the church is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15) The great mission of the Lord's church is to preach the gospel of salvation to the world. Notice how we are instructed by God, as the apostle Paul writes: "For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words" (1 Cor. 2:11-13). Notice that carefully. The "words" given to the apostles by the Spirit are God's Words. Again, "We also thank God without ceasing, tht, when ye received from us the word of the message, even the Word of God, ye accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the Word of God" (1 Thes. 2:13). That describes, in God's own words, the Scriptures which we have today.
The order which Christ gave was that the preaching was to begin first in Jerusalem, then all of Judea and Samaria, and "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). And it is revealed that "Now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:10,11). There is our mission today.
"Make Disciples Of All The Nations": --The "Great Commission" was to preach the gospel to every creature (Mk. 16:15), thereby making "disciples of all the nations" as they preached "repentance and remission of sins" in the name of Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul wrote in Rom. 1:16, we should not be "ashamed of the gospel," but should boldly preach it to every lost soul. We have no choice as to what we shall preach. The wisdom, philosophies and speculations of men will not save souls. Only the gospel can do that: "For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). The gospel has not lost its power, for it is the Word of God, and His power is still in it.
But bringing lost souls to a knowledge of Jesus Christ as the Savior is only part of that "Great Commisssion." That commission also says, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28;20). When people on Pentecost were convicted of sins, they asked, "What shall we do?" The apostles, as the Spirit guided them, answered: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins" (Acts 2;38). Note the results: "They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41). Added to what? God answers, "The Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved" (Acts 2:47).
After believing, penitent people were baptized into Christ, they were taught "all things commanded" by the Lord: "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). Babes in Christ must be fed, "As newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation" (1 Pet. 2:2). Here is the "Great Commission" to the church; teach and edify those who are yet babes in Christ to bring them to full growth in Him. "That we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him, who is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:14,15).
When folk become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, they must be carefully and fully taught as to what He expects of them in the Christian life. This is the commission to the church: "Teach them all things I have commanded you," Jesus said (Matt. 28:20). The church is in the world, but the would should not be in the church. The Lord Jesus prayed for His disciples, "I have given them Thy word; and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them from the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth: Thy word is truth" (Jno. 17: 14-17).
As the apostle Paul wrote, we are "buried with Him in baptism, wherein we are also raised with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead" (Col. 2:12) Then, based on that burial and resurrection, he adds this, "If then ye are raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth" (Col. 3:1,2). To all of those who hear His Word and will humbly submit to His Will, the Lord says, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20). Brethren, let's get on with doing what the Lord said!
By Clem Thurman in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 57, No. 8, Feb. 27, 2008.
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