THE GREAT COMMISSION
Copyright © 1995 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Great Commission instructs the Lord’s apostles to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to keep the Lord’s commandments. We have changed the commission to mean every believer is to go into all the world and tell people they do not have to keep the Lord’s commandments, just believe and they will go to Heaven when they die. This change in the meaning of the Great Commission is not insignificant. It has had a harmful effect on the Lord’s intention.
Table of Contents
The Change in the Commission
The Lord’s Intention
What a disciple is
Saving a soul versus making a disciple
What it means to keep the Lord’s commandments
Some Are Sent as Apostles While Others Have Different Roles and Callings
The Gifts and Ministries Are Given and Must Be Directed by the Spirit
Romans, Chapter Twelve
Saving Sinners From Hell
Satan’s Purpose in Changing the Great Commission
THE GREAT COMMISSION
The Change in the Commission
The smallest change in the wording or meaning of any verse of the Bible must be looked at carefully. Is it an innocent modification that preserves the original meaning and makes it clearer to a modern reader? Or is it a significant change that is harmful to God’s intention?
It is our point of view that the change that has been made in the meaning of the Great Commission has brought harm to the Lord’s plan to build His Church.
Let us look carefully at the Great Commission and see what the Lord Jesus actually commanded:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in 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 to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19,20)
The Great Commission is to go forth and make disciples of the peoples of the nations, to baptize them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to teach them to keep all the commandments that the Lord Jesus gave while He was here.
- Make disciples of the peoples of the nations.
- Baptize the disciples into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- Teach the disciples to keep all the commandments that the Lord Jesus gave while He was here.
The Great Commission has been changed to:
- Go forth to all the nations and save souls.
- Inform the believers they are saved by grace and it is not necessary that they keep God’s commandments.
You might believe that this change in the commission is really no change at all, and that the changed version means the same as the original and fulfills the Lord’s intention. Or so it seems. The truth is, this change is drastic and destroys the Lord’s intention.
The Lord’s Intention
The Lord did not direct us to present grace as an alternative to keeping God’s commandments. The Lord directed us to make disciples and to teach them to obey His commandments.
Is there a difference between presenting Divine grace as an alternative to obeying God’s commandments, and making disciples and teaching them to keep all the commandments that the Lord gave while He was here?
How do you feel about this?
What a disciple is.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24,25)
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26,27)
It appears that being a disciple of the Lord Jesus means far more than what is accepted today as “being saved.” According to the two passages above, few “Christians” of today are disciples.
It seems we are preaching an abbreviated Gospel—one consisting only of justification. There is not much emphasis placed on denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following the Lord Jesus.
Sanctification, which is the all-important work of character transformation, and consecration, which involves presenting our life to the Lord, are often given only passing notice.
To permit justification to include and replace sanctification and consecration so that believing in the Lord Jesus is the only aspect of the Gospel is to destroy the Kingdom of God.
Saving a soul versus making a disciple. Saving a soul has come to mean persuading an individual to believe that the blood of the Lord Jesus is his or her ticket to eternal residence in a mansion in Heaven. “Making a decision for Christ” is not only an unscriptural expression, it leaves people with the idea that once they assent mentally to the theological facts concerning Christ’s atonement and resurrection they will go to Paradise when they die independently of any growth in sanctification and consecration.
The idea that belief alone accomplishes our eternal salvation is antinomianism, an ancient heresy.
As we have stated, there are not many believers of today who would qualify as a disciple. Yet it was the disciples who were termed “Christians.”
The disciples were termed “Christians.”
And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:26)
Notice the accent on teaching in the verse above.
The Lord Jesus did not command the eleven disciples to persuade people that the blood of the Lord Jesus is their ticket to eternal residence in a mansion in Heaven. The Lord Jesus commanded the eleven to make disciples, that is, to persuade the people of the nations to be baptized and to set out after the Lord Jesus, denying themselves and laying down their life that they might do the Lord’s will perfectly each day.
The sixth chapter of the Book of Romans gives us the meaning of water baptism. To be baptized in water is to place our whole life on the cross with the Lord Jesus, to leave the world behind, and to arise to walk in the newness of resurrection life.
The Lord Jesus told us it is His will we be one with each other and with the Lord Jesus and the Father, as He is One with the Father.
“that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that you sent Me. (John 17:21)
The Lord told us when we are in union with God the world will believe that God has sent the Lord Jesus.
The Lord Jesus informed us through the Apostle Paul that we are destined to be in the image of the Lord Jesus.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
The Lord Jesus told us the ministries of the Body of Christ will continue until we all are in unity and have come to a perfect man, to maturity as measured by the standard that is the fullness of Christ.
This is the Great Commission—to make disciples of the nations.
There is a vast difference between persuading people to receive their ticket to Heaven, and bringing them as disciples to the fullness of Christ.
The following passage reveals the error in today’s “saving of souls.”
And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (Acts 24:24,25)
Here is an example of an apostle carrying out the Great Commission. Paul did not speak to Felix of grace, of going to Heaven, of being born again, of letting Jesus into his heart. Paul reasoned with Felix concerning righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.
Can you see how the Great Commission has been corrupted?
Now, why is it so important that we view the Great Commission as making disciples and bringing them into the image of the Lord and union with the Lord rather than persuading people to accept the blood of the cross so they can go to a mansion in Heaven?
The reason why one is so terribly important and the other is so terribly incorrect is this: There was an awful rebellion in the heavens on the part of the angels. God has not as yet expressed His wrath concerning the rebellion but He soon is to do so.
Because of the nearness of the Day of Wrath, which shall be exercised at the hands of the saints, there is an urgency that people be persuaded to repent and turn away from their sins and to become followers of the Lord Jesus.
It is not enough that people merely be forgiven, for that does not solve the problem that God has with His creatures, the problem of rebellion against the Father’s will. In addition to being forgiven the believers also must be removed from the image and ways of Satan and brought into the image and ways of God.
God is creating a royal priesthood. The royal priesthood will fulfill the needs that God has concerning the fallen angels and concerning man. The purpose of the two thousand years of the Church Age has been to create the royal priesthood.
The needs that God has are as follows:
- Disciples who can become members of the Bride of the Lamb.
- Disciples who can become living stones in the Temple of God.
- Disciples who can become members of the Body of Christ, the Servant of the Lord.
- Disciples who will be prepared to be part of the end-time revival.
- Disciples through whom Christ can bring back Paradise to the earth.
- Disciples who can be trained to be members of the royal priesthood.
- Disciples who will walk with God to the point they become witnesses of God.
- Disciples who will learn to be led of the Spirit until they are called sons of God.
- Disciples who follow the Lord Jesus until they become His brothers in experience.
- Disciples who persist in the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and who love not their lives to the point of death, until they overcome the Accuser.
- Disciples who can be tested in obedience until they are fit to be governors of the nations of the earth.
- Disciples who are willing to be purged of worldliness, lust, and self-will until they are qualified to judge men and angels.
- Disciples who will suffer patiently until they become a wall of defense surrounding the glory of God.
- Disciples who through their steadfast obedience to Christ become a part of the revelation of God Himself—God in Christ in the saints.
None of the above roles and tasks can be performed to their fullest extent by anyone other than disciples who are in the moral image of Christ and who have entered untroubled rest in Christ in the Father.
Since God’s purpose cannot be fulfilled until the believers have followed the Lord in patient discipleship, since the world will not believe until the saints are one with each other and with Christ in the Father, the change from going into the world to make disciples who keep the Lord’s commandments to going into the world to “save souls” by “grace” is not insignificant. It can prove to be destructive of the Lord’s purposes for the Body of Christ.
What it means to keep the Lord’s commandments. We are to teach the people of the nations to keep the Lord’s commandments, not to tell them they are saved by grace whether or not they keep the commandments. The purpose of repentance and forgiveness is to start people on the path of discipleship, on the narrow road that leads to eternal life, on the way of patient obedience until they become a new creation in Christ.
The Lord Jesus gave us numerous commandments while He was alive on the earth, and then through the Apostles whom He had chosen. These commandments are to be obeyed. If we find it difficult to obey them we are to go to the Lord in prayer for His enabling grace, or to the elders of the church for guidance and additional prayer, until we are able to keep them.
The following are a few of the Lord’s commandments:
- Rejoice and be exceedingly glad when you are persecuted (Matthew 5:12).
- Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
- If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave your gift before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:24).
- Agree with an individual quickly if you have a dispute with him (Matthew 5:25).
- Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Do not attempt to confirm your yes or no with an oath (Matthew 5:37).
- Do not resist evil. If someone hits you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:39).
- If someone sues you and takes your sweater let him have your coat also (Matthew 5:40).
- Put to death the lusts of your flesh (Romans 8:13).
- Remove malice from your personality (I Corinthians 5:8).
- Live a righteous life (I Corinthians 15:34).
- Remove filthy talk from your mouth (Colossians 3:8).
There is a truly awesome difference between presenting grace as the alternative to keeping God’s commandments, and presenting grace as the means of keeping God’s commandments.
Some Are Sent as Apostles While Others Have Different Roles and Callings
It often is said that every disciple has been charged with the Great Commission. He does not have to seek the Lord to find out how and when he should go forth and attempt to “save souls.” The Bible commands him to go, and go he must—as soon as possible!
To set out in this manner without knowing the Lord’s will may be compared to a workman who goes about with his toolbox looking for work. He comes upon a site where various tradesmen are constructing houses on a large tract of land. He looks for a suitable area, takes out his tools, and then goes to work.
After a while the construction supervisor comes over to him and asks him what he is doing. He says, “I am skilled in the building trades and am beginning to stake out a house.” The supervisor says to him, “We did not hire you to do this. It might interest you to know that where you plan to build has been set aside as a park where children can play. You haven’t seen the blueprint!”
The New Testament teaches us that every believer has been given by the Holy Spirit a specific role to play in the Body of Christ.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (I Corinthians 12:7-11)
Ours is the day in which Christ is to come to full stature in the saints. In order for Christ to come to full stature all the ministries of the Body must begin to operate. The Holy Spirit is ready to give numerous, varied ministries and gifts to each believer who will present his or her body a living sacrifice to God in order to prove His will for his or her life.
As Christ comes to maturity in us we will shine as a great light to the end of the earth. This will take place before the Lord returns so that a true witness of God and His Kingdom may be given to every nation on earth.
It is time now for both the wheat and the tares to come to maturity.
Only genuine disciples of the Lord will be able to bear the end-time witness. Those who merely have “made a decision for Christ” and then have not followed the Lord in sanctification and consecration will not be able to bear a consistent witness during the age of moral horrors which rapidly is coming upon us. Instead their love will grow cold because of the abundance and availability of sin.
For example, the pornography that today is readily available on the Internet will cause a multitude of believers, and pastors as well, to fall into sexual lust and perversion.
The Lord Jesus knew what He was saying when He commanded us to make disciples and not just to try to get people to “make a decision for Christ.”
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them.
When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:16-18)
The above verses precede the giving of the Great Commission.
The text speaks clearly that the Lord Jesus appointed eleven specific disciples as apostles to carry out the worldwide work of making disciples, baptizing believers, and teaching the laws of the Kingdom of God.
The task of the rest of us is to find out what our ministries and gifts are and to get busy building up ourselves and our fellow members of the Body. As we do this, we and they will be able to bear a true witness to the world of the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of the Lord.
And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.
Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. (Acts 5:12,13)
Each one of us is to think soberly concerning the amount of faith that God has given us, and then use that faith to operate the gifts that have been given to us.
God’s Kingdom can be brought into the earth only through mature saints, and the saints can come to maturity only through the various ministries and gifts that the ascended Christ has given to His Body.
“Yet none of the rest dared join them”!
The Lord Jesus did not call every believer to be an apostle, but He has through the Holy Spirit given gifts to each of His followers. In addition, the Lord has baptized each believer with the Holy Spirit so he or she can bear witness of the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom.
The Holy Spirit is very specific concerning each believer’s calling and ministry.
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)
Every believer is not an apostle. But every believer is to be able to give a reason for the hope that is in him and to hold forth the Word of Life. Every believer is called to be a witness.
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4)
that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (Philippians 2:15,16)
Sometimes we bear witness by maintaining a meek and quiet spirit.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (I Peter 3:15)
Bearing witness in this manner is a desirable sharing of our faith.
All believers are commanded to perform works of righteousness so the unconverted may see the light of their good works and glorify the Father in Heaven. Righteous behavior on the part of the saints is not a substitute for the work of the evangelist, but it may prove to be the most powerful of the witnesses given to the world.
For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (I Peter 2:12)
It appears that Philip the deacon was led by the Spirit into a fruitful work of evangelism. Then the apostles were called in to establish the new converts in the Body of Christ.
Every disciple is to present his body a living sacrifice until he knows what God’s will is for him or her.
Because in the Christian churches the members of the congregations are continually exhorted to “go out and get souls saved,” and because most of the believers do not have that kind of calling, they end up doing nothing. Far more would be accomplished if the Christians were exhorted to pray and serve the Lord until they knew what their role actually is.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?
He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of [maturity as measured by] the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Ephesians 4:7-13)
In order to discover the meaning of this passage let us compare it with a similar expression.
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?
Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. (I Corinthians 12:28-31)
Sometime Ephesians 4:17-13 is employed to show there is a fivefold ministry superior to the other ministries and gifts. The Scripture does not support this. We must never stress a doctrine supported by only one passage. By adding the passage from First Corinthians Chapter Twelve we discover that Paul regarded apostles, prophets, teachers as being on the same level as miracles, gifts of healing, and helps.
Now we can understand what Paul is teaching in Ephesians 4:17-13. Paul is saying that the ascended Christ through the Holy Spirit has set a great variety of ministries and gifts in the Body. By so doing Christ has equipped the saints so each may contribute to the building of the Body until we all come to a mature person—mature as measured by the fullness of the stature of Christ.
We must never set any office in the body as being superior to the other gifts and ministries. When we do this we retreat to the clergy-laity model of church organization which must be totally discarded if the Body is to come to maturity.
When the believer feels there are other ministries more holy, more important than his he may not make the effort to find his own role, believing it to be relatively insignificant. Because of this prevailing attitude of its members, the Body of Christ languishes today in a state of babyhood. We cannot come to maturity until we are being built up by that which every part supplies.
The Spirit gave to some men to be apostles so they would be equipped to minister to the perfecting of the saints. The ascended Lord Jesus gave to Paul the gift of the apostleship so Paul would be equipped to assist in bringing the Body of Christ to full maturity.
The Spirit gave to some men to be prophets so they would be equipped to minister to the perfecting of the saints.
The Spirit gave to some men to be evangelists so they would be equipped to minister to the perfecting of the saints.
The Spirit gave to some men to be pastors and teachers so they would be equipped to minister to the perfecting of the saints.
The writer personally has been given some understanding of the Word of God so he might help bring the saints to maturity. Other ministers and believers helped him as they operated their various gifts, and more importantly perhaps by the witness of their own personalities. But what gift the writer has came directly from the Lord and is (as is true of every ministry and gift given by the Spirit) for the purpose of bringing the saints to the fullness of maturity in Christ.
The Gifts and Ministries Are Given and Must Be Directed by the Spirit
When we turn to the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians, which is the major discussion of gifts and ministries, we find an emphasis on the sovereign action of the Holy Spirit in assigning ministry, and on variety.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. (I Corinthians 12:4-6)
Notice in the following passage the emphasis on the sovereignty of the Spirit:
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)
Barnabas and Saul were ministering to the Lord. All true gifts and ministries operate as the disciple ministers to the Lord. Until we minister to the Lord and hear from Him we may be seeking to do God’s work in our own fleshly ambition and presumption.
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (I Corinthians 12:11)
For as the [human] body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. (I Corinthians 12:12)
The accent is on diversity. What if the human body were all nose, all eyes, all feet, all hands, and there were no other part? The body cannot be built up until all the gifts and ministries are operating—and they all operate to build the Body. That is their purpose according to the Scripture.
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? (I Corinthians 12:17)
Each disciple is to seek God until he understands where he fits in the Body. There is no member of the Body of Christ that does not have a role to play in the bringing of the Body to maturity.
No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. (I Corinthians 12:22)
There is a great variety of gifts and ministries in the Body of Christ and each one is necessary for the building up of the members of the Body to full stature. We discover our role in the Church as we present our body a living sacrifice to the Lord.
If we would be successful in finding and operating our own ministry we must patiently wait on the Lord as did Barnabas and Saul, meanwhile performing faithfully the tasks and duties set before us each day.
Concerning the gifts and ministries given by the Spirit of God, it is of utmost importance that we look to the Spirit for ourselves and not attempt to imitate other gifts and ministries. Then, having received gifts and a ministry from the Spirit, we must faithfully look to the Spirit for every move we make, not taking anything for granted.
It is the responsibility of the Christian apostles (missionaries) to go into all the world and make disciples from every nation, teaching them to keep the commandments given by the Lord Jesus. It is the responsibility of the Christian Church to bear witness of Christ to every nation on earth. But in order for this responsibility to be fulfilled, all the members of the Body must function—each one according to his or her own gift!
For example, let us say an individual was convinced God wanted him or her to be a doctor. First of all, that person would have to attend medical school, which would be comparable in the Kingdom to coming to maturity in Christ. But think of the numerous parts of the body of this new doctor? It would be true that his brain, his hands, his eyes, ears, and nose would be active in learning to be a doctor and then working as a doctor.
But these active parts are totally dependent on less obvious parts of his or her body, such as the lymph, pulmonary, and circulatory systems, the secretions of several hormones, and, for appearance, the hair and skin.
Can you see the point? The brains, hands, and eyes cannot operate apart from the pulmonary and circulatory systems as well as numerous hormonal secretions of which most of us are unaware.
Some believers are called to be intercessors. Those who are called to go forth and preach the Gospel depend on the faithfulness of the intercessor.
Romans, Chapter Twelve
While the twelfth chapter of I Corinthians reveals the variety of gifts and ministries that the Holy Spirit assigns, it is the twelfth chapter of the Book of Romans that shows us how we are to practice them.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1,2)
The writer has been “in Pentecost” since 1948. We have heard many prophecies go forth over people. Most of the glorious destinies prophesied never took place. Why is this?
It is because the recipient of the prophecy never presented his or her body a living sacrifice, never went on to become a diligent disciple of the Lord Jesus. The prophecy told what God desired for the individual; what could have been. But the believer did not present his or her body a living sacrifice. God will not work where His Word is not being honored.
Every aspect of the Christian redemption is an opportunity. If the calling is to be fulfilled there must be the proper response on the part of the individual.
If we would be a profitable servant we must wait on the Lord’s will continually, we must refuse to be conformed to this world, we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind as we turn away from the communications offered by the world and fill our thoughts with that which builds us up in Christ. We must prove God’s will for our life.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)
If we would be a profitable servant, able to minister successfully to the members of the Body of Christ, we must evaluate how much faith God has given us and then set our expectations accordingly. God does not require of any believer that he or she launch out into some grand and imposing scheme, challenging God to do great things. God requires only that we obey Him in whatever role He assigns to us whether it be great or small. God will give us enough faith to carry out His will.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; (Romans 12:6)
In the above verse we notice two aspects of ministry. First, the emphasis is on variety. We have gifts “differing according to the grace that is given to us.” We are not all teachers. We are not all workers of miracles. We are not all in positions of administration. We must present our body a living sacrifice if we are to be able to discover and enter our assigned task in building the Body of Christ.
Second, we are encouraged to practice our gifts and ministry. There is a necessary balance here. We do not wait for the Lord to force us to do something. We wait before Him, in the meantime coveting earnestly the gift or ministry that is on our heart.
When it seems appropriate we may take a small step toward the activity we think the Lord is suggesting. Then we are to examine carefully the results, meanwhile looking to the Lord. If the results seem to be fruitful, we may take another small step, and so forth.
The pastor of our church may ask us to do something. Unless we have strong reasons for not complying we should look to the Lord for guidance and grace to do what has been requested.
Perhaps the strongest reason there are not more gifts and ministries operating in the Christian assemblies is that the leaders and congregations alike do not expect them to function. The leaders and people are not determined that the various gifts and ministries be in operation.
Saving Sinners From Hell
There certainly is a Hell and there certainly is a Heaven. But if you will examine the New Testament you will find there is little emphasis on saving sinners from Hell and getting them into Heaven. The emphasis of the New Testament is on gaining eternal life. The wages of sin is not Hell but death. The gift of God is not Heaven but eternal life.
We say this because the impetus for fulfilling the Great Commission often is presented as the need to save people from Hell and get them into Heaven. It is true that the wicked are sent to Hell when they die and the righteous go to be with the Lord. But the Lord Jesus did not mention this when He gave the Great Commission and therefore we should not do so. We should try to keep to what the Lord stated as much as possible.
Sometimes little departures from the words of the Scriptures, often innocent enough, eventually result in massive departures from the truth. Little errors have a way of accumulating.
The purpose of the Great Commission is to teach those whom God has called out of the nations to keep the Lord’s commandments—not to go to Heaven by grace, but to keep the Lord’s commandments! The members of the Christian churches have not made more of an impact on the world than they have because they do not keep the Lord’s commandments! We are not doing what the Lord instructed us to do!
The term Hell is not found in Paul’s epistles. This is strange if the purpose of the Gospel is to save sinners from Hell and bring them to Heaven!
An emphasis on escaping Hell and gaining Heaven is not found in the Book of Acts. This is remarkable if the purpose of the Gospel is to save sinners from Hell and bring them to Heaven!
The addition of these words may appear to be in keeping with the Lord’s will and may seem harmless. It is hardly that! It is destructive of God’s purposes regarding His Kingdom. Let us explain why.
Sinners always belong in Hell and always are in Hell, so to speak, even though it is not manifest as yet.
The righteous always belong in the Presence of God in Paradise and always are in the Presence of God in Paradise, even though it is not manifest as yet.
It is a fact that the Lord Jesus Christ came to save sinners from Divine wrath and bring them into the Presence of God. This is absolutely true. However, the great error in the manner in which we present the Great Commission is by proclaiming that the Lord saves people from the wrath of God through forgiveness alone.
The Lord Jesus did not come to bring sinners into Paradise. This is not the Gospel of the Kingdom. Those who continue in sin shall never inherit the Kingdom of God whether or not they name the name of Jesus.
For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
Rather it is true that the Lord Jesus came to save sinners by making them new creatures, by transforming them so they would be citizens fit for Heaven, for the Presence of God.
Therefore the Great Commission is not to give people a pass from Hell to Heaven but to make them disciples, teaching them to obey the commandments of the Lord.
The difference in spiritual significance between these two concepts, the ticket concept and the new creation concept, is so tremendous as to be hardly describable in words. The ticket concept has led to moral chaos in the churches. The new creation concept brings forth saints of God.
But didn’t the Lord tell the thief on the cross that he would be with the Lord in Paradise on that very day? Indeed He did.
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?
“And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
Let us elaborate on this passage a bit for it often is used to prove we are saved by our profession of faith and our behavior has little or nothing to do with our salvation. Also, we just got through saying that the Lord Jesus did not come to bring sinners into Paradise.
The first consideration is the statement made by the thief. What prompted him in his agony on the cross to recognize that Jesus, who also was hanging on a cross, was the king of a kingdom? What the thief said is really remarkable. It probably was true that on former occasions he had heard Jesus teach and had been a while making up his mind.
The one thief just wanted Jesus to save the three of them from the death of the cross. The other thief worshiped Christ as it were, not trying to get Him to prevent their execution.
Although the thief asked about the Kingdom, Jesus promised him that which was at hand—to walk with Jesus in Paradise. To actually enter the Kingdom requires being born again, and that was not possible until Jesus rose from the dead.
Whenever any person, young or old, boy or girl, man or woman, comes to Jesus with the attitude of the thief on the cross, that individual will be saved from God’s wrath. However, the kings and priests of the royal priesthood are not qualified by a “deathbed” acceptance of the lordship of Jesus Christ.
The problem with applying this episode to prove the current doctrine that we are saved by a profession of belief rather than a life of cross-carrying obedience is that the people who wish to make this kind of a deal with God do not have the tremendous faith and humility of the thief, a faith and humility that would worship the King of kings while slowly dying of suffocation and dehydration in the blazing sun, not even asking for deliverance from pain and death.
Compare this profession of faith with the cheap “decision for Christ” that is made to give the “believer” a pass out of Hell and a ticket to Heaven.
No, the Lord Jesus did not come to bring sinners into Paradise. But any sinner who genuinely repents of his or her way of life, humbling himself as a little child, and asking to enter God’s righteous Kingdom, will always be received by the Lord. This is altogether different from telling people that they can make a profession of faith, live like the devil, and then enter Paradise when they die.
And too, to enter Paradise is not the same as to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul’s warnings concerning sin had to do with inheriting the Kingdom of God not entering Paradise. The issue of the New Testament is the Kingdom of God, not Paradise.
The compassion and kindness of the Lord in this instance must never be used to change the Great Commission from one that directs us to make disciples and to teach them to obey the Lord’s commandments, to one that directs us to offer sinners a pass to Paradise—sinners who have no intention of really presenting themselves to God as a living sacrifice.
What way would this be to repay the Lord’s love? If such were the case then the Great Commission was given incorrectly by the Lord. Also the teachings of the Apostles of the Lamb throughout the Epistles are negated, including the warnings of the Apostle Paul that those who, after receiving the Lord, then continue in sin, cannot possibly inherit the Kingdom of God.
Speaking to believers:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Those who practice such things (hatred, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, disputes, strife, discord, envy, quarreling, jealousy, slander, gossip, arrogance, disorder) shall not inherit the kingdom of God whether or not they believe in Christ.
Speaking to believers:
For the wages of sin [done by a Christian] is death, but the gift of God [for acting righteously] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
The above verse in context means that if a Christian does not choose to become the slave of righteousness he or she will die spiritually.
The purpose of building the Body of Christ, the Church, is not so the Church can go to Paradise. It is so a mature Church can return with the Lord Jesus and save sinners from their sin.
“I in them, and you in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent Me, and have loved them as you have loved Me. (John 17:23)
“That the world may know.”
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
The Church shall appear with the Lord for the purpose of saving sinners from their sin, to bring righteousness, justice, and peace on the earth.
He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law.” (Isaiah 42:4)
Until the Church has been brought to maturity it is impossible for righteousness, peace, and joy to come to the sinners in the earth.
The best possible manner in which we can help the lost, the sinners, those who live in spiritual darkness, is to draw near to the Lord and allow Him to make us a witness of His Person, ways, will, and purposes for the peoples of the earth.
“You are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no god formed, nor shall there be after Me. (Isaiah 43:10)
Satan’s Purpose in Changing the Great Commission
Why does Satan work so hard to change the Great Commission?
Why does he strive to keep the Christian churches occupied with the thought of going into all the world and telling the unlearned that the blood of the Lord Jesus is an eternal forgiveness of their sins and a ticket to Paradise when they die, while at the same time encouraging the churches to neglect to develop and utilize the infinitely varied ministries and gifts whose purpose is to build the Body of Christ?
Why does Satan strive continually to remove the emphasis on keeping the Lord’s commandments in favor of a lawless grace and an evacuation to the spirit world where the believers float about in bliss while God’s will never is done in the earth?—while the Kingdom remains in Heaven above?
Satan indeed has reason to fear and tremble as the message of Kingdom righteousness goes forth today. The preaching of the necessity for living righteously, and the varied manifestations of the Spirit that now are appearing among us, are building up the saints so they will be prepared to return with the Lord and bring righteousness and peace to those who sit in spiritual darkness.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. (Isaiah 60:2)
It is those who are making disciples and teaching the disciples to keep the laws of the Kingdom who possess the true concern for the world. These are the saints who are doing what God said to do on behalf of those who are in the chains of Satan. It is these Christians who are not trying in their own strength to escape to Heaven or persuade others to escape to Heaven but rather are endeavoring to follow the Lord Jesus as He (and they) prepare the Kingdom of God that soon is to come to the earth.
Satan’s great fear is that the members of the Body will work with the current crop of spiritual babies until they are able to drive Satan’s kingdom from the earth.
Satan cares little for the plans of people to save the world. Satan fears the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When the disciples learn to forsake their own reasoning and ways and turn to the Lord in order to gain His reasoning and ways, then Satan is in deep trouble—and he understands this better than we.
Satan fears the saints who are growing in the Lord. He will do everything in his power to sow discord and discouragement, seeking to turn them away from their goal, which is to build the Body of Christ so it is prepared to bring the Kingdom of God to the earth.
Satan has been able to seduce some of the believers into sin. Others are leaving the dedicated assemblies because the message of righteousness is “too hard,” meaning they want to leave a little room for sin in their life.
In our church’s jail ministry we in numerous instances are dealing with those who on several occasions have made a decision for Christ, have received the pass to Heaven, but who then went back into sin. When the message of the Kingdom comes they receive it gladly, recognizing for the first time that the Gospel of the Kingdom is not a ticket to Heaven but the power to live righteously in the present world. By presenting to jail inmates the power to live righteously through Christ our church is fulfilling the Great Commission.
Every Sunday in the Christian churches each believer must be encouraged through worship, prophecy, and the Word of God to turn away from the world, to present his body a living sacrifice, to follow the Lord Jesus in patient, cross-carrying obedience, and to keep all the commandments of the Lord through the grace given him or her by the Lord Jesus. In this manner we fulfill the Great Commission
Every true saint knows how important it is that people receive the blood atonement, be baptized in water, take up their cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. Every true saint wants to do all in his or her power to help every individual discover the joy of serving the Lord.
The major revivals and spiritual movements of history have taken place as a result of prayer and repentance, an intense seeking of the Lord. After the believers devoted themselves to prayer and repentance the Lord poured out His Spirit and the result was a great worldwide awakening of spiritual life.
The point of view held by all the truly fruitful saints of the Christian era, is that the Lord Jesus is the One who is building the Church on the Rock that is Himself. It is the responsibility of each disciple to wait constantly on the Lord for direction, to “see the blueprint,” to understand the will of God for his or her life.
“I am with you always, to the end of the age.” “The Lord worked with them confirming the Word with signs following.”
True Christian ministry may be compared to an elephant and a mouse hauling a teak log down to the river for transportation to a sawmill. Both the elephant and the mouse put on their harnesses and begin to haul the log. They both strain every muscle as the log is moved from the forest to the river.
When the log finally floats out into the water, the mouse wipes his brow and says, “We got the job done!”
After the day is over the elephant and the mouse return to their resting place. In order to do so, they have to walk across a hanging bridge over a deep chasm. When they reach the other side, the mouse looks back and exclaims, “Look how we shook the bridge!”
Let us make certain the Lord is working with us as we enter whatever ministry the Holy Spirit has for us.
There is tremendous joy and peace when we look to the Lord Jesus and do what He commands moment by moment. There is dancing in Zion when each member of the Body of Christ is filled with the Spirit and diligently looking to the Lord for every aspect of life and ministry.
The most important issue of gifts and ministries is our closeness to the Lord. As we draw near to Him and grow in Him the gifts and ministries will come into operation in a normal, healthy, ripe manner.
Ministry is never an end in itself. Ministry flows naturally from our love for the Lord.
The great Babylon is built as ambitious people order the converts to “Work! Work! Work! Build! Build! Build!”
Our Lord Jesus comes skipping on the mountains of spices. He says, “Come away with Me, My love. The winter is over. The rain is gone. The time of the singing of birds has come. The flowers appear on the earth. Together we shall enjoy the new world of righteousness and beauty our Father is bringing into view.”
Our purpose in entering into marriage with the Lord is not so we will have children. We shall bear fruit naturally and joyously as we come into oneness with Him. Rather, our purpose in entering into marriage with the Lord is that we may love Him and experience the heavenly romance that shall continue throughout ages without end.
(“The Great Commission”, 3794-1)