The Great Commission
There is always a keen sense of anticipation as the time approaches in which we are to meet a much beloved friend from whom we have been absent for a while. We sometimes visualize our meeting; we picture his appearance, and mentally predict his enthusiasm. With some such eager feeling, the disciples of the Lord may have gone their way to a mountain in Galilee which Jesus had appointed. Definitely they must have looked forward to this manifestation of Christ in resurrection life. We can easily imagine Christ as a rejected king, gathering with His cabinet in this secret mountain rendezvous.
It was at this meeting that the Lord gave to His disciples, and through them to the Church, the Great Commission.
The teacher in the young people’s Bible Class at this point asked, “What is the Great Commission?” “The story of the cross,” answered one young chap. “The instructions Paul received for his service,” answered another. “The details as to how one ought to baptize,” interjected a third.
“It is necessary,” concluded the teacher of these young believers, “that we investigate what is meant by the Great Commission, so we shall study together the portion found in Matt. 28:16-20.
Christ had been rejected by the world, and had been executed as a malefactor, but here He declares His sovereign dominion, “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in Earth.” In Him was vested supreme authority, and with this He commanded His disciples, “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.”
It becomes very obvious to each one in the class as we read this decree of Christ, that there are three parts to the Great Commission. First, there is the making of disciples; second, there is the act of accepting the ordinance of baptism as the outward pledge of discipleship; and, finally, there is the instructing of new disciples in the things that Christ has commanded.
The fulfilment of this Great Commission is accomplished by the special gifts with which Christ, as her Head, has endowed the Christian Church. Through the work of the evangelist, disciples are made, through the work of the shepherd the ordinance is performed, and through the teacher the instruction is given.
Let us consider the work of the evangelist, for we are all more acquainted with it. This is stated so concisely in the parallel passage of Mark 16:15-16, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” The true evangelist has a parish, “Go ye into all the world;” he has a message, “And preach the gospel;” and, he, also, has an objective, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”
It is to this message of the evangelist that we should pay particular attention. The Apostle Paul has given it so briefly and yet so fully, “Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures: And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
In this remarkable statement of the gospel, we have first of all, expiation for sin, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” From the very beginning of God’s ways with man, He had made it clear that the result of sin is death, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, so that death is passed upon all men for that all have sinned.”
Adam knew this for we read, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Every Israelite knew it, for God had sent a message to their nation saying, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.”
This great fact was deeply impressed upon the heart of the entire nation of Israel, for each time a man became conscious of having committed sin, he had to bring his sacrifice, a lamb or a goat, and, through the priest, offer it in death. His sin resulted in the death of the lamb. The countless sacrifices upon Jewish altars emphasized this fact; sin results in death.
There was another lesson in all these sacrifices, it was this; death for sin might be substitutionary, another could die for the guilty. Praise God! “Christ died for our sins.” Our sins merited their penalty, death, but Christ became our substitute, and died our death for us. As the lamb died for the guilty Israelite, even so, Christ died for the sinner. “For when we were yet without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” What peace this knowledge imparts to the young believer!
In his statement of the gospel, the Apostle Paul also makes mention of the burial of Christ. It was the custom when criminals were executed by means of crucifixion, to dig a hole behind the cross, and to cast into this hole their remains. There is no doubt but that such preparation was made for Christ, but, instead, God saw to it that He had a rich man’s burial. He Who was slain as a criminal was buried as a king. Wicked men were allowed to number Him with the transgressors in death, but not in His burial. Christ died unto sin once, and in death He bore the sinners’ penalty. He satisfied the claims of divine righteousness, and silenced the demands of infinite holiness; consequently, God would not permit wicked men to further maltreat Him. “Thy made His grave with the wicked,” but Pilate gave His friends, Joseph and Nicodemus, permission, and they took the body of Jesus and laid it in a tomb in a garden. The power of His enemies was broken. His friends brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, but this was not needed, embalming spices were unnecessary for that holy body could not corrupt. Prophetically, the Spirit of Christ in the Psalmist had said, “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.” The manner of the burial of Christ and the miraculous incorruptibility of His body prove that the sin question had been settled. Now in Him we have redemption even the forgiveness of sin.
The final fact of Paul’s statement of the gospel is, “Christ rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”. We read elsewhere that, “He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” The death of Christ made expiation for our sins; the burial of Christ indicates that all the claims of divine justice have been met, and His resurrection declares that God is just and the justifier of the ungodly.
The gospel message which we of this class bear to the world is, in very truth, a message of good news, worthy to be received by all.
May we, in consideration of these facts, bow and ascribe to Him that is of power to stablish us according to the gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began … To Him, God only wise, glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.
S. O. M.