The Closing Commissions In The Gospels

There are four different addresses or commissions in the four different Gospels, each of them distinct and consequent on the character of the Gospel. In Matthew 28 it is the exaltation of Messiah to all power in heaven and earth, from which flows the mission to disciple all the Gentiles. This was a specific commission, contrasted with that to the lost sheep of the house of Israel—“the children.” Now His exaltation, on His rejection by them, took a wider scope. They were to disciple all the nations. Such was the consequence of His rejection by Israel. The baptising of the Gentiles was not to be into John’s or Messiah’s baptism, but into that of which the full revelation was by His death and resurrection—into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. This was the position and unfolded fellowship with God into which they were brought; and all that was brought out, on God’s part, both for the display of Himself and the economy of grace. It was not Jehovah and Messiah, but Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—something paramount and superior to the relationship of Messiah on the earth having followers, or Jehovah in heaven, however blessed. They were brought into distinct known relationship with or in the unfolded fulness of the Godhead. They were children of the Father, in fellowship with the glorified Son, and the Holy Ghost dwelling in them; and they knew all three. It is the most formal statement of the Christian revelation as replacing Judaism; the sphere is enlarged to embrace all nations, and the observance of what Christ commanded is substituted for the law of Moses. Those who went forth to disciple the Gentiles were messengers of the King, whose presence would be with them till the end of the age, when He Himself should appear in the glory of His kingdom.

Mark, being more especially the witness of the ministry of Christ, gives (not the outreaching principle of dispensation now opened by His death and resurrection and founded on the place of power where He was, but) the principle, the new principle, of the ministry itself and its consequences. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” We may compare Romans 1, and Colossians 1:23. It is a question here, not of the kingdom, but of salvation; and hence baptism as a fact and personal confession of Christ is insisted on, not its form in contradistinction to Judaism. The unbeliever shall be condemned.

In Luke, suitable to that Gospel, we have not the economical change which went forth to reduce all the Gentiles to a recognition of Christ, or the charaaer and universal extent of the gospel, but its moral subject and scope, involving withal Jew and Gentile alike as sinners; for he specially looks at man. Hence it runs there: “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” It is beautiful to see that while the need and ruin of man are fully met, testimony to “the Jew first” is not forgotten, even if Jerusalem were first in guilt as well as privilege.

In John, as the Sonship of Christ is the great subject (who He—the Son of God—was in Person), the authority and power of His Person in mission was the thing brought forward. “As my Father hath sent me; even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” We have here the authority of the Sender from His Person, title, and work. This was authority delegated in grace by the rejected but risen Son of God, giving peace to His own and sending forth with peace for others, in a world which knows neither Him nor it.

As to these commissions (while the spirit and principle of all remains, and so far as we have spiritual power, we can realise them), yet all, I beheve, have been perverted and have fallen, like all else in man’s hand. As the Jewish economy received a deadly wound by the golden calf for example, so did this very soon; and though the energy of God’s grace and Spirit prerogatively might work and produce effects in sustaining and prolonging power and mercy in righteousness as such, the thing was gone; but it is the same power which originally constituted it which always lives and acts, though not in justifying the iniquity, for it is the power of the Spirit of God. And in measure as we act on this, the results are produced pro tanto.

Here is spiritual wisdom, to see, and own, and bow under the sense of the apostasy (that is, under God’s judgment of man’s unrighteousness—God is always abidingly righteous in all His ways), and yet still hold fast to the living power which is the energy of the Spirit of God which works prerogatively in blessing. Of this the extraordinary example and scriptural illustration is Paul—the abortion of other hopes. And God is glorified in this; for the failure of man always brings out further and better things, though it may be in trial, than that which has decayed and passed away in his hands. The death of Stephen in fact was the turning-point and formed the occasion of the bringing in the character of the dispensation as now exercised.

In the calling of the centurion by Peter (Acts 10 and u) God shewed that He never departed from His purpose of associating the Gentiles as brought in with the Jews; and that, as regards administration, they bore not the root, but the root them. And so says Paul, bowing to this in his ministry, “It was necessary that the word of God should be first preached unto you; but seeing ye count yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee for a light to the Gentiles” (a sentence used on the Lord’s rejection by Israel, “Then have I laboured in vain and spent my strength for nought and in vain”; whereas Peter was the minister of the circumcision, and could not take this ground, blessed in office as he was) “and that thou shouldest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth.” Thus they take the spiritual interpretation of a passage significative of the dispensation, as a command which guided their conduct, though something else was first necessary. It was just following the Lord’s own way, taking up His primacy and bowing to it (“it was necessary,” etc.), and then His glorious mission according to the energy of the Holy Ghost. Yet were Israel and Zion still well-beloved; and so Paul shewed ever.