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053 – The Great Commission – Go!

Welcome to A Faith that Obeys where we are rethinking the traditional plan of salvation. This traditional plan, which is also called the Modern Plan, is a fairly new invention and has tragically replaced the Biblical Plan of Salvation. When we study the Bible and see how people were “Born Again” in the first century, then compare that to how people become Christians today, there are some stark differences. Things have changed. Our goal is to identify the Biblical “steps to salvation” and support you in your efforts to learn what God desires in order to correctly follow them so you may have full assurance that you are walking on the correct path in your relationship with God.

Our series about biblical obedience in water baptism is now complete but obedience does not begin or end with that event. There are other things to consider. As we begin this next phase of our studies, I suspect you are about to hear something you have never heard before and it may be a little shocking. Let’s dive in!

The Four Crisp Commands of The Great Commission

There are four crisp commands contained in The Great Commission. They provide the final marching orders for the eleven apostles given by Jesus at the time of his ascension into heaven, over 2000 years ago. These commands are clear, unambiguous, simple, yet potent. They embody the culmination of Jesus’ entire earthly ministry. They are designed to launch and propel a movement destined to last for generations to come. Let’s read this amazing mandate.

It’s found in…

Matthew 28:18-20
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

For many Christians, this is a familiar passage of scripture. It is held in high regard and often enthusiastically preached from the pulpit. But, are we really following the commands? Are we really obeying everything Jesus asked us to do? Let’s look carefully at each of these directives. The first command is to “Go.”

The First Command – Go!

When we consider this first command, it is direct and straight forward. The disciples were to get out of Jerusalem, to proactively move into the rest of the world. “Go,” means, “Don’t stay here!” It is the beginning of the mission, the beginning of the church era, the beginning of a movement still active today. But, why should they go? Just the simple act of leaving Jerusalem would be worthless without the next command; the impetus for the going. The next command is, “Make Disciples.”

When the disciples got up and went, they took the message about the Kingdom of God to the entire world. This is the reason they should “go.”

The reason for the going

The purpose of The Great Commission was to insure the Gospel would advance after Jesus earthly ministry was complete. The cool part of The Great Commission is Jesus’ fourth command. He told the disciples to teach everyone they meet, “everything” he taught them; which includes all the commands of The Great Commission! Very clever!

Jesus’ plan is for one man to teach another man everything, just as he taught his disciples. Every disciple of Christ treasures and holds, as paramount, these same four basic commands. Disciples are prepared to pass them on to people they meet and teach. Now, there are a few issues raised by the Great Commission which I think are worthy of discussion.

First, are these actually four commands? Why not call them suggestions? Should we really take Jesus final words with such terminal seriousness that they should be called commands? What happens if I refuse to obey those commands? Is it serious?

Second, there is a promise at the end of The Great Commission. Jesus promises to “be with me always, until the very end of the age.” Do I receive that promise if I do not obey the commands?

Third, must I obey all four commands? Do I “have” to Go. Do I “have” to “make disciples?” Do I “have” to “baptize them?” Do I “have” to “teach them to obey everything?” Are all of these things required of every person who calls themselves a disciple? And, by the way, what is a disciple anyway? Wasn’t a disciple one of those twelve men Jesus called into his inner circle? These are super important questions and we will deal with them in our next few podcasts about The Great Commission.

Four Commands, not Suggestions

I think The Great Commission contains four commands, not suggestions… not four ideals. I think Jesus was pretty clear. These are four commands. Since they are commands, they are not optional on our part. A command is a command and therefore, must be obeyed. We have no choice in the matter if we want to participate in what we might metaphorically call, “the program.” The commands are designed to support the program. If we are going to be full “members,” so to speak, of the program, we must follow the Master’s rules. If we do not follow the rules, we are outsiders… we are observers.

We can hang-out around the program. We can observe the program from a distance. We might evaluate the program… maybe even for a very long time. We can even enthusiastically endorse and support the program with our time and monies. But, if we want to be a full part of the program, we will need to accept the unconditional requirements for membership. We need to “join” the program. Members receive the benefits promised by the program, non-members do not receive those exclusive benefits.

This is not complicated. Jesus told us to do something. If we want to be a part of the mission we must follow his instructions. This is especially true when we consider the fact that those who want to be part of his program foster a deep love and adoration for the program manager. This emotional bond exceeds any type of purely human devotion imaginable. Disciples of Jesus don’t feel like we “have” to do anything he asks us to do. We feel like we “get” to do the things Jesus asks us to do.

So, what about this first command, “Go?”

What does it mean to, “Go?”

We have already established that this “going” has a purpose behind it which is to “make disciples.” This is done by presenting the Gospel to people we meet as we travel life’s highway. While the word “go” is a very small word, it contains the powerful process called, “evangelism.”

Evangelism is the deliberate effort to introduce people to the Master and his redemptive plan. Evangelism is a form of zealous advocacy for a program or a cause. There would be no point to “going” if we did not carry a vital message to present as we go.

If you have been listening to our podcasts here at A Faith that Obeys, you will know that we believe baptism, the third command of The Great Commission, is a requirement for salvation. If I am unwilling to obey this command, I reject the entire plan Jesus has laid out for me. I must obey the command to be baptized before I can attain membership in the program. My obedience in baptism is how I sign the contract, so to speak. It is my pledge of a clear conscience, and a solemn obligation that I will obey the Master to the best of my ability. I do not have a right to make even minor adjustments to his instructions… even if my intentions are good. Some people claim baptism is a work and therefore not necessary for membership. I argue baptism can’t be a work if it is a command of Christ.

Knowing the seriousness and sanctity of these commands, I must conclude that evangelism is just as much a command as baptism and as such, is a requirement membership. If I am unwilling to obey the master to evangelize people as I go, I can not be a part of his program called “The Kingdom of God.” This puts evangelism on par with any other form of obedience including baptism. This is huge! If I understand this correctly, I am not in a right relationship with God if I am not evangelistic!

Wow! Let’s talk about evangelism?

What is evangelism?

Evangelism is the deliberate effort to introduce people to Jesus Christ. It’s a part of what being a disciple is all about. A disciple makes disciples. In fact, there is no other kind of disciple. Jesus established that fact way back in the beginning of his ministry.

Look how he said it in Mark.

Mark 1:16-18
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

These men knew, from the very beginning, the purpose of their lives lives was about to change. Their lives would no longer be spent catching fish. They were called to a higher purpose, they would be catching people for Christ.

Now, I know, evangelism can be a very terrifying proposition. The thought of public speaking or inviting a complete stranger to study the Bible or to church can be intimidating. But, when we have a deep, real, rich, relationship with God, when we are “doing well spiritually,” it is nearly impossible to keep our mouth shut! We want to tell everyone the Good News!

Luke 6:45
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

We talk about what we love.

Listen, we all talk about the things we love. It might be sports, video games, a hobby or our job. For the disciple, we can’t stop talking about Jesus. Frankly, this is what sometimes makes us come across as a bit obnoxious to non-christians… and even to some folks who call themselves Christians but do not practice their faith. We can’t shut up. Out of the overflow our our heart, our mouths speak. Our spiritual desire becomes our natural and overwhelming desire.

No truly converted soul feels like they “have to” be evangelistic. There is an honor and a pleasure which accompanies the effort. And when we receive a positive response to our preaching, all heaven breaks loose! An open door means we get to talk and talk and talk about our love for the Lord and his word.

This spiritual effect about the overflow of the heart, gushing from the mouth, can really get some young Christians into trouble because they have not learned the grace and tact which should accompany their testimony, but… God is in control and their boldness is often blessed accordingly.

Planting and Watering

Now, some people have that natural gift of gab. They enjoy speaking to people and have absolutely no difficulty starting conversations. Other people do not. For them, to learn that evangelism is a command might feel distressing but, I think God has made provisions for both character types. Check this out.

1 Corinthians 3:5-7
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

In this passage, Paul talks about his and Apollos’ evangelistic efforts. Paul was the initial planter of the Gospel seed. Apollos, a great orator himself, came along afterward and watered what Paul had planted. It was a team effort. Important to understand in the process is that neither Paul nor Apollos is in any way responsible for how, when or even if the seed will grow. Only God makes that happen. It is up to him. Their job was planting and/or watering.

So, while you might not be the type of person who easily can invite someone to church, your role might be to bake the cookies for the Bible study group or to lead the Bible study. Maybe you will the be person who listens intently to a friend’s story and can help them through some difficult issues by pointing them to an encouraging passage in the Bible. Perhaps you might help with car repair or transportation when a friend is in need. Sometimes it’s the smallest act of kindness which softens a person’s heart, and makes them ask, “Why are you doing this?” So, are you a planter or a waterer? Both are a part of evangelism. Make an effort to discover your role in the plan.

This reminds me of a famous saying about personal evangelism, often attributed to St. Francis. He said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” While this appears to be a paraphrase of what Francis actually said; it certainly expresses how a true disciple of Jesus should live their life with the goal of evangelism in mind. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew?

Matthew 5:16
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

How we live is as important as what we say.

Our words are important but our lives must shine brightly and attract people to Christ.

One of the greatest problems in modern day Christianity, comes from people who claim the name of Christ but live hypocritical lives. This brings shame and derision to the Lord. Our lives must be in sync with our message. Let’s not claim Christ if our lives do not live up to that claim.

The inward struggle for evangelism reveals something interesting. Evangelism tends to be an excellent litmus test, indicating how well a person is doing spiritually. Let me explain.

When a person becomes a Christian, God indwells them with His Holy Spirit, right? As a result, a person gains new perspectives on life. They have a confidence and a peace of mind which was not present before. They now possess what the scriptures call, “The fruits of the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:22-23
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

When a person is truly Born Again, all of these things are new and amazing. As joy and peace initially fill their heart, they are naturally compelled to talk about it. Over time, these feelings tend to fade if our relationship with God is not cared for and nourished. All relationships, whether earthly or divine, need attention.

Healthy Relationships

Two important disciplines are active in every healthy relationship; time together and communication. A real, vital, lively relationship with God is no different than our human relationships. It requires both, time together and communication. Our cherished spiritual blessings of joy, peace, and the others can fade when we neglect our walk with the Lord.

A spiritual person reads their Bible and prays every day; this is how we create… time together and communication! We are constantly in the process of deliberately pursuing a deeper relationship with God. We “fan into flame” the God given gifts.

When this is not happening… when someone is not doing well spiritually, one of the first casualties of the battle is personal evangelism. We stop talking about the Master and we stop talking about the Word of God. Eventually, we don’t even want to be part of the fellowship. Next, we fall away from the Lord and leave the church. This is why I believe personal evangelism is such a good indicator of how a person is doing spiritually. It’s the first thing to suffer when our minds are not firmly set on heavenly things. When our love goes cold our mouths stop speaking!

Some people are “on fire for the Lord” and some people just barely make it through their day without even thinking about God. This is a manageable condition. It is improved by our commitment to a deeper relationship with God by spending time in those two things which define any healthy relationship; time together and communication, in other words, prayer and Bible study.

It is difficult, in my mind, to imagine how we can be a disciple of Jesus if we are unwilling to obey his commands including the command to “Go.” Just like baptism is an act of faith, not a human work, evangelism is an act of faith and springs out of an inward desire. This command is part of The Great Commission and it is the one command designed to grow the Lord’s church. When was the last time you heard a preacher speak about our responsibility for personal evangelism in any great detail?

Evangelistic Accountability

In the past, I have been a part of such a ministry. Knowing the importance of this first command, church leadership developed methods to help members stick to the mission of seeking and saving the lost. Our personal evangelism was discussed and evaluated. Surprisingly, we welcomed the challenge. We wanted to be our best for Christ and we wanted to be effective in our outreach so we were always willing to do anything which could help us obey. And you know what? The church grew by leaps and bounds. Everyone was involved in the mission. We all understood these were Jesus wishes from The Great Commission!

Now don’t misunderstand me. Just because you are evangelistic does not prove anything. Faith without action is dead, but action without faith does not make you alive it’s just empty religion. We don’t obey the command to evangelize just so we can check a box off on the duty roster. We obey the command because we are in love with the Master.

I am not unaware that the position I am putting forth might be controversial. I am linking salvation to evangelism. It’s a great discussion to have. As always, I am completely open to the possibility that I could be wrong but one thing I am sure of; without evangelism a church will die and if your church is dying, what’s going on in the evangelism department? And by the way, have you ever noticed the marketing department of the church taking over the responsibility of personal evangelism? I’m not sure that is how the Lord wants it.

When we stop and carefully consider evangelism as an act of faith, it gets personal. How is my personal evangelism? This is an important question to ask ourselves because as the individual goes, so goes the church. If an individual is not focused on actively seeking and saving the lost every day, the church will not grow. No member is exempt from this activity and a church that wants to grow should have a modicum of accountability for personal evangelism.

A Spiritual Checkup

So, how are you doing spiritually? When was the last time you introduced someone to Jesus? When was the last time you baptized a person or even opened the Bible with a non-Christian? When was the last time you invited someone to learn about Christ? Challenging, isn’t it?

Maybe you are a person who waters… a person who is deeply devoted to serving others, as your main form of evangelism. Maybe you are not comfortable speaking to strangers but you are super active serving others, you know… good works done for Christ. When was the last time you explained why you do what you do, to the beneficiaries of your kind service? Do people think you serve them and care for them just because you’re a really nice person; or do they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all of the wonderful things you do for them are only possible because you have a deep love and desire to serve God?

The Power of “Go!”

So, this little word “Go,” the first command of The Great Commission is pretty potent. It carries a lot of weight. It tests our character. It has the power to change the world. But isn’t that exactly what Jesus wanted as he delivered these mandates to his men? Sure, these things are not easy and Jesus never promised us it would be. He simply promised us that He would be with us always, until the very end of the age. And of course, these promises are only reserved for the members of his program, the people who have a sincere desire to please the master. Christs promises are only for those who have a Faith that Obeys.


Dana Haynes
Listen Now – Podcast 053 – The Great Commission – Go!

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