Lesson 6 - The Work of God

The work of God assigned to the apostles is called the Great Commission.  In Mark 16:15, 16 it is expressed as follows: "And He (Jesus) said to them (the disciples), 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.'"  Luke writes in the gospel that bears his name, "...repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."  Luke 24:47.  In John's gospel Jesus simply says, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."  John 20:21.  In our study we will look at the Great Commission as recorded in the Gospel According to Matthew.

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,
'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 
Go therefore and make disciples of all 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.'"
Matthew 28:18-20.

 

The Power

Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."  He is the One who had just suffered, bearing the sins of the world in His own body.  His beard had been yanked.  His back had been scourged.  His head wore a crown of thorns.  His hands were nailed to a cross.  His tongue was parched and dry.  His side was pierced by a spear.  His ears heard mocking and ridicule.  His God had forsaken Him in His most trying hour.  The Bible doesn't dramatize the crucifixion, but clearly sums up the whole ordeal, "For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit."  1 Peter 3:18.

Yes, Christ rose again from the dead.  It was this Jesus, who conquered sin and death, standing before His disciples and declaring that all power belongs to Him.  This authority is not found in some person or religious body or organization, but in Jesus who was dead but is alive forevermore.  He is the Lord of heaven and earth.  There is none like Him.

Some scholars erroneously see Christianity as a religion of disappointed men, who in reverence and devotion to their martyred leader, concocted the unbelievable story of His resurrection.  But here the triumphant living Lord sends forth His ambassadors to proclaim His gospel throughout all the world.  Having declared His power, He delegates that authority to those whom He sends.  The ultimate power and authority is found in Him.

 

The Purpose

The command is clear.  "Make disciples of all nations."  Discipleship involves more than evangelism, the preaching of the gospel.  But that's where it begins.  Preaching is accompanied by teaching.  More about this later.  The gospel of Luke has a lot to say about discipleship.  Consider just one verse.  Jesus said, "Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."  Luke 14:33.

The making of disciples is the primary work of the church of Jesus Christ.  At least it should be.  Unfortunately, too many Christians and churches are not active participants in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.  Often the limited response to Jesus' command is lukewarm and self-complacent.

The pro-life movement is often criticized by some, because pro-lifers aren't also dealing with other important social issues, such as racial discrimination, environmental pollution, women's rights, AIDS, affirmative action, the deforestation of the Amazon, and so on.  Such criticism is wrong.  Pro-life advocates are primarily concerned about one thing...LIFE, that is, defending the life of the unborn.  That's their focus, and that's where it should be.

Likewise, a worldwide missionary emphasis is often played down, especially where soul winning has a low priority.  Consistent with a lack of passion for the lost, excuses are made that the church should be involved in other ministries, and not all wrapped up in foreign missions. 

The Great Commission is about LIFE, eternal life and all of life, especially related to God and Christian values.  What many people fail to see is the fruit produced as a result of successful discipleship.  Lives, homes, communities, and entire nations have been changed.

 

The Plan

How is the Great Commission, this work of God, carried out?  First, by going.  The command is "Go therefore and make disciples...."  The word go here is actually a participle, which does not convey a command to go, but rather assumes that the listeners will automatically be going.  In other words, a more accurate translation would be, "Going...make disciples."  Going is assumed.  When you know the truth of the gospel of Christ, how can you not go?  What reason would you have for not participating in the Great Commission.

Second, by baptizing.  All conversions take place at a moment in time.  Many experiences may prepare us for that moment, when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and pass from death to life.  Today those who accept the Lord as their personal Savior as encouraged to raise their hand while others have their eyes closed, or they are invited to come forward in the church, or to sign a decision slip, or do something else.  All of these things are fine, but they are not a substitute for following the Lord in baptism.

Those who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died for them and rose again, should be baptized as a testimony to the obedience of their faith in Him.

Baptism is not the gospel.  The apostle Paul wrote, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel...."  1 Corinthians 1:17.  It is not a condition of salvation.  We have already learned that we are saved by grace apart from works.  Ephesians 2:8, 9.  Baptism won't save you any more than swimming in the river will.

Third, by teaching.  What should be taught?  Jesus said, "Teaching...all things that I have commanded you...."  Where can we find what Jesus taught?  Three major discourses are the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16), and the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25).  This is a good place to begin. 

But the making of disciples involves more than teaching the teachings of Jesus.  Take another look at what Jesus said, that is, "Teach them to observe all things...."  The command is to teach obedience.  That's what it means to observe.  To observe is to obey.

Remember that the plan is to go, to baptize, and to teach.

 

The Presence

With Jesus' command to make disciples He gave a promise...the promise of His presence.  He said, "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  The Lord not only stands above His disciples as the One who has all power, but He also stands with them.  Those who go forward and minister in His name may have the assurance that He will always be with them.

Someone has said, "No go, no lo."   

In Mark 16:20 we learn, "And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.  Amen."  And He will work with you.

 

Lesson 7 - The Day of God

 
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