What is the Great Commission? Are Christians commanded to obey this commission? What is the purpose for the Great Commission and the Christians part in it?
The Great Commission
The Bible records Jesus giving the disciples the Great Commission. In Acts 1:8 it is the last command given by Christ before His Ascension that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This is similar to Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus tells the disciples:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Great Commission was not just for the immediate disciples that He was speaking to but it is given to all believers. Today, the Great Commission is still being fulfilled by international missionary work, by local churches in actively seeking the lost in their community, in outreach activities and by believers witnessing for Jesus Christ to their next door neighbor. The Great Commission will not end until the consummation of the Kingdom of Heaven. That is, during the church age today, all believers are commanded to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ  and to go into all the world, even if it starts next door.
Part of the great commission is to “make disciples of all nations”, meaning that this gospel should be preached in all the world. A disciple is literally one that is disciplined or taught about the Kingdom of God and these disciples are to make disciples or students of other people once they have put their trust in Christ. No believer is supposed to be an underground or private believer. Christianity is not a covert operation! We must all tell others the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not optional. To be discipled is to be instructed or to learn from one who is a disciple themselves. We can never teach what we first do not possess and so once a person receives saving faith from God, they are to impart this to others and to teach others to “obey all that [Jesus has] commanded” us.
To be a disciple means to be a learner of, a student of, and to discipline (root word for discipline) oneself in the things that Jesus Christ taught. Since God wants us to be holy just as He is holy, we are to be constrained to be more like Christ over time. This process takes a lifetime and it’s what we call sanctification . It doesn’t happen overnight but it takes a concerted effort of studying God’s Word, obeying the principles taught in the Bible, being taught in a local church and to follow Christ first and foremost in this present life (Matt 6:33).
An Imperative Command
When Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world, was this an imperative command? Yes, it is the same type of command that a parent would yell to a child in the street: “Get out of the street right now!” We can not take the Great Commission as optional but as a direct command given by the Lord Jesus Christ. If He is not Lord of all then He is not Lord at all. By the way, as some have believed, there is no gift for sharing the gospel. We are all to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ to those who are lost. Why wouldn’t we knowing the final destination and fate of those who die without Christ? The good news must be shared. If we had a cure for cancer and we knew that thousands of people are dying every day from this deadly disease, why wouldn’t we want to offer this cure, in this case, eternal life for those who are perishing? To not share the gospel is to be negligent to our duties. When we keep this good news to ourselves it reminds me of the Parable of the Talents. The one servant buried his talent in the ground. When we do that we are robbing others of the chance for eternal life. Why wouldn’t we want to offer hope for people who will die in their sins? How awful to not share this news and participate in rescuing the perishing. There is no excuse for not doing it. What keeps most from doing this is the fear of man which is a snare. Should we not fear God more and understand that He will hold us responsible someday on the Day of His Visitation?
The Great Omission
Only a small fraction of the church actively shares the faith with the lost. Less than 1 in 10 will share their faith with at least one other person in a lifetime. Only 1 in 20 will ever lead someone to faith in Christ during their life. That is why for most Christians it’s called the “great omission.” There are sins of commission and sins of omission and I believe not being involved with the Great Commission is a sin of omission.
Jude tells us to “save others by snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23). Paul asked the church at Ephesus and Colossae to “pray also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19) “and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things” (Ephesians 3:9) as well as “pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains” (Colossians 4:3). Paul declared that “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). By the way, when I share the gospel, I am not responsible for the outcome. God is! I can only sow the seed of the Word and leave the results up to God but I must tell you…after I do, I feel such joy and peace. I can not compare it to any feeling in the world. Sadly, for so many years in my Christian faith I was simply a pew potato.
Are you ashamed of being embarrassed by sharing the good news? Here is a serious warning from Jesus Christ about that. He says that “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven“ (Matthew 10:32-33). He repeats this warning in Mark 8:38 that “the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels“ and “whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God” (Luke 12:9) and there is no doubt that “If we disown him, he will also disown us“ (2 Timothy 2:12b). That should be a wake up call for all of us because many profess Christ to other Christians but not to the lost.
Let me leave you with a true story that is a great analogy as to why we need to be participating in the Great Commission. About 20 years ago a man was walking his dog about 530 in the morning when he spotted smoke coming out of a two-story house. When he looked around he saw that there was no chimney for a fireplace and so he thought the occupants may be endangered. He went up to the porch and peeked into the living room window and saw smoke coming out of the kitchen area. This is when he knew that there was a fire and he started pounding on the door. He rang the door bell furiously but got no response. Then he started pounding so hard on the front door that he thought it might break it down and the neighborhood dogs started barking and the lights started coming on in the neighborhood. Finally, a light went on in the second floor of the house and when a man came down to the living room only then did he realize that there smoke coming out of the kitchen. This was lomg before smoke detectors were commonly used. The man then ran upstairs to evacuate his family. The family escaped with what could have been a disastrous fire.
Here is the analogy. There is a fire coming. The man who was walking his dog didn’t think, “Well, I don’t want to disturb anyone at this hour…and I don’t want to embarrass myself.” No, he was bold and did everything within his power that he could to warn the occupants of the fire. There is another fire coming. Jesus spoke of it more than heaven and in fact, more than just about anything else that He ever taught in the gospel. Hell is very real. Should we not fear for those who don’t yet know about a fire that is coming and be bold enough to take whatever steps are necessary? Who cares if you are embarrassed or you are humiliated ? Shouldn’t we care enough to warn the occupants of this coming fire…like our neighbors, our friends, and our family…even strangers? Remember that the power is in the message and not in the messenger. If God can use even a shy, timid, tongue-twisted person like me to go into the streets, door to door, in the stores or anywhere that there are people…then He can use you.
It takes the Spirit of God,
with the Word of God,
and a person of God
to make children of God.
As Jesus said, “GO!”
What are you waiting for?
Take a look at this related article, also by Jack Wellman:
Reference – New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide