Study 12 Objective: What is the Great Commission, and how is it relevant to the life of the believer and of churches?
Jesus also sent out His disciples (Matthew 10:5), and He explained that just as the Father sent Him into the world so He, Jesus, sends believers into the world (John 17:18).
All believers are sent by Christ. We are on a mission for God, and, as such, we are His missionaries. The New Testament church understood this clearly and continued the Father’s work of being sent. The book of
Acts is a testimony to the work of mission as the gospel spreads throughout the then known world. Believers are like “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), sent to represent Him to all people.
The New Testament church was the church in mission. One of the problems with church today is that church goers regard “mission as
one of its many functions rather than its defining centre” (Murray 2004:135). Often they distance themselves from mission by assigning it to “specialized agencies rather than equipping all members as missionaries” (ibid). Instead of Isaiah’s response of “Here am I! Send me” (6:9) the often implied response is, “Here am I! Send someone else”.
Do you see yourself as being sent by God? If so, in what ways?
How does your local congregation live up to being sent into the world?
An Old Testament model
The work of God in the Old Testament is related to the idea of attraction. Other nations would be so startled by the magnetic event of God’s interaction with Israel that they would seek to come to “taste and see
that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
The model is one of “Come” as exemplified in the story of Solomon and the queen of Sheba. “Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the
fame...she came to Jerusalem...so Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to
her...she said to the king: ‘it was a true report...’” (1 Kings 10:1-7). In this account the concept is one of drawing people to a central point so that truth and answers can be expounded. Some churches practice such
a model today. There is some validity to it but it is not a complete model.
Typically Israel is not sent outside its own boundaries to witness to God’s glory, “it was not commissioned to go to the nations to explain the revelational truth committed to God’s people” (Peters 1972:21). When
God wants to send Jonah with a message of repentance to the non-Israelite Ninevites, Jonah is horrified. Such an approach was
unheard of (read the mission story in the book of Jonah. It remains instructive for us today).
New Testament models
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” is how the first gospel writer, Mark, establishes the context of the New Testament church (1:1).
Everything is about the gospel, the good news, and Christians are to have their “fellowship in the gospel” (Philippians 1:5), meaning that they live and share the good news of salvation in Christ. This is what the term “evangelism” has its roots in, the idea of spreading the good news, of proclaiming salvation to those who do not believe.
Just as some were occasionally attracted to Israel because of its often short-lived fame, so in contrast many were often attracted to Jesus Christ because of His popular reputation and charisma. “And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region” (Mark 1:28). Jesus said “Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28) and “Follow Me” (9:9). The salvation model of coming and following Jesus Christ is still in force. It is
Jesus who has the words of life (John 6:68).