The Late, Great Commission

How can people in "Restoration churches" begin to understand "the church" when we have never understood the "Great Commission?"

King James has done it to us again! That's just as aggravating to me as anything I can imagine. In Mark, King James' translators said:

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned.

In Matthew:

All power in heaven and on earth hath been given unto me. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

It seems to me that we've let the devil with his sleight of hand divert our attention for too long onto the "baptism" part of this thing. We've waxed eloquent about "The Plan of Salvation," preaching to people in other denominations. We've decried the fact that people do not "Go" any more to teach the lost. "They won't even Go across the street," we've said as we were preaching to the saved.

We've gotten all up in arms when the Crossroads brothers have doubled, tripled and quadrupled before our eyes. Some have given begrudging compliments by saying, "At least they believe in going and preaching the Gospel."

Because we couldn't Go, we have just done little teaching to "outsiders." We've moaned about the loss of our missionary spirit, our evangelistic zeal and the lack of growth of numbers of our people in the pews.

Well, the old devil's hocus-pocus has fooled us again. He has used his smoke and mirrors, and while we were watching out for immersion and salvation in the proper order in "The Plan Of Salvation" (I'm am not belittling their importance, by any means), and watching to see if people were immersed and not "scattered in small droplets," he's made us miss the point of what Jesus told them to do.

In the KJV and other popular versions that have followed its lead since, it appears that Christ's command to his apostles is four-fold. That is: Go--Teach--Baptize--Teach. Each command is as important as the other three--the Going is as important as the Baptizing, which is as important as the Teaching and the Teaching.

Going, Cry Out

It seems to me that in the original , however, there's an entirely different focus, which we seem to have missed entirely. Try Mark:

And he said to them, "Going into all the world, proclaim (cry out) the good news to all the creation. The one believing and being immersed will be saved, but the one not believing will be condemned.

How about Matthew?

And approaching, Jesus talked with them saying, "All authority was given to me in heaven and on the earth. Therefore, going, you make disciples of all the nations, immersing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things about whatever I gave command to you.

Notice, please, Matthew records it as, "Going, make disciples..." Mark's is a little different, but basically the same construction, "Going...cry out the good news..."
There is a subtle, but vitally important, difference that we need to see between this and popular translations. In the case of most English language translations, the Going appears to be as important as the action which followed-- the making of disciples or the crying out. However, in the original, the going does not appear to be a part of the command--only incidental to the making of disciples and the crying out. . .

Let's try to say it in today's common language:

As you are going about, doing what you do, make disciples of all the nations..
As you go along, cry out the good news...

This subtle difference is simply that our teaching is to be done as we are going about, doing what we do. Teaching is to be done at the same time and concurrently with the Going.

This helps me to understand better what our Lord was concerned about just before he ascended back to heaven. First of all, he was talking to his apostles--ones he sent on a mission, his ambassadors. So he sent them on a mission to cry out the good news and to make disciples. But this was to be done while they were going. They were not "to go" to a specific place to "preach." They were sent out from where Jesus was talking with them--Jerusalem--and as they were going, they were to proclaim the good news wherever they went, whatever they were doing. They were not professional travelers, criers, nor disciple-makers. Each supported himself, crying out, making disciples, teaching and baptizing all the while.

If I can see that mental picture of a person going about, doing whatever he or she does every day, and while going, teaching anyone who will listen at any opportunity--then I can also begin to understand another teaching of my Lord.

Planting

In Luke 8, Jesus told his followers the parable of the farmer, scattering seeds. I can see that man now, scattering seeds left and right as he walked along over uneven plowed ground, then over a hard, well-worn path where people were walking, even at the time he was scattering seeds. Some stepped on the seeds. Must have mashed some of them into the hard ground. Most of those not stepped on were picked up by the birds and eaten. The man continued to walk along over some thorny ground, and while walking, he was scattering seeds among the thorns. The same happened as he walked with heavy steps over rocky ground. He scattered some seeds there, as well.

Jesus' disciples didn't understand this picture Jesus painted for them until he explained it to them privately. Nonetheless, the picture is the same as it is in the "great commission." "Scattering seed" while walking over paths and fields, rocks and thorns is the same picture Jesus gave the eleven on the mountain when he said, "going, cry out the good news."

What this tells me, that my clouded eyes could not see before, is how I am to teach both the lost and the disciple.

While doing what I do, going wherever I go, I should go crying out the good news about the Christ, if I am going among the lost. If I am among the "immersed believers," then I should instruct them more perfectly--edify them, shore them up as disciples - as I go and do whatever I do and wherever I go.

I have been very concerned in the past when I could not get anyone to study with me. I've invited people for years, using every kind of a device and a lead-in that I can think of to get people to study with me. I have had a few studies, and I have baptized a few people. More than once over the years, I have even studied "how to do personal work," so I could equip myself to convert others to Christ. Still my results were no better. (Does this sound familiar?)

Planting and Watering

Now that I see with clearer eyes, I believe I understand a part of what Paul was telling the Corinthian saints when he said, "I planted and Apollos watered, but God caused the growth to occur." This is the same figure of speech Jesus had used with his disciples--the seed-planting picture. I now believe that my mission (the popular word is "my ministry") is the same as yours.

Our missions are to scatter seeds whenever and wherever we get the opportunity. Or perhaps even water seeds that someone else has planted. We should not be so intensely concerned with "converting" people "in the same hour of the night," as some did in old times, that we do nothing. That's outstanding when it can be done, though. A dear Tampa brother of mine has been an outstanding success doing just that. What I am saying is, don't be overcome with worry if you cannot do it that way. Just concentrate on planting and watering every day while you are going about doing whatever you do.

The Butcher, The Baker, and the Avon Lady

Do you work for a company? In those slack moments at work when you can talk, teach the principles that Christ has taught you. If something happens that can be used to illustrate something Jesus taught, use it to teach your co-worker. If he or she pursues the subject, then pursue it as long as there is interest.

Work at home? Use the same techniques with the "Avon-calling" person, and the Amway salesperson, the plumber, the butcher, baker and candle salesperson who come to your door.

If people are responsive to the things you do and say, follow up. Do this as long as one is interested. But don't chase people. I think we've probably all made that mistake in the past. We don't have any scriptural examples of anyone ever chasing anyone to teach them. If people show no interest over and over--"Don't cast your pearls before swine."

You have so little time. Spend your priceless moments teaching someone who cares. Granted, this will cause you some heartaches. Because you will want so much for some particular person you love to listen. Just remember, God sends the good news to "askers" and "seekers." (Remember "ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you?") There are enough who ask, seek and knock to keep all of us busy until we die, without having to take the time to chase people who are not interested.

I want to urge you to do and say whatever you get the opportunity to do or say every time you get the opportunity to do or say anything which would teach what the Lord taught us.

Coupled with this, when you pray, try asking the Lord to give you opportunities to reach your friends, acquaintances and co-workers. Let me warn you though, before you pray a prayer like that, please examine yourself to make sure you mean it, because the Lord will certainly open doors, as fast as you can handle them. Sometimes, faster. Trust me.

Don't feel as though the responsibility for the conversion of any one person, nor the edification of any one belongs entirely to you. Just plant as you go. Trust someone else to water. If you see seed already planted, water it every time you can. Then trust God to give the growth and pray for a great harvest.-

(Editor's Note: The above article is one of the most simple, informative, and challenging studies you will ever read. It deserves a second, even a third, reading-study. It simplifies the great responsibility we have as the Lord's people to "make disciples" and "teach them" to follow Jesus. We can all do it and we should be about it. Therefore, "as you are going about, doing what you do," seek to ''make disciples" by sowing the seed, and/or plant and water those already disciples.)