What  IS  "The Great Commission"?

by
Jack M. Lane

 
The Great Commission is still valid today. Are we, both as individuals and as a church, doing what we can to fulfill it properly? Exactly what is "The Great Commission," and how does it apply to us in our modern day?
In the previous article we examined whether or not Matthew 24:14 is a part of the Great Commission. It would seem that the answer is no. We found out that Matthew 24:14 is a prophecy, and the church of the mid-twentieth century has been no better able to bring this prophecy to pass than was the early church in previous centuries.

It stands to reason that, if church leaders of antiquity, men such as Polycarp, Constantine of Maninelli, Peter Waldo, or any of the other leaders under whom God increased the size of the church, could not bring that prophecy to pass, why should we consider our church era to be able to do it, or even to be given the assignment to do it?

If the church through the ages had seen this prophecy to be its commission, then every generation of the church must concede defeat. No one was able to do it! If it was the commission to the church, every era of the church has failed in its commission!

No, the Great Commission was not to preach the gospel to the world for a witness, and then the end would come. God will fulfill that prophecy in His own good time.

HWA NOT THE ONLY ONE TO SEE THE GREAT COMMISSION

Even though Herbert Armstrong (HWA) firmly believed it was his personal commission to fulfill Matthew 24:14, and even though his followers also believed it, the gospel has not gone to the world as a witness, the end has not yet come, and the fulfillment of that prophecy is still ahead of us.

In this article weíll take a more detailed look at the phrase, "the Great Commission Christ gave to the Church." Those who have come from the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) may be surprised to learn that the concept of Christ giving the church a great commission is not limited to the doctrines and traditions of WCG. Many denominations have taken the Great Commission seriously, sending missionaries into far-off countries, even to this day, spreading the story of Jesus of Nazareth and whatever their concept of salvation is. This is one reason why Christianity (or, more properly, Protestantism) is a major world religion today.

In terms of "market saturation" or "converts," other church organizations are quite a ways ahead of HWAís efforts at world evangelism.

Is that what Christ really meant, though? Was God just looking at the "bottom line," interested only in numbers of television stations, numbers of responses, numbers of professing converts? Is that how God measures success in "doing the Work"?

Or has something been overlooked? Might Christ have meant something other than what we have assumed He meant? Letís examine the Great Commission in detail.

LOOKING AT THE GREAT COMMISSION

Although Matthew 28:19-20 is frequently quoted (by WCG and by other religious groups) as being the real text of the Great Commission, there are actually several scriptures which need to be put together to get the whole picture:

"Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ĎAll 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 ageí" (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV throughout).

"And He said to them, ĎGo into all the world and preach the gospel unto every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemnedí" (Mark 16:15-16).

"Then He said to them, ĎThus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these thingsí" (Luke 24:46-48).

"Then Jesus said to them again, ĎPeace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send youí" (John 20:21).

Perhaps the best thing to do would be to dissect these passages and examine them one thought at a time. Then, when we put the pieces back together, the whole message will make more sense.

ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND EARTH

The resurrected Christ might as well have said, "All authority in heaven and earth has been returned to Me." He was, after all, the LORD of the Old Testament, the One who created heaven and earth, and, as the human Jesus, He prayed that the Father would soon return Him to the glory He had had with the Father before He became a human being (John 17:5).

In addition to everything He was before, over and above His former attributes and accomplishments, Christ would also, from the time of His resurrection, be known as the firstborn Son of God (Romans 1:4; 8:29; Col. 1:18), our High Priest in heaven who became more empathetic to our human frailties than before (Hebrews 4:14-16), and the One who sits at the Fatherís right hand in the Fatherís throne in heaven (Revelation 3:21).

When the resurrected Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was about to give His disciples some instruction, those words were backed up by all the authority of the universe!

GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES

Some Greek manuscripts donít contain the word "therefore" in Matthew 28:20. If Christ was just saying, "Go and make disciples," that would have been a strong enough way of wording the command Christ was giving to His disciples. But if He did say "therefore," the full meaning would have been along these lines: "Therefore, because all authority has been returned to Me, because I am the Creator, with all the power of God once again, I am now instructing you to go out and make disciples." The resurrected Christ certainly didnít need to demonstrate His credentials to His disciples for them to believe Him or take His commission seriously, but because this was to be Christís commandment to the church through the ages, Christís pronouncement was given in a more serious manner, befitting the Head of state of the Kingdom of God.

The Greek verb which was translated as "to make disciples" might just as correctly be rendered in an alternate fashion: "to disciple." That is, Christ was telling the apostles, "Go and disciple!" Bill Sansone, a Church of God member, has written The New Covenant Translation and Commentary (unpublished). He translates this verse as, "After you have been gone, disciple all nations...." He then continues in his commentary, "This is referred to as THE GREAT COMMISSION! See Luke 24:47 for the best description of this commission. ĎDiscipleí, a verb in the Greek, means to teach, or make learners of all people. A disciple is an imitator of his teacher (John 15:8)."

BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME

In this verse, the word "in" would better be translated "into," since the Greek phrase eis to onoma actually means "into the name of," as if to say, "into the account of." We are therefore baptized into the name, the family name, of God.

Some people have felt uncomfortable about the Trinitarian implications when they have heard this "formula" used in a baptismal ceremony. Please see the December 1995 Servantsí News, page 2, for an interesting analysis of this verse. (If you are not already a subscriber to Servantsí News, please write to them at P.O. Box 6516, Springdale, AR 72766. As with "The WAY," there is no subscription price.)

Again quoting Bill Sansone, in regard to this passage: "A person is baptized INTO the Ďnameí of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). He becomes the begotten son of God. We become His sons literally (the sons of God bearing His name) when we receive and are led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9,14, 16-17). ...The Holy Spirit is the begettal agent by which we receive the earnest of our salvation (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:14; Rom. 8:16). He [the baptized person] now carries the name of God. He belongs to God, he is God's son! The Holy Spirit is the Divine Nature of God; not a third person. See Romans 8:14; 1 John 3:1; Gal. 3:27."

TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE

In Markís gospel account, Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). From this we learn that the Great Commission was to preach the gospel to the world.

But here is where many assume the Great Commission says something it doesnít really say! By adding in Matthew 24:14, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come," along with the adventist belief that Christís coming is imminent, a picture was created of an urgent need to preach the gospel as quickly as possible. ("Adventist" in this context is not a reference to a particular church organization, but conveys the idea that Christís return is expected soon.)

But Christís command to the church throughout the ages was to go and disciple the nations, and to teach the new disciples to do the things Christ commanded.

Christ commanded His disciples in a great many things. He gave many a "Christian living" sermon. Many of His themes for how to live were recorded in the gospels, and were further expanded in the epistles. The bulk of Greek scriptures tell us how to live, as do quite a bit of the Hebrew scriptures! And it was the same LORD God, the same Jesus Christ, who inspired all scripture, in both testaments. We are therefore required to follow all the commands in both testaments showing us how to live. (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS

The gates of the grave would never prevail against Godís church (Matthew 16:18). There have been true Christians living in every age from the days of the apostles forward, through today, and on to the end of the age when the entire church will be resurrected as sons of God.

Although we donít hear of instances today of Christ appearing to church leaders and personally instructing them (or if we do hear of it, we tend not to believe it!), each one of us has a copy of the Word of God, the Bible. Christ does instruct us, personally, through the pages of the Bible, and He will do so to the end of the age. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ leads us into all truth. We can derive strength and have comfort from knowing that Christ will never abandon His church!

REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS

A second approach to the Great Commission is found in Luke chapter 24: "Then He said to them, ĎThese are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.í And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ĎThus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalemí" (Luke 24:44-47).

Sin and repentance have not always been popular subjects for sermons and Bible studies over the years, except as an academic pursuit. Comparatively few ministers in WCG genuinely, pointedly, specifically worked with their congregations to bring the people to a realization that sin is still a part of all of our lives, that we must continue to repent of our sins and overcome daily, and that there must be changes made in peopleís lives in order to correct serious problems which existed, and still exist, within individuals and families even today.

Itís amazing how many families were wracked with serious problems, how many marriages were on the brink of disaster, and how many happy, smiling faces were simply masks to cover miserable lives -- all the result of sin in the lives of families in the church!

Perhaps one reason many church pastors and officials were not more effective in actually helping the people in their congregations to improve their lives, through the casting out of sin, was that there was sin, or laxness regarding sin, in their own lives! We sometimes forget that clergymen are only human themselves, and we sometimes expect too much from them. However, if sin was not dealt with in the life of a pastor or elder, that would seriously compromise his own ability to deal, as Godís representative, with the heart-wrenching effects of sin in other peopleís lives.

Another possible reason sin was dealt with lightly was the legitimate fear that a congregation could turn against its pastor if the people themselves were not interested in squarely facing their own sins and strongly desiring to overcome them. A pastor could be made to feel helpless and not in control of "his" congregation under such circumstances.

But perhaps the greatest reason for not emphasizing sin and repentance was that the focus of the Church was in a different direction! The thrust was to preach a warning message to the world. The congregations existed primarily to financially support the preaching to the world. Any effort to "feed My sheep" came a distant second to preaching the warning message. That was what we were taught: Christ wanted us to "do the Work" from a financial standpoint!

Nurturing the church members to wholeness was not a strong point in the training of many ministerial students (it was probably ignored altogether!), and as a result, nurturing and healing seldom filtered down to the people in the local congregations.

HE WHO BELIEVES AND IS BAPTIZED

"And He said to them, ĎGo into all the world and preach the gospel [the good news] unto every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemnedí" (Mark 16:15-16).

Every creature? The birds and the beasts? Obviously, Mark was taking a little poetic license at this point, exaggerating for emphasis. But if the apostles intended to go into an area and preach to every creature, you can rest assured they managed to get to most of the people who lived in that area!

"He who does not believe will be condemned." This, along with a misunderstanding of John 3:16 ("that whoever believes on Him should not perish [that is, would not burn forever in hellfire], but have everlasting life"), could be a very large reason why Protestant churches have worked very zealously to send missionaries into underdeveloped areas: "He who does not believe will be condemned" was taken to mean that anyone who died without proclaiming Christ as their Savior would be condemned to eternal hellfire! If the missionaries could get to as many areas of the world as they could, working tirelessly to convert as many heathen as possible to belief in Jesus (to one extent or another), that would minimize the number of those who would be condemned to eternal torture in the flames of hell simply because they had never heard of Jesus and had had no opportunity to believe.

But we donít serve such an unfair and vicious God. Our God is loving and merciful, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)! The reason God sent His Son into the world was so that people would not perish, but the world, through Him, might be saved (John 3:17)!

When the Bible talks about "he who does not believe will be condemned," and "whoever believes on Him should not perish" (meaning that whoever does not believe on Him would perish), itís talking about people who have heard the message of Jesus Christ, have understood it, have turned it over in their minds, and then knowingly, deliberately, with understanding, reject it, refusing to repent, choosing instead to live in the world as a slave to sin (Romans 6:16). These are the ones who have been given an opportunity to believe, whose minds have been opened by God so that they would understand, but have consciously, purposely refused to respond to Godís calling. These people are judged worthy of condemnation.

Jesus said, "he who does not believe [by choice] will be condemned." He didnít say, "he who has never heard."

Compare those people to the people who hear the word, understand it, are joyful and thankful that God would call them, who then respond eagerly and thankfully, and become filled with hope, joy and appreciation as they respond to Godís calling. These are the ones God will desire to have in His Kingdom, and they will be saved.

To set the missionariesí minds at ease, those "natives" who have never heard the message have not yet been judged! They did not go to their graves, only to awaken in an ever-burning torture in the "hell" of Danteís inferno. Those who have lived and died without having a chance to hear the message will be resurrected some day to their own day of salvation, during the Great White Throne judgment period (Revelation 20:11-15).

However, it is still Christís instruction to His church to go into the world and preach the Gospel! That instruction, that commission, has not changed!

FULFILLING THE GREAT COMMISSION AT HOME

Now, when we put the pieces back together, we can see a different picture emerge than what we had been taught in the past.

"Then He said to them, ĎThus it is written, ... that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalemí" (Luke 24:46-48).

Is this really part of the Great Commission? Yes, it is. Itís actually the main part.

But wasnít the Great Commission to go and preach an Ezekiel warning message? Wasnít the church to go out and scare the wits out of everyone with fearsome stories of the Great Tribulation? No.

Jesus told the apostles, and by extension the church, to go and disciple all nations, or make disciples from all the nations. What were the apostles supposed to do with the disciples they made around the world? Disciple them! Teach them! Here is where the local congregations have a part to play in the Great Commission.

The local congregation is to practice the admonition Christ gave to Peter, and by extension to the church, to "feed My sheep." Christ often referred to Himself as a Shepherd and His flock as sheep. The local congregation became the sheepfold, with Christ Himself as the door (or, more correctly translated, the doorway) of the sheepfold (John 10:1-16).

This is the area where too little attention was given in WCG. Instead of the local shepherds nurturing, feeding, caring for, and loving the sheep, bringing the sheep to their level of maturity and understanding, even leaving the 99 to go after the lost one, the sheep were in far too many instances treated poorly, ignored, dehumanized, conditioned to follow men unquestioningly, and treated with a general lack of respect.

Why did WCG teach so much about the beast, the Great Tribulation, the seven last plagues, and Godís vengeance and wrath, but so little about repentance, forgiveness, grace, or Godís long-suffering love? This is the area of the Great Commission which was not fulfilled perfectly by WCG.

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

Herbert Armstrong was correct when he said the Great Commission is to preach the gospel. But is the gospel only a message to warn the nations that they had better "straighten up and fly right" or God would punish them severely? No, the gospel message, the good news message, is that God so loved everyone in the world that He sacrificed His own Son so that all people might be forgiven their sins and join Him in His family! Why didn't Armstrong proclaim this around the world, instead of decrying how it was being proclaimed around the world by "the churches of the world"? This is an enigma.

Bill Sansone, in his commentary on the New Testament, has concluded, "The Gospel of the Kingdom is not only the message of the coming government of God but we must also preach repentance and forgiveness of sins. ĎForgivenessí = Greek aphesis -- dismissal, release. Human sins could not be forgiven until Christ's death and resurrection (Matthew 26:28). This was a release from the eternal death penalty incurred by sin. The penalty of eternal death could only be fulfilled by the death of the Eternal!"

What, then, is the gospel? "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings [the gospel!] to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives [of sin and the devil], And the opening of the prison [our emotional and spiritual cages] to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD [the Millennium], And the day of vengeance of our God [the Day of the Lord]; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion [the church], To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they [in the church] may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He [the Eternal God] may be glorified" (Isaiah 61:1-3).

"And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight -- if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister [diakonos -- servant] ... to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:21-27)!

Thatís the gospel message that needs to be carried to the world in fulfilling the Great Commission! It is the commission given to everyone chosen by God, not just to a corporation of men, and not just to those who are called ministers (servants)!

WHAT THE PROTESTANTS HAVE WRITTEN

It would not be possible to fully understand the subject of the Great Commission without examining what has been printed in other, non-Church of God literature.

For example, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, commenting on Matthew 28:19-20, wrote: "This glorious Commission embraces two primary departments, the Missionary and the Pastoral. ... Now, was all this meant to be done by the eleven men nearest to Him of the multitude then crowding around the risen Redeemer? Impossible. Was it to be done even in their lifetime? Surely not. In that little band Jesus virtually addressed Himself to all who, in every age, should take up from them the same work. Before the eyes of the Churchís risen Head were spread out, in those eleven men, all His servants of every age; and one and all of them received His commission at that moment. Well, what next? Set the seal of visible discipleship upon the converts, by Ďbaptizing them into the name,í i.e., into the whole fulness of the grace [of God]."

Another commentator wrote: "Making disciples and bringing into communion with the Godhead is not all that is to flow from ... the absolute authority of Jesus Christ -- [but also] Ďteaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.í We hear a great deal in these days about the worthlessness of mere dogmatic Christianity. Jesus Christ anticipated all that talk, and guarded it from exaggeration. For what He tells us here that we are to train ourselves and others in is not creed but conduct; not things to be believed ... but things to be done. ... A creed that is not wrought out in actions is empty. ... What we are to know we are to know in order that we may do, and so inherit the benediction, which is never bestowed upon them that know, but upon them that, knowing these things, are ... doing ... them. ...

"And so these are the three things by which the Church recognizes and corresponds to the universal dominion of Christ, [1] the making [of] disciples universally; [2] the bringing them into the communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and [3] the training of them to conduct [that is, behavior, actions] ever approximating more and more to the divine ideal of humanity in the glorified Christ" (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture).

In reference to Mark 16:15-16, Matthew Henry wrote about "The commission which He gave them ... by the preaching of His gospel. ... Now they are authorized to go into all the world and to preach the gospel of Christ to every creature ... to every human creature that is capable of receiving it. These eleven men could not preach it to all the world, much less to every creature in it; but they and the other disciples, with those who should afterward be added to them, must disperse themselves several ways, and, wherever they went, carry the gospel along with them. They must make it the business of their lives to send those glad tidings up and down the world with all possible fidelity and care, not as an amusement or entertainment, but as a solemn message from God to men, and an appointed means of making men happy."

Speaking of Luke 24:47-48, Matthew Henry continues, "ĎYou are to be witnesses of these things (v. 48), to carry the notice of them to all the world. ...í They must preach the gospel. They must take their Bibles along with them, and must show people how it was written of old concerning the Messiah, and the glories and graces of His kingdom, and then must tell them how all this was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. ... ĎGo, and tell the world that Christ suffered, as it was written of Him. Go, preach Christ crucified; be not ashamed of His cross, not ashamed of a suffering Jesus. Tell them that it behooved Him to suffer, that it was necessary to the taking away of the sin of the world. That he rose from the dead on the third day. In this also the scriptures were fulfilled. Go, and tell them, then, that He that was dead is alive, and lives forevermore, and has the keys of death and the grave.í The great gospel duty of repentance must be pressed upon the children of men. Repentance for sin must be preached in Christís name, and by His authority, v. 47. ĎGo, and tell all people that they must turn to the service of God in Christ. Their hearts and lives must be changed.í The great gospel privilege of the remission of sins must be proposed to all, and assured to all that repent, and believe the gospel. ĎGo, tell a guilty world that there is hope concerning them.í"

THE DIFFERENCES

Of course, since the Protestant denominations have a different concept of what the Kingdom of God is all about, there is no mention of Christ returning in great power and glory to rule the nations. Without that knowledge, they have stressed the concepts involving redemption and forgiveness of sin. To them, that is the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

We, however, have tended to take the other extreme, as humans frequently will do. We learned that Christ is coming again, as the Almighty King of the Kingdom, which will be a literal government over literal nations, ruled by literal Sons of God for a literal millennium. And we have been so eager to bring this gospel of the Kingdom to the world that we have neglected the other, although the other perspective of the gospel -- of redemption and salvation -- is equally true, equally good news, and equally applicable to every member of the church, and ultimately, all of humankind.

In fact, we were so thoroughly trained to avoid the "Protestant gospel," that when WCG began to make its course change in the late 1980ís, and introduced salvation-related topics, many members were disturbed, and began to leave.

In more recent times, as many of us have begun studying our Bibles more intensively than ever, it has been a revelation to us to find that many concepts we had avoided in the past are biblically correct! The true nature of the gospel was one of them. The emphasis should not be placed on salvation alone or on rulership alone. The true gospel encompasses both messages!

And now, we are shocked to discover more fully what the Great Commission really is!

WHAT THE GREAT COMMISSION IS NOT

What, ultimately, does Christ want the church to do? The old model is looking less attractive all the time, that of a group of private financiers whose primary reason for being called was to pay for the preaching of the gospel via expensive mass media, but whose church life consisted of frequently superficial weekly meetings on Sabbaths, supplemented by so-called Bible studies or by club meetings midweek, and by teen sporting activities on Sundays; a group of people being prepared to be sons of God and rulers in the Kingdom primarily by learning blind obedience to rulers, keeping a low profile, hiding their family problems or personal sins instead of dealing with them and correcting them; writing checks to support a corrupt hierarchy without having any say in how the money is used, all the while being told to trust God, because God wouldnít allow His church, or His ministers, to make mistakes.

That picture is growing dimmer as time goes by and memories of the old ways begin to fade. Another picture is now taking its place. Today, more and more of the people of the church are holding the ministry (their servants) accountable for their actions and teachings. More people are realizing that stewardship is not just sending money into the atmosphere and hoping for the best. Serving God is no longer accomplished by "checking your brains at the door" and following a man or a group of men who profess to follow Christ. (Of course, serving God was never truly accomplished this way!)

In other words, as we grow and mature spiritually, we find that "solid food belongs to those who are of full age [Margin: mature], that is, those who by reason of use [Margin:practice]have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore [as a result of this, because we can discern both good and evil], leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection [Margin: maturity]" (Hebrews 5:14-6:1)!

Indeed, as the church matures, as increasing numbers of members recognize that they need to take on more personal responsibility for fulfilling the Great Commission, Godís purpose is again moving forward.

WHAT IS THE GREAT COMMISSION?

What has Christ commissioned His church to do? Part one: Go and disciple. Part two: Teach them to observe all things Christ has commanded, including repentance from sin! THATíS THE GREAT COMMISSION! Thatís going on to perfection!

Of course the gospel must be preached! As a warning? No, thatís the job of the two witnesses and the three angels of Revelation!

But why must the gospel be preached? To enlarge corporate revenue? To increase magazine subscriptions?

"Thus it was written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and thatrepentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47)!

"For Ďwhoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be savedí [Joel 2:32]. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:13-15)

"Now when the Gentiles heard this [that Paul and Barnabus would be discipling them], they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48).

What message did Paul preach? What was the gospel message the Apostle Paul proclaimed? Did it sound anything like todayís concept of preaching the gospel?

Testifying before King Agrippa, Paul said, "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:19-20)!

Another part of the church's job is to combat wrong ideas and doctrines: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled" (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).

Teaching Christians how to live is an important part of the Great Commission: "but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ĎBe holy, for I am holy [Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2]í" (1 Peter 1:15-16).

The two aspects of the gospel message, salvation and rulership, come together perfectly and fully in the hope of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15; 2 Corinthians 4:13-14; Hebrews 9:27-28) at the return of Christ (Matthew 24:30; John 14:2-3).

The church was to be instructed in appropriate faith (James 2), in pure religion (James 1:27), and in the fact that the church is a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Godís own special people (1 Peter 2:5, 9).

This is only a small sampling of what the Great Commission is all about! Actually, all the gospels and epistles together make up the text of the complete Great Commission. The entire Bible is the textbook for the students, the disciples.

Did Herbert Armstrong have a commission from Christ? It seems apparent that he did. Was he able to complete his commission? To the extent that he yielded himself to Christís leadership, he was able to be used by Christ, as he himself often said.

Was his commission to fulfill Matthew 24:14? Apparently not. Is Matthew 24:14 part of the Great Commission? It doesnít seem so.

Has that prophecy yet been fulfilled? No it hasnít, and that fact should create great excitement among the members of Godís church, and great anticipation for the future, as we stand figuratively on tiptoe, along with the rest of creation, waiting in eager expectation for the manifestation of the sons of God at Christís return (Romans 8:19-23, J. B. Phillips translation).

When will that be? No one knows, other than the Father. Christ may know by this time, but that doesnít matter; the Father will send Him at just the right time. And as that time approaches, as we look forward to seeing the two witnesses come on the scene, let us always watch, and be vigilant, always striving to be ready, always learning from one another, always serving one another, every part of Godís church striving to find himself or herself approved to God in all that they do and say, not ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

For some, the battle is already over. For them, the Kingdom is just a blink of the eye in the future. We have the hard part. We must endure to the end.

The encouraging news, the knowledge that gives us strength, is that Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, the King of the Kingdom, the firstborn from the dead, will be with us always, even to the end of the age!

tW


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