Updated: Sep 17, 2020
To whom was the Great Commission given? Was it just to the disciples who were present at the time, or was it to all Christians, from that day forward? I don’t know any Christian that would say it was instruction only for the disciples. The Great Commission is our marching orders to “win souls to Christ” and the reason we support others in domestic and foreign missions. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel…” Jesus’ hands and feet on the earth – that’s what we’re supposed to be – His boots on the ground.
What does that mean in practical terms? Well, in addition to the Great Commission, paraphrasing, He told us to visit prisoners, feed the poor, take care of widows and orphans, to not forget about those in our own family who need help, to give aid to strangers (they may be angels in disguise) and to do these things as if we’re ministering directly to Him.
These things all sound do-able to your normal church member. We form committees and go out, often taking tracts with us, and share the gospel in prisons and soup kitchens and tuck a McDonald’s gift card in a tract or write a check to a halfway house or mission. All good things, but how effective are they? What score would an efficiency expert give our usual evangelistic tactics based on outcomes?
We can answer that question by asking another: what are the prevalent reasons that people search God out? People who realize they need God would be the ripe fruit, so to speak, to our evangelizing. They’re ready – they’re looking for the answer. Care to guess the needs that most often motivate these searches?
Health problems and financial problems – those two reasons are why the overwhelming majority of people go looking for God. So do our normal evangelistic tactics inform people that God wants to minister to their health and financial needs, thereby reaching the branches laden with the most ripe fruit? Not usually.
Massive numbers look for God when they’re facing a bad report from the doctor or the accountant, if they have heard that God cares about their health and their impending poverty. And He does. I can personally attest to both. But I’m going to ignore the subject of money today, as health is the single biggest draw. Healing has been called the dinner bell to the gospel. However, to many Christians, it’s not seen as anything worth using as a means of drawing people to God, because it’s not part of their experience with God. It’s not something they can point to and say, “God healed me of this, and He wants to heal you, too.” It’s certainly not something they can minister to others.
And yet, we’re commanded to do just that. Commanded – it’s not an “Oh, wouldn’t that be nice," it’s not a suggestion – it’s a command. I’m guessing you’ve never been told that.
Matthew and Mark both have accounts of Jesus’ Great Commission. Matthew is the one quoted in most churches, yet Mark’s gives much more detail:
Matthew 28: … 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 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. Amen.
So what exactly is all things whatsoever I have commanded you? Mark gives us a large part of that information:
Mark 16: 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
Shocking, isn’t it? If you are a “them that believe” then Jesus said YOU SHALL
1. Be saved
2. cast out demons
3. speak in tongues
4. be protected from serpents
5. be protected from poison
6. lay hands on the sick and see them healed.
I’ve heard testimonies from missionaries who witch doctors have tried to poison to no effect. It’s recorded that Paul was bitten by a venomous snake and he simply threw the snake into the bushes and never suffered symptoms. So I don’t think we’re meant to have snakes in church or try to show off God’s protection by purposely drinking poison. I think those protections are probably in place on the mission field, and our everyday life should be a mission field. However, laying hands on and healing, was standard operating procedure for Jesus, therefore it is supposed to be for us. It’s part of the Great Commission! Some passages go even further:
Matthew 10:7,8: As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Some would argue this one was only for the Twelve, to minister to the Jews, which is what Jesus said at the time. But in Matthew’s Great Commission passage, Jesus said for them to teach others to do everything He had commanded them and He also opened the ministry up to Gentiles. Plus,
John 14: 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
There’s no getting away from it. We’re supposed to be doing what Jesus did. But how is that possible? We’re only human. No. We’re not only human. We are a new species (2 Cor 5:17), the first of whom was Jesus – the firstborn of many brethren. We are humans who are inhabited by the fullness of God, the Holy Spirit. We have no idea yet of what we’re really capable of through the Holy Spirit and using the authority Jesus gave us to walk in. What we can know, at this very moment, is that God never commands us to do something without giving us the means by which to accomplish it. The same Holy Spirit, the same power, that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. That’s how we can be the Kingdom’s army, God’s Boots on the Ground. And “winning souls for Christ” will be easy when we are demonstrating the power that confirms the Gospel.
Mark 16:20 …and the Lord worked through them, confirming His word by the signs that accompanied it.
It is time.