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Considering the Great Commission in Light of Redemptive History

March 30, 2020 | by: Jim Franklin | 0 comments

As human beings there are many things that capture our passions and desires and motivate us to live our lives the way we do. But the biggest question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are prioritizing our lives around fulfilling the greatest purpose for which we were created.

Before Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, he commanded his disciples to “go and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19.)” This “Great Commission” is far more involved than many think, and part of a much greater plan than we often imagine. It has ramifications for how we live every moment of every day, and it is part of an amazing plan that God has been working to accomplish since the creation of the world, namely to show Himself to be most glorious.

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As we consider the Great Commission in light of God’s glorious plan, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we should be captured with a sense of the greatness of God, and reorganize and devote our lives to the spread of His glory as we seek to be a part of making disciples of all the nations.

God created the earth and the universe to make His glory known (Psalm 19). But within the creation was the unique and special creation of human beings in His image, a status not bestowed on anything else God created (Genesis 1:26a). This does not mean that human beings are gods, or that we have earned some privilege in God’s sight, but simply that we have been blessed and favored by God to be possessors and reflectors of His image or character in a limited but profound way. And not only did God allow us the joy of sharing some of His glory with Him, but He also put us in charge of managing the earth (Genesis 1:26bf).  

Jim-headshotAs we consider these facts in light of other scriptures that call us to do all things for God’s glory, it becomes clear that as managers of the earth, human beings were given the privilege of seeing that the earth operated in a way that promoted the glory of our creator. In short then, as human beings who have been created in God’s image, we find our ultimate purpose in life, by enjoying, reflecting and promoting God’s greatness. It is truly an amazing thing that God has chosen to use us to be the avenue through which he is seen as glorious throughout the whole earth.

However, even though God created us in His image and placed us in His perfectly good world, we doubted His goodness and rebelled against Him (Genesis 3). With this rebellion came some very serious consequences not the least of which are physical and spiritual death, which spread to every single human being (Romans 5:12).

Paul describes fallen or spiritually dead human beings as those who suppress what they know to be true about God (Romans 1:18), and therefore refuse to honor God that is give Him glory, even though they know God (Romans 1:21a).  But it is worse than that, because of this refusal to honor or glorify God, which is the purpose God made us for, he has cursed us so that our understanding has become darkened (Romans 1:21).  

This has resulted in a lack of knowledge about what the true God is like, and therefore there is not a single human being after the fall who seeks for Him (Romans 3:11). To sum it up, our rebellion results in spiritual death, making it impossible for us to see how glorious God is, want to promote His greatness, or even desire to truly know Him.

As the story of the Bible continues, it becomes clear that without God’s help, humanity would never be able to fulfill its created purpose. However, in the midst of despair, God gave us hope through a promised human descendant of the woman, who would give us spiritual victory (Genesis 3:15). And this promise became a hope that was held onto in the darkest of times. Cain murdered his brother Abel which devastated Adam and Eve, but then they were blessed with Seth and their hopes were renewed and his descendants called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:25-26).

After that humanity multiplied and almost all their hearts were darkened and rebellious, and wickedness spread over all the earth. But then Noah was born, and his father Lamech was given hope that he would be the promised deliverer (Genesis. 5:29). And in a way he did deliver the whole human race by building an ark to save his family from death in the flood. But shortly after the flood, mankind multiplied over the earth and were just as rebellious as before.  

Then God called Abram, and promised not only to bless him and his descendants, but promised that through him, the promised One would come who would bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3). While Abrahams descendants, the nation of Israel, failed to bring blessing to the world, the prophets still pointed to a coming One who would be a light to the nations so that God’s salvation would reach to the end of the earth (Isaiah 49:6).

While the Old Testament scriptures make it clear that man left to himself will fail to fill the earth with His glory, in Jesus Christ God became man to restore us so we could once again fulfill our created purpose. In a physical sense the Word became flesh to show us the glory of the Father and make Him known (John 1:14, 18). He showed us God’s glory in the greatest way by living a perfect life, dying for our sins, and rising from the dead.  

Because all of us are spiritually dead, God must cause us to come to life spiritually, by recreating us, so that we can understand the true knowledge of God’s glory again, through seeing it in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Having seen God’s Glory in Christ, His love for us motivates us to no longer live for ourselves, but for Him and his glory (2 Corinthians 5:14). And as new creatures we can now fulfill our original created purpose by becoming ambassadors for Christ to reach the world (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

What an amazing privilege we have as Christians not only to see and truly be able to appreciate our glorious God, but to then be used by Him to promote His glory around the world. God did not become man to complete the task of glorifying himself, but to save us, and to equip us, so that we could fulfill our created purpose. It was not Christ’s goal to personally reach the whole world with the message, but to die for the sins of the world, and disciple a handful of people, so they could begin to take the message to the whole world and make other disciples to continue the process.  

The Great Commission is about making disciples and equipping them to make disciples who will be able to make disciples who will be able to make disciples. That’s why Christ said, “to make disciples, by teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).  

To make a disciple is not to get a person converted, but to equip them to make disciples themselves. So, if you are a disciple, and every true Christian is (Acts 11:26), you need to know that it is your privilege and responsibility to make more disciples who will make disciples. And if we do not know how to make disciples who make disciples, then we need to seek more equipping. But we must understand that God has called every Christian to make more disciples. There is no greater purpose or calling than promoting the glory of Christ in this way.

As we seek to fulfill the great commission, we must first realize that the primary context for doing so is the local church. When Christ’s disciples put the Great Commission into practice, they did so by establishing churches. When Paul went on his missionary journeys, he planted churches. Christ said, “I will build my church” and that is His main objective in the world right now (Matthew 16:18).  

We must be a part of a local church if we are going to be serious about fulfilling the Great Commission. The church is the fullness of Christ, where His body puts His glory on display (Ephesians 1:23). The church is the place where leaders equip the saints to do the work of the ministry, so that the church grows into the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). But in order for churches to be glorious every member must be accepting the responsibility to minister to others in the body.

The church is only built into the fullness of Christ to the extent that each member is working properly (Ephesians 4:15-16). When the church is functioning properly in this way it becomes the main avenue that Christ uses to carry out the Great Commission.

When Paul made converts, he planted churches and set them in order by establishing elders/pastors in every church to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry and build up the body (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5). He then moved on to other regions and these local churches that he left behind began themselves to reach the world with the gospel (Romans 1:8, 1 Thessalonians 1:8).

So, what should this look like practically in our church? In keeping with the biblical model Paul set down in Ephesians, we the Elders should be faithful to equip the saints.  This is done through Sunday morning sermons and other teaching times, and in a large part through DTP which is our main discipleship class offered to both men and woman who are members of the church. And these people who have been trained through DTP and other additional settings, are doing further ministry to equip the saints.

This level of equipping happens in smaller group settings such as Bible studies, but community groups are the primary place in our church where this should be happening.  In community groups every member if physically possible, has the opportunity to not only be discipled by those who have been discipled/equipped by the Elders/Pastors, but also has the opportunity to minister and build up other believers who are gathered there in their small group.  

On a very practical level these community group meetings should be the place where every member of the body is being encouraged and encouraging others to live out their faith with the end goal of building up the body so the gospel can go forth in both word and deed.  

What are some practical steps we as believers can take in our lives to maximize our efforts to fulfill the great commission? First, we should commit ourselves to a local church and take responsibility for discipling those around us. The New Testament assumes that a Christian will first take responsibility for their immediate family and or those they are in close relationships with in a church (Ephesians 5:22-6:9, Hebrews 10:24-25).

For example, a Pastor/elder is not to take on the responsibility to care for the church unless he has first taken care of his own home (1 Timothy 3:4-5). Nevertheless, every Christian has been called and is responsible for making disciples of those around them.  God is sovereign and His plan to save the elect will not fail. But this does not mean that He will bypass His original intent in creation to use humans to promote His glory (Romans 10:14ff).

So, we must ask ourselves if we have accepted our personal responsibilities. Parents and fathers in particular, have we accepted responsibility to show Gods glory to our children? Have we accepted responsibility for building up others in a community group type setting? These types of close and familial relationships can easily be taken for granted, but realistically this is where the majority of us are going to have our greatest impact with the gospel. It is these people who know us, and see how we live our lives.

This is why the Great Commission is about being a disciple and observing all that Christ commanded us. In these close relationships we have the opportunity to not just speak the truth, but to validate the message of Christ in a way that we cannot do in any other setting. And it is also through these close relationships that we can follow the example of our Savior and have a small group of people we are pouring our lives into, who can then go out and make disciples of others so that our efforts are multiplied.  

As we focus on these primary relationships, we need to realize that they are a vital part of our ability to have an even greater influence with the gospel. It is these relationships that cause us to grow spiritually so that we are able to validate with our character, the message as we take it to our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and beyond. These people are watching and will be impacted by what they see.  

The proclamation of the Gospel must be validated so they can see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16). The Great Commission really is more involved than we often think. If a local church is going to be a city set on a hill, the light of the world, then we need to be building a solid foundation for the gospel to go out in both word and deed. After all, the church is the pillar and support of the truth of the gospel (1 Tim. 3:15).

There are a lot more gaps that could be filled in, but as we close, it is important that we consider briefly how it all ends. After I started writing this article our whole county and then state and now nation have been impacted by the spread of this virus around the world. But it is important to remember that God’s plan to spread his glory around the world cannot be stopped by anything. He is at work in every detail of our lives to bring about His plan.  

Recently I listened to a biography on Corey Ten Boom who was a Christian living in the Netherlands under the occupation of Nazi Germany. She and her sister, also a believer, were eventually arrested and put in a concentration camp. But through even those horrific circumstances their faith impacted those around them, and led to the conversion of one of the guards.

God will use His people through all circumstances to bring about the praise of His glory in every nation to all peoples. In Revelation 5, we know that a great multitude from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people will be praising God before His throne someday. And one day our Lord will destroy this world that He has cursed and make a new and perfect universe where there is no more sin, or sickness, or death (Revelation 21:1-4).  And all of those He has saved from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people will dwell with Him there. There will be no need for the sun because God’s glory will illuminate the whole world (Revelation 21:23). And all the redeemed nations will walk in the light of His glory (Revelation 21:4).

In Revelation 22 we learn that it will be a perfect new creation like the Garden of Eden except we will never be able to fall into sin again. There will be a river of the water of life and the tree of life. There will be no curse. And we will see the face of our creator and enjoy him forever. And we will finally and perfectly be able to fulfill our created purpose by reigning with Him over the world forever and ever.

Jim Franklin is a non-vocational Pastor at Grace Bible Church

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