Is the Great Commission for us today?

Discussion in 'Evangelism, Missions and the Persecuted Church' started by Pergamum, Nov 3, 2007.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Luther and Beza and many of the Reformers advocated the folowing:

    The missionary mandate was given tothe Apostles, which they fulfilled. We have no apostles today and the Great Commission is fulfilled.

    WHo advocated this? Who still advocates this? Who opposed it? What are the arguments for and against this?
  2. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I believe the command was given to the Apostles and, by extension, the Church.

    I don't agree with the majority view today that it is an individual commission. Many pulpits directly teach that the Commission is fulfilled by individual Christians going out and sharing their faith and getting decisions from people.

    The command, however, is to make disciples, which includes that they be taught everything that Christ commanded. This is a lifetime thing.

    I can't tell you how many times I've heard people that are self-proclaimed Evangelists here in Okinawa that talk about the people they met that made a decision for Christ. Are they in Church? No, but they are somehow believers. How can that be? This is the main defect of the Crusade mentality that we've somehow fulfilled the commission by stopping at this point.

    Of course the situation is exacerbated by people who think that discipleship is a personal responsibility. Whether a man comes to Church or not is up to him after all. Sheep are supposed to take care of themselves and know where to go to be fed.

    The Commission is only fulfilled when Churches take their responsibilities to disciple believers. I don't believe a man is really a believer if he refuses to be discipled and I don't believe a man is truly an Evangelist if he sees his operation as apart from a Church in which discipleship occurs.

    Thus, I view Evangelism in my own life as talking to people about Christ and sharing the hope that lies within me and then inviting them to Church where they can hear the Gospel regularly proclaimed. I don't feel like a man is ever truly converted if he only hears a message, makes a decision, and never finds himself in and among the people of God. The Church is the soil and, apart from the soil, there are no fertile plants.
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Good points. William Carey argued that the Commission was ongoing because baptism was ongoing. And baptism is the propriety of the church, which seconds all of what you just said.

    What about them verses that say the Gospel has ALREADY been preached to all nations, or their faith was known throughout the whole world?

    And what about the verse about the GOspel being preached unto all nations and then the end would come?
  4. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I assume you're speaking about this in reference to Romans 10. I think this is a typical problem I have with prooftexting. Within the passage, Paul is noting that the condemnation for the Jews' unbelief is not arbitrary because they have heard the Gospel but they have not responded to it. The passage fits within the larger context of explaining where Jews, according to the flesh, fit into the saving plan of God.

    I'm not sure what you're getting at with this. Might not have time to respond tonight. A brief response would be that it's compatible with the notion that Peter talks about where he notes that the Lord is not slow concerning His pomises. He witholds judgment until all the Elect have been saved and they are from all the nations.


  5. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    Another (brief) excerpt from the rough draft of my dissertation:

    In conclusion, we can state that Bucer conceived of mission as being the extension and consolidation of the Kingdom of Christ through the preaching of the gospel. He believed that the Church has a responsibility to go into all the nations and bring the gospel so that more and more people are brought under the reign of Christ. He saw this primarily as the responsibility of those called to the office of minister/evangelist. Moreover, he conceived of mission as belonging to the essence (esse) of the Church. A unique feature of Bucer’s mission-concept was the involvement of the civil magistrate. De Regno Christi was addressed to Edward VI and Bucer thought that the king had a responsibility to ensure that the gospel is proclaimed, not only in his own realm, but also in others. Later in this study, we will consider whether Bucer’s mission-concept may have had any influence on Guido de Bres and the Belgic Confession.
  6. JohnOwen007

    JohnOwen007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Does Bucer argue this in his work De Regno Christi? Moreover, are you saying that Bucer did not believe that the "evangelist" (of say Eph. 4:11) had expired with the apostles but was a gift that continued on in the church? If so, that quite interesting given that the majority of the reformed tradition in the 16th and 17th century didn't believe this.
  7. Barnpreacher

    Barnpreacher Puritan Board Junior

  8. AV1611

    AV1611 Puritan Board Senior

    :amen: It was given to the Church and God provides us with those who are gifted for the work i.e. Ministers of the Gospel (Presbyters).
  9. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    Yes and yes.
  10. JohnOwen007

    JohnOwen007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Dear Wes, wow. Thanks for this reference brother! I look forward to ransacking Bucer. (I'm doing a ThD on Owen's view of the gospel, and this naturally entails his understanding of mission, so I'm keen to see what the rest of the reformed tradition says about mission).

    God bless you. Marty.
  11. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Rich - I concur with your post. The Great Commission was given to the Apostles, and by extension the church. However I do not believe it excludes a believer from sharing his faith. What is excluded is the overwhelming guilt that is laid upon individuals if they do not make personal evangelism a top priority. Is guilt a means of grace?
  12. christiana

    christiana Puritan Board Senior

    2 Corinthians is written to all believers everywhere and clearly says to each of us:

    ch.5. v11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your conscience.

    v 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    Real believers tell the lost about Christ and His eternal purpose of saving them from the wrath to come!
    We must each have a passion for Christ and be about telling others of Him!
    We must know the Word and what it says about salvation!
    We must pray daily for the lost and make every effort to tell them of Christ!
    It isnt someone else's problem. It is our problem as believers to tell what we've learned!
  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I assume you noted where I stated that individual believers share their faith in my post. That activity occurs, however, from derivative authority. We go out from the Church in that activity in the process of sharing. I also believe there are gradations of evangelism. By that I mean that we are meant to share the hope that lies within us that we may bring men and women into the Church where they might be converted and nurtured but not all of us can properly said to have the authority to go into a "foreign land" and appoint elders in every city they way that Paul was or the authority he gave to Timothy and Titus to do so.
    I don't think anyone is disputing the necessity laid upon believers to represent Christ in our lives and to share the Gospel with others but the sharing of the Gospel at the personal level does not fulfill the Great Commission.
  14. christiana

    christiana Puritan Board Senior

    Christ has said that He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it! Mt 16:18

    He builds the church and when allowed to be the means He uses to declare His gospel we are blest!

    Whatever means He uses hearts are changed one at a time by the Holy Spirit, whether by preaching ,Titus 1:3 or personal witnessing ,2 Cor 5:11

    We as believers are still responsible to declare His gospel to others at whatever opportunity avails itself and whenever He so opens doors for such!

    Is not all of this part of the Great Commission to be accomplished as He so directed?
  15. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    You're missing the point. Those are all elements of it but it is not an individual Commission to "...make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them, and teaching them all things...." The activity of the individual is subsumed under the larger role of the Church as a whole. Our witness to the Gospel as individuals is both commanded and necessary but our individual actions are not the Great Commiission and we ought not view Christ as speaking directly to us as apart from the Church.

    It's quite simple for me to analogize as a military man. The Marine Corps has a Title 10 role within the Department of Defense. That law, on the books, is not meant for me to read and interpret it as being addressed directly to me, Rich, for fulfillment apart from the larger organization. By the same token, I realize that what I do every day is part of that Title 10 responsibility and that I play a part in the overall fulfillment of the mission we are mandated to perform by Law.

    Extending the analogy further the way some people view the Great Commission is that I could just decide I want to form my own para-Marine Corps organization to fulfill Title 10 responsibilities. I'll meet people along the way and tell them how great it is to be a Marine. I'll even have little studies with them to teach them about our history and ethos. But, if I never get them to boot camp (or OCS) and if they do not complete it and become contributors to the mission of the Marine Corps then they are not Marines.

    Also, I find this view of sanctification slightly problematic in its presentation (perhaps unintended on your part):
    I think you could "tighten that up" a little bit by noting that our sanctification is not fully expressed as being individual. We are certainly sanctified as individuals but the Church exists to build up the Body. Our growth ought primarily be viewed in how it benefits all we are in union with rather than how it benefits us.
  16. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior


    Do you have any sources for this statement? Just havent seen this much
  17. christiana

    christiana Puritan Board Senior

    Thanks Rich, the marine analogy was good, and helpful! However, each marine has a great responsibility individually to fulfill his role!
    Rich said:

    Our sanctification, before it can benefit the body, must progress through the Holy Spirit and our individual commitment to Christ and we must daily spend time in prayer and reading the Word to reach such a place of progressive sanctification in order to be an asset to the body. Now, each person, as a believer must also commit to sharing the gospel with those he is in contact with to be an active part of that body.
    I guess my thoughts were that all of this is part of the Church being part of the Great Commission. I guess I dont see a difference there. Am I still missing the point?
  18. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    No, I think you're generally fine. Remember that our sanctification, though, is not something that we bring to the Body after working at it individually but, indeed, the Body itself actually builds us up even as we build it up. That said, I do not want to de-emphasize the importance of personal prayer and study but it is part of our sanctification just as Word and Sacrament are.

    I just wanted to make sure to emphasize the issue that our personal sanctification is to be, in large measure, motivated in how it benefits the Church at large.

    Thank you for your irenic response.
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Amzing Grace:

    David Bosch in Transforming Mission documents this. I have a leter from Lutehr that says as much too. I can dig out the refences, but maybe some brotehrs here with faster net connections can help you better.
  20. reformedcop

    reformedcop Puritan Board Freshman

    Understanding that sharing our faith as individual believers is only an element of The Great Commisson, what is everybody's opinion regarding the believer taking part in "open air preaching" or handing out tracts at public event/marketplace and subsequently getting into witnessing encounters?

    I ask this question pre-supposing that the believer realizes that sharing the Gospel is done out of obediance, concern for the lost, and most of all, to Glorify God. Furthermore, he realizes that it is the power of God that does the converting and therefore should not expect a "decision" for Christ on the spot, or ever for that matter.

    I ask this question because I believe that it is important for the believer to be pro-active about sharing their faith and not just wait for people to ask them about the hope that lies within us, although we should be prepared for that as well ;).

    I guess I am going about this question in a roundabout way. Does one have to be gifted or ordained by the church in order to take the Gospel in to the public square via open air preaching or one on one encounters?
  21. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I don't have a problem with "open-air" sharing of the Gospel. In Murrieta, CA I did door-to-door Evangelism with my OPC Pastor a few times. We were the only folks doing that beside the JW's and the Mormons. We actually even talked to a man who was thinking about converting to the Mormon religion for a while.

    We even had a tract that the Church created.

    The goal, however, was not the decision but the disciple. We wanted the men and women to come to Church.
  22. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    I do not know if 'sharing the gospel' constitutes Christs mandate in this scripture.

    "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

    21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

    8 But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

    Does every believer receive these gifts? Are we all gifted teachers? Can we have every believer going around batizing?
  23. christiana

    christiana Puritan Board Senior

    One would have a hard time discipling without sharing the gospel of Christ, His good news of why and how He came and of the hope He offers to sinners!

    All scripture is given and profitable for doctrine, reproof. correction, instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (paraphrase 2 Tim 3:16)

    Of course this applies to us, as believers, does it not?
    It would be a strange believer that posesses something as vital as eternal life and doesnt share with others how to obtain it! We must pray for the lost daily and be alert to open doors to share the gospel!
  24. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    But what about baptizing? Who is advocating keeping our light under a bushel? I am not.. Can we go house to house, share the gospel and throw water on them?
  25. christiana

    christiana Puritan Board Senior

    Mercy no! I'm credo! Guess we'd have to take them to the creek!

    Taking advantage of doors open by the Lord for witnessing does not mean going door to door, though I suppose that isnt ruled out. When engaged in conversation with others we should be about our Father's business, letting others know that we are believers and why and sharing with them an opportunity to know more about Christ. This can be beneficial even with those we think to be believers! We have no way of knowing for sure what could be a benefit from such an interaction! Whatsoever we do in word or deed do all to the glory of God! The sweet aroma of Christ surrounds us and others often react to us, either positively or negatively but we share who we are when possible!
  26. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    I also believe the command was given to the Apostles and, by extension, the church. Since all believers make up the church, I believe the command is given to every individual in the church.

    London Baptist Confession of Faith: "The person designed by Christ to dispense baptism, the Scripture holds forth to be a disciple; it being no where tied to a particular church officer, or person extraordinarily sent the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them as considered disciples, being men able to preach the gospel."

    I find it puzzling that we all affirm that believers are to teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16), thus fulfilling the command to teach and make disciples, but when it comes to baptizing, we seek to restrict that to only the ordained when we see no such prohibition in Scripture.
  27. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    1. You're puzzled because you're a baptist and I don't hold to the LBCF.
    2. Did you notice the restriction that even the LBCF placed on baptism? Is a woman permitted to baptize?
    3. I wasn't even speaking of baptism per se. Regardless of how the sacrament is administered, my initial and subsequent posts remain in force. A man is incapable of fulfilling the Great Commission apart from the Church at large.
  28. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Rich, I was more responding to Amazing Grace because he was talking about baptism.

    Yes, a woman is permitted to baptize. Throughout the LBCF, "men" is used to denote both male and female.

    For example:
    "who will in the great day judge the secrets of all men's hearts by Jesus Christ"
    "God had in Christ before the foundation of the world, according to the good pleasure of his will, foreordained some men to eternal life through Jesus Christ"
    "the Gospel which is to be preached to all men as the ground of faith"

    If you follow the logic, you would say that the gospel is to be preached only to men, God only elected men, and only men will be judged!

    The term "men" is not intended to limit those who can baptize to males. The limitation, as stated in the LBCF, is that the baptizer ought to be a disciple who can preach the gospel to someone. If a person can preach the gospel to someone, they can also baptize.
  29. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I'm sorry but this is simply silly. I was not exegeting Scripture but simply reading your Confession. I need not apply hermeneutical rules from particular passages of Scripture to be consistent in how I read another document's use of a phrase. Even within a document, only an uncareful person would conclude that the use of men is always gender inclusive.

    The manner of writing is very strange if, as you say, women are permitted to baptize in your Confession: "...being men...." The point is quite immaterial to the larger context of the thread. While I would be interested to see if your reading is, in fact, accurate, the point of the overall thread remains intact. Regardless of how a man or woman is brought into the Church, the Great Commission is not fulfilled even by the administration of baptism.
  30. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Rich, I think you misunderstood. The three additional quotations were also from the same document (LBCF), and not from Scripture, as you seem to suppose. The LBCF consistently uses men inclusively, thus we should assume it is inclusive in the passage on baptism as well.

    The confession reads "being men able to preach the gospel," not just "being men." The point is that a disciple is one who knows, and thus can preach, the gospel.
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