To whom was the Great Commission given?

Discussion in 'Evangelism, Missions and the Persecuted Church' started by Pergamum, May 20, 2011.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Above is a link to a suggested MTW commissioning service (MTW is the PCA's missionary arm). I only know a few MTW-rs, but maybe someone else could give more info; it seems that MTW accepts missionary candidates who are not merely elders or deacons and sends/commissions them. This practice (of commissioning missionaries, even when they are not ordained) is also common among many baptist groups. I know a woman commissioned to work among Chinese women. She did great work and referred many new believers to an elder-qualified man for baptism and incorporation into an established church.

    In general, I would love to read more about a reformed theology of missionary commissioning.
  2. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    1644 Confession

    The persons designed by Christ, to dispense this Ordinance, the Scriptures hold forth to be a preaching Disciple, it being no where tied to a particular Church, Officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the Commission enjoining the administration, being given to them under no other consideration, but as considered Disciples.


    2. These holy appointments are to be administred by those only, who are qualified and thereunto called according to the commission of Christ.

    I don't know - but that appears to be a change of 1644 the only qualification given is that they be commissioned disciples. In 1689 they must have (unstated) qualifications, which I believe points towards church office qualifications. Furthermore the appointments are to be administered 'only' by such...there is a real restriction, whereas in real terms in 1644 all members commissioned by the church can do it.

    Pergamum wrote,

    'Yes, it seems to me that the 1644 and the 1689 state the same thing, that preaching and baptising is not tied to church office alone but is tied to calling, qualification and commissioning by the church. Therefore, the church may allow for those other than their pastors to preach or administer the ordinances. This occurs often when churches commission certain men as lay-preachers or missionaries and send them out.'

    But how else does the church call,' qualify' and commission men other than via church office?

    So are we saying that a church could commission a woman disciple to baptise? Would she be qualified? Now if that is what the 1644 (she being a disciple commissioned (wrongly) by the church) is saying then I'll happily say it's wrong. I think allowing any disciple to baptize is a short-cut to chaos, because it won't take long for one to despise the commissioning or lack of one to start baptising left right and centre.
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    Neither the writers of the 1644 or the 1689 would allow just anyone to baptize or preach. There is no way calling and qualification could extend to women in order to allow them to baptize or exercise ecclesiastical authority. There is a general unity of substance between these two documents.

    There is a difference between church "office" and "function" and "role." For instance, one could deny that there is a presently-existing office of an Evangelist, yet still believe that many do the work of an evangelist.
  4. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well whether both documents are teaching the same thing or not, I signed up to the 1689 which can be interpreted as ordained officers and that's the interpretation I take. My first comment conceded that there was ambiguity in the 1689, I still think that is the case. And in my opinion the 1644 is unambiguous but wrong. I'm not at all convinced that these two documents mean the same thing here, the 1689 is a step in the right direction i.e. towards Westminster!

    I still maintain that the all commission of Christ can only be the call and commission of ordained officers. What other call and commission has the Church the right to issue?
  5. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    My conclusion: with all the insistence on evangelism belonging to the office of evangelist, I know no church who has this office, and no individual who holds it. The implication being that evangelism (as tied to this narrow definition) is not being done at all ... ?
  6. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Come visit our church. Dr. Bob Roane is ordained and called as an Evangelist. I highly doubt we are the only church.
  7. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    interesting! I stand corrected. Guess I simply spent too much time in unreformed churches!
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The Westminster Standards state that the office of Evangelist has ceased. “The Form of Presbyterial Church Government” in the Westminster Standards reads:

    ---------- Post added at 11:13 PM ---------- Previous post was at 11:11 PM ----------


    Probably 75% of those who go out in missions, though they are commended and sent out by their churches, are not official church officers. Are you saying that this 75% (or maybe more) have no right going forth to fulfill the Great Commisssion, even though their sending church and the officers of that sending church has sent them?
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    What if a lay-person feels a strong desire to go overseas and teach english as a means to tell people about Christ? Or, what if a lay-person desires to teach literacy to Third World Christians, or help medically if they are a nurse? Or take part in a team as a "fellow-worker" to an ordained man as they, together, seek to plant churches? Or, what is a woman goes to the Middle East to tell Muslim women about Christ? What if their church sends them out in order to do these actions with the express intent to help make disciples and fulfill the Great Commission?

    About 75-80& of missionaries are non-ordained and many are non-ordainable (women). Historically, 63-65% or so of the Protestant missionary force have been women. In the past, these were called missionaries, and their understood goal was to help in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

    If you say that the only way to fulfill the Great Commisssion is through "Evangelism" (Big-E Evangelism, defined in its narrow sense) and then restrict this action to a narrower subset of available actions such as formal preaching or administering the sacraments, then you have just severely restricted the available missions activities at the Church's disposal as it seeks to make disciples of all nations.

    We either have to accept also a broader definition fo evangelism (Little-e evangelism, meaning all evangelistic activities which help to make disciples, including sharing, witnessing, teaching, but also preaching) to go with your desired terminology of Evangelism in its narrower sense, or we have to deny that Evangelism (big-E) is the only way in which the church fulfills the Great Commission, disciples also being made through testifying, teaching, witnessing, sharing and all those other Greek verbs from the NT that are associated with the spread of the Gospel but are not restricted merely to ordained men.

    "Evangelism" and "Missions" have been the accepted terms for many decades now to encompass all actions by which the Church fulfills the Great Commisssion. The Great Commisssion, making disciples, is broader than merely formal preaching and giving the sacraments. But if you object to a broader definition of evangelism to encompass all "evangelistic" activities such as testifying, sharing, witnessing, teaching, then what other term should we use? And can we send out folks to perform these other actions in the name of missionary work or must we restrict all misssionary activity merely then to Big-E Evangelism in its narrowed sense of the term?
  10. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Gillespie gives his view (re calling of evangelist) in his Miscellany questions, written as some suppose as studies of questions during the Westminster Assembly.
    The Presbyterian's armoury - Google Books
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Chris, When Gillespie speaks of the "vocation" of an evangelist, does he refer to the calling to an office, or the special gifting to function in order to "do the work of" an evangelist? Also, what does he means by saying that this is partly an extraordinary office and partly an ordinary office? He says that there may be occasion yet for them to do some of their extraordinary work. Does this mean miracle-working/demon-casting/prophecy or what? Also, how many apostles would Gillespie say there were in the NT, he seems to apply the term apostle more broadly? Finally, how does Gillespie define a classis? Can a single congregation sned out a misssionary/messenger/apostle on a special misssion or delegation or must this be left up to the National Synod or regional synod, or at least the classis?
  12. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I'm not sure Gillespie would separate the two. I don't have the quote, but I think he would allow when a new country was opened up for Christianity, that the evangelist would be functional. I can't speak beyond that chapter and I think one other in the Miscellany as far as cessationism. I think twelve. Gillespie's church polity views are are given in his Assertion of the Government and to a lesser (and with one apparent change if not reversal) in his English Popish Ceremonies. Presbyterians would obviously allow that in seed form a single congregation would have the full functions of polity when in extraordinary circumstances (single church on an island etc.). Also, see the debates between the Independents and Presbyterians of the Westminster Assembly in their Grand Debate. Sorry; that's all I got.
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Chris, thanks a lot. I would love to hear what an English equivalent word for Classis would be.
  14. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    On classis,
    Gillespie's assembly notes.
    Gillespie's Assertion.
  15. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    I am saying that no one has the authority and responsibility to carry out the functions or ordained officers but ordained officers. And I think that baptizing is among the functions to be carried out by said ordained officers. I was just reading 'Manual of Church Order' by J.L. Dagg on this subject, on pages 254-257 and he takes the same position (and he does so with what I believe is suitable humility that the strength of this case is not that which we might have with others).

    "Although baptizing is not necessarily connected with preaching and teaching; yet the manner in which it is conjoined with them in the commission, appears to indicate that the connection is suitable. No separate class of officers is anywhere provided in the New Testament, for the administering of the rite, and yet, if we have reasoned correctly, the apostles were under obligation to provide for it. We are led to the conclusion, that this provision was made in the ordinary method instituted for transmitting the ministerial office.'

    He begins the next section 'Apostolic Succession' with these words, 'We have seen that baptism ought to be administered by an ordained minister of the word.'.
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    I am within confessional boundaries as a Reformed Baptist to extend the ability to baptize not only to officers but also to those select others who are designated by the church.
  17. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore


    I started off commenting on this thread by agreeing that the confessions were ambiguous to some extent on this subject so I'm not going to reject somebody even if they take the contrary view from me.

    But lest you think I'm some how going after you, I actually have no knowledge of what you do or don't do on the missionfield (I mean in reference to baptising and so forth), so nothing of what I have said was meant to apply directly to you or your situation. If you are an ordained officer of the church and commissioned by a church to go out there then I guess you can do whatever your conscience allows you to do and your church allows you to do, likewise even if you are not ordained the same rules would follow for you.

    I have never claimed you or anyone else was outside the boundaries of any confession, but have merely expressed what I believe is the best interpretation of the Scriptures and the 1689 Confession, which expression is in agreement with Dr. Waldron's analysis and J.L. Dagg's analysis both cited in previous posts.
  18. fralo4truth

    fralo4truth Puritan Board Freshman

    This is a good discussion David. Thanks for starting it. You and I have had some good exchanges in the past, as you have some experience with those whom I used to affiliate with.

    Modern day Primitive Baptists, among whom I used to be, by and large claim that the commission was given exclusively to the eleven, and that they fulfilled this commission in their lifetime based on the WORLD which then was. This of course fits in real nicely with their anti-means theology. In support, they will point out the end of Mark 16:

    "And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with [them], and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. " (Mark 16:20).

    The past tense 'they went forth' convinces them that the commission has been fulfilled. Therefore, we are not under the obligation today to keep it. It will be emphasized further that the miraculous powers of the eleven were to be co-extensive with the commission to preach. Since these powers have thus ceased, the commission must have ceased as well.

    Appeal will often be made as well to Colossians 1:

    "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as [it is] in all the world..." (v.5-6)

    "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and [be] not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, [and] which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;" (v.23)

    The gospel, say they, had already made it into the world at that time, and has already been preached to every creature.
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Paul, thanks.

    Kevin, yes, interesting.
  20. pepper

    pepper Puritan Board Freshman

    CH Spurgeon was never ordained by any church officer. He bragged about never having a man lay hands on him. He baptized many people.
  21. FCC

    FCC Puritan Board Freshman

    How would Aquila and Priscilla fit into this discussion? In Acts 18 Paul comes to their house and because they are of the same trade he stays with them. I do not know of them ever having been ordained and sent by the church. Later in Acts 19 Apollos shows up at Corinth, "mighty in the scriptures." He however only knows the "baptism of John." He goes on to speak boldly in the synagogue and Aquila and Priscilla take him in and "expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." Apollos does obtain a letter from the brethren, which I would interpret as being commissioned, when he desires to go into Achaia.

    I also read in Acts chapter 1 that the "disciples" were waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the number of about an hundred and twenty. I have difficulty in thinking that evangelism is restricted only to ordained elders.

    The Greek word literally means "bringer of good news." Do we not all have a duty to bring the good news of Christ's salvation to all humanity? Yet, it is also used in the list of official titles or gifts of the Spirit in Eph. 4:11. Does this mean that we could define it in two ways? One, as applying to the general body of Christ, who has they go about their daily lives let their light shine and reflect the glory of their Redeemer. Then secondly as a more defined officer of the church? As given in Eph. 4:11?
  22. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, but is it sharing the gospel?
  23. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Some have said that while laypersons and women can do small-e evangelism, only those ordained can do big-E Evangelism.

    In practice, what is the difference between big-E and small-e evangelism?

    Or is it practiced exactly the same, and we call it big-E and small-e only by virtue of who is doing it?
  24. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    It appears that the words euanggelizo and kerusso are reserved for men, and possibly only officers in the church, depending on who you ask. This seems to be the reason for the reluctance for some to say that any but church officers may "Big-E Evangelize."

    However, other terms such as testify, work/labor, teach, minister, witness, prophesy, give an answer, have been given a more broad application and appear in the NT more broadly.

    Maybe we ought to do a word study of every single word associated with the expansion of the gospel (commonly referred to as evangelism) and then denote who performed these actions in the NT/

    In practice, on many mission fields, we have ordained men do the preaching and administering of the ordinances, while other missionaries (women and unordained men) can teach, share, and do "little e-evangelism." We have women teaching other women, being missionary nurses, teachers, teaching literacy, helping translate, working with youth, etc....all vital roles in making disciples of all nations.

    My concern is that in a zeal to guard the use of the term euanggelizo and kerusso, we become over-restrictive in how we define a missionary. My fear is that we would restrict the process of "disciple-making" only to official pulpit preaching and the administering of the ordinances and forget about the roles of sharing, witnessing, ministering, and laboring in the gospel in many other useful ways that are greatly needed on the mission field.....that we under-utilize gifted men and women in our congregations who would like to cross cultures, minister in a variety of ways other than official pulpit preaching and giving the ordinances, and reach the lost. Where is the place for these men and women to serve?

    It is my contention that some of the "Truly Reformed" are, in fact, ecclesiastically over-restrictive when it comes to missions-sending and this is why the "broad evangelical" mission orgs are getting the job done more than the Presbyterian micro-denominations when it comes to reaching the last unreached people-groups on the earth.
  25. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    Question: What do you mean by "getting the job done?"
  26. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Planting indigenous, self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating evangelical churches among unreached people groups around the world.
  27. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    For the most part, where I am working, it is the Protestant inter-denominational mission agencies that are the ones engaging the least-reached, and planting churches in places where the church has never yet been planted. For instance, when it comes to unreached tribal peoples and peoples without bible translations, the majority of this work is done by evangelicals and inter-denominational mission agencies. In Central Asia and among the Muslim world, the southern baptists are also doing good work and engaging people-groups that have never before really been engaged by the Gospel. Except for some groups that I have reluctance recommending, such as YWAM, most of these evangelical agencies are basically sound.

    On the whole, the evangelical mission orgs are able to raise up, screen and send more people, and to more places. I believe this is due, in part, due to a looser ecclesiology and a more permissive view of what laymen can do, and lower educational requirements for missionaries (like in colonial America, the Methodist circuit-riders and the Baptists outgrew the Reformed due to reformed educational restrictions on the clergy and the slow fielding of new pastors to the frontier areas).
  28. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    The problem is, we still haven't defined what "Big-E Evangelize" and "small-E evangelize" are and how they differ, if at all. We've gotten as far as the ordained are commissioned to "big-E Evangelize," but we still haven't defined the task.

    So how does an ordained person "Evangelizing" look different than an unordained person "evangelizing"? What part of "Evangelizing" is it that an unordained person is not commissioned to do? How will my evangelism be materially different before I am ordained as opposed to after I am ordained?

    I suspect that there is no difference. If so, I wonder if it makes sense to make a distinction at all.
  29. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    This small "e" evangelism which has been discussed obviously does not include baptism. In the New Testament we see "be baptised" as an essential part of evangelising. For that reason I doubt that the work and witness of individuals can properly be called Evangelism or evangelism. It is, at the very least, something to which a person is called by the church and is charged with the moral obligation to fulfil. It is by very nature a specified task. Perhaps most significant of all, there are two distinct groups in the New Testament -- teachers and learners, governors and governed (see especially Hebrews 5 for the former and Hebrews 13 for the latter). It is never suggested that the learner or the governed has equal right and responsibility to assume the tasks of the teacher or governor. The categorical distinction of the New Testament requires the theologian to make categorical distinctions in the way he presents the matter.
  30. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    No doubt that evangelization and baptism go hand-in-hand, but they are different concepts in Scripture.

    For example, Paul writes, "οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι," "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to evangelize," in 1 Corinthians 1:17. For Paul, baptizing is not an essential part of his own evangelizing.
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