“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the 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 age. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV)
Many well-intentioned people, over the last centuries, have braved adverse terrain and climate, hostile races, lack of funds — even at the peril of health and life — in order to fulfill “the Great Commission” as Jesus declared it in Matthew 28:18-20 and elsewhere in the New Testament.
Radio and television programs via local and global networks, publications (printed and electronic), evangelistic campaigns, personal evangelism — and now websites — have been employed in order to fulfill this commission. Churches — some mega- and others micro- — have been raised up to equip church members and to help more people take part in fulfilling “the Great Commission.”
Many who go out in the front lines of the “mission field” have a zeal that can put to shame most church members who are smugly satisfied with their having been “saved” — and seated comfortably in church pews or upholstered seats. (Some clever fellow has called these the three S’s — SSS: Saved, Satisfied, and Seated.)
Zeal without knowledge
Amidst this flurry of zeal and energy to fulfill “the Great Commission,” we need to take seriously what the apostle Paul said about some of the people of Israel: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2).
It’s time for those in the mission field to stop a while for some reality check!
If we are going to take part in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ into all the world, and winning people to Him, we need to make sure we are not falling into the ditch where Jesus saw the Jewish leaders. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15)!
And this can happen if we do not understand fully that part of “the Great Commission” where Jesus commands His servants to be “teaching them [disciples made through their preaching] to observe all things I have commanded you.”
“All things” surely includes everything that Jesus commanded His disciples when He walked this earth some 2,000 years ago. Many, however, have confined “all things” to what Paul mentioned, in Galatians 6:2, as “the law of Christ” — that is, only those things that Jesus commanded, as found in the New Testament. This view of “all things” that Jesus commanded fails to consider what the New Testament itself testifies about who Jesus really was, before He appeared as the “Son of Man.”
The New Testament amply proves that, before His human birth through Mary, Jesus was the Creator of all that there is in the whole universe — seen or unseen. It was Jesus who called out a special people, the children of Israel, to be “a light to the Gentiles.” And a part of that “light” was the Ten Commandments and the statutes and laws He gave to Israel to observe diligently.
To understand more about this important point, see: The Law of Christ, The True Christ, Peter Knew the Holy One, Transgressions Under the First Covenant, Moses and Jesus — Are they Contraries ? Law Added to Law Transgressed and Fake News.]
Sin of omission
James 4:7 tells us: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” To fail to teach “all things” that Jesus commanded — not only in the New Testament but in the Old Testament as well — is to commit the “sin of omission!” Besides teaching these things, Christ’s true disciples should also be doing and practicing them! Jesus pronounces “Woe!” to those who teach the things of God but do not practice them (Matthew 23:2-3). That, too, would be a sin of omission!
Jesus tells us about how He will judge His servants: “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes [symbolic of whatever appropriate punishment Christ would judge]. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:47-48).
After you, dear reader, have understood what “all things” that Christ commanded his disciples include, may you teach these things and observe them. Then you will not be guilty of a great omission — a sin — in doing “the Great Commission.”
Omitting what shouldn’t be omitted makes one also guilty in two other ways: 1) God tells us not to add to nor subtract from His written Word, as when we consider the Old Testament law as a whole no longer to be kept; God pronounces a dire consequence for doing so (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:19); and 2) When we wrongly teach others not to obey even one point of God’s law that actually still stands, we cause them to sin and become guilty of transgressing the whole law of God. As James 2:10 puts it, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
Zeal alone not enough
Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day [of Jesus return], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied [preached or taught] in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness'” (Matthew 7:21-23). [See: Is Jesus Your Lord — Really?]
Certainly it takes a lot of zeal to be preaching and teaching, casting out demons and doing other wonders in the name of Christ. But unless those who serve Christ — or think they are serving Christ — teach and obey the true “law of Christ” and serve the true Christ, He will tell them, “Go away from Me!” [See: “I Never Knew You!”] They won’t make it to God’s kingdom — at least, hopefully, they will only miss becoming a part of God’s special “firstfruits” but will still have their chance to be saved at a later time. [See: Predestination and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]
What a chilling and frightening thing to contemplate that, on Judgment Day, we should be told by Christ, “Depart from Me!” The fear of being cast out from Christ’s presence should help us order our lives according to God’s law. As Paul admonishes us: “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling ” (Philippians 2:12). [See: Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time?]
Israel’s King David, a man after God’s own heart, gives us this comforting assurance: “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His [God’s] mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed out transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust…But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them” (Psalm 103:11-14, 17-18). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]
Whatever our part may be in “doing the Great Commission” — whether as front-line “missionaries” (whether in mass-media or in personal evangelism), or as financial, moral and prayer support — let’s remember not to omit that important part in that commission: to teach “all things” Jesus has “commanded” us. Jesus will judge His servants on how faithful they have been in carrying out His commission to them (Matthew 25:14-30).
May Jesus, at His return, find us truly faithful!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.