The Responsibility of the Church: The Great Commission
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
Throughout the course of the last eight weeks we have attempted to present an overview of the biblical qualifications of a true New Testament church. We have defined the New Testament church, we have reviewed the power of the New Testament Church, we have discussed examples of the New Testament church, and we have looked at some responsibilities of the New Testament church. Today we will review perhaps the most important quality of the New Testament church: The Great Commission.
A Worldwide View with a Community Mindset
Shortly prior to Christ’s ascension into heaven, He instructed the church of that day to go into “all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Every church that is a true New Testament church is going to have a worldwide vision for the gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth is, however, that most small churches in the world today will probably not have a worldwide impact, but they do have a local community that is in great need of being reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I remember when I was working at a car dealership while living in Virginia. There was a secretary that I worked with every day, a sweet lady who had a love for the Lord Jesus Christ. She recalled to me a story, that one day she was sitting in the doctor’s office waiting to be called back for her appointment. She was wearing one of those “Jesus” t-shirts, that has an image of what people consider Jesus might look like. There was a man sitting in the office and he asked her, “What rock band is he from?” She kindly replied, “Sir this is not a rock band, this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” He then went on to tell her that he had never heard of Jesus Christ. I could imagine her jaw dropping to the floor, just as mine did when she was told me this story. Can it really be that a man in the United States of America could have never heard about the gospel of Jesus Christ? The answer is yes; there are a great number in the United States that have never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe we take it for granted that all born in America have automatically heard the gospel, but this is not always the case. The church should have worldwide view, but it also must have a community mindset.
The Responsibility of Believers
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Eph. 4:12).
Far too often we lay the responsibility for reaching the lost on the shoulders of our local pastors, when in reality God has called the body to the mission of reaching the lost for Jesus Christ. The five offices of the body of Christ are responsible for preparing the individual members of the body of Christ to do the work of the ministry. Have you ever considered the way the gospel spread and flourished in the New Testament church? Jesus told the disciples that they would receive power and that they would be witnesses in “Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.” It would be several years after the day of Pentecost before a deacon, full of Holy Spirit, would be used by God to take the gospel of Jesus Christ into Samaria. It was not one of the 12 apostles who journeyed into Samaria with a word from the Lord, but a deacon.
Persecution was growing in Jerusalem, due to a man named Saul, who was to become the apostle Paul. He was breathing out “threatenings” against the body of Christ, casting men and women into prison, and persecuting those who were of the “The Way.” Stephen was a man full of faith, who preached such a convicting message that those who heard it became so angry they stoned him to death. This man Saul stood by and held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, and was consenting unto Stephen’s death. It was a result of this persecution of Stephen that caused Christians to flee from Jerusalem into the uttermost parts of the earth. (Acts 11:19-20). The Bible says that as these Christians were fleeing from persecution, they were preaching the gospel to “the Grecians” and “the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord” (Acts 11:21). These men who were preaching, were not apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers, they were ordinary Christians who were proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, and God anointed them to bring it to the Gentile world. So the spread of the gospel was not only a result of the preaching of the apostles, but also through ordinary Christians whom God anointed to declare the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We find a great truth in all of this—my pastor is not solely responsible for winning the lost in my community, but I am! I recall reading an account of a man that the Christian community refers to as “Praying Hyde.” He was a man that God anointed greatly in prayer. He became a missionary to Calcutta, India. When he arrived there, he asked God to give him one soul a day. God, who is faithful, began to send him one soul every day, and Hyde led that one soul to the Lord each day. He then asked for two souls, and God anointed him to lead two souls to the Lord every day. I believe that every week he would increase the number and God was faithful to send Hyde that many souls each day to win to the Lord.
God wants to Save the Lost
“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Mat. 9:37-38).
I pray that God would help us to grab on to this vision. God has an interest in the lost, and He wants to see them saved. We are far too afraid of rejection. We believe that if we share the gospel and do not get a favorable response, then God must not have wanted us to share the gospel with that person. But nothing could be further from the truth. He has instructed us to share the gospel with every single creature and promised that: Isaiah 55:11 “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” When Jesus Christ is preached in truth and sincerity, those words will not fall to the ground.
You may say, “Well, Brother Paris, I am not sure if God has really anointed me to be a soul winner.” My response to you is that God has called and anointed every believer to be soul winner. I say this because God has a unique interest in saving the lost, and when you speak His name to someone in love, He will anoint you to do so. I say this because I want to encourage the body of Christ to take part in this last day harvest that is at hand. I believe this is something that we need to make a matter of prayer, just like Praying Hyde, and ask God to send one soul every day to win to the Kingdom of God.
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