By Matt McMillian, used with permission
“I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” ~Jesus
See Acts 26:17-18
Over the centuries, countless Christians have been pressured into “attempting” to fulfill the Great Commission. Pressure to save the world can be absolutely terrifying, yet terror doesn’t come from God. Love does. Growth does. Maturity does. Does a vine pressure a branch to produce fruit? Of course not, and this is the example Christ used to describe our relationship with Himself, as does Paul (see John 15:5, Galatians 5:22-23).
The problem so many believers have is that it’s hard to shake pressure-filled thoughts because of life-long pressure-filled teaching, especially about evangelism. Grievously, the Great Commission has been contorted to match up with anti-Cross theology by way of two main conundrums:
- Mixing the Covenants.
- Not viewing everything in the Bible, front to back, through the lens of the finished work of Jesus.
The assignment of the Great Commission given by Christ in Matthew 28 is beautiful! But the delivery when not given properly insights anxiety. Anxiety morphs into hypocrisy, hypocrisy into anger, anger then repels the lost and frustrates the saints.
We are the saints, you and I, dear Christian, evenly. Saint means holy one, holy means sanctified, sanctified means set apart, and that is what we are! We’ve been set apart from the world, sin, and death by being placed inside of God’s very own Spirit! (See Hebrews 2:11, 10:10,14, Acts 26:17-18, Romans 1:1, 8:2,9, Colossians 1:22, 3:3-4).
We are not sinners saved by grace! A sinner is what we were but we’ve been crucified with Christ! (See Galatians 2:20). Believers are never described as sinners in Scripture, we’re always addressed as saints! (See Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Colossians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 2 Thessalonians 1:10, and more).
We are saints who forget we are saints, therefore we sin. But sinner is not our identity in any way, shape, or form because God gave us a sinless identity at salvation. This was the only way He could permanently make His home in us. If we were still sinners He’d still be “coming and going” like He did in the Old Testament, but Christ has made us brand new! (See Psalm 51:11, Romans 6:6-10, 2 Corinthians 5:17,21).
Sure, Paul called himself the chief of sinners but he was describing his past life as an unbeliever who persecuted Christians. Read around that passage for the full context (1 Timothy 1:12-17). After all, Paul’s the one who wrote the most about us being saints! The sooner we start telling the truth about what God has done to us, the sooner sinning will no longer be our focus. Expressing love, morality, and righteousness will be because such is fitting for saints.
Thankfully, the Great Commission isn’t an individual assignment to be strived for or achieved. Instead, it’s the corporate goal of the saints; the organic ambition of the body of believers as a whole. The Great Commission will be accomplished inevitably as we reveal our true nature as members of God’s household. By allowing Him to live through us–through our hands, feet, mouths, and minds–we are fulfilling what Christ commanded in the Great Commission.
Many well-meaning saints get tripped up on the word command or commandment, confusing Jesus’ directives with Moses’. Moses’ commandments tallied 613, according to the Old Covenant. Jesus’, according to the New Covenant, only has two: believe and love (see 1 John 3:23). Jesus’ commandments can’t be added to Moses’ because the Law wasn’t allowed to be altered in any way (see Deuteronomy 4:2, John 1:17, Matthew 5:48, James 2:10, Galatians 3:10).
So we have to pick one: Moses or Jesus. Law or grace. 613 or 2.
We love Moses, we respect Moses, but his time ended at the Cross for all who will believe (see Hebrews 3:1-6, Romans 10:4, Galatians 2:19). The jots and tittles from the 613 are still there but only for unbelievers to realize they’re failing miserably at following those jots and tittles. Law usage, from its inception, was meant to expose an unbeliever’s need for grace (see Romans 5:20, 6:14, 1 Corinthians 15:56). It also reminds the believer of just how blessed we are to not have to follow it. It’s like looking at an old ex who’s making their new partner miserable; you’ve already been through that pain and now you’re free (see Matthew 5:18, 1 Timothy 1:7-10, Galatians 3:12, Romans 7:1-4).
When we read the Bible and come across the word commandment we must discern: Is this for me, according to the New Covenant, or for the Jews, according to the Old Covenant? As we comprehend the difference, the Great Commission is quite simple.
To further our knowledge, there are two primary sections of the Great Commission we must pay close attention to in order to establish its foundation. I’ve underlined both:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
- all nations – Not just the Jewish nation, but the entire world. This is the Abrahamic promise which was made before Israel and the Law was even formed.
- teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you – Teach and observe all the New Covenant commandments and post-Cross realities not Moses’ commandments.
Context, context, context!
We’ve already gone over Jesus’ two new commandments, so what else were they to teach and observe? Some amazing, outstanding, and mind-blowing things!
There’s no distinction between Jew and Gentile, we’re all a new creation in Christ! (Romans 10:12,20, Ephesians 3:6, Galatians 3:28, 2 Corinthians 5:17)
Jesus is the Messiah foretold about in the Jews’ own scriptures! (Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 53:5, John 5:39)
There’s no longer a holy geographical area on planet earth! We are now the holy place, the very house of God; walking, talking temples of His Spirit! (Acts 17:24, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Hebrews 3:3-5)
Outside appearances mean nothing if our inside appearance isn’t cleaned by faith in Christ! (Matthew 23:27, Acts 15:19, 1 Corinthians 6:11)
The Cross was the final altar! There are no more bloody animal sacrifices left to be made for forgiveness, nor will Jesus ever die again! (John 19:30, Hebrews 1:3, 7:24-25, 10:1-29)
Simply believe in God’s Son to be saved! Yes, the demons believe too, they know who Christ is, but they are already damned to hell and can’t receive forgiveness by faith! (John 1:12-13, 3:16-18, Ephesians 2:8-9)
God’s Spirit indwells us permanently, His ministry is to counsel us every moment of our lives! The Law is a ministry of death, which includes the Ten Commandments! It doesn’t guide us, not even for morality! The Spirit of Jesus Christ does! (John 14:26, 16:13, 2 Corinthians 3:7-11)
- God’s laws (lowercase and plural), as in, His very character, is now written on our hearts! Not the Law of Moses but the law of love! (Hebrews 8:11-13, 10:16, Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14)
But wait, there’s more!
We are completely sanctified in our identity! Remember what sanctified means? HOLY! Our actions and attitudes are being sanctified by our holy identity, not the other way around! (Hebrews 10:10, Acts 20:32, Romans 12:2, James 1:4, 2 Peter 1:5-9)
Our fellowship with God can never be broken because of the promise between the Father and Son made to one another at the Cross! (John 10:28, Hebrews 6:16-19, 2 Timothy 2:13)
We receive forgiveness! We don’t seek it, ask for it, or take it! Forgiveness is already offered to the unbelievers of humanity because God knows they need it! We simply open up our hands of faith and say, “Thank you,” once, to receive it! (The word receive is used in the New Testament 150 to 200+ times depending on the translation! Wow!)
Believers are complete, holy, pure, blameless, and free from all accusation of people and the enemy! (Colossians 1:22, 2:9-10, 2 Corinthians 5:21)
We’ve received a new heart which is no longer wicked and sinful! (Ezekiel 36:26, Acts 15:9, Romans 6:17)
You thought I was done? No, not yet! Here’s even more amazing New Covenant truths!
We’re already seated in heaven, spiritually, because we’re already in Christ and Christ is in heaven! (John 14:20, Ephesians 2:6, 1 Corinthians 6:17)
- We’re no longer called servants but family and friends! (John 15:15, 1 John 3:1, Hebrews 2:11)
We don’t want to sin and we’ll prove this by sinning and being miserable or by living holy and feeling like a well-oiled machine! (Romans 7:20, 2 Peter 1:4, Galatians 5:22-23)
Water baptism doesn’t save, only spiritual baptism. If this weren’t true then the gospel would be a water-works message. The fact is, there’s not enough water in all the universe to wash away our sins. Only the blood of Christ can do this. Some people don’t even have access to water. Water baptism is a celebration, like a birthday party; it’s awesome, but not the actual event of life-giving birth. Any sinner can be dunked in water, they must still repent of unbelief in Jesus’ forgiveness to be placed inside of Him, once. That’s what baptism means, “to place inside of.” Water baptism is a symbol of spiritual baptism into Christ’s very Spirit! We do this to celebrate! (Romans 6:3-4, 11:6, 1 Corinthians 1:14,17, 1 Peter 3:21, Colossians 3:3)
It is grace that teaches us how to live upright, holy lives, not Law! Teach more grace and the results will be authentic saintly living! Teach more Law and sin will multiply like wet gremlins sitting at a buffet after midnight! (Titus 2:11-12, 1 Timothy 1:7, Hebrews 13:9, Romans 5:20, 6:14, 7:8,11, 1 Corinthians 15:56)
Jesus will return in the same way He left! (Acts 1:9-11, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, Revelation 22:20)
There’s exceedingly and abundantly so much more to teach and observe! This is what makes the Great Commission fun! We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg of understanding what God has done for humanity through His Son!
Jesus commanded the disciples to communicate the New Covenant to the world when He gave the Great Commission, and don’t get tripped up on the word disciple. He used this term because that’s all they understood at the time. Disciple isn’t used once in any of the epistles because after the truth began to spread about being one with God, through Paul’s ministry, it became obsolete. A disciple is a follower, which anyone can have, yet Paul revealed we’re not simply following a dead teacher’s instructions. We’re combined with the Spirit of the living Son of God! (See Colossians 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:17, Hebrews 3:14).
One last thing. When Christ said to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, what is that name? Jesus! We must be placed in Him by faith in His very name, and no other!
So today, my friends, know this: The original disciples failed individually at fulfilling the Great Commission, at least at first. They didn’t immediately do as Jesus said, it took them years before venturing out. Some didn’t even leave until around AD70, being forced to, as Rome destroyed Jerusalem. Christ told them this would happen (see Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2). Just like us, after first believing, they were still immature–perfect and holy, but babes. Their hometown was their bottle of milk and friendly converted Jews their blankets. As they hesitated on fulfilling the Great Commission what did Jesus do? He went out and recruited His most fierce enemy, Saul, to get the “all nations” thing started (see Acts 9:1-9, Romans 11:13). Saul, whose name later changed to Paul, could’ve rejected Christ on the road to Damascus. But even if he did, Jesus would’ve still found a way to get the truth out into the world, as was promised to Abraham 2,000 years earlier by God (see Genesis 17:4). This teaches us that the Great Commission is actually Jesus‘ mission through us! That is, for whosoever will make themselves available! That’s you, friend. That’s me too. We have a divine destiny. We will leave a legacy which lasts for eternity. God will work through our individual abilities and personalities just the same as a vine works through a branch. There’s no pressure. There’s only patience and encouragement. There’s only love. We get to be ourselves, rest in Him, and enjoy this awesome relationship. As we do, we fulfill His Great Commission, naturally.
A prayer for you: Father, today I’m extremely appreciative for being chosen to live a life on your planet. What a spectacular thing! Even more, I’m grateful that you chose to make your home in me, teaching me who you are and who you’ve remade me to be. Thank you, so much. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. Please let these wonderful people know the Great Commission is being fulfilled right on time, by you. They can relax as you work through them gracefully. Protect them, Father, as Jesus warned us that the truth of His grace is a sword which will divide because many will reject faith in Him. Strengthen them by the power of your Holy Spirit as they express your grace gently and respectfully to this fallen world. Give them comfort and continually remind them that you always finish what you start. Your commitment to us and to your plan is second to none. We’re thankful and excited to be included in your Great Commission! In Jesus’ mighty name I pray, amen!