Gospel Message


Answer: Following the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples numerous times over a period of forty days. This time period was used to fortify the disciples' faith in Jesus and open their understanding of the scriptures. He instructed them in the law of Moses and the prophets - as expressed in the following scriptures:
Luke 24:44-48 - "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things." As this time of special instruction drew to a close, he assembled the disciples to share parting thoughts often referred to as the great commission. Although noted in Luke and in Acts, it is most commonly summarized in Matthew 28:18-20 - "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
The commission divides itself into three parts: (1) "teach all nations;" (2) "baptizing them;" (3) "teaching them." In the first portion of verse 19, direction is given to "teach" all nations. If we look closer at this word we find it to mean "to become a pupil" or "to disciple; enroll as a scholar". Was this to mean covert all nations? These words, if taken alone, could well be interpreted in that manner. However, this instruction was given at the close of the earthly ministry of Jesus and must harmonize with earlier teachings. Let us look at a few of those precepts. Matthew 24:14 tells us - "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations;..." In Matthew 7:14 we read, "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." and further we find "for many be called, but few chosen." (Matthew 20:16; 22:14). Jesus himself did not want to convert the world as we read in Mark 4:11-12, "And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them." In fact the word "church" in the New Testament is the Greek word "ekklesia" which means "that which is called out" (see Young's Concordance). Jesus was looking for disciples with "ears to hear" (Mark 4:9), a "little flock" (Luke 12:32) to become his "church", "his body" (Colossians 1:18,24). He defined this discipleship, saying, "If any man will come after Me [be My disciple], let him deny himself [set himself aside, ignore himself, his talent, his will, his wealth, his everything-discipleship first], and let him take up his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24). The Apostle Peter confirms this reasoning in Acts 15:14 - "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name." The Living Bible translation perhaps better expresses this first point - "Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19).
The second portion of the commission refers to "baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". What does that mean? It is important to note that it is not into a denomination or sect, nor is it referring to water baptism. "Into the name of" signifies into accord with, into fellowship with. All of Christ's disciples are to recognize the Father's name as standing for righteousness; and they are to become dead to every other principle than that which His name represents, and to be thoroughly immersed into that name of righteousness, justice, truth. Water baptism is a symbol of the true baptism which Paul describes in Romans 6:3-5, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:"
In the third part of the commission (verse 20) we read "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you". The word "teaching" in this verse differs from the word "teach" in verse 19. In this reference the meaning is "to teach or learn" (see Strong's concordance) through instruction. Let us look to the scriptures for this instruction. In Genesis we learn of God's promise to bless ALL the nations of the earth through Abraham's seed - "That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." (Genesis 22:17-18) Paul writes in the third chapter of Galatians "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ....
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ... And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (3:16,27,29) This is part of the understanding to which Jesus opened the disciples' eyes. If Christ and his followers are Abraham's seed, then who are they to bless? Paul alludes to part of the answer in Hebrews 11:39,40 when after listing many of the faithful servants of old he concludes with "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Other scriptures tell us "all the nations of the earth" - all those who believe not, whose eyes and minds have been blinded by the "god of this world" - 2 Corinthians 4:4 - "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
As we seek to follow Jesus' example, may we consider his words in Luke 4:18,19 as he quoted Isaiah 61:1 - "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." May these words guide our efforts to fulfill the great commission.