Do you know what a commission is?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “commission” as “an instruction or command.” If a military officer is given a commission, they are given a command to fulfill a specific role.
The word in the biblical languages is “calling.” That word can have two different nuances: to name something or to summon it. As in “God called the light day” and “Jesus called Peter to follow Him.” Of course, the distinction isn’t big. When God names you something, He summons you to it. And when He summons you to something, He names you as able to fulfill it.
The Great Commission is God’s instruction to His churches to tell everyone about Him, baptize them, and teach them to follow Him. That’s our job! He calls us to be witnesses and He calls us (names us) witnesses).
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 Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
David French of the New York Times (not exactly a bastion of conservative Christian thought) wrote an article in February titled “Men Need Purpose More than ‘Respect.’” In it, he discusses the current crisis among men in our culture, with the symptoms of drug use, suicide, and education achievement gaps. I would, of course, add absentee fathers, widespread divorce, and men who do not lead their families in worship.
He was responding to the argument that men are disrespected in culture today and that is the cause of this epidemic of problems. Of course, there is some truth to that. But he had a tremendous line in the article that caught my eye:
What men need is not for others to do things for them. They need to do things for others: for spouses, for children, for family and friends and colleagues. - https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/12/opinion/men-purpose-respect.html
Respect is downstream from purpose. We need a reason and a goal. Of course, while he was talking about men, we know this is true of all human beings. Idleness sounds nice, but as many retirees have learned, it quickly loses its charm. Imagine I offered you a 10% raise to spend all day copying meaningless sentences onto notebook paper, and then immediately putting them in the shredder and beginning again. No amount of money can make up for a lack of purpose. We need a why or we become bitter, frustrated, and argumentative.
What is true of individuals is also true of churches. When a church loses sight of why she exists, she becomes a loose assembly of bickering cliques. Everyone has their own preferences and their own pet projects, and either fight and divide or do everything poorly instead of everything well. Churches like that have no reason to not do anything, and no reason to do anything.
But this is not the way things are supposed to be. Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He gave us His parting instructions, usually called the Great Commission. He gave us a purpose, that defines what is worth doing for Alvin Missionary Baptist Church and what is not. Let’s see what it is.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 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 Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
The Authority to Act
The Authority to Act
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
Imagine the scene: the eleven disciples are not the only ones here. In all likelihood, this is what Paul was talking about in 1 Cor 15 when he said that Jesus appeared to more than 500 of the brethren at one time. But the 11 are the ones in the center of our view. These are the ones who followed Jesus most closely and just 43 days before had absolutely blown it at the critical moment. That explains
And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
Notice the groupings here. They all worshipped but some doubted. Who did they doubt? Not Jesus! He was there, visibly risen, with the nail holes to prove it. That is why they all worshipped. Then who is left for them to doubt? Themselves. They blew it and they knew it. Maybe they thought Jesus was gathering them one last time to dismiss them for their failure and to establish a new set of disciples. How could God use them now? But of course, you probably know the punchline already. It isn’t about who they are. It is about who Jesus is.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Explain: This is the beginning of what we normally call the Great Commission. It is called Great because it is compared to the Limited Commission, where Jesus told the disciples to go only to the lost sheep of Israel. But now He is risen and is about to ascend! When He does so, He knows what will happen. He will fulfill the brief vision of Daniel 7:13-14
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
The authority of the commission comes from the one who is about to ascend the clouds of Heaven and take His throne at the right hand of God. His message is for all nations, all languages, and shall never end.
Illustrate: “You can’t tell me what to do”
Apply: Self-doubt - like the apostles, it is not about us. It is about Jesus! Forgiveness in Christ
Church-doubt - It is not about our church’s capacity, but Christ’s capacity!
Lost - But if you aren’t a believer, you don’t have the power to do it
What are we to do on the basis of that authority?
The Command to Carry
The Command to Carry
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Explain: Time for a little grammar lesson. This verse has one main verb, and three participles. It is difficult to translate into English because in Greek word order is for emphasis and is much more flexible than in English. But there are two words for “teach” here. The first means to train, like training an apprentice or disciple. The second is the usual word for teach. To make this clearer, we can look at it like this
<Slide in Proclaim>
The Promise to Persevere
The Promise to Persevere
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Let me read you a little more from David French’s article I mentioned earlier about the importance of purpose.
If you speak to struggling veterans, many will tell you that they have respect, but they don’t have purpose. That lack of purpose is often exacerbated by the loss of fellowship. My own experience helped me understand this powerful reality. Every person endures dark nights of the soul. One of the worst of my life took me by complete surprise. It was at the end of my deployment in Iraq, where I served from 2007 to 2008, the first evening after I departed Forward Operating Base Caldwell in Diyala Province to begin my long journey home.
I was a reservist, so I didn’t return with the unit but by myself. I’d longed for this moment — I was returning to my wife and children! — and yet I felt bereft. Empty. After almost a full year of having a very clear, decisive and delineated mission (with life and death often at stake), I was returning to a more complicated, confusing reality of often conflicting responsibilities — one shared, I think, by most American men and women alike.
I was confused by my feelings at the time. Now I understand. My mission was over. My brothers were gone. They were returning to Fort Hood in Texas. I was in Tennessee. Our relationship could never be the same.
My friends, when we are on mission with God, we will have a sense of purpose and of fellowship. When we have a sense that we are not here to float along and entertain ourselves but to bring Him glory, the rest will fall into place. Are you - brother who has been saved, baptized and is learning - going out and reaching others? Your life is too small of a thing to live for.