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(Matt. 28:18-20)

          “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 always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
          Introduction: The Great Commission has been called “The Marching Orders of the Church.” While this may seem like a strong statement for uninformed believers, the local church’s only justification for existence is the fulfillment of the Great Commission! Apart from this God-given divine mandate, the local church has no reason for existence!
          I. THE PRIORITY OF THE GREAT COMMISSION: The prime importance of the Great Commission is easily discovered once saints realize that this divine injunction is given five times by Christ, our divine commander, in the first five books of the N.T.: Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16;15, Luke 24:47, John 20:21 and Acts 1:8. Dr. Harold B. Sightler, the founder and longtime pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, Greenville, SC, was right when he said that every church ought not just to support missions, every church should be a missionary society!
          World missions activity should be the central focus of the local church’s ministry. According to Acts 1:8, this focus includes both the home and foreign fields: home missions: “…and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem…” (your local area-your “Jerusalem”); “and in all Judaea and all Samaria” (includes your state/country): foreign missions: “and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
          The mission field begins at the believer’s doorstep and reaches around the globe. Many independent Baptists churches have a sign inside the exit door that says “You are entering the mission field.” In reality, every saved person is a missionary and every unsaved person a mission field!
          II. THE PARTS IN THE GREAT COMMISSION: The reason why the opening paragraph may shock some believers is that they fail to recognize that the Great Commission includes three divine distinctives, not just one concerning evangelism. These three God mandated injunctions include all legitimate aspects of the local church’s activities and ministries.
          A. Evangelism: Evangelism is the first part of this divine mandate: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.” Dr. Bob Jones Sr. was surely right when he stated that “It takes evangelistic unction to make orthodoxy function.” For local churches it is either evangelize or fossilize! The local church that refuses to earnestly engage in local evangelistic endeavors will eventually die. Evangelistic outreach and soul-winning endeavors must always occupy a prime place in local church’s agenda.
          B. Baptism: The first step of obedience for new converts is baptism by immersion: “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost…” The mandate for baptism is delineated in Matt. 28:18-20. The method of baptism is described in Acts 8:35-35. Immersion is the only method practiced in the N.T. Despite the common Protestant practice of pouring and sprinkling, baptism apart from immersion is not baptism. The message of baptism is depicted in Rom. 6:1-5.
          C. Catechism: The word catechize simply means to teach: “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” A N. T. catechism is simply a method of instructing and teaching the vital truths of Scripture. Since the N.T is the “word of Christ” (Col. 3:16), the “all” involves the entire N.T. commands and injunctions and includes the defense of the faith once delivered unto the saints!” (Jude 3). The “all” embodies instruction concerning (l) the faith-Phil. 1:27. (2) the family-Eph. 5:19-6:4 and (3) the fellowship-I John 1:3-7.
          III. THE PROMISES WITH THE GREAT COMMISSION: Each time the N. T. records the Great Commission, it includes a corresponding promise. It is a tremendous reassurance to know God’s commands also include God’s enablements-II Cor. 8:9, Eph. 3:20.
          In a sermon Dr. Tom Malone preached and printed in his former Baptist Vision magazine several years ago, he noted that with each Great Commission decree, Christ included an encouraging promise: In Matt. 28:18-20, Christ gave the assurance of (a) His presence; in Mark 16:16, He provided the warranty of (b) His protection; in Luke 24:47 our Lord gave the pledge of (c) His program; in John 20:21 He conferred the guarantee of (d) His peace; and in Acts 1:8, our Saviour bestowed the surety of (e) His power. It is obvious that believers have no excuse for omitting this great command from their spiritual agendas.
          Conclusion: The Great Commission was uppermost in Christ’s mind before he ascended back to heaven. It occupied the place of priority in his meetings with his disciples. That which was uppermost in Christ’s mind should be uppermost in the believer’s thoughts, time and talents. For the N. T. saint and the local church, there can be no equivocation, it is either the Great Commission or the great omission! DJ
          PS: The FD editor is available for missionary conferences, as well as a variety of other preaching/teaching ministries.

Also in this issue:

Baptist History Captions

A U.S. Supreme Court Justice who believed the Bible and who spoke publicly about its powerful impact on American society

Editorial – Feburary - March 2004 The Fundamentalist Digest; Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given.
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