THREE “GREATS” OF THE CHRISTIAN

“...the work is great…”

Nehemiah 4:19

                In Nehemiah 4:19, Nehemiah the prophet, referring to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, called that endeavor a “great work.”  In Scripture, the word “great” is a word literally used dozens of times, along with its derivatives, in a multiplicity of uses that implies considerable in degree of quality, intensity, and of major importance or magnitude. Its first use in Scripture in Gen.12:2 deals with the future nation of Israel, while its last mention in Scripture in Rev. 20:12 refers to the unconverted at the Great White Throne Judgment. There are three “GREATS” in Christian living to which the writer would like to mention in this article.

(I)

THE GREAT COMMANDMENT

Matthew 22:37-38

                Endeavoring to tempt the Lord Jesus, a Pharisee lawyer asked Christ a key question in Matt. 22:36: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Christ’s response in Matt. 22:37-38 was an inspired classic: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.” 

                In answering the lawyer, Christ referred back to an Old Testament quotation made by Moses in Deuteronomy 6: 4-5: “Hear: O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”  While originally uttered by Moses approximately four thousand years ago, and reiterated by Christ two thousand years later, these words still stand as preeminent in the Christian’s life today. There is no greater service believers can render than an unrivaled love for God.

                There are several expressions of love that believers should render in their Christian lives. (1) Believers who are married should surely express love for their individual spouse. In Eph. 5: 25, 28 and 33, husbands are entreated three times to love their wife. “Husbands, love your wife, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it;” “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies…”; “Nevertheless, let everyone of you in particular so love his wife even as himself…” It is intriguing to note that in this Ephesians passage, the husband is exhorted three times to love his wife, while the wife is never in this passage requested to love her husband, but implored three times to reverence her husband—Eph. 5:22,24,33! However, in Titus 2:4, Paul exhorts younger wives “love their husbands,” as well as to “love their children”.

                (2) Genuine believers should also manifest love for other saints: The Apostle John expressed this love when he wrote in II John 1: “The elder unto the elect lady and her children whom I love in the truth.”  He reiterated that love in III John 1 when he stated: “The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius whom I love in the truth.”  In I John 2:10 John wrote that “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light…” while in I John 3:14 John reiterated this truth when he said: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.”

                (3) Born-again children of God should also express love for their shepherd/s.  Frankly, it is hard to pray for individuals whom you do not love. Therefore when the Apostle requested the saints to pray for his ministry in II Thess. 3:1, he was obviously assuming they loved him: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.”  Hebrews chapter 13 is a chapter where saints are exhorted to submit themselves to the spiritual oversight of God’s shepherd/pastors: 13:7, 17, 24. Therefore, it is no surprise that this chapter begins with an admonition to “Let brotherly love continue.”

                (4) God’s saints must also exhibit love for souls, for sinners, for the unconverted.  Prov. 11:30 states that “the fruit of the righteous is tree of life, and he that winneth souls is wise. The Apostle Paul reiterated this imperative in II Cor. 5:14 when he wrote from an impassioned heart that “the love of Christ constraineth us.”

                (5) However, there is no greater love that can be conveyed by the believer than an undivided 100% love for the Saviour! When it comes to this great issue, God permits no competitors! A supreme love for Christ must envelop and consume the believer as Christ plainly stated in Matt. 22:27-38.

(II)

THE GREAT COMMISSION

Luke 10:2

                When Christ sent forth the seventy disciples in a two-by two endeavor, before he sent them away, he charged them as follows in Luke 10:2 “Therefore, said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.”

                After His resurrection and before His ascension, the Lord Jesus Christ left behind five precious legacies: (1) The legacy of His Testimony—the Great Conscience; (2) the Legacy of His Triumph, the Great Conquest, (3) The Legacy of His Truth, the Great Clarity, (4) The Legacy of His Tranquility, the Great Contentment,  and most important He left behind (5) The Legacy of His Testament, The Great Commission.

                It is interesting to note that this Great Commission, which has been appropriately termed “The Marching Order of the Church” was given by Christ five times, in different formats, in the first five books of the N. T.: Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, John 20:28 and Acts 1:8. In this Great Commission as it is delineated in Matt. 28:18-20, the Savior delineated its three essential component parts, the whole of which constitute the N. T. mandate for churches today.

                 (1) EVANGELISM is the first essential in the Great Commission:“Go ye therefore and teach all nations.” The evangelism of unconverted sinners is the heartbeat  of God. This heart throb is delineated by the Apostle Peter in II Peter 3:9 when he writes that God “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

                In Matt. 9:37-38, Christ emphasized that this world is a vast harvest field which contains eternal souls who need to be reached with the Gospel: “…The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send laborers into his harvest.”  When yours truly was a student at his alma mater, we had a theme chorus that we sung heartily at every weekly meeting: “Souls for Jesus is our battle cry; souls for Jesus, we’ll fight until we die; we never will give in, while souls are lost in sin. Souls for Jesus is our battlecry.”

                (2) BAPTISM, by which the N. T. Scriptures clearly mean immersion, is the second part of this Great directive: “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost…” Now the (a) Mandate for Baptism is given in Matt. 28:18-20. The (b) Method of Baptism is delineated in Acts 8:35-38, and the (c) Message of Baptism is defined in Rom. 6:1-5. This act of immersion can be described in another format as the (a) Summons for Baptism—Matt. 28:18-20, the (b) Subjects of Baptism—Acts 2:42, the (c) Substance of Baptism—Acts 8:35-38 and the (4) Significance of Baptism—Rom. 6:4-5. 

                (3) CATECHISM, a term that simply means doctrinal instruction or teaching is the third essential in this imperative Mandate: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” This Biblical “teaching” includes instruction in three vital areas:               (a) Instruction Concerning the Faith: In the N. T. the objective meaning of “the faith” is the total compilation of Biblical teachings, truths, and words of Scripture—Matt. 4:4, John 17:17. It is for this compendium of truth that believers are urged to “earnestly contend” in Jude 3. 

                (b) Instruction Concerning the Family is the second tenet involved in catechizing. In Ephesians  chapters five and six, Colossions chapter three, Titus chapter two, and other relevant N. T. passages, the Apostle Paul presented vital training truths for rearing Godly families, Scriptural teaching that need constant reiteration in this wicked age.

                The O. T. record presents several excellent written portraits of this Biblical instruction that believers today can emulate. In Heb. 11:7, the Scripture states that “By faith, Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving to his house, by the which he condemned the world…”  Abraham is another classic example: God stated of him in Gen. 18:19: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do just and judgment.”

                (c) Instruction Concerning the Fellowship: The fellowship ties of the local N. T. church are a vital essential for building up, edifying and sanctifying genuine believers—I Tim. 3:15. All believers need to be instructed concerning the major place of the local church in the edifying and building up of God’s saints—Acts 20:28 & 32. The N. T. Scriptures present (a) the bonds of fellowship for all believers---Phil. 1:4-5, (b) the basis of fellowship—I John 1:3-7, and sadly, the (c) breaking of fellowship when necessary—II Thess. 3:16-14. The Apostle Paul invested 12 out his 13 epistles [perhaps 14 if he wrote Hebrews], in promoting local churches and the pastors of local churches, a vital part of his Great Commission labors.

(III)

THE GREAT COMPULSION

Eph. 5:18

"be filled with the spirit"

                Eph. 5:18 is God’s divine standard for all Christian living, Christian precepts and Christian practice that involves both the edification of saints in all areas of life, plus the evangelism of sinners in reaching the lost. In that key verse, believers are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit.”  Sadly, too frequently, there is a vast difference between possessing the person of the Spirit and possessing the power of the Spirit, which is a Biblical imperative for Christian service.

                This divine compulsion is a divine necessity for genuine soul-winning. Acts 1:8 says: “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth”.

                This compulsion encompasses (1) An Infilling Power. In Eph. 3:20, the Apostle Paul wrote about this divine ability when he stated: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”  This infilling power enables believers to successfully undertake and fulfill every spiritual responsibility that God asks as Paul declares in II Cor. 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”

                This compulsion also involves (2) An Inflaming Passion. The love of Christ must always be the central factor in Great Commission endeavors. Apart from this divine characteristic, Christian service becomes just a cold and calculated endeavor. For all believers, the motivating factor in his Christian service must be the love of Christ, as Paul clearly stated in II Cor. 5:14 when he said that “the love of Christ constraineth us.”

                While the church in Ephesus had many desirable and noble traits, at the time the Apostle John penned Revelation chapters two and three, that local assembly had “left” its “first love,” a missing characteristic for which John stated this church should “repent and do the first works.”

                The third compulsion comprises (3)An Intensive Persistence. It can be relatively easy both to begin/start a spiritual ministry and abandon that endeavor, but it takes spiritual “grit” to keep going, especially when the “going” gets rough. When unjust criticism and sometimes unexpected persecution begin to plague a believer’s pathway, the temptation to desert one’s spiritual post becomes enticingly tempting.  Gal. 6:9 is a verse of which saints need to remind themselves when the sowing the seed of the Word seemingly results in little outward fruit: “And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

                Conclusion: As believers, we need to be energetically active in these three “greats” of the Christian life so that God’s approval will rest upon every phase of our Christian life that “whatsoever” we do, we “do all to the glory of God—I Cor. 10:31.”  D.J.

Editorial - June - July 2014 The Fundamentalist Digest; Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given.

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