The Great Commission instructs the Lord’s apostles to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to keep the Lord’s commandments. We have changed the commission to mean every believer is to go into all the world and tell people they do not have to keep the Lord’s commandments, just believe and they will go to Heaven when they die. This change in the meaning of the Great Commission is not insignificant. It has had a harmful effect on the Lord’s intention.
The smallest change in the wording or meaning of any verse of the Bible must be looked at carefully. Is it an innocent modification that preserves the original meaning and makes it clearer to a modern reader? Or is it a significant change that is harmful to God’s intention?
It is our point of view that the change that has been made in the meaning of the Great Commission has brought harm to the Lord’s plan to build His Church.
Let us look carefully at the Great Commission and see what the Lord Jesus actually commanded:
Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples of] 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. (Matthew 28:19,20)
The Great Commission is to go forth and make disciples of the peoples of the nations, to baptize them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to teach them to keep all the commandments that the Lord Jesus gave while He was here.
Make disciples of the peoples of the nations.
Baptize the disciples into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Teach the disciples to keep all the commandments that the Lord Jesus gave while He was here.
The Great Commission has been changed to:
Go forth to all the nations and save souls.
Inform the believers they are saved by grace and it is not necessary that they keep God’s commandments.
We may believe the change is really no change at all. The changed version means the same as the original and fulfills the Lord’s intention, or so it seems.
The truth is, the change is drastic and destroys the Lord’s intention.
The Lord did not direct us to present grace as an alternative to keeping God’s commandments. The Lord directed us to make disciples and to teach them to obey His commandments.
Is there a difference between presenting Divine grace as an alternative to obeying God’s commandments, and making disciples and teaching them to keep all the commandments that the Lord gave while He was here?
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:24,25)
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26,27)
It appears that being a disciple of the Lord Jesus means far more than what is accepted today as "being saved." According to the two passages above, few "Christians" of today are disciples.
It seems we are preaching an abbreviated Gospel—one consisting only of justification. There is not much emphasis placed on denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following the Lord Jesus.
Sanctification, which is the all-important work of character transformation, and consecration, which involves presenting our life to the Lord, are often given only passing notice.
To permit justification to include and replace sanctification and consecration so that believing in the Lord Jesus is the only aspect of the Gospel is to destroy the Kingdom of God.
Saving a soul versus making a disciple. Saving a soul has come to mean persuading an individual to believe that the blood of the Lord Jesus is his or her ticket to eternal residence in a mansion in Heaven. "Making a decision for Christ" is not only an unscriptural expression, it leaves people with the idea that once they assent mentally to the theological facts concerning Christ’s atonement and resurrection they will go to Paradise when they die independently of any growth in sanctification and consecration.
The idea that belief alone accomplishes our eternal salvation is antinomianism, an ancient heresy.
As we have stated, there are not many believers of today who would qualify as a disciple. Yet it was the disciples who were termed "Christians."
The disciples were termed "Christians."
And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. (Acts 11:26)
Notice the accent on teaching in the verse above.
The Lord Jesus did not command the eleven disciples to persuade people that the blood of the Lord Jesus is their ticket to eternal residence in a mansion in Heaven. The Lord Jesus commanded the eleven to make disciples, that is, to persuade the people of the nations to be baptized and to set out after the Lord Jesus, denying themselves and laying down their life that they might do the Lord’s will perfectly each day.
The sixth chapter of the Book of Romans gives us the meaning of water baptism. To be baptized in water is to place our whole life on the cross with the Lord Jesus, to leave the world behind, and to arise to walk in the newness of resurrection life.
The Lord Jesus told us it is His will we be one with each other and with the Lord Jesus and the Father, as He is One with the Father.
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:21)
The Lord told us when we are in union with God the world will believe that God has sent the Lord Jesus.
The Lord Jesus informed us through the Apostle Paul that we are destined to be in the image of the Lord Jesus.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
The Lord Jesus told us the ministries of the Body of Christ will continue until we all are in unity and have come to a perfect man, to maturity as measured by the standard that is the fullness of Christ.
This is the Great Commission—to make disciples of the nations.
There is a vast difference between persuading people to receive their ticket to Heaven, and bringing them as disciples to the fullness of Christ.
The following passage reveals the error in today’s "saving of souls."
And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. (Acts 24:24,25)
Here is an example of an apostle carrying out the Great Commission. Paul did not speak to Felix of grace, of going to Heaven, of being born again, of letting Jesus into his heart. Paul reasoned with Felix concerning righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.
Can you see how the Great Commission has been corrupted?
Now, why is it so important that we view the Great Commission as making disciples and bringing them into the image of the Lord and union with the Lord rather than persuading people to accept the blood of the cross so they can go to a mansion in Heaven?
The reason why one is so terribly important and the other is so terribly incorrect is this: There was an awful rebellion in the heavens on the part of the angels. God has not as yet expressed His wrath concerning the rebellion but He soon is to do so.
Because of the nearness of the Day of Wrath, which shall be exercised at the hands of the saints, there is an urgency that people be persuaded to repent and turn away from their sins and to become followers of the Lord Jesus.
It is not enough that people merely be forgiven, for that does not solve the problem that God has with His creatures, the problem of rebellion against the Father’s will. In addition to being forgiven the believers also must be removed from the image and ways of Satan and brought into the image and ways of God.
God is creating a royal priesthood. The royal priesthood will fulfill the needs that God has concerning the fallen angels and concerning man. The purpose of the two thousand years of the Church Age has been to create the royal priesthood.
The needs that God has are as follows:
Disciples who can become members of the Bride of the Lamb.
Disciples who can become living stones in the Temple of God.
Disciples who can become members of the Body of Christ, the Servant of the Lord.
Disciples who will be prepared to be part of the end-time revival.
Disciples through whom Christ can bring back Paradise to the earth.
Disciples who can be trained to be members of the royal priesthood.
Disciples who will walk with God to the point they become witnesses of God.
Disciples who will learn to be led of the Spirit until they are called sons of God.
Disciples who follow the Lord Jesus until they become His brothers in experience.
Disciples who persist in the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and who love not their lives to the point of death, until they overcome the Accuser.
Disciples who can be tested in obedience until they are fit to be governors of the nations of the earth.
Disciples who are willing to be purged of worldliness, lust, and self-will until they are qualified to judge men and angels.
Disciples who will suffer patiently until they become a wall of defense surrounding the glory of God.
Disciples who through their steadfast obedience to Christ become a part of the revelation of God Himself—God in Christ in the saints.
None of the above roles and tasks can be performed to their fullest extent by anyone other than disciples who are in the moral image of Christ and who have entered untroubled rest in Christ in the Father.
Since God’s purpose cannot be fulfilled until the believers have followed the Lord in patient discipleship, since the world will not believe until the saints are one with each other and with Christ in the Father, the change from going into the world to make disciples who keep the Lord’s commandments to going into the world to "save souls" by "grace" is not insignificant. It can prove to be destructive of the Lord’s purposes for the Body of Christ.
What it means to keep the Lord’s commandments. We are to teach the people of the nations to keep the Lord’s commandments, not to tell them they are saved by grace whether or not they keep the commandments. The purpose of repentance and forgiveness is to start people on the path of discipleship, on the narrow road that leads to eternal life, on the way of patient obedience until they become a new creation in Christ.
The Lord Jesus gave us numerous commandments while He was alive on the earth, and then through the Apostles whom He had chosen. These commandments are to be obeyed. If we find it difficult to obey them we are to go to the Lord in prayer for His enabling grace, or to the elders of the church for guidance and additional prayer, until we are able to keep them.
The following are a few of the Lord’s commandments:
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad when you are persecuted (Matthew 5:12).
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave your gift before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:24).
Agree with an individual quickly if you have a dispute with him (Matthew 5:25).
Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Do not attempt to confirm your yes or no with an oath (Matthew 5:37).
Do not resist evil. If someone hits you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:39).
If someone sues you and takes your sweater let him have your coat also (Matthew 5:40).
Put to death the lusts of your flesh (Romans 8:13).
Remove malice from your personality (I Corinthians 5:8).
Live a righteous life (I Corinthians 15:34).
Remove filthy talk from your mouth (Colossians 3:8).
There is a truly awesome difference between presenting grace as the alternative to keeping God’s commandments, and presenting grace as the means of keeping God’s commandments.
Some Are Sent as Apostles While Others Have Different Roles and Callings
It often is said that every disciple has been charged with the Great Commission. He does not have to seek the Lord to find out how and when he should go forth and attempt to "save souls." The Bible commands him to go, and go he must—as soon as possible!
To set out in this manner without knowing the Lord’s will may be compared to a workman who goes about with his toolbox looking for work. He comes upon a site where various tradesmen are constructing houses on a large tract of land. He looks for a suitable area, takes out his tools, and then goes to work.
After a while the construction supervisor comes over to him and asks him what he is doing. He says, "I am skilled in the building trades and am beginning to stake out a house."
The supervisor says to him, "We did not hire you to do this. It might interest you to know that where you plan to build has been set aside as a park where children can play. You haven’t seen the blueprint!"
The New Testament teaches us that every believer has been given by the Holy Spirit a specific role to play in the Body of Christ.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (I Corinthians 12:7-11)
Ours is the day in which Christ is to come to full stature in the saints. In order for Christ to come to full stature all the ministries of the Body must begin to operate. The Holy Spirit is ready to give numerous, varied ministries and gifts to each believer who will present his or her body a living sacrifice to God in order to prove His will for his or her life.
As Christ comes to maturity in us we will shine as a great light to the end of the earth. This will take place before the Lord returns so that a true witness of God and His Kingdom may be given to every nation on earth.
It is time now for both the wheat and the tares to come to maturity.
Only genuine disciples of the Lord will be able to bear the end-time witness. Those who merely have "made a decision for Christ" and then have not followed the Lord in sanctification and consecration will not be able to bear a consistent witness during the age of moral horrors which rapidly is coming upon us. Instead their love will grow cold because of the abundance and availability of sin.
For example, the pornography that today is readily available on the Internet will cause a multitude of believers, and pastors as well, to fall into sexual lust and perversion.
The Lord Jesus knew what He was saying when He commanded us to make disciples and not just to try to get people to "make a decision for Christ."
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. (Matthew 28:16-18)
The above verses precede the giving of the Great Commission.
The text speaks clearly that the Lord Jesus appointed eleven specific disciples as apostles to carry out the worldwide work of making disciples, baptizing believers, and teaching the laws of the Kingdom of God.
The task of the rest of us is to find out what our ministries and gifts are and to get busy building up ourselves and our fellow members of the Body. As we do this, we and they will be able to bear a true witness to the world of the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of the Lord.
And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. (Acts 5:12,13)
Each one of us is to think soberly concerning the amount of faith that God has given us, and then use that faith to operate the gifts that have been given to us.
God’s Kingdom can be brought into the earth only through mature saints, and the saints can come to maturity only through the various ministries and gifts that the ascended Christ has given to His Body.
"And of the rest durst no man join himself to them"!
The Lord Jesus did not call every believer to be an apostle, but He has through the Holy Spirit given gifts to each of His followers. In addition, the Lord has baptized each believer with the Holy Spirit so he or she can bear witness of the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom.
The Holy Spirit is very specific concerning each believer’s calling and ministry.
. . . Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (Acts 13:2)
Every believer is not an apostle. But every believer is to be able to give a reason for the hope that is in him and to hold forth the Word of Life. Every believer is called to be a witness.
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. (Acts 8:4)
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. (Philippians 2:15,16)
Sometimes we bear witness by maintaining a meek and quiet spirit.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (I Peter 3:15)
Bearing witness in this manner is a desirable sharing of our faith.
All believers are commanded to perform works of righteousness so the unconverted may see the light of their good works and glorify the Father in Heaven. Righteous behavior on the part of the saints is not a substitute for the work of the evangelist, but it may prove to be the most powerful of the witnesses given to the world.
... the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
Having your conversation [manner of life] honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. (I Peter 2:12)
It appears that Philip the deacon was led by the Spirit into a fruitful work of evangelism. Then the apostles were called in to establish the new converts in the Body of Christ.
Every disciple is to present his body a living sacrifice until he knows what God’s will is for him or her.
Because in the Christian churches the members of the congregations are continually exhorted to "go out and get souls saved," and because most of the believers do not have that kind of calling, they end up doing nothing. Far more would be accomplished if the Christians were exhorted to pray and serve the Lord until they knew what their role actually is.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (Ephesians 4:7-13)
In order to discover the meaning of this passage let us compare it with a similar expression.
And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. (I Corinthians 12:28-31)
Sometime Ephesians 4:17-13 is employed to show there is a fivefold ministry superior to the other ministries and gifts. The Scripture does not support this. We must never stress a doctrine supported by only one passage. By adding the passage from First Corinthians Chapter Twelve we discover that Paul regarded apostles, prophets, teachers as being on the same level as miracles, gifts of healing, and helps.
Now we can understand what Paul is teaching in Ephesians 4:17-13. Paul is saying that the ascended Christ through the Holy Spirit has set a great variety of ministries and gifts in the Body. By so doing Christ has equipped the saints so each may contribute to the building of the Body until we all come to a mature person—mature as measured by the fullness of the stature of Christ.
We must never set any office in the body as being superior to the other gifts and ministries. When we do this we retreat to the clergy-laity model of church organization which must be totally discarded if the Body is to come to maturity.
When the believer feels there are other ministries more holy, more important than his he may not make the effort to find his own role, believing it to be relatively insignificant. Because of this prevailing attitude of its members, the Body of Christ languishes today in a state of babyhood. We cannot come to maturity until we are being built up by that which every part supplies.
The Spirit gave to some men to be apostles so they would be equipped to minister to the perfecting of the saints. The ascended Lord Jesus gave to Paul the gift of the apostleship so Paul would be equipped to assist in bringing the Body of Christ to full maturity.
The Spirit gave to some men to be prophets so they would be equipped to minister to the perfecting of the saints.
The Spirit gave to some men to be evangelists so they would be equipped to minister to the perfecting of the saints.
The Spirit gave to some men to be pastors and teachers so they would be equipped to minister to the perfecting of the saints.
The writer personally has been given some understanding of the Word of God so he might help bring the saints to maturity. Other ministers and believers helped him as they operated their various gifts, and more importantly perhaps by the witness of their own personalities. But what gift the writer has came directly from the Lord and is (as is true of every ministry and gift given by the Spirit) for the purpose of bringing the saints to the fullness of maturity in Christ.
When we turn to the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians, which is the major discussion of gifts and ministries, we find an emphasis on the sovereign action of the Holy Spirit in assigning ministry, and on variety.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. (I Corinthians 12:4-6)
Notice in the following passage the emphasis on the sovereignty of the Spirit:
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (Acts 13:2)
Barnabas and Saul were ministering to the Lord. All true gifts and ministries operate as the disciple ministers to the Lord. Until we minister to the Lord and hear from Him we may be seeking to do God’s work in our own fleshly ambition and presumption.
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (I Corinthians 12:11)
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. (I Corinthians 12:12)
The accent is on diversity. What if the human body were all nose, all eyes, all feet, all hands, and there were no other part? The body cannot be built up until all the gifts and ministries are operating—and they all operate to build the Body. That is their purpose according to the Scripture.
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? (I Corinthians 12:17)
Each disciple is to seek God until he understands where he fits in the Body. There is no member of the Body of Christ that does not have a role to play in the bringing of the Body to maturity.
Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: (I Corinthians 12:22)
There is a great variety of gifts and ministries in the Body of Christ and each one is necessary for the building up of the members of the Body to full stature. We discover our role in the Church as we present our body a living sacrifice to the Lord.
If we would be successful in finding and operating our own ministry we must patiently wait on the Lord as did Barnabas and Saul, meanwhile performing faithfully the tasks and duties set before us each day..
Concerning the gifts and ministries given by the Spirit of God, it is of utmost importance that we look to the Spirit for ourselves and not attempt to imitate other gifts and ministries. Then, having received gifts and a ministry from the Spirit, we must faithfully look to the Spirit for every move we make, not taking anything for granted.
It is the responsibility of the Christian apostles (missionaries) to go into all the world and make disciples from every nation, teaching them to keep the commandments given by the Lord Jesus. It is the responsibility of the Christian Church to bear witness of Christ to every nation on earth. But in order for this responsibility to be fulfilled, all the members of the Body must function--each one according to his or her own gift!
For example, let us say an individual was convinced God wanted him or her to be a doctor. First of all, that person would have to attend medical school, which would be comparable in the Kingdom to coming to maturity in Christ. But think of the numerous parts of the body of this new doctor? It would be true that his brain, his hands, his eyes, ears, and nose would be active in learning to be a doctor and then working as a doctor.
But these active parts are totally dependent on less obvious parts of his or her body, such as the lymph, pulmonary, and circulatory systems, the secretions of several hormones, and, for appearance, the hair and skin.
Can you see the point? The brains, hands, and eyes cannot operate apart from the pulmonary and circulatory systems as well as numerous hormonal secretions of which most of us are unaware.
Some believers are called to be intercessors. Those who are called to go forth and preach the Gospel depend on the faithfulness of the intercessor.
While the twelfth chapter of I Corinthians reveals the variety of gifts and ministries that the Holy Spirit assigns, it is the twelfth chapter of the Book of Romans that shows us how we are to practice them.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1,2)
The writer has been "in Pentecost" since 1948. We have heard many prophecies go forth over people. Most of the glorious destinies prophesied never took place. Why is this?
It is because the recipient of the prophecy never presented his or her body a living sacrifice, never went on to become a diligent disciple of the Lord Jesus.
The prophecy told what God desired for the individual; what could have been. But the believer did not present his or her body a living sacrifice. God will not work where His Word is not being honored.
Every aspect of the Christian redemption is an opportunity. If the calling is to be fulfilled there must be the proper response on the part of the individual.
If we would be a profitable servant we must wait on the Lord’s will continually, we must refuse to be conformed to this world, we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind as we turn away from the communications offered by the world and fill our thoughts with that which builds us up in Christ. We must prove God’s will for our life.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)
If we would be a profitable servant, able to minister successfully to the members of the Body of Christ, we must evaluate how much faith God has given us and then set our expectations accordingly. God does not require of any believer that he or she launch out into some grand and imposing scheme, challenging God to do great things. God requires only that we obey Him in whatever role He assigns to us whether it be great or small. God will give us enough faith to carry out His will.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; (Romans 12:6)
In the above verse we notice two aspects of ministry. First, the emphasis is on variety. We have gifts "differing according to the grace that is given to us." We are not all teachers. We are not all workers of miracles. We are not all in positions of administration. We must present our body a living sacrifice if we are to be able to discover and enter our assigned task in building the Body of Christ.
Second, we are encouraged to practice our gifts and ministry. There is a necessary balance here. We do not wait for the Lord to force us to do something. We wait before Him, in the meantime coveting earnestly the gift or ministry that is on our heart.
When it seems appropriate we may take a small step toward the activity we think the Lord is suggesting. Then we are to examine carefully the results, meanwhile looking to the Lord. If the results seem to be fruitful, we may take another small step, and so forth.
The pastor of our church may ask us to do something. Unless we have strong reasons for not complying we should look to the Lord for guidance and grace to do what has been requested.
Perhaps the strongest reason there are not more gifts and ministries operating in the Christian assemblies is that the leaders and congregations alike do not expect them to function. The leaders and people are not determined that the various gifts and ministries be in operation.
There certainly is a Hell and there certainly is a Heaven. But if you will examine the New Testament you will find there is little emphasis on saving sinners from Hell and getting them into Heaven. The emphasis of the New Testament is on gaining eternal life. The wages of sin is not Hell but death. The gift of God is not Heaven but eternal life.
We say this because the impetus for fulfilling the Great Commission often is presented as the need to save people from Hell and get them into Heaven. It is true that the wicked are sent to Hell when they die and the righteous go to be with the Lord. But the Lord Jesus did not mention this when He gave the Great Commission and therefore we should not do so. We should try to keep to what the Lord stated as much as possible.
Sometimes little departures from the words of the Scriptures, often innocent enough, eventually result in massive departures from the truth. Little errors have a way of accumulating.
The purpose of the Great Commission is to teach those whom God has called out of the nations to keep the Lord’s commandments—not to go to Heaven by grace, but to keep the Lord’s commandments! The members of the Christian churches have not made more of an impact on the world than they have because they do not keep the Lord’s commandments! We are not doing what the Lord instructed us to do!
The term Hell is not found in Paul’s epistles. This is strange if the purpose of the Gospel is to save sinners from Hell and bring them to Heaven!
An emphasis on escaping Hell and gaining Heaven is not found in the Book of Acts. This is remarkable if the purpose of the Gospel is to save sinners from Hell and bring them to Heaven!
The addition of these words may appear to be in keeping with the Lord’s will and may seem harmless. It is hardly that! It is destructive of God’s purposes regarding His Kingdom. Let us explain why.
Sinners always belong in Hell and always are in Hell, so to speak, even though it is not manifest as yet.
The righteous always belong in the Presence of God in Paradise and always are in the Presence of God in Paradise, even though it is not manifest as yet.
It is a fact that the Lord Jesus Christ came to save sinners from Divine wrath and bring them into the Presence of God. This is absolutely true. However, the great error in the manner in which we present the Great Commission is by proclaiming that the Lord saves people from the wrath of God through forgiveness alone.
The Lord Jesus did not come to bring sinners into Paradise. This is not the Gospel of the Kingdom. Those who continue in sin shall never inherit the Kingdom of God whether or not they name the name of Jesus.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
Rather it is true that the Lord Jesus came to save sinners by making them new creatures, by transforming them so they would be citizens fit for Heaven, for the Presence of God.
Therefore the Great Commission is not to give people a pass from Hell to Heaven but to make them disciples, teaching them to obey the commandments of the Lord.
The difference in spiritual significance between these two concepts, the ticket concept and the new creation concept, is so tremendous as to be hardly describable in words. The ticket concept has led to moral chaos in the churches. The new creation concept brings forth saints of God.
But didn’t the Lord tell the thief on the cross that he would be with the Lord in Paradise on that very day? Indeed He did.
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:39-43)
Let us elaborate on this passage a bit for it often is used to prove we are saved by our profession of faith and our behavior has little or nothing to do with our salvation. Also, we just got through saying that the Lord Jesus did not come to bring sinners into Paradise.
The first consideration is the statement made by the thief. What prompted him in his agony on the cross to recognize that Jesus, who also was hanging on a cross, was the king of a kingdom? What the thief said is really remarkable. It probably was true that on former occasions he had heard Jesus teach and had been a while making up his mind.
The one thief just wanted Jesus to save the three of them from the death of the cross. The other thief worshiped Christ as it were, not trying to get Him to prevent their execution.
Although the thief asked about the Kingdom, Jesus promised him that which was at hand—to walk with Jesus in Paradise. To actually enter the Kingdom requires being born again, and that was not possible until Jesus rose from the dead.
Whenever any person, young or old, boy or girl, man or woman, comes to Jesus with the attitude of the thief on the cross, that individual will be saved from God's wrath. However, the kings and priests of the royal priesthood are not qualified by a "deathbed" acceptance of the lordship of Jesus Christ.
The problem with applying this episode to prove the current doctrine that we are saved by a profession of belief rather than a life of cross-carrying obedience is that the people who wish to make this kind of a deal with God do not have the tremendous faith and humility of the thief, a faith and humility that would worship the King of kings while slowly dying of suffocation and dehydration in the blazing sun, not even asking for deliverance from pain and death.
Compare this profession of faith with the cheap "decision for Christ" that is made to give the "believer" a pass out of Hell and a ticket to Heaven.
No, the Lord Jesus did not come to bring sinners into Paradise. But any sinner who genuinely repents of his or her way of life, humbling himself as a little child, and asking to enter God's righteous Kingdom, will always be received by the Lord. This is altogether different from telling people that they can make a profession of faith, live like the devil, and then enter Paradise when they die.
And too, to enter Paradise is not the same as to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul’s warnings concerning sin had to do with inheriting the Kingdom of God not entering Paradise. The issue of the New Testament is the Kingdom of God, not Paradise.
The compassion and kindness of the Lord in this instance must never be used to change the Great Commission from one that directs us to make disciples and to teach them to obey the Lord’s commandments, to one that directs us to offer sinners a pass to Paradise—sinners who have no intention of really presenting themselves to God as a living sacrifice.
What way would this be to repay the Lord’s love? If such were the case then the Great Commission was given incorrectly by the Lord. Also the teachings of the Apostles of the Lamb throughout the Epistles are negated, including the warnings of the Apostle Paul that those who, after receiving the Lord, then continue in sin, cannot possibly inherit the Kingdom of God.
Speaking to believers:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Those who practice such things (hatred, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, disputes, strife, discord, envy, quarreling, jealousy, slander, gossip, arrogance, disorder) shall not inherit the kingdom of God whether or not they believe in Christ.
Speaking to believers:
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
The above verse in context means that if a Christian does not choose to become the slave of righteousness he or she will die spiritually.
The purpose of building the Body of Christ, the Church, is not so the Church can go to Paradise. It is so a mature Church can return with the Lord Jesus and save sinners from their sin.
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23)
"That the world may know."
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
The Church shall appear with the Lord for the purpose of saving sinners from their sin, to bring righteousness, justice, and peace on the earth.
He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. (Isaiah 42:4)
Until the Church has been brought to maturity it is impossible for righteousness, peace, and joy to come to the sinners in the earth.
The best possible manner in which we can help the lost, the sinners, those who live in spiritual darkness, is to draw near to the Lord and allow Him to make us a witness of His Person, ways, will, and purposes for the peoples of the earth.
Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. (Isaiah 43:10)
Why does Satan work so hard to change the Great Commission?
Why does he strive to keep the Christian churches occupied with the thought of going into all the world and telling the unlearned that the blood of the Lord Jesus is an eternal forgiveness of their sins and a ticket to Paradise when they die, while at the same time encouraging the churches to neglect to develop and utilize the infinitely varied ministries and gifts whose purpose is to build the Body of Christ?
Why does Satan strive continually to remove the emphasis on keeping the Lord’s commandments in favor of a lawless grace and an evacuation to the spirit world where the believers float about in bliss while God’s will never is done in the earth?—while the Kingdom remains in Heaven above?
Satan indeed has reason to fear and tremble as the message of Kingdom righteousness goes forth today. The preaching of the necessity for living righteously, and the varied manifestations of the Spirit that now are appearing among us, are building up the saints so they will be prepared to return with the Lord and bring righteousness and peace to those who sit in spiritual darkness.
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:2)
It is those who are making disciples and teaching the disciples to keep the laws of the Kingdom who possess the true concern for the world. These are the saints who are doing what God said to do on behalf of those who are in the chains of Satan. It is these Christians who are not trying in their own strength to escape to Heaven or persuade others to escape to Heaven but rather are endeavoring to follow the Lord Jesus as He (and they) prepare the Kingdom of God that soon is to come to the earth.
Satan’s great fear is that the members of the Body will work with the current crop of spiritual babies until they are able to drive Satan’s kingdom from the earth.
Satan cares little for the plans of people to save the world. Satan fears the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When the disciples learn to forsake their own reasoning and ways and turn to the Lord in order to gain His reasoning and ways, then Satan is in deep trouble—and he understands this better than we.
Satan fears the saints who are growing in the Lord. He will do everything in his power to sow discord and discouragement, seeking to turn them away from their goal, which is to build the Body of Christ so it is prepared to bring the Kingdom of God to the earth.
Satan has been able to seduce some of the believers into sin. Others are leaving the dedicated assemblies because the message of righteousness is "too hard," meaning they want to leave a little room for sin in their life.
In our church’s jail ministry we in numerous instances are dealing with those who on several occasions have made a decision for Christ, have received the pass to Heaven, but who then went back into sin. When the message of the Kingdom comes they receive it gladly, recognizing for the first time that the Gospel of the Kingdom is not a ticket to Heaven but the power to live righteously in the present world. By presenting to jail inmates the power to live righteously through Christ our church is fulfilling the Great Commission.
Every Sunday in the Christian churches each believer must be encouraged through worship, prophecy, and the Word of God to turn away from the world, to present his body a living sacrifice, to follow the Lord Jesus in patient, cross-carrying obedience, and to keep all the commandments of the Lord through the grace given him or her by the Lord Jesus. In this manner we fulfill the Great Commission
Every true saint knows how important it is that people receive the blood atonement, be baptized in water, take up their cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. Every true saint wants to do all in his or her power to help every individual discover the joy of serving the Lord.
The major revivals and spiritual movements of history have taken place as a result of prayer and repentance, an intense seeking of the Lord. After the believers devoted themselves to prayer and repentance the Lord poured out His Spirit and the result was a great worldwide awakening of spiritual life.
The point of view held by all the truly fruitful saints of the Christian era, is that the Lord Jesus is the One who is building the Church on the Rock that is Himself. It is the responsibility of each disciple to wait constantly on the Lord for direction, to "see the blueprint," to understand the will of God for his or her life.
"I am with you always, to the end of the age." "The Lord worked with them confirming the Word with signs following."
True Christian ministry may be compared to an elephant and a mouse hauling a teak log down to the river for transportation to a sawmill. Both the elephant and the mouse put on their harnesses and begin to haul the log. They both strain every muscle as the log is moved from the forest to the river.
When the log finally floats out into the water, the mouse wipes his brow and says, "We got the job done!"
After the day is over the elephant and the mouse return to their resting place. In order to do so, they have to walk across a hanging bridge over a deep chasm. When they reach the other side, the mouse looks back and exclaims, "Look how we shook the bridge!"
Let us make certain the Lord is working with us as we enter whatever ministry the Holy Spirit has for us.
There is tremendous joy and peace when we look to the Lord Jesus and do what He commands moment by moment. There is dancing in Zion when each member of the Body of Christ is filled with the Spirit and diligently looking to the Lord for every aspect of life and ministry.
The most important issue of gifts and ministries is our closeness to the Lord. As we draw near to Him and grow in Him the gifts and ministries will come into operation in a normal, healthy, ripe manner.
Ministry is never an end in itself. Ministry flows naturally from our love for the Lord.
The great Babylon is built as ambitious people order the converts to "Work! Work! Work! Build! Build! Build!"
Our Lord Jesus comes skipping on the mountains of spices. He says, "Come away with Me, My love. The winter is over. The rain is gone. The time of the singing of birds has come. The flowers appear on the earth. Together we shall enjoy the new world of righteousness and beauty our Father is bringing into view."
Our purpose in entering into marriage with the Lord is not so we will have children. We shall bear fruit naturally and joyously as we come into oneness with Him. Rather, our purpose in entering into marriage with the Lord is that we may love Him and experience the heavenly romance that shall continue throughout ages without end.