Is this a command to the church or a commission as so many believe

It is the responsibility of every believer in the New Testament church to win souls to Christ. That is the Christian calling. It is not an option for believers, but a command that has to be obeyed: Christ has commanded it (CP Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15-16; Ac 1:6-8; 10:42-43; 1Cor 9:16-17). Christ's directive to His followers in Mt 28 and Mk 16 has been termed the Great Commission in the contemporary church, but that term is a misnomer. Christ's directive is more than a commission - it is a command as Ac 10:42-43 and 1Cor 9:16-17 clearly teach. A commission can be rejected - and there are many in the contemporary church who do not see that winning souls to Christ is a duty incumbent upon them personally - but a command has to be obeyed, and we can only prove our love for Christ and ensure our place in His eternal kingdom by obeying His commands (CP Psa 119:9, 16, 24, 47, 77, 174; Mt 19:17; Jn 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10; 1Cor 7:19; 1Jn 2:3-5; 3:22-24; 5:2-3; 2Jn 6; Rev 22:14). All those scriptures teach the same thing: if we love Jesus and want to ensure our place in His eternal kingdom we will obey His commands (commands and commandments mean essentially the same thing). The word observe in Mt 28:18 means obey, fullfil a duty. If we are to teach new converts to Christ how important it is to obey His word then we must obey it too. Mt 28:19-20 highlights our responsibility to safeguard the teachings of scripture and commit them to those we win to Christ.

The command to believers is "Go ye". Ye is plural, which means that each and every one of us, not only those in public ministry, as many in the contemporary church think, has to go and preach the gospel and win souls to Christ (CP Ac 8:4; 11:19-21). These were ordinary, everyday believers here who took the gospel that saved them to others who were not saved, exactly as Jesus commanded us to do in Mt 28 and Mk 16. Teach in Mt 28:19 (KVJ) means literally make disciples. Making disciples means winning souls to Christ. So the clear command to every believer in the New Testament church in Mt 28:18-20 and Mk 16:15-16 is to go and win souls to Christ, baptize them, and teach them -among other things - that they in turn must also win souls to Christ (CP 1Pe 2:9). Knowing that the gospel saves is not something believers can keep to themselves. It has to be shared with those who are not saved (CP Lu 8:16-18). Jesus warns us to take heed to what He says here: we have not been given the light of divine truth for it to be obscured by our business or domestic affairs, but we are to proclaim it for others to hear, and whoever does this will be given more light, while those who do not will lose even what little light they have. We need to heed this warning - it is for our admonition also. Only faithful hearers and doers of His word can be Jesus' disciples. There is no such person in God's order of things as a silent witness. Everyone who is saved must bear witness to the Saviour (CP Mt 12:30). Jesus makes it quite clear here that there is no neutrality in Christianity. If Christians are not actively involved in doing the work of the gospel for Christ, then they are actively involved in doing the work of the devil in opposition to Christ. That is what this scripture means: anyone not doing the work of God as commanded by Jesus is doing the work of the devil, and it is hardly likely that anyone doing the work of the devil in this life will rule and reign with Christ in the next life (CP Mt 7:21-27; Lu 6:46-49; 13:22-30). Jesus clearly teaches here against professing faith in Him for salvation without doing the work of His word.

Many Christians in the contemporary church do not properly understand that what Jesus teaches here applies to every professing Christian who is not doing the work of God's word. It does not apply to those outside the church. It applies to those inside the church who profess to love Christ but do not obey His commandments. They will forfeit their salvation. We cannot play down this meaning because this is what is taught throughout the New Testament (CP Mt 12:30; Jn 15:5-6, 10; Ro 2:7-11, 13; Ga 6:7-8; Jas 1:22-25; 2:14-26). Let us find out now what value God has put on souls going to hell (CP Jn 12:23-26; 1Pe 3:18). The life of our Lord Jesus Christ is the value God has put on souls going to hell - His life for their life (CP Jn 3:14-18). This was the purpose of the cross. Jesus said "...if I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me" (CP Jn 12:32-33). Once we fully appreciate that Christ died for all sinners, not only us who are saved, and that there are countless lost souls going to hell without our witness to His saving grace, winning souls to Christ will become the most important part of our Christian walk, as Jesus means it to be. Everything else in the life of the church is simply a consequence of winning souls to Christ. It is an urgent matter. Jesus and Paul both taught the urgency in getting souls saved (CP Lu 9:59-60). Jesus is not being insensitive to the propriety of funerals here, but is teaching against procrastination - deferring or putting off taking the gospel out into the world and winning souls to Christ (CP Jn 4:34-38). Here again Jesus warns us against putting off taking the gospel out into a world of sinners waiting to be saved (CP Jn 9:4 with Jude 21-23). Day in Jn 9:4 signifies life and night signifies death. Believers are to take the gospel out now because soon it will be too late (CP 2Cor 6:2). Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation (CP 2Ti 4:2). Paul's command to Timothy here is for our admonition too. It teaches us that we must be in a constant state of readiness to win souls to Christ whether we consider it to be an opportune time or not, and whether we feel like it or not.

It needs to be restated here that Christ has assigned to every believer in the New Testament church the responsibility to preach the gospel and be a soul winner for Him (CP 2Cor 5:18-20). It is obligatory upon us to get as many sinners saved as possible (CP Ro 1:14-15). As Paul was a debtor to the lost, so are we (CP Eph 2:10). This teaches us that God has saved us to serve Him, and He expects every one of us to bear fruit for Him (CP Lu 8:4-18; Jn 15:2,5,8,16; Ro 1:13; Col 1:3-6). Fruit in this context is used metaphorically of souls won to Christ. The gathering of lost souls is also compared to harvesting grain in scripture (CP Psa 126:5-6; Mt 9:37-38; Jn 4:35). Christ demands that our fruit be commensurate with what He has invested in us (CP Mt 25:14-30; Mk 11:12-14, 20-21; Lu 19:1126). Christ cursed the fig tree that failed to produce fruit in Mk 11, and He condemned the unfaithful servants who failed to show results in their life as stewards while their master was absent in Mt 25 and Lu 19, and while those scriptures do not refer to soul winning specifically, nevertheless, soul winning is included in Christ's investment in us by way of the variety of gifts and graces He has bestowed upon us, represented by the talents in the parable of the talents, and the word of God He has committed to each and every one of us, represented by the pound in the parable of the pounds (CP 2Cor 5:18-20). How we use our talents and God's word in this life will determine our eternal destination in the next life (CP Ga 6:7-8). When He comes again Jesus will reward everyone according to their works (CP 1Cor 3:8-15; Rev 22:12).

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